To celebrate the first female, mixed heritage, Asian, African Caribbean vice President of the United States being officially in post (three cheers for Kamala Harris!), today’s blog has to be about representation.
Knowing that my daughter will watch the news and see a little of herself in the Vice President of the United States is hard to describe. It’s comforting, reassuring, empowering, exciting and more, because she is represented.
So why is representation so important?
Here are the top five reasons from my point of view…..
1. It changes society’s narrative.
We’ve all felt it keenly these last few months – the media is full of negativity and destruction. Images of Black men being assaulted by the police are everywhere. While it’s important to know that this level of racism is real, there is more to Black men than brutalisation.
Thank you Marcus Rashford, not only for being a change maker, but for showing the world a reality they don’t often see about Black men, young people, footballers….the list goes on.
2. It changes our own narratives.
From the moment we start to notice the world around us, through books, images and the media, we start to define our own paths in life. We constantly seeing the world through the filter of these channels. When someone comes along who changes the norm, it makes us question those paths, and unlocks the possibilities of where ours might take us.
Misty Copeland, I adore you! Everything about you is so full of talent, strength and poise. You’re not the skinny, blonde, whiter than white prima ballerinas I used to admire as a child. Nowadays I can even buy ‘flesh coloured’ ballet tights and shoes that are actually the colour of my flesh, after 40 years of dancing.
3. It builds self esteem in young people.
Being ‘different’ is hard on young people. Can anyone remember feeling like they wanted to stand out when they were at school? We live in a diverse society, but not all areas of society represent that. The teaching profession, the police force and fire service, dolls, Lego characters. It can be a challenge for a young person to find someone who ‘looks like them’ when they’re role playing in the playground.
To have someone like Chadwick Boseman and his colleagues in Black Panther portray an advanced, empathetic, leading community, helped a whole generation of Black children feel empowered and represented.
4. It inspires.
Once young people, and everyone, sees these role models they start to believe they can do it too. They can break the mould. They can be heard and seen in underrepresented areas such as politics, academia, the law. Representation is like a packet of seeds. They grow, and disperse more seeds, and these seeds grow, and disperse more seeds and the circle continues to build.
Because of inspiring role models like Ben, a much loved CBeebies’ presenter, who shared his personal story, we also learn that it’s great to be yourself – to embrace your cultures, your identity and appearance – because gradually, the world is being reflected more accurately, and there’s no such thing as ‘different’ or ‘other’.
5. It brings about future diversity.
And that brings me to my last point. Diversity fuels diversity. The more representation across the world, the more the world opens up.
Seeing people like you, helps you get there yourself. And once you’re there, you inspire others. You, like me, will want to keep the positive momentum going, by doing your bit to drive change. By handing down the ladder to the next generation. By sharing your story and by being the best role model you can be.