By Shrida Pandey, Marisa Guerra Echeverria, and Lyanne Wang, Online News Editor and Staff Writers
// The 2020 United States (U.S.) election cycle brought a historical amount of increased representation and diversity in politics. With the first transgender state senator, the first non-binary state senator, and an African and Asian American Vice President-elect; BIPOC, women, and LGBTQ+ people have made great strides in the political field through election and re-election.
The election of these underrepresented minority groups made the 117th U.S. Congress the most diverse in American history.
Many Acalanes High School students believe that this political presence in the country allows for a greater representation of minoritized groups.
“It’s important to have people from marginalized groups in government because it gives younger people in those marginalized groups hope for seeing themselves represented in [the] government,” Queer Straight Alliance club President and junior Autumn Long said.
Use the interactive map below to see profiles on 12 people who contributed to the rise in equity and diversity in political offices.
Impact on the Acalanes Community
The rise in political representation for minorities in American office leaves a lasting and inspiring impact upon the Acalanes community, which does not have the same degree of diversity.
“I think there’s little diversity at Acalanes especially in regards to race, which is also just true of the area we live in, Lamorinda,” sophomore Lauren Kuo said.
According to U.S. News and World Report, Acalanes High School is a predominantly white school with its white student population making up around 71 percent of the school. Minority groups make up around 29 percent of the student population, with 12 percent Asian, 7 percent Hispanic, 1 percent Black, 0.1 percent Hawaiian Native/Pacific Islander, 0 percent Native Indian/Alaskan Native, and 8 percent two or more races.
However, within these racial and ethnic demographics in the Acalanes student body, there is a multitude of different cultures that many students feel the school underrepresents and overlooks.
“I think that [the student body] needs to pay attention to things that are in everyone’s culture so that [people] are free to express themselves in their culture… From what I’ve seen, [events] are very whitewashed. There’s not a lot of diversity when it comes to religion, freely expressing values, or cultures,” senior Ryland Nella said.
Likewise, some students feel that Acalanes Leadership does not fully represent the student body due to the class’s insufficient minority representation.
“I think that there should definitely be more diversity among the students within Leadership based on my experience,” Leadership Spirit Board member and sophomore Sophie Westen said. “I am in a board of nine people and they are all white except our [Acalanes Student Body] representative, and I think that the rest of Leadership follows a similar pattern.”
Students argue that there should be more minority visibility within the leaders of their school.
“It’s important to be shown perspectives different from your own no matter your race or gender, starting in school,” Kuo said.
Leadership and Ethnic Studies teacher Katherine Walton agrees that more work needs to happen before Leadership can fully represent all Acalanes students.
“[Representation in Leadership] is definitely something that I, along with administration and student leaders, have been working on,” Walton said. “I definitely look at the data in terms of race and have had conversations with administration, District staff, and the other leadership teachers in the District about the work that needs to happen so that the program does fully represent the whole student body.”
A majority of these diverse perspectives currently come from Acalanes’ equity clubs which are student-run clubs that serve as safe spaces for different marginalized groups on campus. Equity clubs also provide insight for issues on-campus pertaining to different groups by raising awareness through club events, meetings, and dialogues.
“By allowing students to have affinity spaces for alike groups, it helps build unity among minorities and helps people feel more welcome. Overall, having equity clubs brings awareness to campus and brings perspective to students of different backgrounds,” Asian-American Student Union President and senior Kylie Alfaro said.
Equity club members also hope that the Acalanes community would place more emphasis on recognizing equity clubs for their integral role in building cultural awareness.
“[Acalanes] doesn’t represent minorities how they say they are. Our school is very white and we don’t give people of color or LGBT people enough credit. We have a lot of signs and events that [would] happen if we were in in-person school, but no one goes to them, so that doesn’t give [minorities] enough representation,” Nella said.
Some students worry that the lack of diversity within Acalanes’ leadership positions can be damaging to minorities on campus.
“I think having those people in positions of our governmental power should inspire our school to put people in places of power, to put minorities in positions of power and in our administration which will therefore inspire students to get into positions of power whether that’s on the school board [or] Leadership,” Latinos Unidos President, Black Student Union secretary, and senior Zevin Acuña said.
The increased political representation nationwide further empowers students to step into important roles both within and outside their community.
“Having more minority people with political power and platforms allow them to be role models for people of color. It can continue to show minority groups that they can make a difference in their own community,” junior Aviruchi Dawadi said.
Moreover, the growing number of minorities in political offices may help to fight against injustices happening in everyday society.
“Minorities in power will be able to work towards fighting the racism embedded in institutions and represent groups that might not otherwise have a voice… This is a step in the right direction,” Westen said.
Along with the record-breaking amount of racial and ethnic diversity in Congress this term, students hope that the increased intersectional and LGBTQ+ congressional presence will push pertaining struggles to the forefront of congressional policies.
“If we just had all white, cis-gender, straight people [as U.S. representatives], there’ll be no diversity whatsoever and they wouldn’t know what to do for people of color, people who are LGBT, and people who are trans,” Nella said.
The historic election and re-election of many people of color, LGBTQ+ community members, and women may redefine the future for minority representation in American offices.
“People can never learn unless they engage and interact with those around them, and if those people are all the same, division will persist,” Westen said.