John-Carlos Estrada

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JCE BLOG: To get a break, you need a shot

  • July 27, 2016

It was a photo that made the news for its tone deafness.

The Speaker of the House Paul Ryan surrounded by a group of mostly white interns with a caption that read: “I think this sets a record for the most number of #CapitolHill interns in a single selfie. #SpeakerSelfie”

I think this sets a record for the most number of #CapitolHill interns in a single selfie. #SpeakerSelfie.

A photo posted by Speaker Paul Ryan (@speakerryan) on

At first, I didn’t bother to read more than just the headline on this latest “DC scandal.” It seemed like clickbate.

It took a post by a professor at Columbia University to open my eyes to the problem with the ‘tone deaf selfie.’

How could it be that a photo taken by the most powerful person on Capitol Hill have visibly no person of color?

“…despite their differences in politics, all have one thing in common: someone at some point gave them a shot. Someone mentored them, someone coached them, someone with connections introduced them to someone else. Likely, several someones helped them get to D.C.”

I couldn’t shake the words from professor Duy Linh Tu.

He’s correct — to help diversify photos like the one Speaker Ryan took with his interns — we’ve got to give minorities a shot.

Last year, actress Viola Davis gave an acceptance speech for ‘Best Actress’ for a TV drama, the first black woman to win the award, that highlighted this for the entire nation.

“The only thing that separates women of color from everyone else is opportunity,” she said. “You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.”

As a first-generation Mexican-American male, I’ve been given plenty of shots in my life that I worked to get and keep.

In college, I got two shots to intern on Capitol Hill. For two semesters, I worked for a U.S. senator and representative. It was an amazing experience but it doesn’t pay. I had to hold down a part-time job.

In 2008, I got another shot to intern at the Today Show in New York City for a summer. My parents helped with one month’s worth of rent but I had to bartend on the weekends to live in the Big Apple. The internship didn’t pay. But I don’t regret it — the opportunity gave me a look into my future career as a broadcaster.

John-Carlos Estrada internship

I interned on Capitol Hill in 2006 for Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey & Congressman Henry Cuellar of Texas. And interned for the Today Show in 2008.

But bottom line: I was given and worked hard for these opportunities. But it took someone taking a shot on me.

So, if you have the means to mentor or coach someone — take the time to do so!

It could be their shot — to get that break in life.

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