Biden State Appointee Says White Diplomats Are Too 'Protective' of United States

Desirée Cormier Smith claims black diplomats have more humility and empathy than white colleagues

January 28, 2021

A top foreign-policy adviser joining the Biden State Department has argued that white diplomats are often too "protective of the United States," a statement potentially in violation of new department guidelines.

Desirée Cormier Smith, a newly minted senior adviser in the Bureau of International Organizations, said in a podcast interview that white diplomats often treated visa applicants with hostility because of their "ownership" over the visas during her experience as a foreign-service officer.

"It seemed like many of our white colleagues approached the visa applicants with so much ownership over these visas. They were so protective of the United States, and they didn't want anybody who could sully the image of the United States because it's this perfect shining city on a hill," she told the Black Diplomats podcast in October. "If you are a white foreign-service officer, coming from a very wealthy background, a two-parent household, never knew what it meant to struggle … you might automatically assume that there's no way [an applicant] would use this visa properly."

Such language may run afoul of previously implemented State Department guidelines. The State Department's discrimination and harassment policies place priorities on diversity and tolerance in the culture of the department, asking employees to work without bias toward skin color.

"Discriminatory harassment is verbal or physical conduct that denigrates or shows hostility toward an individual because of his or her race, color, gender, national origin, religion, age (40 or over), physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, or because of his or her opposition to discrimination or his or her participation in the discrimination complaint process," the department's policy reads. "Some examples of conduct that might constitute harassment include: Racial epithets, 'jokes,' offensive or derogatory comments, or other verbal or physical conduct based on an individual's race/color."

A State Department spokeswoman declined to comment on Cormier Smith's comments.

Cormier Smith's remarks came in a podcast episode titled "Trump's White Supremacist Foreign Policy." Cormier Smith said black diplomats possess superior skills to white diplomats in humility and empathy when dealing with foreign nationals.

"We also come with a certain humility that I would say that a lot of white foreign service officers lack," she said. "We approached it with so much more empathy."

Cormier Smith comes to the Biden State Department by way of the Open Society Foundations, a left-wing nonprofit bankrolled by Democratic megadonor George Soros. The incoming State Department official also worked with several other Biden appointees at the Albright Stonebridge Group, a geopolitical risk and advisory firm with deep ties to China.

The White House did not respond to requests for comment.