So, after the debacle that was the 2012 election for the Republicans, they gathered together and actually talked about how they needed to change if they wanted to start winning Presidential elections again. They actually noticed that they weren’t reaching people of color and they became just a bit introspective, wondering if maybe they needed to adjust their message, their approach, before 2016. They actually considered the possibility.
But it’s four years later and Paul Ryan thinks its just fine to post this photo of the Republican summer interns. There he is, smiling his shit-eating grin in front of a sea of tidy whitey faces, not a brown, black, or even tanned one in the bunch. If you look carefully there may be one, maybe two Asians. But you know… they’re so smart, those Asians… they may as well be white.
So guys, are you trying to tell me that in all your constituencies you couldn’t find any kids of color to take into your offices for the summer? Oh, maybe you tried but none of them applied? Or you had to take the most qualified and they just weren’t as qualified as all of these white, white, white kids? Is that it? Then I’d guess we’d see the same color mix with the Democratic summer interns, right? Because they would have had the same problem finding qualified kids of color to serve as their summer interns. Well, let’s just see about that.
Surprise, surprise. This group of interns looks more like the U.N., doesn’t it? Actually, this group of interns looks more like the United States, doesn’t it? Now you need to understand something. I am not in any way saying that all Republicans are racists. I think that many of them aren’t. What I am saying is that if you don’t make a real effort to bring everyone to your table – whatever your table is, wherever your table is – the result is the same as if you are a racist. And that top picture sure looks racist to me.
And there’s a piece missing from that top photo that I sure wish I had: the household income of the parents of all those white kids in that photo. And whether they went to public or private grade schools, high schools and colleges. Basically, are they children of doctors and lawyers and others with money? Is this internship that last nice piece of resume fodder they need to get the job they want to keep the privilege circle intact from generation to generation? Because that’s another thing the Republicans have always supported – the privileged class.
Now, I am not speaking from some outside position of envy. I am a daughter of educated parents; a doctor’s daughter who went to private schools and a good private college. And, I was raised Republican, as all privileged children should be. But I know there is another world and I have been part of that world too. And at some point, everyone has to make a choice. Will you live in that world of privilege and close the doors and stand braced behind them or will you step out the door and live in the real world and reach out your hand?
And here’s another really important point. I am not saying reach down your hand. I am saying reach out your hand. Because those of privilege are not better. Not at all. In fact, they are missing so much by being behind that door. And unless you are willing to open that door, you will not ever learn. And you are a racist, and a classist, and ignorant, and a fool.
I will tell you the first time that door opened for me. I was in the sixth grade. It was my first year in a new school and a lot of the kids were bullies. I was too naive to understand that. My old school hadn’t been that way. One of my favorite people and new friends was Annette. She was lovely, smart, funny and interesting. I liked and admired her so much, she was so amazing, that I was flattered that she wanted to be my friend. Have you had people like that in your life? She also happened to be African American – the first one I had ever had the chance to get to know.
One day I walked into the library in our school. Annette was sitting at the piano, playing. Did I mention that she was talented too? One of the girls – Susan – one of the biggest bullies in the school – was saying something and I just caught the end of it. “What should I call you then… negress?” she was saying. I looked over at Annette and caught a look on her face. She was stricken, I could see that. But she held herself together with a dignity. She was the tallest person in the room. Everything was so quiet.
I wish I could say that I stood up to Susan. I wish I had known what to say. I didn’t understand what was going on. I had never seen racism in action before. I didn’t even understand bullying. Now, I realize that for Annette, this was probably not a new experience. But for me it was. I’ve seen it since, but that was the first time. And it still stuns me.
Everyone holds the seeds of their own destruction within them so I don’t wish for revenge on Susan. I’m sure she’s gotten hers many times in her life. I would like to be a fly on the wall to see it just once though. Just to see her pay for that look she put on my friend’s face. That moment, although I didn’t know it, opened the door for me. And I walked through and never looked back.
And you need to understand that I think President Obama is possibly the smartest, classiest, most caring and best President we’ve had in decades. And people have spoken about him with a lack of respect that I have never heard before about a United States President. And I know he has had to stand there and take it just like my friend Annette did that day. And he has always shown the same kind of strong tall dignity.
And I will tell you that at every State of the Union address when President Obama has stood in front of Congress and spoken so eloquently.When he stands there and I see in the faces of too many Republican congressmen – in their expressions – that they are thinking how dare that black man stand where only a white man belongs – I will do everything in my power to make sure a Republican never enters the White House again, except as a guest.