We’ve had a pretty rough couple of years in American politics. Having the opportunity to elect the first female president, and instead giving power to a sexist, racist, homophobic bigot was a tough start for a presidential turnover. But then we unsurprisingly saw a rise in hate crimes and ignorant policy changes, making life even more difficult for people of color, the LGBTQ community and women all over America. And to add insult to injury, that sexist president nominated a sexist Supreme Court justice, who will likely only exacerbate the hate crimes and ignorant policy changes. The past two years have been nothing but an orange stain on our honorable American flag, making it a difficult time to be a proud American. The reign of Trump has basically taken any progress made by the #MeToo movement, the Black Lives Matter movement and all other recent civil rights movements, and spit in their faces.

But this time we spit back. In a record turnout, Americans took up arms and went down to the polls — electing women, people of color and LGBTQ candidates in different positions all over the country. These midterm elections were not just a blue wave, or even a simply pink wave, but a wave of firsts that can start to reverse the damage of the past two years and take our country in the right direction. Women of different races, ethnicities, religions, sexualities and even political parties took the election by storm, putting a record number of women in the U.S. House of Representatives and giving a voice to many minority groups that have been overlooked in past elections. Overnight, a government run by old, upper-class white men began to reflect a more accurate image of our nation. And these are some of the faces behind the firsts.

Democrats Cindy Axn and Abby Finkenauer were Iowa’s first women elected to the U.S. House. Janet Mills, a Democrat, became the first female governor of Maine. And Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, at age 29.

Many of the firsts even cross-cut intersectionality. Ayanna Pressley became Massachusetts’s first Black woman in Congress and Jahana Hayes became Connecticut’s first black woman in Congress. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat, is Arizona’s first woman in the U.S. Senate and the first openly bisexual person in the Senate.

We also have Deb Haaland of New Mexico and Sharice Davids of Kansas — America’s first Native American women in Congress. Davids also happens to be Kansas’s first openly gay member of Congress. Veronica Escobar and Sylvia Garcia became Texas’s first Latinx women in Congress. Ilhan Omar became America’s first Muslim women in Congress, along with our very own Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat who we just elected to the U.S. House. And these are only a few of the many firsts of the midterms.

This is not to say the midterms were all progress. Andrew Gillum, a Democrat, could have become the first Black governor of Florida, but was unable to defeat Republican Ron DeSantis. Likewise, Democrat Christine Hallquist did make history as the first transgender nominee of a major party, but lost Vermont’s gubernatorial race to Phil Scott, a Republican.

However, these unfortunate losses do not erase the impressive gains made by women in this midterm, and the effects will be unlike anything we’ve ever seen in American politics. This wave couldn’t have come at a better time. Flipping a previously red House restores the checks and balances system to the government. In the coming years, we can expect to see the Trump administration struggle to pass any major legislation. We can trust many of these new faces to be the wall in front of Trump’s wall between the U.S. and Mexico, a repeal of Obamacare, any tax cuts and defunding Planned Parenthood. With these new leaders of America, we can rest assured that we as a nation are on the road to representation.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been truly proud to be an American. For the past two years, my pride for my country has been tainted from the behaviors of those representing me and the discrimination and hatred against my fellow Americans, people of color, the LGBTQ community and women alike. While these midterms did not rid us of hatred or completely dissolve that stain, a little bit of justice has been restored a little bit of color is returning to the flag. And a little bit of my pride has come back as well.

Dana Pierangeli can be reached at dmpier@umich.edu.

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