A tweet by Graeme Wood said:

Randomly selected example: observe how many African-American U.S. ambassadors are sent to "black" countries, how few to Europe: http://www.blackpast.org/african-american-u-s-ambassadors-1869

By my count, 126-16. This is some combination of strange/troubling/scandalous

Wood claims that it's because many people, including US liberals, think that minorities "must only study themselves".

Why does the United States mainly send African-American ambassadors to African countries? And is it an ongoing practice?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – yannis
    Jan 17, 2018 at 9:55
  • @yannis why is that room unavailable? I got "Page not found".
    – Golden Cuy
    Feb 2, 2018 at 9:35
  • No idea, something seems broken with chat. If the problem persists, it might be worth a Meta bug report.
    – yannis
    Feb 2, 2018 at 9:38

2 Answers 2


Per Wikipedia:

US Ambassadors are sourced from one of two avenues: Either they are Career Foreign Service Officers (or Career Diplomat or CD) or Political Appointees (PA). In the former case, they typically serve a 3 year tour of duty. The latter serve until the inaugeration of the new President, at which point they resign. PAs are typically made a good donation to the campaign of the Presdient where as the CDs are more trained for a specific mission or culture and better understand it. While there is no written rule over which is which, a CD might be given an embassy that needs more specialty to run while the PA is given an embassy that is a pretty easy job, politically. In some cases, the PA might be selected for public relations in that country (Caroline Kennedy, the only surviving child of President John F. Kennedy, was appointed as Ambassador to Japan by President Obama, due in part for the popularity of her father among the Japanese nation.).

Most likely, the reason for an ambassador to server a particular office if they are CDs is because they are particularly knowledgeable about the nation they wish to serve and can be experts in US relations with them. The test to get a Diplomatic Posting is quite rigorous and the candidates are taken with the highest score first.

  • 2
    This is an interesting overview over the process, but doesn't really answer the question. Is there a reason to think that African-Americans know more about any/some/all African countries than other Americans? And do you know if more African-Americans are CDs or PAs? That might give some insight into a possible answer to the question.
    – tim
    Jan 16, 2018 at 21:28
  • 1
    @tim: After a quick glance of several Ambassadors to some more prominant African Countries, all were CDs and most appeared to be of European Descent (I looked at about 5-6 and only saw one African American). That said, all had previous postings to embassies in African countries under other ambassadors, so they most likely knew the nations in question quite well.
    – hszmv
    Jan 16, 2018 at 21:36

  Racial solidarity does exist, despite politically correct claims for otherwise. Humans are simply genetically hard-wired to bond and trust someone who looks familiar, i.e. shares same racial features. Even recognizing different people from other races could be difficult - famous cross-race effect.

  Considering that main goal of diplomacy is to appear friendly to foreign nation, in order to gain their sympathy and promote interest of own country, it is politically wise to send diplomat that looks like native population and is therefore much easily accepted then complete foreigner. As United States have multiracial population, it is relatively easy to find someone of appropriate ethnic background to a country in question.

EDIT some quotes that prove that cross-race effect, and consequently racial solidarity, are actually hard-wired in brain

For example, the results of studies done where the accessibility, as in how easy or not it is for a person to be around people of difference races, to different races is manipulated, showed that this does not always affect face memory.

The mixed evidence shows that although there is some support to the theory that the more interracial contact a person has the better a person is at cross-race recognition, all the evidence gathered does not come to the same conclusion.[10] This mixture of results causes the relationship between cross-race exposure and recognition ability to weaken.[

Also this well known article shows that "racial bias" i.e. in fact racial solidarity starts very early, at babies 6 months old, therefore excluding social contact and reducing this to inborn effect.

He and researchers from the University of Toronto, the U.S., U.K., France and China, show that six to nine month olds demonstrate racial bias in favour of members of their own race and racial bias against those of other races.

“When we consider why someone has a racial bias, we often think of negative experiences he or she may have had with other-race individuals. But these findings suggest that a race-based bias emerges without experience with other-race individuals,” said Naiqi (Gabriel) Xiao, who also led research for the two studies and now is a postdoctoral researcher at Princeton University.

  • 2
    But the link says that: “These findings thus point to the possibility that racial bias may arise out of our lack of exposure to other-race individuals in infancy”. If you rise an asian baby in a white society from the beginning, it will see whites as familiar, not asians. It will not genetically define itself as an outsider in an alien-race community. The second part of the claim "Humans are simply genetically hard-wired to bond and trust someone who looks familiar, i.e. shares same racial features" is wrong. Familiarity is important, sharing the same racial features is not.
    – Thern
    Jan 18, 2018 at 8:29
  • @Therm But that still adds to the author's point: someone raised in certain African nations might be more biased to someone who appears to be their own race or ethnicity because they will - in all likelihood - spend infancy around other African infants, so even if the bias isn't inherent and it is based around lack of exposure to other races (remember, the article says there is a POSSIBILITY that bias is based on exposure. It could still be a somewhat inherent trait), it would still be better to send someone who probably looks similar to the people African leaders have been exposed to.
    – Tyler Mc
    Apr 8, 2020 at 15:55

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .