On July 16, House speaker Paul Ryan posted a photo to his Instagram account featuring himself and a room full of Capitol Hill interns.
"I think this sets a record for the most number of #CapitolHill interns in a single selfie," Ryan captioned the photo.
The photo had an overwhelming amount of white people and the internet took notice. They quickly jumped on the white-bright selfie, pointing out just how obviously lacking in diversity the intern pool appeared to be.
Recent University of Texas at Dallas graduate Audra L. Jackson, however, wasn't surprised.
She wasn't present for its taking — she believes only House Republican interns were featured — but as a Black woman and a congressional intern for Texas congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, Jackson has seen her share of white homogeneity on the Hill.
"I was glad that people were noticing the all-white audience because it's something I pick up on the daily basis," Jackson told Revelist in an interview.
"I think it's unfortunate that some interns and subsequently staff on the Hill do not reflect the true diversity of America," she said.
Though Jackson works in a relatively diverse office herself — congresswoman Johnson’s staffers are Black, white, and Pakistani, and are of Turkish and Hawaiian descents, too — she's well aware of the whiteness that surrounds her.
Though she can’t speak on the experiences of working in a predominantly-white office, Jackson says she's attended events with all-white audiences.
"I get annoyed at times because having a homogeneous group leads to a lack of diversity in thought and it leaves out minority group's experiences," Jackson said.
Even within other sectors of the government, Jackson has heard troubling stories. As a woman of color, Jackson says she was greatly affected by the recent shooting deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and the five Dallas police officers.
Yet, she's heard from other people who work in D.C. that when Sterling and Castile died at the hands of white officers others in their office didn't mention the tragedies at all.
"When people do not get to voice their feelings and concerns with people who don't think like them, the people who don't think like them will never understand, subsequently igniting the frustration of those who are trying to explain their experiences," Jackson said. "We must respect the feelings and experiences of people of color and others who don't look like us."
However, Jackson and other Democratic interns are taking steps to show that Capitol Hill interns are much more representative of the United States than Ryan’s selfie would lead us to believe.
The Democratic National Convention Committee 2016 interns
On the afternoon of July 18, Jackson emailed out an idea she and interns throughout the Democratic caucus came up with: for them to come together and take a selfie of their own.
“One of the highlights of my internship so far has been the amount of diversity in people I have met both in my office and throughout the Democratic caucus,” Jackson wrote in the email. “We think it would be a big positive to show the country that the future of our party… represents the makeup of America.”
Jackson says that the goal of the photo is to celebrate the diversity of interns in Democratic offices and show what diversity and inclusion looks like.
“Many interns and staff are talking about [Ryan’s selfie] and we want to show that there are Democratic offices committed to diversity,” Jackson says. “Republican interns are welcome to join after we take our picture.”
Aside from Jackson's future fire selfie, Washington already employs several programs to increase diversity on the Hill.
Jackson’s internship program is a part of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and was launched by the Congressional Black Caucus and their spouses in 1986 in order to help combat diversity disparity on the Hill. In addition, other programs such as the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus help to challenge diversity problems in D.C.
“I do think there is a racial disparity within people working in D.C., but luckily we have programs,” Jackson says. “It is imperative that we support programs like this in order to have true diversity on the Hill.”
Even just this simple selfie will show how necessary supporting diversity in D.C. truly is.
Revelist has reached out to the U.S. House of Representatives regarding speaker Paul Ryan’s selfie, as well as out to seven interns who were in the selfie or have since been tagged in Instagram photos with Ryan — two interns declined to comment.
Update 7/19: Jackson's Democratic intern selfie is stunning as hell.
On Tuesday evening Democratic interns and Jackson gathered on the steps of the Capitol to take this righteous photo. Take that, #SpeakerSelfie!