On Monday, President Trump gathered at the East Room of the White House to salute the outgoing class of White House interns. In a massive photo shoot, the president stood amid the 115 interns as they all flashed their pearly whites for the many cameras assembled. But this photo of Trump's White House interns is incredibly problematic: Of the 115 White House interns standing beside the president, only two are people of color — and neither of them are women, as noted by former Housing and Urban Development Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Brandon Friedman on Twitter. The White House internship program is a highly competitive — and coveted — internship in the nation's capitol, and landing one of these spots is a huge honor.
The White House Internship Program website describes the program concisely:
A select group of young men and women from across the country dedicate their time, talents, energy, and service to better the White House and the Nation. These committed citizens become part of the White House team.
White it's important to note that the White House internship program doesn't explicitly say anywhere that the program reflects a diverse recruitment of interns — and hasn't, even looking at internet archives of the White House internship program site from when Obama was in office — previous White House intern class photos have reflected a far greater diversity of interns. The White House internship program did not immediately respond to Romper's request for comment.
Just looking solely at the numbers provided by Friedman in his tweet, the White House interns are rocking a greater percentage of women in both the House and Senate: 25.9 percent of this class of White House interns are women, compared to the 21 percent women serving in the Senate and 19.3 percent women in the House, according to Center for American Women and Politics. But at least Congress has some women of color (even though it needs more) — of the 104 women in the House of Representatives, 38 are women of color. Where are the women of color in the White House internship class? Or perhaps... any people of color greater than two?
If anything, the outgoing class of White House interns better reflects President Trump's excessively white and male cabinet than it does the diversity of the United States.
White House interns complete public service projects beyond the White House itself, with Washington, D.C.-area non profits and other community organizations. As Catherine Aguilar, a 2015 White House intern from Smith College told in an interview with her school: "It was my hope that through the White House Internship Program, I would be immersed in larger-scaled public service projects and make a difference beyond the boundaries of my own community."
That said, let's take a look at the numbers from a much broader perspective. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 50 percent of Washington, D.C. is black. Within the United States, that figure drops substantially to 13.3 percent — but it's a far cry above the 1 percent shown within Monday's White House intern class photo.
Look, this isn't about affirmative action or diversity quotas. But it is important that when a day in the life of a White House intern means working with organizations outside of the White House in the Washington, D.C. community "as a part of the White House team" — maybe more than two of those interns should actually look like the people in the community they serve? The White House internship program mission is "to make the 'People’s House' accessible to future leaders from around the nation." How accessible does the "People's House" really look when its internship program appears to favor white men?
The Fall 2017 White House internship selection process has already ended — so America will just have to wait and see how diverse the next class of White House interns will be — but I'm not holding my breath.