Delivering on his vision for a “new way,” Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) “is on pace to be the first governor since 1962 to have an entire Cabinet without any racial diversity.” Every one of his 22 full-time agency head appointments has been a white person. Only five are women. Dubbing diversity as “metrics that people tend to focus on,” Kasich said, “I can’t say I need to find somebody to fit this metric” because “it’s not the way I look at those things. I want the best possible team I can get.”
Yesterday, the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus held a press conference to express their waning patience with his dismissive attitude and “implore Kasich to make better strides to diversify his Cabinet.” But according to State Senator Nina Turner (D-OH), this time Kasich’s response was a bit more blunt. According to Turner, when the caucus offered him help in finding qualified minority applicants, Kasich told Turner, “I don’t need your people“:
TURNER: Today, in 2001, it feels more like 1811 in the state of Ohio under a governor who just does not get it. I want to read some of [Kasich’s] quotes. He said, ‘I don’t look at things from that standpoint. It’s not the way I look at things. I want the best possible team I can get and hopefully we will be in a position that we are fully diverse as we go forward.” As we go forward, as we go along, by and by, someday. I remember Martin Luther King saying so eloquently that wait almost always means never. Through his actions and deeds, Governor Kasich has declared that Ohio is open for business, but if you are African-American you need not apply. If you are hispanic, you need not apply. If you are Asian-Indian, you need not apply. And Oh My God I have a few women but we don’t need many more, so for women, you need not apply.
And then to have the pure unadulterated gall to say that he can’t find anyone. In that same caucus meeting when I said to the governor “if you need help, we can help you” and he said, and I quote, “I don’t need your people.” Now as an African-American, I was kind of perplexed about “I don’t need your people.” I wasn’t quite sure whether or not he was referring to my ethnic group people or my people as in the 350,000 constituents I serve in this state that represent all ethnic groups, all religious groups. I didn’t understand what “I’m not going to hire your people” means.
Kasich is certainly not angling for an all-white cabinet. He did make offers to two African-Americans who declined to accept two separate Cabinet posts. And as Turner points out, it is not entirely clear who “your people” was referring to. Kasich’s spokesman confirmed that he made the comment but “insisted that he meant he was referring to Turner’s political party, not race.” But almost 20 percent of Ohio’s population is minority, and such a brazen dismissal of diversity — be it racial, gender, or political — betrays a worrisome disregard for a broad range of ideas, insight, and understanding in policy development which such diversity cultivates.
Unfortunately, Kasich’s ignorance is not limited to his cabinet. On top of likening cabinet diversity to “chasing quotas,” Kasich refused to attend the Cleveland Chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s 10th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Gala despite being in Cleveland the same day. He also eliminated “gender identity” in his extension of former Gov. Ted Strickland’s (D) executive order to protect state employees from discrimination based on “race, color, gender, national origin, military status, disability, age, genetic information, or sexual orientation.” And as for gender equality, Kasich offered the fact that he’s married to a woman and has two daughters as sufficient evidence of his commitment to diversity.