Last Saturday, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) posted an Instagram photo featuring Capitol Hill interns with the caption, “I think this sets a record for the most number of #CapitolHill interns in a single selfie.”
That may be true, but people took note of the photo for a different reason — almost everyone in it appears to be white.
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Some Twitter users noted the lack of diversity, posting about the photo with a #GOPSoWhite hashtag.
That picture of Paul Ryan with the GOP interns is so white that I had to put on sunglasses to look directly at it. #GOPSoWhite
— Awesomely Luvvie (@Luvvie) July 17, 2016
A few days later, interns working for Congressional Democrats decided to respond. Audra Jackson, an intern working for Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), decided to take her own selfie — one showcasing the diversity of interns on her side of the aisle.
— US Rep E.B.Johnson (@RepEBJ) July 19, 2016
Rep. Johnson told ThinkProgress she thinks Jackson’s selfie was an an “excellent idea” because the interns “represent the future of our party and where we’re going.”
“I wonder if the Republicans are looking at diversity or have any type of priority for it,” she added. “It’s not hard. If you have the attitude of diversification, believe me it shows and people will get it right away. I believe if there is some interest in making sure that you reflect the American population, the attitudes are well known.”
When asked about the importance of diversity on a place like Capitol Hill, she had a direct and clear answer: “First of all, we represent the nation. Our nation is very diverse and becoming more diverse every day. And I think to have a non-diverse representation is a disservice to the American people.”
It seems that Capitol Hill as a place of employment still has strides to make in that respect. A study released by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies last year found that though people of color make up over 28 percent of the citizen voting-age population, they represent just 7 percent of top Senate staffers. The study also found that “Senate offices representing states with large Hispanic and African-American populations hire few senior staffers of color.”
But Jackson said she appreciates the diversity of her intern cohorts.
“As I continue to meet new interns it is clear that the Democrats in the House of Representatives have given opportunities to people from all over America and all walks of life,” she said.
— Valcy Etienne is an intern at ThinkProgress.