Over the weekend, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan posted a selfie with Republican interns on Capitol Hill. It was a refreshing display of inclusiveness and the Republican Party’s commitment to diversity. Just kidding! The selfie was another example of the party’s history of Keeping Up With the Kaucasians.
When your country is in the midst of heated debates on race and inequality, you might want to avoid furthering the assumption that your party is nothing but White people. But there were Rebeccas and Chads as far as the eye could see. Speaker Ryan described his picture as “the most number of #CapitolHill interns in a single selfie.” He could just as easily have captioned it, “Look at all my White friends!” It was a page straight out of Where’s Ethnic Waldo?
The lack of diversity among Republican interns was highlighted when Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas tweeted a picture of Democratic interns. Johnson’s tweet was captioned, “My intern Audra Jackson led Democratic interns in their own selfie 2day showing #DemInternDiversity #DemInternSelfie.” Standing behind Jackson was a crowd much more racially representative of the American population. The post sent a clear message about Democratic appeal among minorities.
— US Rep E.B.Johnson (@RepEBJ) July 19, 2016
The Republican intern selfie reinforcing stereotypes that the GOP is entirely White from sea to shining sea would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. As Donald Trump secures his party’s nomination for president this week, it’s like they’re beating us over the head with what they really mean by “Make America Great Again.” But how can Republicans expect to appeal to a crucial population of voters in November when they are consistently unrepresentative and dismissive of them?
It’s easy to not notice you’re in a giant crowd of White people when you, yourself, are a white person. Not seeing anything wrong with this is an inherent aspect of the privilege of being White. Whiteness is the default “normal.” Standing in a room of fellow white people feels like you’re just standing in a room full of “people.” But when you’re one of the most powerful people in the U.S. government, a little self-awareness wouldn’t hurt.