“Obama and Bush at least did hiring searches and tried to look at increasing the diversity numbers,” said Chris Richardson, an African-American diplomat under Mr. Obama and Mr. Trump. “Trump was just like, ‘Whatever.’”
One of Mr. Trump’s choices, Mark Burkhalter, who was nominated to be the U.S. ambassador to Norway, admitted in a lawsuit in the 1990s that he had helped produce a campaign flyer distorting the physical features of a Black candidate in a local election in Georgia. Mr. Burkhalter is white. In July, Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, urged the White House to withdraw the nomination.
When Mr. Trump came into office, he moved quickly to get rid of the top African-American officials at the State Department. The White House sent letters to Ambassador Gentry O. Smith, the director of the Office of Foreign Missions, and Joyce Anne Barr, the assistant secretary for administration, saying that their services were no longer required.
White House officials also made clear to Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the assistant secretary for African Affairs, that she was expected to depart. All three had been career Foreign Service officials, and Ms. Thomas-Greenfield had been elevated to ambassador under Mr. Bush. Of five top career State Department officials that Mr. Trump dismissed upon arrival, three are Black.
After leaving Ms. Thomas-Greenfield’s position open for more than a year, Mr. Trump put Tibor P. Nagy Jr. in the job of American diplomat for Africa. Mr. Nagy joined the lengthy list of white men who represent Mr. Trump’s America abroad.
In an interview, Ms. Thomas-Greenfield recalled sitting across the table from the Chinese delegation at an African Union meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2015. Next to her was a Chinese-American Foreign Service officer, who was part of the American delegation.
“I felt like we were flexing muscle when that Chinese delegation looked across the table and saw us — an African-American woman sitting next to a Chinese-American man, both representing the United States,” she said.
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