The Alliance for Early Success joyfully joins our neighbors across the country in the commemoration of Juneteenth, the century-old-at-least holiday celebrating the end of American enslavement. But as we mark that day when justice was deferred no longer, we also know that there is so much about our nation’s faltering journey toward racial equity that we cannot celebrate.
So today we are reaffirming our commitment to naming the racism that is entrenched in our country’s systems – both in our policies and in the comfortable habits that perpetuate inequity.
As a national community of advocates who work for policies that help young children and their families reach their full potential, we believe that dismantling these structures is not necessary in addition to our work for young children and their families – rather, it is central to that work. And dismantling begins with naming. We cannot do the necessary hard work of healing structural inequity without a clear common understanding that structural inequity, in fact, exists.
Yet policymakers across the country seek to ban discussions of how the invisible hand of racism could be shaping our everyday lives. And policy that names structural racism stands less of a chance of passage than the same policy without the mention.
So, since last Juneteenth, we’ve worked alongside our network of state early childhood policy advocates to get better at seeing structural racism and to get better at bringing others along. As part of a commitment called Allies for Antiracism, we invited Dr. Joia Crear-Perry for a discussion of birth equity and the role racist structures play in infant and maternal mortality and Dr. Ibram Kendi to help us focus our efforts on racist policies. Child Trends showed our network the importance of disaggregating data in our ability to see the racial disparities in policy outcomes, and the Topos Partnership helped us understand how to engage less race-attentive audiences to support policies for racial equity. We’ve continued our internal journey as well, working with outside facilitators to explore our organizational policies and practices. We’re building a shared understanding of history and society, and we’re working to be more vulnerable and aware of our personal and organizational blind spots.
And by next Juneteenth, we’ll have launched a racial equity learning program that will give grantees in every state the opportunity to participate in a six-month journey focused on their internal organizational racial equity awareness. We’ll have expanded our grantee pool to include more organizations that represent BIPOC voices, and kicked off a peer community for BIPOC early childhood policy professionals. And we’ll have spent another year naming structural racism in more strategic ways.
This Saturday, we hope you’ll join in the Juneteenth celebrations of emancipation. And then we hope you’ll spend the following weeks and months joining the work to continually name the inveterate racism that fuels disparate disadvantage and bring equity and justice to those whose dreams have been deferred far too long.