The world celebrated International Women’s Day 2019 on March 8th. In honor of the occasion Governor Evers posted this photo of the women on his staff:
What was intended as a feel good moment quickly soured. Take another look at the photo. Following publication of the photo, a number of posts began appearing on Facebook taking issue with it. Those finding fault are women of color. And they were very frustrated and very angry. And to show their frustration, their posts opened with another photo paired with the one from the governor’s office:
The top photo of course shows former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan with a similar sea of white in the form of the House Republican interns. Now I am sure that the governor isn’t thrilled about being compared to Rep. Ryan. He spent a great deal of time and money in his campaign to differentiate himself from the incumbent Republican. And as a supporter of the governor it doesn’t sit well with me either. But the governor’s photo, despite celebrating the number of women working on his staff, is tone deaf given the lack of racial diversity illustrated in the picture.
I understand the anger and frustration on an intellectual level…but I can’t feel it quite the same because I have never and can never experience life as a person of color. But I am working at understanding how frustrating this is. I did reach out to the governor’s office. And here is the official statement from Melissa Baldauff, the governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff:
The governor believes that representation matters. We are proud to have a historic number of women serving in the cabinet and on the senior leadership team, but we believe that we have much more work to do to ensure that people of color are represented in the administration.
And as the governor continues to fill staffing positions, there will be consideration around rounding out a diverse staff.
I am going to pull in a few items from the threads on Facebook. I have screen shots but I am going to type them in as quotes since I am not comfortable in my ability to redact names to prevent identification. I know the original posters and have a great deal of respect for them. They are activists in the community. But I don’t know every one that I may quote and I haven’t asked permission from them. And I don’t want to cause anyone any additional discomfort. I am going to work with just two threads and will open with the original posts:
Poster 1: Sigh. Smh. How do we continue to miss the mark on diversity and inclusion and who’s idea was this to take the photo?
Poster 2: Tone deafness remains. Wants our votes but won’t mentor our folks. REMEMBER THIS POST IF FOR EVERS STAFF NOT ADMINISTRATION APPOINTEES. WHO YOU HIRE AS YOUR PERSONAL STAFF IS WHO YOU MENTOR FOR FUTURE PUBLIC SERVICE.
Yes the anger, frustration and disappointment is palpable here…and rightly so. And the truth in both of these statements should be evident to any and all elected officials in office.
Governor Evers has appointed a number of people of color to cabinet and administration positions. I’ve mentioned that here on Blogging Blue before (No One Gets Credit For This? and So No One Gets Credit for This?) and it was discussed on these threads as well. But the big picture is expectations were very high for the governor and people want to see more diversity on his personal staff:
Commenter 1: Wow. That’s disappointing. I guess that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Commenter 2: Where are the people of COLOR IN THIS NEW GOVERNOR STAFF..?
Poster 2: I am looking at staff who I would interact with the most when I am advocating issues. No black folks especially a black woman is an real issue for me. Evers needs to set the example of what real diversity looks like with his staff. Madison is too white.
Commenter 3: I spoke directly with Evers before his election and he told me TO ME FACE that he had a lot of appointments to make and he wanted his staff to resemble the diversity of the state. Having a few people of color in appointed positions DOES NOT reflect WI. His cabinet is mainly white old men, one black man, and a white woman. Trust that when I see him I’m calling him out.
Commenter 4: I asked around about this and have been told that people of color were hired in far greater numbers as staff and appointees than in Wisconsin population. Just passing this along. (I agree the photo is kind of jarring in this light)
Poster 2: White folks must be all in if they want black votes PERIOD. Diversity means representation like the constituents of this state. I get tired of white people saying at least they have one or two black folks. How many times you hear at least they have one or two white people? I do know it was the female staff which is why I brought it up. Black women are the most loyal voting block for democrats. I agree there should also be black men on staff and mentored at public service. White people can’t keep getting away with there are no black to hire or find.
These excerpts were selected from the two threads. You have complete comments here but I didn’t always bring over all of the conversations or the replies or the comment being replied to. I typed them so I apologize for any typos. I did not edit them other than making the selections. The comments should be entire and complete unless I mistyped something.
One of the threads on Facebook stated that if you increase the size of the governor’s photo, there are two Asian women in the background. That was confirmed to be true in another thread.
As I said earlier, the anger here is palpable. And it isn’t new anger but one that I think was set aside after suffering under eight years of Governor Walker with high expectations for new Governor Evers. And then the disappointment from this photo just brought it all to the fore again.
One question that remains unanswered (and it was broached in the threads but never clearly answered) for me is how a new governor is staffed? Is the incumbent staff carried over with only the top admins replaced? That would make sense for continuity and having experience. Or does the transition team open all of the positions and refill them? That would certainly insure having the ‘right’ staff to assist the governor but is it effective? I don’t know.
Now, I am not trying to throw the governor under the bus. I wholeheartedly supported him in the general election and in his runs for superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction. But I am not making any excuses for him either. This should be an educational moment for all elected officials…departmental officials…and leaders of public profit and non-profit organizations at all levels. It’s no longer acceptable to lead and not have a diverse and inclusive team….it flat out isn’t acceptable anymore. And there is no excuse for it…there are absolutely tons of qualified minority candidates at all levels for the staffing positions you have available.
Now why did it take so long to publish this article? Well, I debated it in my mind for a long time. As an old white guy should I write about this?? Or as the old white guy with a political media platform must I write about this. That weighed heavily on my mind and after conversations with myself and with a number of others, I chose the latter. Some of my better ideas that I had at 3 AM got lost. I mulled things over in my mind for weeks. I have been putting it on ‘paper’ for over a week now. I don’t think I have finished this. It didn’t come out exactly as I had intended. I am not totally happy with it and it’s made me a bit depressed and a bit angry. But I couldn’t let it sit in limbo any longer.
And I am sure in my naivety, my ignorance and my inexperience, I have gotten some of this wrong. You need to let me know. And if I have upset you, I apologize. But this shouldn’t be the last word…I’d like to use this to help open and continue the conversation. So please let me know what you think and what you have to say.
If you aren’t comfortable commenting in public here…use the feedback function on Blogging Blue and we can have a conversation on the side.
This was very difficult to put together. But I don’t think it can be my last post on the topic.