By Jane Partridge
Visions for Early Learning, West Regional Early Learning Coalition
This blog post was strongly influenced by the insights of Visions for Early Learning (VEL) member Christine Hanson, a member of the Nisqually Tribe and part of our Visions Work Team for Racial Equity. Christine passed away on July 14, 2014. This post is dedicated to the memory of Christine and to longtime VEL Board member Jeanette Spiegelberg. Jeanette, who passed away on June 17, has been an integral part in region, state and national work for the progression and professionalism of the early learning field.
Shame. As an emotion it stops us dead in our tracks, shuts off our ability to do anything other than the most primitive of responses: fight to defend our position or take flight and try our best to escape it.
Of all the work we as Early Learning Regional Coalitions do, advancing racial equity is perhaps our most important mandate – and it carries the most latent shame right along with it.
>> What “advancing racial equity” means to us
Even starting a conversation about racial equity introduces discomfort and raises questions that need answers.
- How can we be allies for racial equity without running into our own barriers of shame?
- How can we even have conversations around race and equity until we are ready and educated enough to have them?
- How do we get to the point that we are creating programs and services for others that aren’t based on our own biases?
As is true with almost any question, the key to finding answers is to start by asking them. In the West Central Early Learning Regional Coalition – which we call Visions for Early Learning – finding those answers enters a new phase in October, with a series of workshops designed to address how to create a culturally competent, inclusive environment in order to advance racial equity in early learning.
Coalition members and partners, as well as individuals involved in the critical work of supporting healthy development of children in our region, have been invited to participate in the workshop series. Funded by Thrive by Five Washington and the Nisqually Indian Tribe, and led by Ilsa Govan of Cultures Connecting, the series is designed to foster “equity leaders” for our region.
The importance of infusing our systems and institutions with those who can lead for equity cannot be understated.
>> How we “take up the work” of racial equity
According to Govan, “In the world of early childhood education today we are learning to become multicultural in a way where we benefit from our differences, rather than expecting people to assimilate into the dominant culture’s norms, values and customs. In the process, we must have the courage to unpack how we’ve been socialized to think about one another and the willingness to recognize institutional advantages and disadvantages employees, children, families and communities face.”
That willingness to lead and be an ally for equity means remaining accountable even when confronted with our own discomfort, to keep asking questions of those who have the answers.
And most importantly, to truly listen when we do so.
For more information on participating in Visions for Early Learning’s Advancing Racial Equity in Early Learning fall workshop series, please contact Project Coordinator Jane Partridge at email@example.com.
- Cultures Connecting: Addressing Race Relations in the 21st Century
- Community of Practice for Racial Equity (convened by Thrive by Five Washington)
- Racial Equity Theory of Change for Washington state (Full text | Visual representation)
- Race for Results: Building a Path to Opportunity for All Children (from the Annie E. Casey Foundation)