BUILD Initiative Blog | Fighting Racism: Working for Equitable Ou

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BUILD Initiative Blog



BUILD stands with all who protest murders of Black men, women, and children—often at the hands of the police. We are outraged, tormented, despairing, and angry that so little has changed in 400 years. George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are the most recent known examples of “the unmattering of Black lives.” The criminalization of Blackness began in slavery, was nurtured by Jim Crow, and festers as a cancer today. It influences the lives of every American child and family and is a bitter inheritance handed down from generation to generation.  

Every day, in our work, we see many American families face barriers, created by institutional and structural racism, that place opportunities for healthy development and quality education out of reach. BUILD’s mission is to support leaders to shift state policies and practices, remove barriers, and dismantle policies and practices that disproportionately negatively affect children and families of color so that all young children and their families can thrive.   

BUILD knows that children grow and thrive in families, and families live and work in communities; any interventions to improve lives and create equitable opportunity for children and families must be systemic, as the challenges to well-being are systemic. If our country continues to allow urban neighborhoods, barrios, Indian land, and rural towns to be ravaged by racism, young children will continue to face insurmountable barriers to thrive. Decades of over-policing, aggressive law enforcement tactics, and gross biases evident in the criminal justice system have resulted in levels of trauma and stress in communities of color that threaten the optimal development of children and the ability of families to protect and provide for themselves and their children. Racism in the structures that should support healthy children and families is exemplified in water crises, lead exposure, child care deserts, maternal and infant mortality, and the lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Responses to these crimes require deep commitment to abolish any aspects of racism in our society and in early childhood systems. We are responsible. No one is coming to save us. Our consistent, focused, and determined anti-racist actions can make a difference for our children, families, communities, and ourselves.

We will redouble our efforts to help state leaders find ways to use existing policy, programs, and initiatives to identify communities and support families to have access to goods and services of quality that others take for granted. We will contribute; we all can dismantle inequities at the individual, interpersonal, institutional, and systemic levels.

The BUILD team is committed to channeling our outrage and pain over recent and ongoing events into the actions that we know can make a difference in the lives of young children and families including:

  • Recognizing racism, covert and overt, in our systems and ourselves and acting with energy and purpose to eradicate it.

  • Developing an understanding of the history and stories of communities of color.

  • Recognizing and addressing power imbalances by ensuring that the voices of families and community leaders of color and those in poverty are sought out, included, welcomed, and valued. 

  • Listening deeply to the families participating in programs and services (and the intended participants) since they alone can say what is working for them and are most likely to be affected by racism.

  • Learning from community leaders who have created local solutions that might be adapted to other programs and by other communities and that could benefit from state support.

  • Using data, research, and evaluation to take an unblinking look at racial disparities, access, quality, and opportunity barriers.

  • Tailoring work to specific places and not assuming universal strategies are reaching the children and families who need them the most.

  • Developing, mentoring, and advancing racially, culturally, and linguistically diverse leadership in state early childhood systems leadership at all levels and in all sectors.

The eruption of outrage over racial injustice is layered on the havoc created by the COVID-19 pandemic which, as of today, has killed over 100,000 Americans, a disproportionate number of whom are people of color—again, due to structural and institutional racism. The pandemic has highlighted the fault lines of race and class in our society and decimated our fragile child-and family-serving systems. 

The early childhood field is now challenged to respond to unprecedented needs while simultaneously working to rebuild and plan for a post-COVID reality. We need all the child- and family-serving systems (such as health, mental health, early care and education, family support, child welfare, early intervention, housing, transportation, and employment) to support child and family well-being. Together, leaders in these systems can ensure that we don’t rebuild by reinstating disparate access to state supports, but that we build back better and more equitably.

BUILD is committed to channeling our anger into helping leaders fight to keep solutions to problems that won’t end even if a vaccine is developed. We speak out now against police murders, but we also act to end racist violence in all its forms. As Coretta Scott King said:

“I must remind you that starving a child is violence.  
Neglecting school children is violence. 
Punishing a mother and her family is violence. 
Discrimination against a working man is violence. 
Ghetto housing is violence. 
Ignoring medical need is violence. 
Contempt for poverty is violence.”

We are raw and tired and emotional, but our determination to build a better world for young children and families is stronger, reinvigorated and inspired by the democratic racial justice movement alive in our nation.

We are heartened by the Black mayors, many of whom are female, by the election of Ella Jones in Ferguson, and by other local leaders who are speaking out and helping to frame important conversations about policing, activism, and racism. We are encouraged by the multi-generational, multi-racial groups of protesters in city after city across the country. We take heart in knowing that many of our early childhood colleagues are working hard to address injustice and are committed to battling disparities. 

We will speak out, fight back, and rebuild our COVID-19 decimated systems and our society to be way better than they have ever before. We all must. 

BUILD Staff 

  • Gretchen Ames 
  • Jenn Bender 
  • Jonathan Chapman 
  • Angela Fisher-Soloman 
  • Mariana Florit 
  • Danielle Fuentes Johnson 
  • Jim Gutierrez 
  • Susan Hibbard 
  • Chloe Jordan 
  • Tiereny Lloyd 
  • Debi Mathias 
  • Carey McCann 
  • Karen Ponder 
  • Aisha Ray
  • Sherri Killins Stewart 
  • Cynthia Tate 
  • Ruth Trombka 
  • Michelle Stover Wright


  • Ronda Alexander
  • Kandice Cole
  • Harriet Dichter
  • William Fay
  • Gail Nourse
  • Deb Stahl


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