african-american diplomats in Africa, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, black american diplomats, Bureau of African affairs, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, minority ambassadors, Obama Africa, Racial diplomacy, State Department, white male diplomats
I read yesterday that Obama has nominated Linda Thomas-Greenfield to serve as the next Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. If confirmed, this would mean that since 1997, four of the last six individuals to hold this position have been black women. Five of six are of African descent.
I’m not quite sure what to make of this. I do recall however, that for many years segregation reigned in the State Department, with black diplomats confined to rotating posts in countries like Liberia and Haiti. As times have (hopefully) changed, I imagine that there must be some logic prevailing today which posits that black American diplomats are better positioned to relate to Africans than Americans of other racial backgrounds. While I don’t have any statistics available to me, I’m fairly confident in asserting that black Americans are disproportionately prevalent in the Ambassador corps in Africa and are much less prominent in other regions (according to Wikipedia, it appears that every US Ambassador to China, with the exception of the incumbent, has been a white man – and the current holder furthers the argument here as he is Asian).
Based on the policy events that I attend, I see large numbers of white students and professionals interested in Africa, so I don’t think these choices reflect a racial disparity in interest in Africa. In fact, it is when I attend events of activist groups critical of US foreign policy in Africa that I see the most non-whites in attendance.
Readers, do you think that this is indicative of any larger trends, or am I reading too much into things here?