A message from NCECF’s Executive Director:
Over the course of the pandemic, I’ve encouraged my children to clean out their drawers, tidy up their rooms, update their artwork they have hanging on their walls. It’s a great tactic to divert protestations of “I’m so bored!”
I noticed over this past weekend – a weekend of deep pain and justifiable unrest – that my seven-year-old had hung this picture on her wall. If you have a hard time seeing the light pencil strokes, it reads: “Martin Luther King showed bravery by doing a big speech.”
A big speech. That’s it? I asked her about the statement. How did she land on public speaking as the most courageous thing Dr. King, a man who was murdered for his life’s work of peaceful disruption and righteous agitation leading the Civil Rights movement, did? “Well, that’s what we learned, Mom. He had a dream that all kids would get along.” Thud. She’s not wrong, but it’s also not nearly enough. We have to do a better job of educating our white children about the realities of structural racism — and their roles in eradicating it. Because, white friends, it’s our work to do.
Wading through 2020 has been challenging for all of us. Wading through May 2020 has been overwhelming. Wading through 2020 as a Black or Brown person? It has undoubtedly been soul crushing. What can I do as a white anti-racist woman and ally? What can NCECF do as a white-led organization? In a recent article, Taharee Jackson shared some advice on steps anti-racist white people can take to dismantle racism. The whole piece was helpful, and point #4 really resonates: Start at Home with Your Family — Both Your Elders AND Your Children. This moves me out of inertia. The social media outrage that rings hollow. I am raising white children. It is incumbent upon me to talk to them clearly about structural racism and to let them know that it is also incumbent upon them to do the work. That occupying their white bodies in America, in 2020 and beyond, means they are implicit in and rewarded by structural racism – and that they are responsible for doing their part to undo it.
Doing the work. It seems like there is a clear path forward for me since I’m paid to lead an organization with an intentional lens of racial equity. I thought I came into the job “woke” but, I still cling to platitudes and struggle with the humility required. The work, the real work, is how I raise my children at home and who I surrender my white social power to in my professional life. Where we invest, as a family and as an organization. Who we read, who we learn from, whose tables we ask to join and who we invite to our tables. Where we step back because others are better equipped to lead than we are. It’s daily work. It’s checking and checking again.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that the spread of a virus can be reduced through committing to a series of actions as we go about our normal lives – social distancing, hand washing, wearing a mask. Structural racism is a virus, too, and it will be eradicated only when each of us acknowledges its existence, learns about how it works, identifies our sphere of influence, and commits to daily actions to change the environmental conditions that allow it to flourish.
NC Early Childhood Foundation is here to listen. We are here to learn. We are here to apply what we learn to help be the change. We are here to be messengers. We are here to be a bridge. We are more resolute in this now than ever.
In solidarity and hope, Muffy Grant