Although the teaching profession is female dominated, many positions above school level are held by men. We see this in administration, at the district level, and our superintendents across the nation. The message for educators and our female students seems to be that we can come to the table, but we cannot sit at the head of the table.
As an educator, it is important for me to speak life into my students and encourage them to pursue any career path that they want to, but we have to understand that we are operating in a system that is oppressive to people of color and one that pays women less than men in 2020.
In a year where we have witnessed the disparities of COVID-19 in communities of people of color as well as a time where we have seen racial injustice, the nomination of Kamala Harris as the first woman of color to be nominated for national office by a major political party is historic and monumental.
This moment of herstory, regardless of political affiliation, deserves a pause and acknowledgment, as this has shown our young girls across this nation that they can aspire to anything.
Upon hearing the announcement, I found myself emotional, as it made me reflect on my time as an assistant principal. At the time, I was the only person of color in my school. Daily I had parents tell me how grateful they were to have a person there who their children could identify with and reinforced the notion that representation truly does matter, especially when looking at student performance. For our girls of color, who are disproportionately affected by disparate discipline systems, this representation matters even more.
As a proponent for dismantling disparate discipline systems, I am keenly aware of the truancy law that Senator Harris supported during her tenure as a state attorney general in California. While the intent of the law was to eliminate the propensity for students to enter the criminal justice system as adults, in some parts of the state it did lead to parents being prosecuted. She has expressed remorse for the cavalier approach that was taken that criminalized parents and led to their incarceration.
Discipline is multifaceted and should be approached from a whole child stance—one that ensures that the outcome addresses the behavior and restores students to ensure that they are healthy, safe, engaged, challenged and supported as a whole child.
I used to teach a lesson to my eighth-graders in which we would examine the views of our lawmakers and how, overtime and with deeper understanding, their views changed. Notably, we would study Lincoln’s early views on emancipation, and how, through education and time spent with Frederick Douglass, his thinking evolved and his views changed. The underlying point of the lesson was that our leaders can change and we can change as well. Harris has expressed regret for that law and has stated that she would not support it at the national level today.
Like many leaders before her, Harris’ views have evolved. Ultimately, I hope that this monumental achievement leads to closing the pay gap for our female students who will enter the workforce in the future, creating more representation in our education system in which we can see ourselves represented at each level, and allowing our students to know that there are no boundaries that can hold them back from anything they aspire to. In this moment of herstory, I hope this is not just the ceiling that we end, but the floor to which OUR story can begin.