Open Letter to Admins and Moderators of Online Forums for Early Childhood Educators and Childcare Providers in British Columbia.
There are many barriers to ending racism in childcare spaces, in all levels of our patchwork early years structures. As an administrator or moderator of an online forum for Early Childhood Educators and Childcare Providers you have an unique opportunity to influence the conversations happening within our industry and be allies in the fight against racism. Right now, direct communication may be our most powerful tool to address this issue because the governing structures in place do not always have clear, consistent, and effective policies to investigate incidents or concerns of individual or structural racism.
As the Childcare Advocacy Team of Moms Against Racism Canada, our mission is to educate moms and those in mothering roles, such as ECEs and childcare providers, in anti-racism, cultural competence, and decolonization so they have the tools and support to dismantle racism within themselves, their families, and their communities. We are a group of ECEs, childcare providers, and parents who are passionate about dismantling racism through instilling social justice values into the hearts and minds of our next leaders and shaping the future generations.
Recent online communication has given us the opportunity to step up to aid in learning and advocate for change in early childcare settings. Rather than focus on one incident, we will write in general terms as our group is aware of multiple cases that follow a similar trajectory namely, dialogue about racism in online ECE groups that is silenced and deleted, rather than effectively moderated and facilitated as anti-racist learning opportunities. As an admin or moderator, when these instances arise, very plainly you have the choice to continue to uphold systemic racism or to speak out against it. If you choose anything other than speaking out against it, you are complicit in perpetuating racism and oppression no matter what your group policies say. So rather than maintain the status quo by suppressing dialogue, we ask measures be taken to prevent harm, educate, support healing, and when appropriate and necessary, report incidents to authorities. As this may be new for some of you, this letter will recommend a useful resource to support the capacity-building of leaders to facilitate these dialogues in our field. The ECEBC Code of Ethics upholds that “Early Childhood Educators pursue, on an ongoing basis, the knowledge, skills, and self-awareness needed to be professionally competent.” Moms Against Racism maintains that professional competence in ECE must include both training in, and measurable evidence of, anti-racist curriculum and evolving cultural competency, without exception. The ECEBC Code of Ethics gives us a place to start with reflection, however, it currently has no specific mention of race or racial bias. Without specific policy that describes and counters racism, educators are likely to minimize or ignore racial incidents (as explained in Berman et al., 2017, link below). Parent complaints with licensing bodies are not an adequate method to address racism - parents may fear retribution, losing their childcare space, or other negative consequences of speaking out. As well, unlike fellow ECEs and childcare providers, parents may not be privy to comments made, or other behaviours by educators, which are only witnessed by colleagues and children, including online communications. For those reasons, we believe early childhood educators must be equipped with better tools to recognize and speak out against racism, while those in leadership positions should be supported to take action in preventing further harm. Our Childcare Advocacy Team is working to support these changes within our industry.
Right now, the system benefits and protects people with internalized racist beliefs. When concerns are kept to the private sphere, and no specific and enforceable anti-racism policies exist, change is slow to occur. In this context, when online leaders and forum administrators silence and delete discussion of racism, this guarantees that harmful, abusive, and unethical behaviour can and will continue unchecked.
The message this sends to educators with explicit racial bias is that their behaviour is acceptable and that there are no consequences to racism. The message sent to educators who are becoming aware of their implicit racial bias, is that this subject is taboo, and questions and discussions will be deleted. The message sent to educators who are Black, Indigenous, or Persons of Colour is that their safety is not a priority and the outward appearance of decorum (which is used as a justification for silence) takes precedence over dialogue. The message to the person who courageously raised the concern? Although they speak as advocates, they are responded to as trouble-makers. They are often treated as a scapegoat, and pushed aside, or treated with indignity. This has especially been seen to be the case, and the response to be more negative and severe, when the advocate is a Black, Indigenous, or a Person of Colour. We know administrating and moderating an online group is generally a thankless volunteer gig done as an act of service to the community out of passion for the subject. We know, because we do it too. In choosing to administrate and moderate discussions in the sphere of early childhood education online, you are doing a labour that has real-world effects. Many ECEs rely on online forums for connection, learning, and community. Developing skills to facilitate discussions in these groups will have a major impact on our communities. We encourage you to think of these spaces as a classroom, and your role as an educator.
As a starting point, Moms Against Racism recommends the following strategies, quoted from the document by Dr. Derald Wing Sue, “Facilitating Difficult Race Discussions: Five Ineffective Strategies and Five Successful Strategies.” We will link to a PDF of this document below.
1. Understand your racial/cultural identity
2. Acknowledge and be open to admitting your racial biases
3. Validate and facilitate discussion of feelings
4. Control the process, not the content, of race talk
5. Validate, encourage, and express admiration and appreciation to participants who speak when it feels unsafe to do so
These guidelines promote genuine and vulnerable communication, and leave room for repair and reparations.
In writing this letter, we remember times when we have faced criticism and know that through vulnerability and accountability, we were able to learn and move forward. We also recognize that all of us have behaved in ways that uphold or allow racism to continue, and it is up to all of us to change our behaviour and to seek help and support when necessary.
Make the choice, today, to speak out against racism and the systems that keep it in place. We encourage you to act with accountability and courage by sharing this letter with your group and posting a public response. If you would like some guidance on your public statement we would be happy to review it and provide feedback prior to posting. We can be reached at CAT@MomsAgainstRacism.ca.
Sincerely, Childcare Advocacy Team Moms Against Racism
JOIN MOMS AGAINST RACISM CANADA:
OTHER LINKS: “Facilitating Difficult Race Discussions: Five Ineffective Strategies and Five Successful Strategies.” by Derald Wing Sue, PhD.
“How Should I Talk about Race in My Mostly White Classroom?” by the Anti-Defamation League
Berman, Rachel & Daniel, Beverly-Jean & Butler, Alana & Macnevin, Margaret & Royer, Natalie. (2017). Nothing, or Almost Nothing, to Report: Early Childhood Educators and Discursive Constructions of Colorblindness. International Critical Childhood Policy Studies Journal, Vol. 6, Issue 1, 2017. 6. 52-65.