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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 Four: Leading While Black


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Chapter 4


Leading While Black

We’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end…We’ve got to see it through.

—Martin Luther King, Jr., 1963

Although stated earlier in this book, it bears repeating that educational leadership for educational equity is fundamentally complex and difficult work. At its core, this work “is not [about] mobilizing others to solve problems we already know how to solve, but to help them confront problems that have never yet been successfully addressed” (Fullan, 2014, p. 3). Through our work, we are literally trying to change history by accomplishing something that other sectors of society have yet to do. Therefore, as educators engage in this incredibly complicated task, we must rely on the long-held principles of leadership, such as goal setting, getting people in the right seats (Collins, 2001), consensus building, overcoming groupthink, and establishing trust to even have a chance at success. However, when we consider these activities in the context of our intersectional identities, our double consciousness, ← 93 | 94 →

and the frequently unquestioned assumptions that surround them, it becomes clear that additional strategies need to be considered. That is, educational leadership for transformational change is not and has never been race-neutral.

Therefore, when I ask what it means to lead while Black, I am truly asking how our intersectional identities interfere with our ability to bring about transformational change for educational equity in...

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