Diversity Divide: Supporting the State Department’s Asian American and Pacific Islander FSO's

Tenzin Dawa Thargay
Content Type
Journal Article
The Ambassador's Review
Publication Date
Spring 2021
Council of American Ambassadors
In a year of COVID-19, racial reckoning and increased reported violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, conversations on race, diversity, equity and inclusion compel our societies and institutions to have difficult —yet necessary— conversations about redressing historical and systematic inequalities. The State Department and the Foreign Service are not exceptions. Many AAPI and historically underrepresented Foreign Service Officers (FSO) who spoke for this interview feel that the Department’s long-touted commitments to diversity and to reflecting America in its diplomatic corps ring hollow. Rhetoric has been slow to translate into action. Systematic challenges impacting these constituencies still continue without remedy. One of the most pressing challenges centers on security clearance and assignment restrictions. The recent wave of reported cases of violence and hate against AAPI in the U.S. have resurfaced longstanding grievances of AAPI Foreign Service Officers (FSO)—primarily, that the Department mistrusts them by often preventing them from serving in or covering issues on their country of heritage through assignment and security clearance restrictions.[1] The State Department must better understand the AAPI experience and enact demonstrable reforms to correct longstanding challenges around representation in leadership positions and security clearance and assignment restrictions impacting this constituency and other historically underrepresented groups. Doing so could honor previous commitments to advance diversity, retain and cultivate diverse talent and make these groups feel like valued members of the Department.
Discrimination, Diversity, COVID-19, Hate Crimes
Political Geography
North America, United States of America