Texas is my home. I was born here, raised here and given more opportunities here than I would have ever had if my parents had stayed in their hometown of Dhaka in Bangladesh. Yet, I have often felt ignored by those who make laws that govern over me. These include laws that govern the education I am receiving as a student at the flagship public university in Texas. Over who can buy the weapons that can be kept in my presence without my knowledge. Over the people who I share a religion with and whether or not they can immigrate here as my parents did to give their children a better life as Muslims. Over my body, over my right to choose what happens with it and whether it will be protected in the event of a tragedy as a woman.
The Lone Star State is one of the most diverse states in the nation, yet our politics fail to reflect the people of so many ethnicities, cultures and religions who call this place home. For too long, I’ve gone without seeing my needs and concerns be advocated for in Congress. This year, things are different.
We have candidates who are running on a platform of inclusivity, an intent on bringing people together regardless of their political beliefs, their socioeconomic status, their race, gender or religion. Perhaps no other Congressional candidate exemplifies this better than Sri Preston Kulkarni, a former Foreign Service Officer running his campaign for Texas’ 22nd congressional district in more than 13 languages. He works hard to include as many tongues and voices as possible. The district he wants to represent is one of the most diverse in all of America — one that has almost equal proportions of white, Latinx, black and Asian populations.
As a Bangladeshi Muslim woman, I’m a minority within an expansive Asian community, something most politicians wouldn’t stop to recognize. Sri has recognized that it is impossible to view Asians as a monolithic voting bloc, but rather an incredibly diverse community with a varied range of issues and concerns. When I first met Sri, I was particularly struck by how he was intent on engaging the Bangladeshi-American population. No politician had ever before bothered to reach out to my community with an understanding that Bangladeshis have different concerns than Pakistanis who have different concerns than Indians. No politician had ever been willing to take the concerns of all of those voices straight to Congress with him, where the laws they pass affect every one of us.
As a former Longhorn and fellow Plan II Honors graduate, Sri understands the struggles of college life — from financial aid to textbook prices to the lack of mental healthcare. He understands the extra burdens that people of color face just because of how they look. As the Vice President of UT-Austin’s Student Government, I’m excited to support candidates who advocate for policies that improve the lives of students, of people of all genders, of people of all cultural and religious backgrounds. I’m excited to lend my voice to remarkable individuals like Sri who will advocate for policies that improve the lives of people like me.
Rahman is the student body vice president.