The Time for Change: Equity and Justice for All
By Blythe Keeler Robinson, President and CEO, Sheltering Arms
During the past week, we’ve watched as Atlanta and other cities across the nation erupted in protests and civil unrest after witnessing repeated displays of racial violence and injustice.
We’ve read Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ opinion piece in The New York Times as she echoed the concern of so many black mothers in sharing a personal account of legitimate fear for her son’s safety.
We’ve seen social media posts urging non-black communities to listen, learn and become allies.
And I am reminded of my own experiences. As a child attending a predominantly white school, I remember being told by a classmate that I could not go over to her house because I was black. As a high school honor student, I was discouraged from applying to certain colleges and universities because I was told I “wouldn’t do well there.” As an adult arriving in Atlanta to take on the role of President and CEO of Sheltering Arms, I was met with shock and surprise, and my background and credentials were questioned.
This, in part, is why black communities are grieving. We are exhausted, frustrated and angry.
These types of biased experiences are all too common and shared by many, as they show up in just about every facet of life, even education in the earliest stages.
Racial Disparities in Early Childhood Education
Last year, Sheltering Arms hosted a thought leadership forum on race and equity. As an early childhood education provider serving a predominantly black population of young children (nearly 80%), we invited experts in the field to join us in thoughtful discussion about inequities in early learning environments.
Two years earlier, the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization advancing policy solutions for low-income people, released a brief on racial inequities in child care and early education. It stated that child care and early education policies are shaped by a history of systemic and structural racism.
This form of racism shows up as barriers to equitable access to opportunity, and leads to a number of disparities in socio-economic experiences for minority children, which can impact their educational journey. And the cycle continues.
What Happens Now
More than ever, this is the time to join forces to help secure a bright future for Atlanta’s children. We must continue to educate policymakers and urge them to address inequities, make the necessary investments, and create policies that will best meet the needs of communities of color.