A gaffe with his staff

I saw the headline "U.S. Congressman asks Clinton to demote Rajiv Shah" and thought that the USAIDShah director had done something seriously wrong. Perhaps Shah had bungled the U.S. relief efforts in Haiti, sending too much rice but not enough beans. Or perhaps he had handed a reconstruction job to an Indian-American Contractor, who doesn't do any contracting. But no, nothing of that sort.

U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) is calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to demote the official coordinating relief efforts in Haiti, Dr. Rajiv Shah, for a lack of diversity on his staff. [Link]

In his letter to Clinton, Conyers wrote: "As you know, the 42 member Congressional Black Caucus met with Rajiv Shah, the Administrator of the U.S. AID yesterday to discuss the crisis in Haiti. I was alarmed and chagrined to learn that none of the approximately dozen staff he brought with him were African American. This is so serious an error in judgement that it warrants his immediate demotion to a subordinate position at AID. It is well known  that there has long been an under-representation of minorities in key positions within the State Department. I am confident this Administration will immediately begin addressing this problem." [Source: The Hill]

Poor Shah. Perhaps someone had told him that he'd be appearing in front of the Congressional White Caucus. Perhaps he was under the mistaken belief that race doesn't matter much in 2010, that he just has to surround himself with qualified people. Or perhaps he took his resemblance to Obama too seriously and forgot to speak with the right dialect.

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through Amazon.com and McNallyRobinson.com You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.


  1. Is this for real? I went through the articles in both the sources you have mentioned, although the sense of disbelief is still stuck on me. What was the topic again – oh! Under representation of minorities in State Dept; Haiti be long forgotten. Rep. Conyers could not have chosen a better time to raise the issue of the minorities. Completely understandable, if only someone could make sense out of this!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: