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Representation Matters

In November of 2008, when Senator Obama became President Obama, I was thirteen years old. Sasha Obama, his youngest daughter, was only seven years old, just six years my junior. Dad insisted that we could have been twins. I recognized her warm brown skin; I recognized the halo of soft, fuzzy hairs that framed her face as her relaxer grew out; I recognized her full pink lips and rounded nose. I realized that girls like me could become girls like her. She was pretty and powerful, and she was brown. I then felt pretty and powerful in my brownness, too.

(Scott Olson/Getty Images)

For the first time, I saw myself in the First Family. We – millions of young black boys and girls – saw ourselves in the White House not only on school tours or one day as security or staff, but as inhabitants. 2008 inched us one step closer to the podium that had, until this moment, shielded scores of white men. We’re closer, but we’re not there yet.

Today, there are eight-year-olds who have never seen a white president. In eight years, for the first time in two hundred, there is a growing possibility that these same children may have never seen a white nor a male president. This is a new America our parents and grandparents could not have anticipated, whether they wanted to or not.

The world is changing, and thus the political landscape is finally coming to mirror its constituents, albeit very slowly. An increasingly diversifying America is seeing increasingly diverse representation. As it should. As it must. Regardless of political leaning or racial heritage, diversity does us all a favor in providing us a different lens through which to view our world. What perspectives might a Latinx, Mormon, or trans mayor, senator, or president have that another may not? Who have we excluded from the table because no kin were there to offer them a seat?

In 2016, millions of little girls may for the first time see themselves at the podium. In 2024, and every eight years thereafter, I hope my future nieces, nephews, sons, or daughters have the opportunity to see each part of themselves and their classmates represented proudly and powerfully, too.

Kat is a senior at Harvard concentrating in Social Anthropology. She's an a cappella nerd, a hip hop dancer, and a lover of any and all Mexican food.
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