ZERO TO THREE virtual series discusses addressing systemic racism and inequities

Last month, we highlighted ZERO TO THREE‘s first of two virtual sessions of “Continuing the Dialogue: Infants and Toddlers Face Racism Too.” The webinar featured three child development specialists speaking about the history of developmental research, structural racism’s effects on child development and how biases are formed in early childhood.

Read our discussion of the first session here.

The second part of the webinar focused on the “now what” — strategies and actionable steps to address racism. Hosted by ZERO TO THREE’s Katrina Macasaet and Maria Spriggs, the webinar featured a presentation on “Science, Practice and Policy” by Iheoma Iruka, Ph.D., a research professor of Public Policy and the founding director of the Equity Research Action Coalition at FPG Child Development Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Iruka first discussed her concept of early childhood “villages” that can help ensure that young Black children and children of color have optimal development and are prepared to succeed as they grow up. These “villages” are made up of Protection (from threats to children’s physical, emotional and psychological selves), Affection (intentional, unconditional affirmation), Correction (redirection of unhealthy behaviors rather than punishment) and Connection (fostering a sense of belonging, value and uniqueness).

So how do we go about addressing systemic racism? We can examine and address systemic inequities in our communities by using what she calls a “RICHER” approach:

  • Re-educate about history: Iruka says that we need to examine our understandings and re-educate ourselves about racism and its effects. This process can cause uncomfortable feelings like guilt, defensiveness or anger, but it is part of the journey that we are all taking together.
  • Integrate rather than just desegregate: We must question whether diverse racial, ethnic and cultural groups are represented in our organizations and workplaces. Iruka urges us to ensure that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) are not just “add-ons,” but critical to every part of our organizations.
  • Critique everything: Iruka asks us to question how our current cultural, organizational and personal situation came to be. We can gain new understandings by engaging in critical discourse with people from different backgrounds and perspectives than us.
  • Humility of privilege: Remaining humble in our work toward equity allows us to be open to new ideas and understand how our society has been shaped by systemic racism.
  • Erase racism: We can erase systemic racism, white privilege and bias by expanding our teams, ensuring our work calls attention to and work against historical atrocities, injustices and resulting inequities. To eradicate racism, Iruka says, we must make it visible and hold ourselves accountable.
  • Re-vision new ways, approaches, theories, teams: We must work to make our organizations anti-racist, inclusive of our BIPOC peers and their ideas and ensure it creates conditions to be anti-racist in all aspects of life.

After Iruka’s presentation, hosts Macasaet and Spriggs open the discussion for reflection with participants. Spriggs discussed the responsibility that all of us have, both in our early childhood work and in other parts of our lives, to create an equitable society for children: “As leaders, as educators, as parents, aunties, uncles–whoever it is that we are and how we interact with children…we are the ones who influence them.” Masacaet tells a personal anecdote of a time she recognized her own bias, stressing the importance of reflecting on our mistakes and holding ourselves accountable. The hosts and participants then discuss how conversations about racism and equity in the last year have led to a more substantial effort to examine our personal and organizational efforts to fight racism, with hope that the push for equity continues and grows.

The webinar concluded after exploring how to turn strategies to address inequity into action. Masacaet says that we ask ourselves questions to sort our what we can tackle: 1. What is aspirational? What are long-term, “big win” goals that we hope to accomplish? 2. What is realistic and doable in the short-term? In the mid-term? 3. How could next steps advance equity, especially for black and brown babies, toddlers and their families?

Masacaet states that one of the first steps we can take is to recognize and acknowledge the racial inequities that others experience. By showing sympathy and validating others’ experiences, we remind them that they don’t deserve to be treated unjustly or unfairly. Masacaet says this is an important step of a “rupture and repair” in addressing inequity.


You can view the recordings of both virtual sessions here with a ZERO TO THREE membership: Virtual Event Archives