During the course of the campaign for the May 2017 elections, I've had the pleasure of getting to know Jaquita Wilson, who is running for the Georgetown School Board. Jaquita has a wealth of experience in working with children and youth of all ages, in multiple settings, and over many years. I cannot speak highly enough about her qualifications for a position on the school board.
She also happens to be black.
Why is this important?
During a recent presentation she talked about the class and racial divides that keep some students from achieving their full potential in our schools. This is an issue that she has found to be poorly understood and inadequately addressed in her years working with young people in Georgetown and elsewhere. Often, these divides are simply ignored.
Her race matters for a very specific reason: role models are important for children. As Jaquita said in her talk, it is important for black children to see "someone who looks like me" in a wide variety of settings, including in government.
When children see people in positions of importance and power who look like them, they form ideas about what is possible for them to achieve. They begin to imagine that they can be a teacher, a scientist, a politician. They see a path toward reaching goals they may not have otherwise known was available to them.
I don't pretend to have the answers for how to fully address racial and class divides in our society. But I think an important step is listening to people like Jaquita, who are bringing ideas and personal perspectives to the discourse on these issues. If we pretend these problems don't exist, if we don't listen, we fail our children, our country and ourselves.