Paul Ryan’s Selfie With Group of All-White D.C. Interns Sparks Debate Over Minority Hiring on Capitol Hill


House Speaker Paul Ryan on Saturday posted a picture of himself on Instagram posing in front of a large crowd of young folks. “I think this sets a record for the most number of #Capitol Hill interns in a single selfie,” he boasted in a caption.

But the Internet had another superlative for the photo: Whitest. Group. Ever.

“Blinded by the #white,” was one Instagrammer’s take on the nearly universally caucasian crowd.  “I had to put on sunglasses to look directly at it,” tweeted another commenter. The photo was shared on social media with the hashtag #gopsowhite, a riff on the #oscarssowhite campaign last year that brought attention to the lack of minorities in Hollywood.

It’s unclear whether the interns pictured were all Republicans or whether it was a bipartisan group, and Ryan’s office did not return e-mails seeking clarification. The Daily Mail said the event — a speech titled “Interns Today, Leaders Tomorrow” — was sponsored by the House Republican Conference, and was mostly (though not exclusively) attended by interns working for Republican offices on Capitol Hill (a spokesperson for the conference did not immediately respond).

The picture only highlighted what’s obvious, though not measured, on Capitol Hill — that there’s a dearth of minority staffers. Each office — those of all 535 members of Congress as well as assorted committees and offices — hires its own staff, so there’s no centralized tracking of hires. One of the only studies to look at minority hiring in the Capitol found that only 7.1 percent of top Senate staffers were nonwhite, though minorities represent 36 percent of the population.

It’s easy to mock interns for their earnest naivete, their inability to stand to the right on  Metro escalators, or their inappropriate office attire, but they make up the pool of people often hired for junior jobs on the Hill — those who eventually move up the ranks to powerful jobs. After all, Ryan himself was an intern for his home-state senator.

“Interns really are the next generation of leaders,” says Shrita Hernandez, vice president for communications for the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, which places interns in the Hill offices of CBC members. This summer, they’re sponsoring 46 interns.

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The Washington Post