The Backstory: Representative Marilyn Strickland

Rep. Marilyn Strickland recalls how she navigated challenging situations regarding her biracial identity growing up and in her political career.
7:36 | 04/14/21

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Transcript for The Backstory: Representative Marilyn Strickland
Do you think about the identity you have as a woman of color. Navigating spaces where we typically do not show up when I used to seeing us. And back in Washington State for example there are legislative proposals being offered to combat the cycle of poverty. But actual results from. Tell me about how your parents net. Your father I don't know where to you. Met your mother. In South Korea Locke was stationed there and assuring an interracial couples during that time frame they had to face. That's not a challenges and the one story that I tell as a one on my mother tells me and you know when we first came the united state. We went to Virginia which is as you know the deep south back in the sixties and my father was wearing his army uniform my mother was dressed like she was going to church. And I was with them I'm as one and a half years old. And my mom tells a story of them driving around all night trying to find a motel room and no one ranking. And then finally someone saying yes and so that was my mother's introductions United States was that experience with her black husband in the deep south in the sixties. How aware were you the challenges that your parents faces an interracial couple growing up I think about the fact that my father joined a segregated army when he was a young man and then my mother. Who came to this country's a Korean American woman and then there's our household and then when we leave the house we have to fit into mainstream culture. But as I've gotten older my appreciation for my parents what they had to experience the indignities they had to experience and how desperately need every parent wants better for their child. When did you first realize. That you had a different upbringing that your background. May have been different and when I was in fifth grade and I members of the of the dinner table with a friend of mine. And her family was plate and I remember her brother and her father using the and work. Like they were just talking very casually about him and I think about how uncomfortable I felt and how I actually pretend that I got sick and wanted to go home. And that feeling of being and other right. And happy fallow ever as a biracial woman this sentence maybe not black enough for black people not Asian enough. For the Haitian people on them out of an Atlanta went time and I was dating someone and he needed comments like what you're not a real sister. And even recently fact that I have elected to congress this history making any former. Elected official who is Korean American and older man made some remark about you know might be only half Korean. I've been asked all my life we'll deacons sophomore block of North Korean I think to myself I am. A hybrid of my cultural identity but more than anything I'm an American. How do we get cast back. The and I Kennedy labeling as long as we as a nation are involving. Any embracing the fact that people come from different parts of the world. People have accents they look differently at different cultures and it's we think about what it means to become a nation networks together we just have to focus on action films. See the evolution of it being embraced his pride and identity and saying this is what makes us American. You've made history but certainly one of the hardest parts about making history is getting people to see you in a space and works someone who looks like you has not existed before rain. And I'm sure that you yourself without that experience you know being in a room. And wanting to speak and having people. Not see you. Doing something in being you race to much in the people take credit for. Or just having to speak up and having people think that to the spokesperson for your entire race. Think about the trajectory of my career and you know my career path has not been Linear. And so my philosophy is always been you know be ready when an opportunity comes up. Speaking near Tacoma. I went looking Maryland Gannett he's gonna go places. I had at some point she would threaten governor. She's you know she's. Congressman and we could be a new member of congress from Washington tenth district now we know exactly who she will be former Tacoma mayor Marilyn Strickland you've seen a lot of history. And vintage was important movement in play sometimes that people see you somewhere before you imagine yourself there. And when I left the mayor's office I really didn't about their problems. And so you know I thought about the growth that's happening here. I couldn't see that it's up and been encouraging her to get involved in politics. CXD of them did speak as yeah. I think that's important here is that let me ask for is that like on the more you see yourself represented. And more able you're you are to believe that it I can do it. It was the first woman of color to be elected mayor and I was the first person of color to actually serve as the CEO of the Seattle metropolitan chamber of comics I MT first African American. To serve in congress not just from Washington State from the Pacific northwest and I'm one of three Korean American women to serve in congress ever. And so being the first is something that isn't necessarily new to me and I don't pursue these things because I want to be the first but. Believe me when you're the first you never want to be the last thing you heavy duty to ensure that you're trying to cultivate and help others coming up. Do you ever think about some of the little girls out there. And go back to here on out and about how old you looked up in me he didn't see women of color represented in certain spaces. And now there's a new generation rain will grow not knowing what that is like yep. Absolutely I mean I go back to the fact that you have a generation of young people whose first president was Barack Obama. But you raise a really get point because this is about seeing yourself in envisioning yourself. You know when I Wear my pond but on the house foreign that was it was something that I did to honor my mother. And two are my culture I had no idea that it would get the attention it. I was getting calls re letters I had someone from Massachusetts in the piece of glass art which was an image of little girl wearing a hot book. And I tell that story because if they don't let anyone tell you that representations. There. Is congress a good representation. Of the diversity. Reflected in earnings so the 117. Congress is the most diverse congress in its history. So with each successive election you see more people of diverse backgrounds. And you know we talk about diversity to. It is in every possible sense of the word because we know that every congressional district is different. And so you see more people telling you see more women you know women make up 51% of the electorate and we're still. When he 25% of congress so clearly we have more work to. Coming up. John making lasting changes in policies you benefit their communities that got them what floor beauty. I'm so it's floor manager for the first time and learn. Pork. Bills my heart third and one point 5 in the morning in Washington they probably. How to freshman congressman in navigating this story telling it's being with us.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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