by Janet McLaughlin
How do we honor the lives lived and lost in the racist mass murder in Buffalo, NY over the weekend? There are many necessary responses to yet another horrific incidence of violence against Black Americans; there is healing and organizing and policy change. There’s also the work of anti-bias education within early childhood education programs and systems. The work being done to create loving, inclusive communities for each and every child from the very start is an important contribution to fighting anti-Black hate and violence. If you, like me, are holding the beautiful children in your lives with a heavy heart this week, let’s affirm that the work we are doing together matters, to create caring citizens capable of making connections and navigating complexity. And let’s also reflect on what next step each of us can take to more fully live into our commitment to fight racism.
For insight and inspiration, I’m revisiting NAEYC’s paper on Advancing Equity in Early Childhood Education and reflecting on the VTAEYC’s Board’s recently adopted commitment to Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging. In that statement, VTAEYC commits to:
- Recognize and honor differences
- Continually educate ourselves on the impact of racism and bias on children, families and educators and actions to address it
- Embed anti-bias education principles into our work and the early childhood system overall
- Actively work to remove barriers to fair and equitable access to education and employment
The behind-the-scenes work that VTAEYC does can sometimes seem insignificant given the scale of the violence and the urgency of racial justice. And yet, we know that this work is part of the broader effort to create a more just and joyful world. We must reflect, plan, and implement specific strategies for the Board, staff, and the programs we offer. Two small but important steps we took recently in planning for next Fall’s annual conference: we recruited early childhood educators of color to the content committee and specifically sought out presenters and speakers from a diversity of backgrounds in order to create a program that will reflect and welcome all attendees. Such small steps – they hardly seem worth mentioning in an essay prompted by the racist murders in Buffalo (and Charleston, El Paso, Atlanta, and countless other places) – but they are also contributing to creating a society that embraces diversity as a strength.
As a membership organization and community of early childhood educators, VTAEYC wants to support your learning and action. For today, it’s a moment of reflection and an invitation for action; your ideas and engagement can help us share what VTAEYC’s contribution is tomorrow. Please reach out to let us know your thoughts and we’ll be listening, reflecting, inviting, and taking the next step.
Janet McLaughlin is the executive director of VTAEYC.