When I arrived in DC for my internship a few months ago, I was ready to meet new people and learn about their life experiences. I met a lot of new people, both at the GWU dorms and at work, but there was one thing that stuck out to me. The vast majority of people I interacted with were like me: white.
And not only white, but from a middle to upper-class background. Because of this, I became worried about the lack of minorities in the DC-intern world. Although I was worried, I was not surprised; interning in DC is not cheap, and even if one receives scholarship money, as I did, you are missing out on making more money by living at home and working a summer job. It’s a sad reality that the majority of students who can afford to have an intern experience in DC are from a certain, privileged demographic.
I wonder what we miss out on when the future generation of politicians, bureaucrats, and activists are mostly white and wealthy. Can white, wealthy people accurately understand the issues which minorities face? Maybe, maybe not. What I know for sure is this: the only person who is truly qualified to speak about a particular lived experience is the person who had the experience themselves. I don’t think it’s controversial to say that a Hispanic-American would be more qualified to work on immigration issues than a white person from the Midwest. The Hispanic-American likely has more experience with the issue, and their input at the highest levels of government is necessary in order to have discussion representing multiple, diverse viewpoints.
I know this all sounds pessimistic, but it’s a truth which I witnessed this past summer. When I stood on the metro platform each morning, waiting for my ride to an office where I could develop skills and nurture relationships with professionals, the crowd of white faces did not go unnoticed.
I hope more faces of color will be a part of that crowd in the future. And I hope they get to catch that same train to the office.