Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks out against racism
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made unexpectedly pointed remarks Friday on the scourge of racism and the need for diversity, saying tolerance demands “leadership.”
Tillerson did not mention President Donald Trump or his widely condemned equivocation about the racist violence in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend. But Tillerson's tone and words stood in stark contrast to those of his boss.
“Hate is not an American value,” he said. “Racism is evil. It is antithetical to America's values. It is antithetical to the American idea.”
Tillerson was speaking at the State Department to this summer's departing class of interns and student fellows, normally a routine delivery of comments of thanks and encouragement. He clearly chose to strike a theme of healing — of “binding up the wounds” — in the wake of Charlottesville and of promoting racial diversity, starting at Foggy Bottom and continuing throughout society.
The secretary of State said he was ordering the department to consider at least one minority candidate for every opening at the ambassadorial level and instructing officials generally to expand recruitment in the nation's 100 historically black colleges and universities.
He noted that while a quarter of the U.S. civil service is African American, only 9 percent of specialists and 5 percent of generalists in the Foreign Service are black.
“All of this is a leadership issue. It's the role of leadership, from the secretary of State and the assistant secretaries and directors of bureaus and everyone in between,” he said.
“We have to own this process” of fostering diversity, Tillerson said. “We have to manage this process and be held accountable for the results of this process.”
Bringing people of diverse “cultural background or life experiences” into the workplace “enriches the quality of our work,” Tillerson said.
“They will see things I do not see,” he added, and offer “experiences I do not know.”