Once again, our country is confronted with the tragic consequences of systemic racism that undergird our society. The blatantly racist and false accusations of violence against Christian Cooper; the modern-day lynching of Ahmaud Aubery while jogging; the killing of Breonna Taylor by police officers in her own home; and most recently, the horrific murder of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer while fellow officers looked on. These are only the most recent manifestations of the racism that has plagued our country since its inception - and it must stop now.

Rhode Island KIDS COUNT’s Board of Directors and staff stand in solidarity with the Black community and the Black Lives Matter movement demanding acknowledgement and accountability for the devaluation and dehumanization of Black life at the hands of the police and societ at-large. During times like this, we want to affirm the feelings the Black community is experiencing now. They are real. They are valid. We especially want to acknowledge the grief Black families are experiencing now and the fear they live with every day.

Platitudes and words are not enough. For far too long, handwringing has accompanied racial injustice without meaningful change. As an organization that works to hold policies and systems accountable to improve the health, safety, and well-being of Rhode Island children, we must continually reflect on our own organizational practices. As a result, we are committed to continuously and critically examining our hiring practices, internal processes, and methods of advocating.

We believe that every child deserves an equal opportunity to succeed. Concretely, this means a safe place to call home, access to comprehensive health care, high-quality affordable child care, and an excellent education -- as well as love, respect, and the promise of tomorrow. And yet, this is not the case for many Black children. As an organization that is continually raising up racial and ethnic disparities -- including youth exposure to violence, youth involvement in the juvenile justice system, and as advocates for youth and community voice -- we must speak up and out and support the need and right of communities closest to the situation to have a voice in the solution. Centuries of racism and purposefully constructed systems of oppression have actively silenced Black people and created the unacceptable racial inequities we see across Rhode Island and the country. Failure to act with urgency and intentionality will continue to put the safety, protection, and opportunity Black children and families deserve at risk.

Racism and systematic oppression are pervasive and persistent, and it is here in our communities. While the slew of recent tragedies have not taken place in Rhode Island, it is important to note that we are not exempt from injustice, racism, and upholding systems that elevate White voices and priorities. We stand in solidarity with the communities directly affected and ask that each Rhode Islander turn a critical eye inward. We call on White individuals who are elected officials, advocates, and in positions of power and influence to reflect on their own privilege and positionality.

As Rhode Islanders, we need to move forward together, with urgency, to enact new policies and change old ones that will help to ensure equity in education, health, safety, and economic well-being for Black children and their families.

In Solidarity,
Rhode Island KIDS COUNT Board and Staff