Why representation matters
This will be a post explicitly about race and why representation at senior management level matters. If that will offend you- perhaps look at some of my other posts about other topics. (362 words)
I don’t often choose to explicitly write about race. Just because it’s the kind of thing that people always want me to comment on, as a Black person in a senior position in a school, and I’ve got a lot of views about lots of different subjects. Also I don’t speak for all Black people in the world, or even in education in the UK. I’m just me and representing only my views doesn’t mean you can tick your diversity box for 2016.
But here I am writing about race because of something I read from a student.
Recently, a colleague asked me to help judge some Thank You letters for a competition. Students had to write a letter to anybody of their choice thanking them for affecting their life in some way. It was an exercise in gratitude.
There were many wonderful examples but one specifically stuck with me. A young girl, who I know to be Mixed Race, wrote a letter to President Obama, thanking him for being the president of the United States. In the letter, she detailed her experiences of racism throughout her life but how having such a high profile person like him gave her inspiration that she could achieve great things despite what people may say.
That is why representation matters.
But representation isn’t just for Black and Mixed Race kids.
Seeing Black people in positions of authority is important for non-Black people too. Schools are very hierarchical places. In 11 years of compulsory schooling, if the only Black people that non-Black people see in schools are people perceived to be those with low status then what subconscious messages are they picking up re the place of Black people in society?
I see many debates on social media re lack of diverse representation at key educational conferences but I also see these issues raised indifferent contexts from people I follow outside of education via hashtags such as
As a Black member of the senior team in a predominantly non-Black school, my presence matters even if I’d really rather that it didn’t. It’s noticed even if it is not overtly commented on. For a private person like me that’s difficult but it is what it is and right now it’s important. For people from minority groups sometimes our existence and very presence is political- even when we don’t want it to be.
Allana30th March 2016 at 3:37 pm
Iesha, I love post. You have itemised brilliantly why representation across all areas is important. There must be a way for all of society to feel that they belong within it. The subconscious beliefs that exist in the everyday needs to be taken seriously. Representing diversity in the curriculum, books, movies and staff should not be down to individual movements.
Way to step up and speak!
ieshasmall31st May 2016 at 9:32 am
Thanks Allana, I don’t write about it often but it is important. We also need to tackle this quietly but firmly in our day to day roles where we have influence.