The importance of positive role models for a depressed community.
For any poor, depressed community there is a strong need for role models who look like them. This is the reason why feminists push for more female representation in the board rooms and why Dalits keep a full suited imagery of Ambedkar.
A suppressed group has a terrible problem with the “I can’t” syndrome. Children there assume that they are destined to be low and believe that successful people have something different that their group cannot have. After years of indoctrination, their belief becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
India as a whole is a suppressed group. Since the dawn of colonialism we don’t have very many success stories to look up to [as a friend of mine recently posed: can you name one engineer born in independent India who is your engineering role model?]. Many of our students buy into the racial idea of Indians being a weaker group.
What the success stories of Kalpana Chawla, Subramaniam Chandrasekhar, Sundar Pichai and Satya Nadella does is it help partially break the shackles we put on ourselves. Their stories show that you can succeed in the brown skin and they could thus become role models.
It really matters nothing on what colour of passports they have, where they live and what their attitudes towards India are. What really matters is, they can succeed and so can other brown skinned people studying in poor schools and growing up in a rote based system.
That belief is a very powerful thing.
As the next stage, we also have to create powerful role models at home — to break the next round of illusion that brown skinned people have to settle in the white lands to succeed. Once such role models emerge, more confident students will bring their best without worrying about visas.
Let’s not try to underestimate the power of role models.