As we witness the relentless harm committed by racism and violent white supremacy in our society, we recognize that the conversation around equity in early childhood cannot begin with implicit bias and end with suspension and expulsion. We grieve for Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, David McAtee, and countless others whose names are too numerous to list but whose lives were no less important. We stand with protesters exercising their First Amendment rights while fighting for their inalienable right to live free from the threat of violent institutions and police violence. We recommit ourselves to the constant, necessary work to make the NAEYC Position Statement on Advancing Equity in Early Childhood Education a reality.
It is the responsibility of each early childhood educator to fight against systems that disproportionately harm Black children, families, colleagues, and community members every single day. From birth outcomes to premature deaths, racism is not just found in the harmful words and intentional actions of individuals. It is a consequence of centuries of policy choices that have been embedded into our environments, our neighborhoods, our schools, and even the lack of funding for a cohesive early care and education system in this country. This knowledge and the desire to fight for change must be embedded in every part of our work: our pedagogy, our relationships with children and their families, our difficult conversations with colleagues, and our deep introspection and dismantling of the harmful beliefs we hold.
The COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately puts the lives of Black and brown Americans at risk. Simultaneously, the work of early childhood educators, a large percentage of whom are women of color, continues to be undervalued. This too is a consequence of racial and gender inequity.
As members of New York’s early childhood community, we know that every day thousands of you welcome children into your homes and go to work at centers knowing that you do so at great risk to yourself and your families. Nevertheless, you hold children close, wipe their tears, help them cope with trauma, and do your best to provide the educational foundation each child deserves from the day they are born. For others, it has been deeply painful to be forced to step away from this work to protect your health or because your program has closed. Know that we see you and are fighting for you to earn the compensation you deserve for this critical work, with the assurance of health care and a comfortable retirement. Truly equitable learning environments for young children are not possible without equitable compensation and professional recognition of early childhood educators.
Below, we have included resources to help you be a part of this necessary work with us. We know this pandemic has forced women, especially mothers, to make difficult choices about where they can spend their limited energy and time. We encourage you to find one or two small ways to commit if you don’t feel you are able to do more at this time. The fight against racial injustice requires the work of every one of us.