The Alaska Republican called the Washington Democrat a “young lady” who “doesn’t know a damn thing what she’s talking about.”
By Avani Venkatesh
While a new wildlife management bill regarding Alaskan land was discussed in the House of Representatives, Pramila Jayapal, (D-WA) and Donald Young (R-AL) engaged in a political disagreement, a common occurrence on the House floor. The difference on this occasion was that the disagreement, unlike common political disagreements, turned personal when Young referred to Jayapal as a “young lady” who “doesn’t know a damn thing what she’s talking about.”
The comments when read seem rather unprofessional than offensive. However, when considering the fact that Jayapal, who is more educated and experienced than many of her male counterparts, was referred to as a “young lady” and that the tone used when slightly condescending, the incidence has underlying context. Though Young later apologized to Jayapal, this incidence is extremely reflective of our modern day society.
Conflicts regarding race and gender inequality have always existed in society, and though time has progressed, sometimes it seems as though these issues have not and occasions such as the protests in Charlottesville and the death of Trayvon Martin have only added fuel to the racial tensions that seem to exist.
There is no certain way to deem the motivations of the comment by Young and it cannot be said whether or not the Republican lawmaker meant the comments in a demeaning way or was simply enunciating his thoughts on Jayapal’s political view. However, it is the responsibility of our country’s government and leaders to be able to choose their words carefully and fully comprehend the multiple meanings behind everything that is said. Though we are all human, it is my strong belief that anyone with the honor of representing one of the most powerful nations on the planet should be able to construct a thoughtful and logical argument without personally attacking the intelligence of anyone. The use of language to demean the speaker in opposition rather than the idea only shows a lack of ideas and reasonability to oppose the actual idea.
Alongside of the carelessness that is reflected through a personal attack, the factor of race and gender unfortunately plays a role in the incidence. As first generation Indian American female, I consider Pramila Jayapal a role model. Not necessarily for her political views but simply because she has broken a glass ceiling in a field which has been white male dominated since its origins.
Personally, the first question that was raised in my mind upon hearing about this incidence was “Would he have personally attacked a white male who made the same point the same way he did Jayapal?”
Again, there is no way to know for certain if Young made the comments intentionally, subconsciously, or carelessly but the overarching truth is that in our society our physical differences are a huge factor for how we treat each other. Most stereotyping and racial bias happens subconsciously because of societal conditions which have been instilled in our heads and it is our job, and especially the job of our leaders, to lead by example in making an effort to treat all people equally.
Whether white or Indian, male or female, Democratic or Republican, America’s ideals will always revolve around freedom and equality. Though it may not seem that way due to recent events occurring throughout the country because of major changes in government and a multitude of other factors, it is up to those in power to make sure that America never forgets the principles the country was founded on.
(Avani Venkatesh is a junior in high school in the IB program.)