INSIGHT: The Value of Symbols

By Bess McKinney & Ed Castro, EICL Coordinators

Last Thursday, our community had the opportunity to hear from author, speaker and lawyer Gyasi Ross through the Equity and Inclusion Virtual Speaker Series. During his inspiring and though-provoking presentation, Ross asked us to think about the following questions: What is the value of symbols? Are symbols enough? 

Our recognition and celebrations over the past two months of Hispanic Heritage Month, LGBTQ+ History Month, Indigenous People’s Day, and National Coming Out Day are symbols—but we also hope that they are more than that.

As symbols, the posters around campus about Franklin Chang Diaz, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Roberto Clemente, Sonia Sotomayor, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Maria Irene Fornes were just a tiny example of the Latinx heritage of the United States. Our acknowledgment in assembly in Upper School and Middle School assemblies that we at EPS stand on the land of the Coast Salish, the Duwamish and the Stillaguamish Nations, was a recognition of our history and our present. The pronoun pin table this Wednesday—where students could grab a pin that matches the pronouns they use—was a physical symbol of identity. Symbols are important—they show what we value. But, these moments are more than symbols, too. They are times when we, as a community, recognize that we all belong—those of us who have been traditionally marginalized and those of us who have not—that we are all a critical part of the fabric of EPS. As we continue to celebrate cultural heritage days and months this year, we will continue to think about the importance of symbols, and of pushing past them.