We mourn the violent loss of lives in Atlanta on March 16th and affirm our support for the Asian American Pacific Islander community, with whom we stand in solidarity. We condemn anti-Asian violence and the hateful rhetoric that has led to increased violence against AAPI communities across the US. Fighting racism, xenophobia, white supremacy, and sexism is critical in early childhood contexts, with families and communities. We know this violence touches countless early childhood educators, children, and families. Reconceptualizing Early Childhood Education is committed to creating just and restorative spaces for them.
NAEYC’s Statement on Recent Tragedy in Atlanta
NAEYC mourns the loss of eight people killed in Atlanta last night, including six Asian women. This violence, like all such acts, causes deep and lasting trauma for communities, families, and children. As we stand for equity and justice, we stand against hate and gun violence. We stand with the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and wrap our arms and our actions around our staff, members, families, children, and allies who see themselves and their families in these women. While there is more to be learned about last night’s specific incident, we know that these tragic, violent acts have taken place in the context of increased anti-Asian racism, violence against women, and incidents of hate around the country. We must address this context head-on, and commit to talking about gender, race, and inequity as early childhood educators and leaders, with our children, in our classrooms, and in our homes. Visit NAEYC.org/equity for resources to help engage in these critical conversations.
Statement by Tran Templeton, University of North Texas and Haeny Yoon, Teachers College, Columbia University (leaders of the Critical Perspectives on Early Childhood SIG, American Educational Research Association)
We have to admit, it is a strange feeling to write this statement in defense of ourselves. On Tuesday, March 16th, a white terrorist murdered 8 people—6 of whom were Asian women—in massage parlors in Atlanta, Georgia. To add to that terror, the local police captain justified it by saying the perpetrator had “had a bad day.” This massacre feels especially heavy as, over the last year, over 3800 anti-Asian racist incidents have been reported. Worse yet, many of these brutalities have been directed toward our elders in broad daylight. This is an all too familiar narrative for people of Color in the United States.
We know what contributes to these acts of terrorism: a racist former president who invoked racialized rhetoric; school curriculum and policies that invoke white nationalism and supremacy; institutions that uphold meritocracy and the hegemonic order while also failing to honor or sustain the knowledges of people of Color; the scarce representation of people of Color at every economic, political, and social sector.
While we can point our fingers at the obvious, there’s work to be done much closer to home, within the day-to-day workings of the academy. We are often asked by white scholars how they can be allies, to help dismantle white supremacy. Our response is the following:
- Make space for people of Color, even at the cost of your own recognition and visibility;
- Acknowledge and lift up the theories and knowledges of women of Color (in particular);
- Decenter dominant theoretical frames and shift citation practices;
- Redistribute economic and institutional resources to diversify the academic circles of which we are a part;
- Redefine and reflect on what and who is valued across our research and publication projects and endeavors, including who we cite, who we write with, who we research with/on, and who we nominate for accolades and positions of leadership.
We continue to support efforts by scholars in this SIG (Critical Perspectives in Early Childhood) who engage in anti-racist work and seek to dismantle hierarchies of power. It feels like we are ending the academic year just as we started, in deep despair and sadness over racial violence. Yet we must continue to resist and to invoke scholar-elders like Grace Lee Boggs: You can’t change any society unless you take responsibility for it.
Guidelines for Talking with Children
Below are guidelines offered by Defending the Early Years in the wake of the George Floyd murder and the protests/uprisings in the wake of his death that are relevant in this moment.
- Let the children lead. Ask them what they know about the situation and give them the space to share their thoughts.
- Provide the right amount of information. Children do not need a lecture on the history of the enslavement of African people to understand what is happening. You should strive to give them enough information related to the current situation.
- Share how you feel. Model the importance of naming your emotions so children know it is okay to be sad, angry, scared, etc.
- Let them know there is no quick fix. Unlike when they get injured, the pain the country is feeling right now will not go away anytime soon. Explain that the process of healing from racism and discrimination takes time.
- Emphasize the positive aspects of the protests. Yes, many are choosing to focus on the agitators and clashes with law enforcement, but the protests are not about the violence. Children should know that good people are taking to the streets to show solidarity with Black people and they should understand the value in marching and speaking out as a collective.
- Help them find some joy. In the face of so much pain and hostility, we must all find joy to maintain our peace. Share funny stories or read a funny book. Reassure them that it is okay to laugh and be happy when bad things happen.
Links to Related Resources
The Smithsonian National Museum
The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), has released a powerful new web portal:
Talking About Race.
“Talking About Race” provides digital tools, online exercises, video instructions, scholarly articles, and more than 100 multimedia resources tailored for educators, parents, and caregivers, as well as individuals committed to racial equality. In releasing this resource now, we hope to help individuals and communities foster constructive dialogues on one of the nation’s most challenging issues: racism, and its corrosive impact.
Foundation for Child Development
Black Lives Matter
Early Childhood Education Assembly (NCTE)
National Museum of the American Indian (letter from the Director)
National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies
Statement on State-Sanctioned Violence Against Black Communities in the United States