US State Department defensive after Democrats question Donald Trump administration's silence on racism, xenophobia

Washington: The US State Department is on the defensive after Democratic lawmakers said the agency was remaining silent over xenophobia and racism, and an ex-diplomat said white males were the overwhelming majority in senior official recruits.

Detractors at the department say Republican Donald Trump's arrival in the White House in early 2017 was a turning point. "We are extremely alarmed by the Trump administration's policy of remaining silent in international fora about racism and xenophobia and declining to condemn hate speech and incitement," six Democratic representatives wrote in a scathing letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

 US State Department defensive after Democrats question Donald Trump administrations silence on racism, xenophobia

File image of US president Donald Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Reuters

They pointed to an episode that saw a senior State official dispute "the idea that leaders have a 'duty to condemn hate speech or incitement' and tried to strike an entire section of a United Nations document that links fighting racism with building a diverse democratic society."

"This is a dangerous policy," the signatories wrote, saying "this latest blunder amplifies the increasingly widespread perception that some officials in the Trump administration are racist and support an anti-foreigner, anti-Muslim discriminatory agenda."

Uzra Zeya — who worked at the State Department for nearly three decades, before resigning this year after she was "blocked" from several top jobs — blasted her former employer in Politico, writing "Trump is making American diplomacy white again."

In 2017, she said "the exclusion of minorities from top leadership positions in the State Department and embassies abroad," began trending.

According to her analysis of public statistics, 64 percent of Trump ambassador appointees were white, non-Hispanic men — seven points higher than under his predecessor Barack Obama.

From September 2016 to June 2018, she said the share of African Americans in senior foreign service fell from 4.6 to 3.2 percent.

In a similar vein, the steady upward trend of women ambassadors has reversed for the first time since the late 1990s. "The assertion that @StateDept is 'racist' is disgusting and false — a brazen attempt to create division for domestic political gain," agency spokeswoman Heather Nauert tweeted on Sunday. "State is among the most diverse of government agencies."

Updated Date: Sep 18, 2018 09:50:17 IST