President Obama is taking steps to add more African Americans to his cabinet during his second term, a move some view as a response to critics. This week the president announced two African American nominees for cabinet level positions.
Anthony Foxx, mayor of Charlotte, N.C., is being tapped to head the Department of Transportation. At 42, Foxx is the youngest mayor in the history of his hometown. He does not have much experience in transportation matters, but during his term, he pushed for streetcars and a light rail extension. He also unveiled a pilot program for electric vehicle charging stations. Foxx was elected mayor in 2009.
The president also nominated North Carolina Congressman Mel Watt as director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees the federal mortgage programs, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
For the Department of Commerce, President Obama selected one of the wealthiest women in America. Penny Pritzker is an heiress to the Hyatt Hotel fortune and heads the investment firm PSP Capital Partners and an associated property firm, Pritzker Realty Group. Forbes Magazine estimated her net worth at $1.85 billion as of March.
There have been loud and consistent debates about the president’s commitment to African American voters and issues throughout his first term. Critics have accused Mr. Obama of overlooking Blacks for high-level positions in his administration. From the Congressional Black Caucus to dinner tables around the country, critiques of the President’s support of Black Americans persist.
According to a report in the Christian Science Monitor, Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio chair of the Congressional Black Caucus wrote to the president in March complaining that of his second-term appointments up to that time, “none of them have been African American.” She added, “the people you have chosen to appoint in this new term have hardly been reflective of this country’s diversity.”
Dr. Marvin King, a political science professor at the University of Mississippi, finds the conversation disheartening. He says, “Obama never campaigned as being “the black president.” I find it ridiculous when Obama has to deal with this type of criticism. It’s petty.”
King continued: “There are two schools of thought regarding President Obama’s recent flurry of African American nominees. One perspective is that Obama is responding to criticism, especially that from Marcia Fudge, that his cabinet lacked diversity, so he yielded to pressure by nominating Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx. The second school of thought, and the one that I subscribe to is that Obama already had an idea of who he wants in which positions and slowly and deliberately rolls out nominees one by one.”
The president’s cabinet includes the vice president and the heads of 15 executive departments. Mr. Obama appointed Attorney General Eric Holder, who is African American, in his first term.