Ask almost anyone about hiring minorities at any level and the answer is always the same: The best person is hired for the job.
Of course it is, or at least that’s what everyone intends to do. I dare anyone to disagree with that statement. But at what point does that becomes an excuse, especially when hiring top-level government and private sector positions?
Hiring the best person for the job became the mantra of Gov. Doug Ducey’s aides when explaining the fact his 6-month-old administration doesn’t reflect the state’s diverse population.
Minorities account for more than 42 percent of Arizona residents, while only six, or 16 percent, of Ducey’s 38 high-profile administrative hires are minorities, according a recent article by Republic reporter Yvonne Wingett Sanchez.
More specifically, Latinos represent about a third of the state’s population but only three, or 8 percent, of Ducey’s top-level hires.
No Native Americans or Asians have been appointed. Some Latinos criticized Ducey’s dismal minority appointments saying, “There is no excuse.”
Others such as Gonzalo de la Melena Jr., president and CEO of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, aren’t disappointed: “Top staffers don’t necessarily have to be ethnically or racially diverse to understand the needs of those communities.” If that is so, why have a Hispanic Chamber of Commerce?
De la Melena pointed out in Wingett’s article that after six decades, the Hispanic chamber has a non-Latino chairman.
In theory, anyone is capable of understanding another regardless of race or ethnicity. In practice, it’s not that simple. Perhaps there isn’t an outcry about Ducey’s appointments because some of the state’s top Latino-serving institutions face the same predicament.
- The Chairman of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is non-Latino.
- The interim president and CEO of Friendly House, a non-profit organization founded in 1920 to help immigrants with a wide-range of programs, is a non-Latina.
- The CEO of Valle del Sol, a non-profit organization offering behavioral health care, is a non-Latino.
Just like Ducey’s administration, I’m sure those organizations have plenty of qualified Latinos doing great work – they are just not at the very top. In all fairness, I’ve not heard complaints from these groups.
Can non-Latinos understand that community and do great work? Of course they can and in many cases they are.
But inclusiveness begins at home and at the very top. Ideally, government and private institutions should reflect the people they serve. In Arizona, we Latinos have nobody to blame but ourselves because I see no outcry over the lack of significant appointments or fair representation in private and public institutions.
In the case of government, fair representation, whether elected or not, is one of the main tenets of democracy. It is precisely this diversity of views which, all things considered, will translate into meaningful public policies for all.
Elvia Díaz is editor of La Voz, a Spanish-language publication that is part of Republic Media. Reach her at 602-444-8606 or firstname.lastname@example.org.