Ahlgren: Enough with the ‘firsts’

The actual achievements of women and minorities based on merit are being whitewashed by America’s obsession with firsts.

The media projected Joe Biden to be the 46th president of the United States, which means Kamala Harris would be the first woman and first woman of color to be vice president. And to that I say, who cares? Seriously, who cares?

The media had a field day with Biden’s projected win, and articles of Kamala Harris claiming the title of being the first woman and woman of color to serve as VP continue to flood in. Headline upon headline states how historic this moment is for women and women of color. The modern obsession with “firsts” is in full force. “First gay this” or “first black transgender female with an amputated hand” that. There will always be a “first” something. I say again, who cares?

In her “victory” speech, Kamala relayed a very standard message that is included in most, if not all, “first” speeches. She stated, “While I may be the first woman in this office, I will not be the last, because every little girl watching tonight sees that this is a country of possibilities.” Hillary Clinton mirrored this sentiment when she was awarded the Democratic nomination for president in 2015. No matter political affiliation, race, gender, orientation, or religion, my reaction to this type of message is the same — it’s boring and uninteresting.

As a female, I don’t need Kamala Harris to be vice president to think I could be vice president, nor did I need Hillary Clinton to be a presidential nominee to think I could achieve that also. As a little girl, I didn’t grow up thinking I couldn’t be president because an evil systemic patriarchy would do everything in its power to prevent it. I thought I couldn’t be president because I figured it would be pretty hard to be a professional hockey player and leader of the free world.

As a woman living in the freest, most prosperous country in the world, where opportunities are endless to anyone fortunate enough to call themselves an American, I don’t have this skewed perception that I can’t achieve something solely based on my reproductive organs.

The idea that an achievement is more important because of the color of your skin, your ethnic background, who you love, or any characteristic outside of merit is shallow and baseless in modern America. Firsts used to be warranted. Say, pre-Civil Rights or during the Jim Crow era where systemic racism actually existed within lawful institutions and the mainstream culture. But in 2020, where the obsession over diversity and intersectionality reigns supreme, anything but merit is merely background noise.

I do find humor in the irony of Kamala Harris’s potentially “historic” achievement. An “achievement” only made possible because of the decision and power of an old white man. Joe Biden made it very clear on numerous occasions that his VP pick was going to be a woman of color, the only two criteria for the second highest office in the land. Two characteristics that someone has zero control over — genitalia and the amount of melanin in their skin. Two aspects of a human being that have absolutely nothing to do with intelligence, work ethic, rationality, or success. With that, Kamala Harris would be the first woman, and woman of color, in the vice presidency because the patriarchy the left hates so much allowed it.

The actual achievements of women and minorities based on merit are being whitewashed by America’s obsession with firsts. Much like what affirmative action has done to people of color, firsts have created skepticism in the public’s perception of female and minority accomplishments, and understandably so. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is very open about his hatred for affirmative action policies, stating that the racial discrimination of affirmative action is every bit as wrong as segregation. Thomas said affirmative action made it difficult to find a job out of law school because employers assumed he got to where he was due to special treatment.

The consequences of affirmative action that Thomas highlights are indicative of the outcome in measuring every single aspect of American life in terms of intersectionality and identity. Like I said before, there will always be a first something. We are all individuals with vastly different inherent characteristics — characteristics we have no control over. An achievement’s legitimacy or inspiration is not gauged by these characteristics, and these characteristics are not a net-negative when it comes to potential for success.

We live in the land of opportunity where everyone is equal under law. Women and minorities are more than capable of success on their own merit and to suggest that their inherent characteristics are what make an achievement “historic” or “special” is condescending and offensive. I don’t need an old white man to hand me an opportunity because of my gender. I don’t need an old white man to give me shortcuts. I don’t need Kamala Harris to succeed to know I can.