"They should have given a priority to send an early signal that they are going to have a diverse administration," Sharpton told the Daily News.
"We have not seen the signal we had wanted to see. I haven't seen any signal at all."
Several members of the black, Hispanic and Puerto Rican legislative caucus have stated that they are concerned about the lack of diversity within Cuomo's administration. There were no minorities on the Democratic ticket when Cuomo ran for governor, which was the first warning sign.
"Andrew Cuomo has repeatedly said he will have the most diverse administration in history, and that's what New Yorkers will get," Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto told the New York Daily News.
One of the key points being made by Rev. Sharpton is that any diversity within Cuomo's administration should consist of New Yorkers with real input, and not just token minorities. One tactic used regularly within corporate America and politics is to put a black, brown or female face on an agenda that supports the pre-existing power structure. Fox News uses this tactic with Juan Williams, and Republicans have used this approach with Clarence Thomas, Sarah Palin and Michael Steele.
I haven't interacted much with Gov. Cuomo or his camp, but I did experience my own frustration with his administration's lack of concern for racial issues. In Syracuse, I helped plan a rally against a man with a tattered racial history (Joe Price) who planned to run for sheriff in the county in the midst of two minority deaths that occurred in police custody. Rev. Sharpton and the National Action Network partnered with our initiative, and we were able to successfully secure suspensions of officials within the jail and to get them to discuss making changes. We reached out to the Cuomo administration to ask that they denounce the racist candidate as a member of the party (which would have been in line with the county Democratic committee, who'd already done so) and they refused to even acknowledge the issue. It was at that point that I was reminded that Cuomo, like many other Democrats, doesn't seem to care as much about racial justice as he does about getting black and brown voters to go along with his agenda.
For the most part, people of color are typically passengers on the Democratic ship and cheerleaders for the liberal football team. We are often used as political mascots and not taken seriously as partners in our collective destiny. I would challenge Cuomo, as he adds brown faces to his team, to ensure that these are individuals with a pulse on the spirit of the community, as well as empowered to have a relevant voice within the administration. Black and brown voters are tired of being taken for granted.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and a Scholarship in Action resident of the Institute for Black Public Policy. To have Dr. Boyce's commentary delivered to your e-mail, please click here.