Spears’ first posting, in October that same year, was at the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez, just across the border from El Paso, Texas. Everything started off well, she says, and she quickly settled into her new life and job. Spears would often cross back into the U.S. to shop or meet friends for coffee.
But she quickly noticed a trend: When she made those border crossings, she was regularly pulled over by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers for secondary inspection.
Spears is Black. She is one of a growing number of current and former minority foreign service officers to speak out recently about the special challenges they face as diplomats.
Spears says while crossing the border, she showed the CBP agents her diplomatic passport and other official forms of identification — and was startled at the line of questioning she then underwent.
In the six months that she worked in the consulate, Spears says she was pulled aside more than 20 times. Each time, she says, the harassment escalated.
“One time, I was told not to look at the officer in the eyes when I spoke to him,” she says. “I was told I needed to look down at the ground.”
Spears says she was left feeling that they “wanted to make me feel small.”
Spears still maintains that she was harassed and intimidated by CBP officers because she is Black. She says several times she complained to CBP supervisors at the border. One supervisor handed her a pamphlet with a hotline number to call, she says, and told her that the officers would not be disciplined.
Spears also took her concerns to her superiors at the U.S. Consulate.
There, she says, “I was just met with pure denial and gaslighting about how this wasn’t racism, this wasn’t discrimination. Essentially, you know, it was downplayed and brushed under the rug.”
Ray, who is also Black, says he too experienced harassment at U.S. borders during his 30-year career, which ended in 2012. He says he learned to just put up with it because no one particularly cared — back then or now.
“No one’s going to stick their head above their desk and make an issue of it if they value their job, if they feel that the senior leadership doesn’t care,” he says. “And frankly, my personal opinion is that the senior leadership really does not care.”
More at the link above. Hugs