In my time training as a communications intern at the League of Women Voters, I was posed with two daunting questions. What change would you like to see in the world? How can you embody that change?
I’ve always been the type of person to ask questions – to ask how the world could be, or why it is the way it is. My mom reminisced to me about how even when I was a baby, I would pester her with an endless stream of whos, whats, whens, wheres, and hows. So when faced with the questions above, I knew right away what type of change I wanted to see in our world: I want to see the world change into a place where diverse voices are celebrated. And I will embody that by stepping into my own power.
Yesterday, I sat with the League of Women Voters as we wrote a press release responding to the Supreme Court's decision striking down Affirmative Action. This decision, to me, signals a change in American perspective. It implies that when it comes to racial equity in higher education, we're now at an even playing field; yet that could not be even farther from the truth. In 2021, only 23% of Latinos and 26% of Black Americans aged 25-29 had a bachelor’s degree, compared to 45% of white Americans in that age range. Additionally, the leadership in higher education institutions lacks racial diversity, with only 11% of not-for-profit institutions and 1% of R1 institutions (a subset of institutions that grant doctoral degrees and conduct research) matching the racial representation of the United States.
To say minorities are equally represented in our education system is a grave misunderstanding of reality. I found myself asking why – why would such a decision be made in the nation's highest Court? How could anyone with any sense agree to dismantle such an important asset to students of color? I found no answer.
The same had happened just a year prior with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Then and now, I realized that there needs to be a louder collective voice – a chorus of people willing to challenge oppressive decisions, demand an explanation, and shine a light on the true reasoning behind these choices. To make that happen, I knew there also needed to be a change within myself.
To embody this change, I know I must become unapologetic in who I am as a person – something that I've been learning to do ever since I left for college. It has been a difficult change for me, especially with my background coming from a predominantly white school where I was often worried about fitting in and not to disrupting the status quo. Instead of blending into the background as I did then, I know now that I need to take up space in a room without worrying whether I am "too much." That my voice is just as important as the loudest ones, so long as I have courage and conviction in what I am saying, I want every soft-spoken, underestimated woman, every woman of color, and every person who has felt marginalized or lesser-than to realize the power in their voices and in their stories. And I want to model that in my own actions and activism.
Every day, I push myself just a bit more outside my comfort zone, and every day, my voice grows just a bit more. Working with the League of Women Voters has opened my eyes to what the world could be and how it could be so. My colleagues at the League are a group of fearless people who have banded together to make themselves heard in a world that seeks to silence them more and more. I've been so lucky to work with them because not only have they taught me about the political world, but they've taught me about myself. Though I'm a long way to go from being fearless (no one is truly ever without fear), I'm gaining the courage to make myself heard and to make the change that I want to see in our world.
The Latest from the League
As a law student, some of the most valuable experiences you will have are through internships. Internships provide law students with the opportunity to apply the knowledge they have built in school to gain insight into day-to-day life as a legal professional.
1. Sign the League of Women Voter’s Petition
On May 16, 2023, Mary Roche volunteered as a poll worker in her county for Pennsylvania’s municipal primary election. She'd recently joined her local League, and by volunteering, she learned more about everything poll workers do to keep our elections running smoothly and ensure that every voice is heard.