Finally, Congress Starts to Resemble America

Finally, Congress Starts to Resemble America

The 116th Congress will show off American diversity more than ever before. It's been a long time coming.

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On November 7, America elected its most diverse Congress ever.

The midterm elections for the Senate and House of Representatives brought in a record number of politicians from all sorts of cultural and religious backgrounds. Their victories mark a new milestone in the demographic makeup of Congress, which has historically been dominated by white men.

Congress's past members and their characteristics prove just how far the country has come. In the 79th Congress, which took office in 1945, only 1% of members were nonwhite. That same year, not a single woman served in the entire Congress, comprising approximately 535 lawmakers.

Sixteen years later, only three African Americans and twenty women held seats in the House or Senate, and though this rose to seventeen African American members by 1981, only one woman was added in that time. Native Americans, followed by Asian Americans and Hispanics, are the least represented minorities in Congress. Growth in the number of members from these backgrounds has been the slowest by far.

In 1982, with passage of the Voting Rights Act, representation of minorities skyrocketed, thanks to the redrawing of district lines throughout the United States. A similar thing occurred in 1992; after what had largely been seen as the insensitive handling of Anita Hill's testimony during the Clarence Thomas Senate hearings prompted a record number of women to run for office.

Though the most recent midterm outcomes are more the product of slow change than one groundbreaking event (though, you could argue that the somewhat successful "blue wave" played a role -- women and minorities make up a majority of the Democratic party at present, compared to the 88% white male Republican House membership) they proved to be significant. On Wednesday, a record number of women -- one hundred! -- became part of the 116th Congress, including the first Native American and Muslim women to ever serve.

Massachusetts and Connecticut elected their first African American Congresswomen, Democrats Ayanna Pressley and Jahana Hayes. Texas elected its first Latina Congresswomen, Sylvia Garcia and Veronica Escobar, both Democrats. And Iowa elected women to the House for the first time in its history -- Democrats Abby Finkenauer and Cindy Axne. Not to mention, Arizona and Tennessee both elected their first female senators.

The election of a more diverse Congress means that the United States government will begin to better resemble America's diverse population. In 2017, about 20.7% of Congress was female, compared to the 50.8% female population of the whole United States. Though Hispanics made up 18.1% of the population that same year, their representation in Congress -- 8.5% -- was little more than half that. Finally, those of Asian and Pacific Islander ancestry made up a little over three percent of the Congress last year, half of their total presence in the United States population, standing at six percent. The results of this last election stand to shift these percentages and make them more equal on each side, painting a more accurate picture of America's diversity.

Not only did the midterms have implications for Congress's demographics, but also for the kinds of legislation it passes. In the past, the addition of more women and minorities in Congress has led to more legislation attentive to the interests and issues of these groups. In other words: progress leads to more progress.

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10 Fun Facts About Animals That Will 100% Make Your Day

A little animal pick-me-up.

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The beautiful world that we live in is filled with so many different animals that are all unique and special. There's something to learn from each living creature on our Earth. Here are some facts about animals that will surely make you smile and maybe give you the pick up that you need!

1. 3% of the ice in Antarctica is made of penguin urine

Penguins really make their mark.

2. Dolphins name their friends

Dolphins associate a sound to each of their friends.

3. Cows love to listen to music

Cows have been shown to produce more milk when listening to slow music.

4. And they have best friends

They get stressed out when their best friend is not with them.

5. Honeybees know how to dance

They dance to survive and tell fellow honeybees where the flowers are.

6. Rats like to be tickled

Rats laugh when tickled. Who doesn't like to be tickled?

7. Squirrels will adopt orphans

If baby squirrels are left abandoned, fellow squirrels will take them in.

8. Elephants self-soothe

We all need some self love.

9. Worms want companionship and with companions snuggle

We all love to snuggle, even worms.

10. Quokka's can smile

I think I found my new favorite animal.

Hopefully, these facts about animals make you feel warm and fuzzy. Have a great day.

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Avatar: The Last Airbender Is Still Iconic, And Here's Why

Although it's a children's cartoon from the 2000s, ATLA remains one of the greatest shows ever made.

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Avatar: The Last Airbender ended in 2008, but I've watched the full series at least ten other times since then. I was a big fan of ATLA when it was first airing, but sometimes I marvel at how lasting it's impact is over a decade later. I've seen ATLA bumper stickers and tattoos depicting the four elements, not mention that I myself have a "Jasmine Dragon" sticker on my laptop resembling the Starbucks logo. ATLA was incredible. It's witty, fun, emotionally impactful, interesting in plot, and filled with relatable characters. "Korra" was a nice attempt to follow up on a passionate fanbase, but it ultimately didn't resonate with viewers to the same degree. That said, sometimes people wonder why I'm still so invested in a kid's cartoon from the 2000s. Here's why.

The show referenced a variety of cultures from around the world

If you've watched the show, you've probably realized that there aren't actually any "white" characters in the Avatar-verse. Not that European cultures aren't valid, but it is notable that the show was created as an appreciation of cultures that often go overlooked. The art and music were heavily influenced by East and South Asia, and the different nations clearly reference Asian and indigenous traditions. Earth Kingdom cities were based off of real cities in East Asia, and the culture depicted drew from various East Asian nations as well. The same applies to the fire nation, which was originally modeled off of Japan and China. The water tribes have their foundations in Inuit and Sireniki cultures, and the air nomads are based on Tibetans, Sri Lankan Buddhists, and Shaolin Monks. There are many other historical references throughout "Avatar," including a nod to ancient Mesopotamia in the Sun Warriors.

The characters were complex and relatable

"ATLA" didn't just give us a typical group of teenage heroes, with each one fitting into a typical mold. They were complex and realistic, and that's what made them relatable. We saw Aang balance his role as Avatar with his personal moral philosophy, all while experiencing the onset of puberty and young adulthood. We watched Katara struggle with responsibility as the main female role model in her family after her mother's death. We observed and related to Toph and Zuko's complex relationships with their families, including the influence that an abusive parent can have on a young life. We experienced the struggles of inferiority to "better" friends with Sokka, and even learned about toxic friendships with Mai and Ty Lee. These were all growing kids and teenagers, and nothing could have been more genuine.

"ATLA" gave us some incredible, strong female leads to look up to

Katara was truly the first feminist I ever encountered on television. Not only did she become a master waterbender in the span of weeks, she also taught the Avatar! And the whole time, she reminded us that strong fighters can be feminine too. Meanwhile, Toph showed us that just because a person has a disability, doesn't mean that they are defined by it. In fact, Toph's blindness only enhances her abilities, rather than holding her back. We also encounter powerful female characters like Azula (I know, she's evil, but that doesn't make her any less of a prodigy), Ty Lee, Mai, Suki (and all the Kyoshi warriors for that matter), Smellerbee, and even Princess Yue (who literally died for her people, mind you).

It made a deep, dramatic topic witty and fun

It occurred to me recently that "Avatar" is basically about imperialism and genocide. The Fire Nation decides to take over the world through military force, and it does so by exterminating an entire people and occupying and colonizing everyone else. For such a deep topic, you wouldn't think the show would be quite as fun as it is, but it is. I've restarted watching, and I find myself constantly laughing. With Sokka's sarcastic comments, Iroh's oddities, and everybody else's regular quips, "ATLA" is regularly lighthearted and never takes itself too seriously.

There's some real wise advice throughout

Finally, what "ATLA" is really known for, is its heart. Uncle Iroh provides us with a regular understanding of the world around us, encouraging us to see the world in balance and look for our true selves. His wise words ring true throughout childhood and adulthood. The underlying themes and messages of the show, including balance, friendship, love, and loyalty, all serve the greater purpose of advising the audience.

In summary, "Avatar" was amazing. If you haven't, I highly recommend you do. If you have, maybe go rewatch!

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