Zinke Disregards Importance Of Diversity Within Interior Department

James Marshall
March 27, 2018

The Interior Department is denying a CNN report published Monday that alleged Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke repeatedly has said the agency shouldn't prioritize hiring diverse candidates.

Several employees claim that they've heard Zinke say that diversity is something he's not interested and will not spend his time doing.

CNN quotes three high-ranking Interior officials, from three different divisions within the department, as having heard Zinke say "Diversity isn't important", "I don't care about diversity", or "I don't really think that's important anymore".

One staffer recounted a hallway meet-and-greet shortly after Zinke was confirmed, where he was asked about diversity at the Interior Department, as 70 percent of the employees are white.

The allegations come on the heels of the Interior previous year unexpectedly reassigning 33 senior executive staffers, 15 of which were minorities, according to Katie Atkinson, a lawyer for one of the staffers who was moved. Some of the reassigned employees have filed a complaint against the department with the U.S. Merit Systems Board.

A leaked version of the department's 2018-2022 strategic plan also did not have the diversity and inclusion mandate laid out by the previous administration, Outside magazine reported in November.

Only 28 percent out of the total 235 senior leaders are minorities in the department, which means that 40 percent of the reassignments were people of color.

Three high-ranking Interior officials from three different divisions said that Zinke has made several comments with a similar theme, saying "diversity isn't important", or "I don't care about diversity", or "I don't really think that's important anymore".

"I say without a doubt this claim is untrue", Swift said, noting her time working as a woman in senior positions with Zinke.

During a hearing with Hawaii Representative Colleen Hanabusa, Zinke exercised his white privilege and, in response to her question about how her grandparents were incarcerated at Honouliuli Internment Camp during World War II, gave the completely unnecessary answer of "Oh, konnichiwa". The Japanese word means "good day" or "good afternoon" but in this context, came out as completely racist as Hanabusa is an American and therefore, speaks ideal English.

The department's 2014-2018 strategic plan under President Barack Obama called for a "highly skilled and engaged workforce that reflects the diversity of the Nation".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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