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A Melanated Woman

By Shwetangna Chakrabarty, TIE blogger
A Melanated Woman

A melanated woman in international education, I got past many hurdles to be what I am, a mother, a teacher, a blogger, an author, a counsellor, and a leader. To give you an idea of these hurdles: many international schools across the world don’t/can’t hire “Indian” passport holders; many international schools only hire native English language speakers; many international schools require a U.S./Canadian teaching license; many international schools need to see a picture of the applicant before proceeding to interview them. After I have somehow managed to get past all of these hurdles, I still have to be good enough to manage a leadership role, as I am a woman.

Life is very “interesting” when you are a melanated woman. I use the word interesting, as that is how I am always labeled because of the way I look, the way I speak, the way I lead—as if there cannot be a positive connotation in describing a melanated woman in a leadership role.

So what do women of color like me do? We learn and we educate! In truly international schools around the world, we amplify the melanated voices, we teach to look beyond skin color, beyond nationality, beyond gender, and beyond boundaries toward an almost mythical place where everyone can coexist just because we are humans.

The present COVID-19 scenario has made the quest for international mindedness even more challenging. Schools are closing. Teachers have lost their jobs and are not able to get the next job, as they don’t meet the “visa requirements,” mostly to do with nationality, or don’t meet the “criteria,” again due to their nationality.

The tension created by the virus has ripped open the façade of international mindedness. Sadly, international mindedness in today’s context only means diversity in the student body, not the teaching staff.

But as an educator, I persevere to teach antiracism and international mindedness, even when I am a victim of racism and discrimination. I am not angry. I am not sad. I am just a melanated woman.

Shwetangna Chakrabarty is an IBDP Coordinator and University Counsellor at Guangzhou Nanfang International School in Guangzhou, China.

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09/06/2023 - Sima
Thank you for being brave, honest and courageous enough to write this article. It helps many of us people to be less judgemental. We must admit we are part of this system which needs change. "Doing the Right Thing Isn't Always Easy" but am so glad to have met you in person and see your action!
06/18/2020 - Cindy
Thank you for your story and perspective. You are not "just" a melanated woman, you ARE a strong, vibrant intelligent and much-needed force and voice in international schools and in the world!
06/15/2020 - ThurzdayNext
Hear, hear!

It's sad that international schools haven't gotten to a point where they practice what they print on the brochures and on their websites. It is harmful to their multicultural student population and the few melanated teachers they hire.

Here's to action for change!

06/08/2020 - Andreas
Very true, and very sad. As a "lower rung" leader on the school management ladder working on the "front lines" with all this, I know the story all too well from being in the terrible and dreaded position of having to actually be the one who has been forced by upper school management to reject very well qualified applicants from job searches because of race/nationality/non-native English speaker criteria. It is just impish and disgusting, really.

Of course, in this situation the fact that I am a White American works horribly against me almost 100% of the time, because said rejected candidates almost always think it was me (because I was their "point person" and the first person who interviewed them) who single-handedly rejected them like some racist b@stard, when actually I was the one who passed their name on to upper management as a strong candidate, who then rejected them based on some "issue" of race/nationality/non-native English speaker.

I can't say I blame them for thinking it was me, though; the whole system is sad and sickening.

Your post made me think about a particular candidate in the past whom I had really wanted to hire on my team but who was ultimately denied a contract by my upper management. She was an Indian immigrant to the U.S. (born with an Indian Passport but held a U.S. Passport by the time I interviewed her). She spoke three languages - Hindi, English, and Mahrati - and had taught in England, the U.S., and India. She would have been excellent working with us! But upper management refused to allow HR to draft a contract for her because she "looked and sounded Indian"! Yeah, and we call ourselves an "international school"!
Like you point out in your article: "International" in whose world? Terrible!