Representation matters

  • Monday, February 25, 2019 9:30am
  • Opinion

By Flip Herndon

Tukwila Superintendent

During the month of February we may still be recovering from the holidays, finding the perfect Valentine’s gift for our partner, or dealing with what every Washingtonian is stressing out about right now, the snow. But this month students across the country will be learning about Black history. They will be taught about great African-Americans who made major impacts throughout American history.

Usually, the primary notion of Black history revolves around Martin Luther King, Jr. or Rosa Parks, two major figures in the Civil Rights Movement. Both King and Parks had huge influences on many African-Americans today, but are we going beyond before and after their time to learn and teach about other African-Americans who made leaps and bounds throughout history?

A recent article in the Seattle Times spoke about the challenges of having staff that represent the demographics of our students. In the Seattle area, many districts are trying to find ways to better answer that call. This doesn’t mean that staff of different backgrounds cannot relate to our students.

However, the ability for students to see people who look like them sends an unspoken message about where you can see yourself later in life. Education is not the only area where this is an issue. If you look at elected officials, scientists, researchers, and STEM related jobs just to name a few, the representation of people of color and women usually is not reflective of the populations being served. As educators we want to prepare our students to make informed choices about their lives in the future and part of that preparation is demonstrating to them that there are people just like them in those positions in life they strive to fill.

Did you know that home security systems, blood banks and traffic signals were all created by African-Americans? There’s a museum in Seattle that focuses on African-American history in the Pacific Northwest. Take advantage of what it has to offer.

Let’s explore beyond the primary teachings of Black history and dig deeper. Sojourner Truth said it best, “Truth is powerful and it prevails.”

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