• Blood Drive is May 4

  • Cavalier Community Concert on Friday, May 12th from 5 – 7 pm in the bus loop

  • LTI Town Hall Meeting on Thursday, April 27 during 4th period

We Are Leaders Too: Students of Color Speak Out on SMOB

JFK’s IB Anthropology students worked in class to uncover the lack of race, class, and gender diversity of SMOB

JFK IB Anthropology Class, Staff

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

“They just look like politicians,” say students and staff when examining this year’s Student Member of the Board (SMOB) candidates. This “look” might be attributed more artificially to their suits and ties and perfect English without accents, or perhaps more bluntly due to the fact that they are both white men. It is not hard to come to this conclusion due to the visibly persistent cycle of white men being the primary holders of power in society. Their suits and ties are just added bonuses that serve as reminders of their economic mobility.

This idea of there being a specific “look” is where the problem begins. While people would like to believe that identities, such as race and gender, are not factors in electing people for leadership positions, the truth is that stereotypes about different groups impact how people belonging to those groups are perceived. If white-male privilege did not play a role, then the vast majority of CEOs and politicians would not be white and male. This is not to say that hard work is not part of achieving these titles, but does this mean that only white men “work hard”? It is unreasonable to believe that people from other backgrounds are not as intelligent or capable of holding positions of power.

Taking a closer look at the past students elected for SMOB, we can see a clear disparity between the county’s demographic data and the winners of this important election. It is important to note that our purpose in presenting this data is to bring attention to the fact that there are systemic issues regarding representation within the SMOB that directly relate to biases and skewed perceptions that plague not only our county, but our nation as a whole. It is crucial to consider the impact that the SMOB has on county policy and its role as a liaison between students and board members. If we constantly elect SMOBs who represent only a small portion of students — white, male, and upper class — how can we be sure that they are adequately reflecting the needs of the county as a whole?

What the Data Reveals

For a county that boasts its diverse population as much as Montgomery County does, it would be reasonable to expect that our student leaders reflect this diversity and embrace the values that accompanies it. Blair High School’s Lauren Frost recently wrote an article addressing similar concerns about diversity in SMOB, giving more credence to the fact that this issue is on the minds of students across the county. To expand on Lauren’s important research showing a lack of young women (only 11 out of 39) and students of color being represented, our class also found the following trends:

  • about 29% of MCPS student population is Latinx, yet only 1 person was Latina in SMOB history.
  • adding race and gender together, 13 SMOBs have been white men while only 1 SMOB was a black woman (this was back in 1981).
  • the FARMS (students with free and reduced meals) rate for the county is 35%, yet a majority of the schools that SMOBs come from have FARMS rates less than this average.

It’s easy to conclude that students of color are simply not interested in running for this leadership position. This explanation is just too simple and glazes over the real issue. The problem is rooted in a societal tendency to equate success and power with whiteness and being a man. As students who are women and/or of color see a recurrence of power being upheld by the same group of people, they begin to internalize the idea that they are unfit to serve as leaders.

What Diverse Leadership Looks Like

Rather than getting stuck in thinking of leadership in just one form, what if we started to expand our definition of who a “student leader” is? Have you ever thought of all the different ways that students exhibit leadership but are looked down upon for it? The truth of the matter is, one does not have to fit society’s constructed standard of what a politician should look like. Leadership can be seen in students with multilingual communication skills who are often in charge of translating for their parents or even helping them study for their citizenship test, as well as those who resist social norms by coordinating town halls or aspiring to achieve despite potential setbacks.

These students are all exhibiting leadership skills that are often ignored or downright ridiculed, yet these abilities are needed to combat the pressing issues of our county: the opportunity gap, graduation rates, and student-centered classrooms. Our home of Montgomery County may have a myriad of ethnicities and cultural backgrounds, but we fail to recognize and reap the benefits of such diversity. Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative says,  “Those closest to the problem are closest to the solution, but furthest from resources and power.” Let’s change that in our county, starting with expanding our narrow ideas of what a leader “looks like” and empowering students to believe in their unique abilities to lead.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.


Navigate Right
Navigate Left
  • We Are Leaders Too: Students of Color Speak Out on SMOB

    Top Stories

    King and Queen of Homecoming

  • We Are Leaders Too: Students of Color Speak Out on SMOB

    Top Stories

    Pink Out at Homecoming Game

  • We Are Leaders Too: Students of Color Speak Out on SMOB

    Top Stories

    Lady Cav’s Field Hockey Having Best Season Yet

  • We Are Leaders Too: Students of Color Speak Out on SMOB

    Top Stories

    PBS Student Reporting Lab at Kennedy wins STEM Grant

  • We Are Leaders Too: Students of Color Speak Out on SMOB

    Top Stories

    Football Season Underway

  • We Are Leaders Too: Students of Color Speak Out on SMOB

    Top Stories

    Kennedy Remembers 911

  • News

    Kennedy Staff Weigh in On Their 911 Experiences

  • Community

    Minority Scholars Program Comes to Kennedy

  • Student Life

    Graduation Speech Celebrates Diversity

  • Top Stories

    Prom 2016

We Are Leaders Too: Students of Color Speak Out on SMOB