Representation Matters: Being Brown – A Gift, Not A Curse

Why Representation Matters

Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, an African American researcher, once said that minority teachers fulfill a greater need for students than just bringing up test scores. She described walking into schools where “Black students ask me with eagerness, Are you a teacher here?’ And I recognize the disappointment that falls over the same faces when I shake my head, `no.’ Their longing for a teacher who “looks like them” is palpatable” (Ladson-Billings in Ferlazo, 2018). Students need role models who look like them so that the students know they too can achieve anything. Not just teachers and administrators in whom they can see themselves, but role models from all walks of life. My 10-year-old daughter reminded me of this in a narrative she wrote for school about “a time she has grown.” This reminder was especially poignant right now when we are watching racism against all groups, especially against Asian Americans, increase. Of course, the point of this blog post is not to endorse any politician, but to demonstrate the importance of representation for our children of color. I hope you will be as touched as I was by my first guest blogger.

A Gift, Not a Curse

by: Jeena Ann, Age 10

Jeena Ann on Inauguration Day

“Yeah right!” I said to my mother. “Do you really think that I, a female person of color, could become president? I want to be president, but we are living in a country filled with incredibly racist and sexist people. Besides, even if I got elected, there is a chance that the guy administering the inaugural oath will mess up, and people will say I am not really president.  This is what happened to President Obama in 2009.”  “Stop being so pessimistic,” Amma said.

“Yeah right!” I said to my mother. “Do you really think that I, a female person of color, could become president? I want to be president, but we are living in a country filled with incredibly racist and sexist people. Besides, even if I got elected, there is a chance that the guy administering the inaugural oath will mess up, and people will say I am not really president.  This is what happened to President Obama in 2009.” 

 “Stop being so pessimistic,” Amma said.

“I am not being pessimistic; I am just stating facts. Look around you. Scroll through the news. You can always see bad things happening to minorities and females! How does this not prove my point?” I blurted out.

“Yes, there are bad things happening; however, there are also good things happening,” my mother said.  “For example, there are many Dual Language programs opening to help language minority students. Would this happen if everyone was racist?” I was not as hopeful.

The next day, I was window shopping on Amazon and was on the new releases tab. Then, I saw something spectacular. I saw a keychain with the Biden-Harris logo on it. I knew that Amazon was slightly sketchy and that I should not believe it just because of one keychain, so I searched for Biden-Harris merchandise. There were hundreds of results. Soon, I realized that Kamala Harris was the Democrat nominee for Vice President. I was pleased but still skeptical. I thought that the Democrats would certainly not win; however, I was wrong.

A few months later, my mother and I were watching the news. It was November 7th, and we were hoping to hear who was going to become president elect. I was anxiously waiting, clutching my teddy bear, and hoping that the president elect would be Vice President Biden. Yet, my brain kept yelling, “Have you abandoned logic? This is a racist and sexist country! This country now has a choice between a racist and sexist man and a female person of color. Who do you truly think they are going to choose?” Just as I was about to give up hope, I heard the voice of the anchor.

“This just in; Pennsylvania voted blue. Vice President Biden is officially president elect.” she said. I was ecstatic, messaging almost everyone I knew, and jumping up and down. That lasted for about 7 minutes. Then, I planted my feet back on the ground. People were already claiming that the election was rigged, or that there was a miscount. In less than a minute I went from being over the moon to worried to being scared.  However, after this experience, I did have a little more hope.

As time passed, nothing happened. Everything was the same, except that now, more people were buying into President Trump’s “the election was rigged” lie that he claimed was a fact. It was Three Kings’ Day. My mother had taken the day off to celebrate. This was the same day that they would certify Vice President Biden as president elect, so my mother turned on the news so that she could have some noise in the background while she made Moonu Rajah Pongal (Three Kings’ rice dessert).  But the day soon turned into a nightmare. “BANG!” I heard screaming and rushed downstairs to see if my mother was alright. She was, but the Capitol Building was not. Somebody broke a window! There was more yelling. People were destroying everything in sight, causing chaos everywhere. Someone even put their feet on Representative Pelosi’s desk. My immediate family was on the phone, and we were all watching different news channels, so that we could get all the information. I suspected that I was correct when I said that a female person of color could never be in office. Then, in a flash, someone was shot! I lost all hope and knew that I was right. I started to remember the racist things that I witnessed in person such as when one of my classmates made fun of the Indian food I was eating and when a different classmate made fun of East Asian features. I remembered sexist things I encountered as well, such as the boy who was in my class that could not understand, “Stop following me around asking for a smooch, you creep.  We are in second grade!” I then ran up to my room and cried because I had concluded that things would never change for the better. Yet, once again, I was incorrect.

It was Inauguration Day, and I was shocked that President Elect Biden would become president. I was excited. We were too late to hear all of Trump’s last speech as the current president, but we heard the ending. My mother and I laughed and joked about the crazy stuff he said. 

In a flash, it became time for the president and vice president-elect to be sworn in. “…So help me God,” said Vice President Kamala Harris.

I was euphoric, jumping up and down, chanting, “WE HAVE A TAMIL VICE PRESIDENT! A FEMALE, TAMIL VICE PRESIDENT!”  It was the best moment of my life because not only did we have a female vice president of color, but she was Tamil just like me.

President Biden was also sworn in. President Biden made his speech, and it was beautiful. My mother cried. The speech left me speechless. I was filled with hope and the idea that I could achieve anything! The words, “We must end this uncivil war!” rang in my ear, and I finally felt like I had an equal chance making it in the US. I was crying, but this time my tears were tears of joy because I finally, felt like I could defeat all obstacles and that being a brown female was a gift, not a curse!

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