Plenty of people, including us in the above video, called out Speaker Ryan specifically and the Republican Party in general for the alarming — though not exactly surprising — lack of diversity. The New York Daily News called it “blindingly white”; researcher James Jones was quoted in the Washington Post saying, “…they don’t look like America”; the Guardian described it as an “overwhelming lack of diversity.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure most if not all of these interns are bright, hardworking, well-qualified kids. But to say we should not be concerned that there are only three people of color in this photo is to say that there’s nothing wrong with the system that disproportionately disadvantages members of marginalized communities.
That hasn’t stopped the graveyard that is the comment section on our YouTube video from accusing us of “race baiting.” I want to address some of their comments here.
David Stratton writes, “Maybe those are the best people that applied for the positions. Not best because they’re white, but based on their education and C.V.’s.”
I see this argument all the time. It’s problematic not only because it implies that white people just happen to be the best, but also because it doesn’t take into account any of the systemic issues that people of color face. For instance: people of color are far less likely to come from an economic background that allows them to even apply for unpaid or low-paying internships; people of color are far less likely to have access to education that points them in the direction of highly-coveted internships; and people of color may not feel comfortable working in environments like this one, in which they are so outnumbered that their mere presence is an event in itself. (For more on this, read Brian Crooks’ recent — and excellent — Chicago Tribune editorial on growing up black in Naperville, IL.)
Josue Luna writes, “Nothing like black people stereotyping white people, but if it was the other way around it would be ‘racism'”.
First of all, jokes about brunch and Anthropologie are not “racist” in any way. Racism comes from a position of power and is designed to oppress and marginalize. Saying the most privileged race in our country likes My So-Called Life is not racist. Second, all those jokes were written by a white person. Not to say it’s impossible to be racist against white people, but a white person poking fun at white stereotypes definitely doesn’t fit into that category.
Those are just two comments. There are many more which are outright racist that I won’t reprint here. Let’s just say that the Capitol Hill internship program absolutely has a diversity problem, and pointing it out shouldn’t get you reprimanded for “race baiting.”
What do you think? Should the Capitol Hill internship program try to push for a more diverse makeup? Let us know in the comments below or @WhatsTrending on Twitter.