Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is clear: it recommends universal indoor masking in schools for all children ages two and up, as well as staff, teachers, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is similarly clear in its recommendation that all children two and over engage in universal masking indoors at school.
A racial awakening occurred in summer 2020 that has seen communities wrestle with a reckoning that, at this moment, feels unprecedented. We, at ICS, acknowledge that this moment is centuries overdue.
In the wake of COVID-19, where profound inequities have only been underscored, it is tempting to promote a return to “normalcy,” something akin to the pre-pandemic era. However, evidence both inside and outside of the field of early childhood suggest that conscious and unconscious racism have had a significant negative effect on populations of color pre-COVID, effects that were made plainly clear in the pandemic.
ICS sees this evidence on a day-to-day basis in our research and analysis. For example, Black boys are 3.6 times more likely to be expelled from preschool settings. It is not because Black boys are inherently more disruptive than their peers. This is a result of implicit bias. Children of color are more likely to experience Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), which impact child development. ACEs are often a result of income inequality, lack of access to employment, education, healthcare and other generational factors. In all of these, populations of color are at greater risk of experiencing disparity compared to white Americans. This is an intrinsic cycle that is often ignored – one that cannot be solved through short term, piecemeal thinking and action. Solutions must acknowledge racism’s role in propagating that cycle.
The ICS Board of Directors, staff and senior fellows recently completed an intensive 21-day Equity Challenge where we studied and discussed the origins and manifestation of racism and its impact on the systems that impact early childhood health, education and overall wellbeing. This challenge is only an initial step in our attempt to understand and mobilize against racism.
ICS seeks to be an active participant in positive change, not a performative one. We endeavor to sustain momentum for the indefinite future, not to simply check the box with a passive exercise. We envisage concerted efforts to promote healing and reconciliation, not impulsive “cancelations” or inconsequential gestures.
Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Elijah McCain, the Emanuel Nine and countless other individuals were once children aged 0-8. So were those that took their lives. We did not have to find ourselves here. We must do better for young children – our children. Their future is one for which we are all responsible.
ICS admits that we do not know exactly how “success” is achieved. All we do fully understand is that working against racism must be an intentional, evolving and perpetual practice. Nonetheless, we are committed to continuing this journey, open to learning from those with more expertise and offering help to others along the way.
We will continue to be committed to our work as an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and applied policy organization dedicated to the success of young children. We will continue to promote smart policies, grounded in research and advise governments, nonprofits, foundations and others on strategies to improve outcomes. We will continue to share knowledge, convene stakeholders – especially and including those key stakeholders whose lived experiences are an invaluable form of expertise. We will continue to embrace solutions, accelerate impact and encourage catalytic, innovative leadership in early childhood.
However, we will also be intentional and bold in addressing the individual, institutional and systemic racism that exist at the root of so many systems impacting young children and their families. Fulfillment of the ICS Mission and Vision, “the success of all children,” demands no less.
Jamie Moon, ICS President & CEO