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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

|

JUNE 2015

43

Blacks In

Government:

Working to Make

DiversityOperational

BY MARCUS C . S I NGL ETON

T

he USAID Chapter of

Blacks In Government

continues to

work on an issue that precludes America from benefitting

from its own history: discrimination based on race, ethnicity,

gender, socioeconomic status, age, physical abilities, religious

beliefs, political beliefs and

other ideologies.

BIG is a national organi-

zation founded in 1975 to

press for equal opportunity

for and eliminate practices

of racism against blacks;

promote professionalism

among blacks in local,

national and federal gov-

ernment; provide a communication forum for blacks in various

agencies; and provide a nonpartisan platform on major issues

that affect organization members.

While many agencies give verbal support to diversity,

statistics show that blacks are not being hired or promoted in

government agencies at levels that reflect America’s demo-

graphics. Neither are blacks given sufficient clout to have an

impact on policy decisions. For too many agencies, the push

for diversity has stopped at merely having people from different

backgrounds present.

Working in agencies that pride themselves on implement-

ing U.S. government policy in the overseas arena, it has been

important for BIG to advocate moving beyond simple tolerance

to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of thought

that all people bring to the table. Diversity involves more than

meets the eye: it embraces experience, thoughts, actions and

philosophies.

We support members attending the BIG National Training

Institute, where professionals come together annually to share

experiences and use their collective strength to confront work-

place and community issues and increase their professional

exchanges and networks. Interestingly, at this event we typically

discover just how isolated many people at all levels feel as they

silently deal with obstacles that others do not seem to recognize

or encounter.

We are often asked why BIG needs to exist. Looking at recent

events, we are reminded that some decisions are still based on

what one perceives when he or she observes the ethnicity, skin

color or gender of another. There are many talented people who

have chosen to make a career through public service and serv-

ing their country, yet they are not able to give their maximum

effort because they are confined by the narrowness of others.

Our organization seeks to help people go beyond their own

assumptions and realize what is being missed by walking a mile

in the shoes of someone different from them.

Visible diversity is making progress at some levels, but the

invisible diversity often

goes untouched. Many of

the younger generation,

who have been socialized in

what America likes to see as

a “post-racial society,” get

their first wake-up call to

limitations once they enter

the work world. Mentor-

ing programs have become

much more important as people have debates with themselves

about to how to react to various situations. Local, state and

national governmental agencies are losing out as talented

people choose to seek private-sector employment.

We are working to help free young people from the con-

straints older black Americans endured in public service

and encourage them to reach for what ought to be when one

chooses to serve our country.

BIG is doing its part to help America achieve its own great-

ness. If we want to be that beacon for the world, we must help

create an environment in which everyone’s individual light can

shine to brighten the darkness.

In support of the U.S. Constitution, BIG works to operation-

alize equal opportunity and make it a reality in the life of every

public service employee.

Marcus Singleton serves as the branch chief of overseas

security programs in the Office of Security, Interna-

tional Security Programs Division at USAID. He is the

president of the USAID chapter of BIG.

Many of the younger generation, who

have been socialized in what America

likes to see as a “post-racial society,” get

their first wake-up call to limitations

once they enter the work world.