Ever felt like you’re constantly needing to prove yourself? Like an imposter at the front of your own classroom? You’re not alone. Through self-discovery and navigating the pressures of representation I have found solidarity and hope in a changing educational landscape.

Do you ever feel like there’s a little person at the back of your head, sipping on a drink and doubting every move you make? That constant need to prove yourself — is it familiar? I’ve been an educator for 14 years — 12 in the classroom and two as a Divisional Teacher Team Leader focusing on anti-racism initiatives. Throughout these years, those feelings have lingered. I used to think maybe everyone felt this way but just didn’t talk about it. Maya Angelou’s quote, “Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know before you learned it,” often comes to mind. I wish I had known that others shared these feelings.

As a racialized educator, I identify as a Black, Able-Bodied person. My family has roots from the island of St. Vincent in the Caribbean. In the spirit of Truth and Reconciliation, I acknowledge the harms and mistakes of the past, and my commitment is to engage in the Indigenous culture to understand their injustices and see the parallels they have with the Black community.

Racialized educators carry extra pressures leading to self-doubt. Walking into a room and not seeing many people of colour can trigger questions like, “Do I belong here?” or “Why am I here?”

First Racialized Person in a Space

Another pressure arises when you’re the first racialized person in your space or when you’re expected to carry the burden of discussing certain topics because of your background. The fear of being seen as a diversity hire, merely a token representation, also weighs heavily on the mind.

One significant source of self-doubt for me was questioning whether I was a diversity hire. It wasn’t until later that I realized others shared the same thoughts. Despite being Black, I failed to recognize diversity among my racialized colleagues. Instead, I joked about being the token hire, reminiscing about my school days where racial diversity was scarce.

Exploring my Identity as a Black Man

It wasn’t until 2020, the year my daughter was born, and George Floyd was murdered, that I began to explore my identity as a Black man. I realized the importance of engaging with discussions about race and identity, as Maya Angelou aptly put, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
Within these doubts, I found support and belief from people who recognized my merits. For every doubter, there were two supporters pushing me forward. Being a racialized educator brings joy in offering unique perspectives and being authentically oneself in a changing world. Positive changes are happening, with more representation than ever before. It’s important to remember that you’re not alone—find your support system.

Stand with Those who Bring Different Perspectives

If you’re part of the racialized community, know that you’re where you are for a reason. And if you’re not, stand with those who bring different perspectives, ensuring everyone feels heard.

– Originally published in the Spring 2024 issue of the MB Teacher

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