by the staff at Denver’s Early Childhood Council
Like many people around the world who have seen the video footage of the white police officer forcibly pressing his knee into the neck of George Floyd, a Black man, rendering him unable to breathe and resulting in his death, we at Denver’s Early Childhood Council are struck with horror, grief, and rage at yet another tragedy in an already trying time. This event is one of many that illustrate unjust systems that fail Black people, indigenous people, and communities of color over and over again.
What does this have to do with early childhood? Quite a lot.
We know that an average of 250 preschoolers are suspended from preschool programs each day across the United States. These children represent the very beginning of the school-to-prison pipeline, with African-American children suspended or expelled from preschool 2.2 times more often than other children.
Lack of Leadership Opportunities for Women of Color
According to an Early Childhood Workforce Survey completed in Colorado in 2017, people of color are less likely to occupy early childhood leadership positions.
In a field where professionals are often paid poverty-level wages, African American educators earn an average of $0.78 of every dollar per hour compared to their white peers. The lack of fair and equitable pay is problematic for the field as a whole and non-white educators are even more likely to experience low pay, despite their education level.
A Commitment to Improve
Given these realities, we must do better. At the Council, we are examining our approaches and committing to improving equity within our organization and field. We are advocating for policies that address systemic racism and finding opportunities to dismantle systems of oppression. The events of the last couple of weeks have raised our awareness and deepened our commitment to building a more equitable future.
As we ask ourselves how to improve, many of you are likely also reflecting on what you can do. Here are a few first steps you can take:
- First, listen to your family, friends, and colleagues. These events- and systemic racism- can be traumatic, so pause and be present for those in your life who need space to process.
- Educate yourself on how to be anti-racist.
- Vote and engage with local and state leaders to demand policy reform.
- Encourage your friends and neighbors to fill out their census so resources are equitably distributed to communities that need them most.
- Donate to social justice organizations or those helping to fund bail for unlawfully imprisoned protestors.
There are boundless resources for talking with children about racism. We’ve collected a few and put them here:
For more resources and insights on diversity in Early Childhood Programs:
Together, we can keep the conversation going. We can shape strong futures together.
Photos courtesy of Jill Stefansen, Minneapolis, MN