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The FBI Is Recruiting HBCU Students As A Way To Diversify Its Special Agents

Earlier this year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) launched the Beacon Project, which “aims to create long-term, mutually beneficial relationships between the FBI and underrepresented communities.” Specifically, the project is a diversification effort that seeks to connect HBCU students to careers within the FBI!

“The point we try to convey to young folks at the HBCUs is, ‘Hey, you’re part of the solution. If not you, then who?'” Special Agent in Charge (SAIC) Johnnie Sharp Jr. said of the initiative. 

“The FBI is responsible for defending the civil rights of all Americans, not just African Americans,” he continued. “And it’s important that we have folks represented in that community to help us in that fight.”

“[The goal] is really to reach out to those communities and ensure that they recognize that there is a place for their students in the FBI,” added Scott McMillian, the bureau’s Chief Diversity Officer.

This diversification effort is by no means unneeded. According to FBI data, while a whopping 80% of all special agents are white, less than 5% are Black. While acknowledging this disparity, McMillian cited the FBI’s past injustices against the Black community as potential factors.

“Historically, we have not been the best–particularly for the African American community, where you’re talking about surveillance operations [and the] civil rights failures that the FBI has had,” he said.”

Michael Mason–a Black retiree who was a high-ranking FBI agent for 23 years–shared his thoughts on the initiative by acknowledging the work that has to be done.

“It’s not enough to say ‘We are non-discriminating. We hire people from all walks of life.’ That may be true. And in fact, that is true. But how do you go about bringing those people inside the organization? Mason questioned.

“You have to nurture it; you have to water it; you have to fertilize it,” he stated. “You have to take care of it if you’re going to get what you want. You can’t just throw seeds on dirt and think you’re going to get this beautiful garden.”

Another former agent, Dr. Rhonda Glover Reese, who worked for the FBI for 34 years, also reflected on the Beacon Project. Namely, she expressed that she wants FBI Director Christopher Wray to make a statement on the FBI’s commitment to diversity. She wants the bureau to be extra intentional in its efforts.

“‘We want diversity of thought. We want people that have diverse backgrounds. That’s what we want. And I’m telling you that this is how I feel as the director of the FBI.’ — I want to hear that,” Glover Reese stated.

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