The head of the NAACP planned to push President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to create the role of civil rights czar, following a model Biden has already established in naming John Kerry to a Cabinet-level position as a climate envoy, during a virtual meeting Tuesday.
The proposal was to come during a virtual meeting Biden and Harris held with the leaders of civil rights organizations Tuesday in Delaware. It's part of an effort by Black leaders, who delivered Biden to victory in the Democratic primary, to hold him to his promise to nominate the most diverse Cabinet in history.
"We oftentimes as a country talk about the reaction to history as opposed to talking about the opportunity of the future as it relates to diversity and equity. And that's what we want to lean into," NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in an interview before the meeting in which he previewed the proposal.
In a statement, the NAACP called the position it is proposing the "National Advisor on Racial Justice, Equity and Advancement."
Johnson said the call for a civil rights czar is modeled after corporations that have tapped top-level diversity and inclusion officers, and that those posts have been most effective when those officers report directly to the company's leader.
He wouldn't name specific individuals he'd like to see named to such a post, saying he first wanted to "see if there's buy-in by this administration so that we can really see the position come to life."
Johnson said Black leaders want to see Biden select Black nominees for top positions in government and choose an overall pool of political appointees that includes more Black people than former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama selected. Clinton left office with Black people in 6.2% of political appointee positions, and Obama left with Black people in 11.8% of those spots, Johnson said.
Johnson said it's too soon to assess how fully Biden has lived up to his pledge for the most diverse Cabinet in history. "It's still early. I would like to give that assessment once we have a complete picture," he said.
Last week, Biden promised a Cabinet with "significant diversity" after hearing frustrations from the NAACP and other civil rights groups that Biden had not selected Black nominees to lead the State and Treasury departments.
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