This Congress is the most diverse ever. But Hill staffers remain overwhelmingly white.


Last month, when Michael J. Brewer became one of 10 communications directors of color out of roughly 100 in the U.S. Senate, he took it as a small sign of progress.

Brewer, who runs communications for Democrat Raphael Warnock, Georgia’s first Black senator, knows most of his work for the freshman lawmaker will be done behind the curtain. Still, he’s acutely aware of the importance of his presence: He is currently one of just two Black communications directors in the Senate — and the only Black man to hold the role.

“We’ve come up,” he said, recalling past Senate cycles where it was easy to be one of the only Black or brown faces in an office of 50. “But not nearly enough.”

The 117th Congress is the most diverse ever, with the largest representation of racial and ethnic groups in history, a 97 percent increase over the past 10 Congresses, according to the Pew Research Center. But among Hill staffers like Brewer — the people who really run Congress on a working level — there’s a dearth of diversity.

Despite efforts to diversify the Hill over the past several years, the racial makeup of House and Senate staffs don’t align with their districts and voting bases. Among top-level staffers, the lack of diversity is most striking: There are only two Black chiefs of staff in the Senate and only four Latinos. Warnock’s chief of staff, for example, is white.

Congressional staffers are tasked with drafting policies, planning legislative rollouts, monitoring staff pay rates and scheduling committee hearings. But very few people of color can be found in top positions making those decisions.

The makeup of staff affects the shape and direction of legislation — and the lack of diversity crosses party lines. If staffers don’t represent the communities they are meant to serve, advocates say, it undermines lawmakers’ attempts to solve the issues unique to those communities.

Analysts argue that this boils down to effective policymaking. At a time of growing calls for increased representation in government to address the crises disproportionately hurting people of color — the pandemic, racial inequities and economic turmoil — those charged with doing so could miss the moment.


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