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Leading While Black

Reflections on the Racial Realities of Black School Leaders Through the Obama Era and Beyond


Floyd Cobb

What does it mean to lead while Black in America? How do Black educators lead for equity to ensure a quality academic experience for Black children when calls for equality are routinely discredited in our post-racial context? Through this book, Floyd Cobb passionately and honestly draws from his personal and professional experiences to describe his path to accepting the harsh realities of being an equity-minded Black leader in K–12 schools. Offered through the performance of autoethnography, Cobb highlights and gives voice to the often-unacknowledged vulnerability of equity-minded Black leaders who work in suburban contexts. Using the era of the Obama presidency as the backdrop for this work, Cobb illuminates the challenges and complexities of advocating for marginalized children who come from a shared racial heritage in a society that far too often are reluctant to accept such efforts. Through Leading While Black, emerging and aspiring Black leaders will be reminded that they are not alone in their struggles, but must nonetheless persist if we are to do our part in making education a better experience for our children.

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Chapter Two: Between Carlton Banks and Django Unchained: Racism as Humiliation


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Chapter 2


Between Carlton Banks and Django Unchained: Racism as Humiliation

I learned that to humiliate another person is to make him suffer an unnecessarily cruel fate.

—Nelson Mandela, 1976

On Becoming Carlton

The perceived requirement to mask my racial identity while being told in subtle ways that I was too Black touched a nerve with me because it contrasted with the experiences of my youth. As I noted in the introduction, much of my life has been informed by the stress and trauma of being the only Black person in many environments and consequently, I was frequently told that I was not Black enough.

Having grown up as one of the few Black children in my suburban San Diego community, the pain of having my racial authenticity challenged was an all-too-common experience. Therefore, to experience this at work felt aggravatingly familiar but simultaneously confounding ← 29 | 30 →

because it placed me in a racial double-bind that was entirely foreign. I’ve come to know the fatigue, anxiety, and exhaustion of racial isolation: the pain of being viewed as an object instead of a human, the sting felt after hearing comments about my inauthentically Black accent, and the agony of carrying the representational weight of all things Black in an effort to defy stereotypes. I know quite well what it feels like to be that person. However, to be indirectly told that...

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