Opinion: As Candidate Diversity Drops, So Does My Hope

Opinion: As Candidate Diversity Drops, So Does My Hope

Democratic presidential hopefuls (from L) Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden participate in the tenth Democratic primary debate. (Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

When candidates started announcing their decisions to campaign for the Democratic nomination, supporters praised the party for being inclusive and representative. Especially with the increase in hate crimes toward minorities in the last couple of years, I remember hoping that perhaps if a person of color wins, it’ll be clear that America is and should be diverse.

Seeing the six female candidates and a multitude of people of color, I felt a newfound sense of pride and hope for a more diverse government that matched the demographics of our country. 

This election cycle was the first time I saw my life reflected through those of the Democratic presidential nominees. Although I may not have agreed with Andrew Yang’s policies, when he made math jokes, I recalled the similar Asian jokes I had grown up with. As cliché as it sounds, I felt like my obstacles, my struggles and my plight were being represented and discussed. Finally, someone in our government would speak and stand for me.

Yet, with the news of Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, Julian Castro and Yang dropping out of the presidential race, my pride was tainted, and my hope has been pierced. I used to watch the Democratic debates and observe the various perspectives the candidates of color brought up. I admired how they emphasized generational racism and highlighted the various plights of minorities.

I didn’t support them simply because of some odd, raging desire to elect another person of color as president, but rather because their experiences spoke to me, from one minority to another. When Castro described how his grandmother migrated to the U.S. from Mexico as a child and how that shaped his policies to protect immigrants, as a first-generation Korean immigrant, I felt valued, especially with the rampant anti-immigrant rhetoric plaguing our country.

For me, this election has been a close juxtaposition of hope and disappointment. We’ve been told that we have the same opportunities as everyone else, but the past couple of months have proven anything but.

When I watch the debates now, I only see a sea of white faces, something I’ve been accustomed to my entire life. But I’ve come to understand that stereotypes and standards are inevitable obstacles people of color must overcome to be represented in government. And that sentiment inspires me every day. 

I turn 18 in September, but because I’m an immigrant, I can’t register to become a citizen and vote until I’ve held my green card for five years, which unfortunately occurs after the presidential election. I’ve spent the last couple years of my life counting down the days until I can become an American citizen and participate in our civic duty. But as ridiculous as this might sound, the lack of diversity in our government has made me hesitate. I’ve lost a certain amount of faith in this country and the ideals it stands for.

We praise and preach equality and representation, but our 2020 election undermines these values. But I’m not losing hope. I’m not giving up. I can’t. Because I need to help create a country that will one day be the America that represents anyone and everyone.