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Crying and holding my daughter, “Look baby, she looks like us.”

I don’t have a daughter, and I was definitely not crying. I also never said that. This was actually Mindy Kaling’s tweet after Kamala Harris got elected as VP. 

Why do people get emotional when they see representation? Is representation really that important? 

The short answer- yes. 

Historically, power and privilege have belonged to one group of people for a very long time. The impacts of slavery and colonization still exist today through the intergenerational trauma and systemic oppression ingrained into our society. The atrocious and stereotypical ways by which people of colour are portrayed through Western media continues to emphasize the unconscious bias of who holds the power. I’m saying power specifically because Kamala Harris, a Tamil and Black woman, has been elected into a position of power as the Vice President of the United States. Although she has a problematic record as a prosecutor, one good thing that has arisen from this is an increase in representation. It has opened doors and inspired people of colour to continue to fight against systems that have continuously oppressed them. It also reminds us that we’re allowed to be in these positions. 

Growing up, I never imagined a career in the creative field because I never really considered it an option. I had not seen people that looked like me pursue those kinds of careers. But then, I started to see people like Mindy Kaling and Ava Duvernay, who are successful female filmmakers in a male-dominated industry. They were people that I saw myself in and resonated with. So I thought to myself, maybe I can do it too?

In addition to them, it was seeing Maitreyi Ramakrishnan and Rupi Kaur, local Canadian talents, making it big in their creative fields. We’re the same age, but if I had a Maitreyi to look up to when I was younger, it would have saved me years of self doubt and hate. Years of being stuck in this loop of asking myself, would I even belong in those industries? 

To me, this is why representation is important. Young girls, specifically those of colour, shouldn’t have to bury their dreams because they think people that look like them aren’t supposed to pursue it. We belong, we’re allowed to belong. Don’t bury your dreams because you think you don’t belong. 

Thamilini Balakumar is a Global Business and Digital Arts student at the University of Waterloo. She has a passion for creative writing and storytelling. In addition to writing, she tells stories through her photography and videography.
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