Down Goes the Wall: The Long-Awaited Rise of Representation in American Politics

Written by: Julia

Edited by: Megh

Visual by: Solenne

As users worldwide obsessively reloaded the blue and red shaded map of the United States, anxiously waiting to see who the president-elect would be, the future of America found itself teetering between two worlds: a nation either plunged into regressive darkness or growing progress. 

The nail-bitingly close race concluded with Joe Biden becoming the 46th President of the United States, and the daughter of US immigrants, Senator Kamala Harris, emerging as the first Black and Indian female Vice President of the nation. This historic decision brought a ripple of hope and strength to the divided country, breaking down the rigid barriers of white male dominated politics. Senator Harris’ portrait amidst the homogenous portraits of white men elicits intense emotions for Americans of all colors.  

Sophomore Kailani states that “it was crazy that it was only this year that the first POC [person of colour] woman was elected as Vice President in United States history. It took this long for this to happen, over 200 years. As an Asian American, representation is everything. Especially in the United States […] I think it’s a step in the right direction and I hope to see the representation of POC continue to grow and expand in hopes of everyone’s voices being heard.”

Harris’ victory is a moment of celebration; it is our greatest victories that highlight our greatest struggles. It was only in 1920 that women were able to cast their ballots; black women in particular could only truly exercise this civil right around fifty years later; minority populations, despite being equally qualified to their white counterparts, are still less likely to prosper in a nation experiencing so much divide. Gender, religious and political associations, socioeconomic status and varying values and beliefs have served as dividers between the American population for too long – the fight for equality must continue.

Ms. Ramani, an eighth grade English teacher who shares Harris’ South Asian roots, believes that “as a woman of color, Kamala Harris reminds me that it is up to me to see myself for all of the potential I hold despite the fault mirrors that the world holds up. There hasn’t been enough opportunity for women of color to show what we bring when we have a seat at the table. As a result, we often forget about our own capabilities, knowledge and inherent value. Kamala reminds the world what is possible when women, specifically women of color, are not only seen but put into positions of power to affect real change. I hope that this moment continues to act as a reminder to all of us that regardless of what role we play at ISM, whether educator or student, we all have a responsibility to continue empowering our young minds to continue building the future that Kamala’s victory represents.”

There is no better way to traverse the tumultuous tides of American politics and its driving forces than consuming literature and media from a variety of sources. BT has compiled a short list with both online articles, books, and podcasts for your enjoyment!

Online Articles

When picking online articles, the sheer depth of the Internet can seem daunting. Fake news runs rampant, littered with undercurrents of bias. When forming a political opinion, it is crucial to be able to start with a strong, unbiased foundation to truly see where your personal beliefs and values align. 

How does the US political system work?

This BBC article provides readers with a general overview of American politics and how the political system works. The workings of American politics are very different when compared to systems of other nations; the US system is not black-and-white. The popular vote does not trump all: political parties, left and rightist stands, and the electoral college all contribute to election results. It is important to educate oneself on these interfering variables to prevent prejudice, bias and unfair judgement. 

These two charts show the lack of diversity in the House and Senate

To fully grasp the homogeneity of leaders in American politics today, see the article above. Through engaging graphics, it is made clear that minority populations form only small percentages of American politics. It is not easy to truly grasp the lack of representation in politics with confusing news headlines – this article lays all the statistics into easy-to-understand charts.

Podcasts

Firelit: The US Election for Dummies

ISM’s very own students have emerged with FireLit Radio, a podcast discussing the ins and outs of society through academic yet real and raw perspectives. Check out their recent episode discussing the US election and its workings and the many implications that they hold for global society. Support our fellow Bearcats by streaming FireLit!

Code Switch

A project by the National Project Radio (NPR), Code Switch examines the role that race plays in everyday American life. Through conversations with journalists of color, the issue of racial diversity is dissected through various perspectives and lenses, providing listeners with a comprehensive outlook on race and American society.

Books

‘Americanah’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

As recommended by ISM alumni Lauren Zhou, “Americanah tells the tale of a young woman named Ifemelu and weaves together the 2 stages of her life, living in Nigeria and living in the US. The reason I love Adichie is because she beautifully illustrates the subtle discriminations she faces, in an unabashed and bold way. Adichie continues to speak up about gender equality and racism through her writing workshops and lectures all over the world (including her viral TedX, “We Should All Be Feminists”).”

‘The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the Looming Generational Showdown’ by Paul Taylor

The Next America: Boomers, Millennials and the Looming Generational Showdown is of extreme relevance today, as we see the quick transition from the baby-boomers to the millennial population occurring in America today. Based on data from the Pew Research Center, Taylor paints a picture of the America of the future: the radical shifts that society will endure and spearhead, the challenges and successes awaiting the nation, and the important role that representation will play in an altered, radical society. Taylor shows how the power of ever-growing diversity in the US must be harnessed and the effects of unity on bettering society.

This monumental shift in American leadership marks a new beginning for marginalized communities, but the fight for further representation in politics will not be easy. Not only as Americans, but as global citizens, we must begin to think critically about our leaders, governments, and societies. At the end of the day, it is leadership that inspires and creates lasting impressions on future generations. Our elected leaders should, after all, be reflective of the diverse range of people that vote for them.

Works Cited

“For the Fifth Time in a Row, the New Congress is the Most Racially and Ethnically Diverse Ever.” Pew Research Center, 18 Aug. 2020, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/02/08/for-the-fifth-time-in-a-row-the-new-congress-is-the-most-racially-and-ethnically-diverse-ever/.

“Profile: Who is Kamala Harris?” BBC News, 12 Aug. 2020, http://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2020-53728050.