What does it mean to talk about bias in early education? How do biases affect children, teachers, and leaders, and what do you do when you see individual or systemic bias in action?
In today’s episode, Marnetta Larrimer had a chance to sit down with Alexa Broderick, founder of The Equity Paradigm, live at the InterAct NOW: CLASS Summit. Listen to the episode to learn how to contend with internalized biases, take actionable steps when you notice biases playing out, and why it’s important for children to see and participate in diverse experiences.
Marnetta: Hello and welcome back to a very special episode of Impacting the Classroom, the podcast where we talk with educators, policymakers, and researchers about big topics that have an even bigger impact on the education system. I'm your host, Marnetta Larrimer.
Today, I'm coming to you live from the InterAct NOW: CLASS Summit. Welcome, everyone. I'm joined by our special guest, Alexa Broderick, the Founder and Principal Consultant of The Equity Paradigm. Alexa, welcome. We are so excited for you to talk to us today.
Alexa: Thank you for having me.
Marnetta: I'm looking forward to talking with you and having questions answered from our audience. So as we are talking, please submit your questions to the chat box. We'll keep an eye out and we'll try to answer them as they come up. Alexa, we have done a lot of work with your organization. Why don't you take a moment and tell us more about that work?
Alexa: Yeah, absolutely. I started The Equity Paradigm early on in my career as an education nonprofit professional. I left corporate America to come into the nonprofit sector because like most nonprofits, I wanted to make the world a better place when it had an impact and wanted to do direct work with communities. When I got to the nonprofit sector, what I quickly realized was that, although the primary individuals who were impacted by the work that we were doing looked like me, most people at the decision-making tables and who held power inside of those institutions do not look like me.
As it turns out, almost 90% of nonprofit executive directors and CEOs identify as white, even though the overwhelming majority of communities that are impacted by nonprofit work identify as people of color. I started to sit in the distance of that and start to bring up conversations that I felt weren't happening in the nonprofit sector enough. I feel that there are many more conversations about that happening now, but years ago, that was not the case.
I started The Equity Paradigm because I realized that people didn't have the tools to have those conversations. People didn't have the context to have those conversations. My career had been in learning and development, so The Equity Paradigm was really designed to help equip people with the language, the tools, and the mindsets to give them approaches for creating safe communities to have conversations and strategies to actually begin to deconstruct the system of racism exactly as it was designed and exactly as it was playing out in the very organizations that were designed to help address issues of inequity.
Helping organizations look at the irony of that, sit in the discomfort of that, and grow in their approach and in their understanding of even the work they do. So now, as an organization, we provide learning experiences, strategic consultation, thought partnership, and really work hand in hand with our clients to help transform their institutions and the individuals inside of those institutions. We remind leaders that we need them in every sector.
Marnetta: I love that, and thank you for that introduction to your work. I did meet you through your work with Teachstone. It has been such a transformative process, so much to learn, and you could just see this shift around the organization. You've definitely created a wonderful opportunity for us. I hope after this, more people will take advantage of those services. So let's jump right in and talk about why we're here. Today, we're talking about biases, just like our podcast name insinuates. What is the impact on the classroom? But before we talk about the impact, do you mind level setting us and defining what we mean when we talk about bias?
Alexa: Absolutely. When people hear the term implicit bias, historically, what we have defined as implicit bias is those automatically invoked mental associations that we have of different social rules. So those things that are beneath the surface of your conscious thinking that you're not explicitly thinking, but even in this conversation, you've probably made a set of assumptions about me. I probably made a set of assumptions about you that we didn't even process, that we were not conscious of.
When you think about implicit bias working as your brain's way of quickly making sense of things that your brain doesn't have time to actually process. But when you layer on the fact that we're operating inside of the system of racism, so inside of spaces that focus on racial equity that are building muscles around applying an anti-racist lens, we really also have to think about implicit bias being a cognitive reflection of systemic racism in the environment that we've all been socialized in.
In this view, implicit bias is seen as an ongoing set of associations but based on the inequalities and the stereotypes that are in our environment, and we're all inundated with them constantly. There's this constant tug of war with trying to interrupt your biases, but then being inundated with biases that were constantly in that system.
Marnetta: Wonderful. That's a great definition and it frames what our discussion is going to be about around bias. Talk about the impact on everyone in the education system.
Alexa: Absolutely. Marnetta, you and I both talked about being mothers. I was doing research in preparation for this speech, and I've read a lot of speeches on implicit bias in the past. But to share a little bit about myself, I'm a mom of two incredible Black boys. One of them just turned three last week and then my youngest son is turning one next month. Even though I see them and they should be seen as innocent, beautiful boys, the system has already placed the labels on them.
I want to give you a couple of statistics on how this plays out as early as early childhood education. Black children account for about 18% of the preschool enrollment nationally, and yet Black children account for almost 50% of preschool-aged children receiving one or more suspensions. I'm actually not a proponent of punishment-based discipline in early childhood. That's another conversation for another time. The reason why this happens is because Black children are viewed as more mature and less innocent than their white counterparts. This goes for other children of color as well.
When we think about the education system, you can think about it on an education policy level. Maybe you have a policy that is race-neutral. If x behavior happens, then this is the consequence. Maybe that's the policy of the school. Maybe that's the policy of the state. But then when you think about the teachers, when you think about overwhelmingly almost 80% of public school teachers identify as white, the overwhelming majority of early childhood education teachers identify as white.
When we think about stereotypes that we've been inundated with and also a lack of proximity that many teachers have to communities that they don't belong to. Maybe the only Black and brown children that they've ever interacted with on an interpersonal level are in their classrooms.
Think about all the messaging that they've been inundated with as individuals. They're carrying out this policy. There's been a lot of studies around there's no discernible difference in the behavior of the children, but children of color are punished more severely. These punishments, these suspensions, follow them to your education. It starts in early childhood education in preschool and then it follows them.
Children are perceptive. When they start being labeled as a bad kid and they start being sent out into the hallway, punished and put into timeout over and over more than other children, then they start to internalize and believe, and then it can repeat the cycle. So it's really pervasive. When you think about it, compared to white children, white children represent 40% of preschool enrollment nationwide and only 25% of those suspensions.
There's so much to be said about the subtle ways in which our sensitivities to children of color and our expectations of children of color are disproportionate to what they're even capable of at that age. As a three-year-old, my son's prefrontal cortex isn't even fully developed yet. We may tend to have behavior expectation that is unrealistic. When he acts in an age-appropriate way, then we say that's a punishable behavior even though a white child may behave in the exact same way that's not a punishable behavior. Then again it tracks when you think about things like school to prison pipeline and all of the factors that contribute, it's just a vicious cycle.
Marnetta: It is. Yes, we do have so much in common. You have two young, beautiful Black boys and I have two older Black sons. We have this shared experience and I know what's coming. You're just starting your journey and I know what's coming, but it's scary.
Alexa: It is scary.
Marnetta: We talked about some stereotypes and whatever. I remember when my oldest son was in high school and he decided he wanted to get dreads and I'm just oh, I know what's going to happen when you do that. But it's his journey. It's been very hard, and he's learning through it or whatever.
When you're talking about students of color being punished more often than their counterparts, not only do they internalize it, but it kind of perpetuates for non-colored people that those children of color are bad. It just is a cycle that's never-ending. It lays a layer of bias into their experiences.
Alexa: The thing is no one is immune to bias. Even tracing back to my own upbringing, obviously, I've been Black my whole life but I went to public schools in elementary school and I saw this what I just shared.
I went to a school that was like 60% Black and 40% white, and overwhelmingly, who got out in the hallway and got into the principal's office were primarily Black boys. Then I remember it's like coupled with then internalized racism. I remember Black students that I was in class with, and when you talk white, you want to be a white girl, you're worried, Black on the outside, but white on the inside.
As an eight-year-old child, I'm trying to make sense of, well, is it better to be white? Is it better to speak this way, to act this way? Is being good being more like white kids? Again, that's a heartbreaking train of thought for a young child to associate with her own racial group. Negative stereotypes are fueled by the vicious cycle that we've been talking about. I'm thinking about this on a policy level, but also on a social-emotional level, and the identity development of young children.
As a mom of boys, one of the things that my husband and I do with our boys every single day is we say and read affirmations to them. I am brilliant, I am important, I am loved, I am capable, I am special, I am whatever it is so that the world is going to tell you that you're these other things. I know that. Unfortunately, as much as I would like to protect him from being stereotyped, from being on the receiving end of someone's [...], I know that I probably won't be able to protect him and that breaks my heart.
I think that one of the things that we're trying to do is create in him an inner voice that is so strong that knows who he is regardless of what's happening in his environment. I truly believe, and I know I'm jumping ahead here, in terms of how we fight bias, but I think it's both the people who are impacted negatively by others' implicit biases that have work to do. The people who obviously are carrying out implicit bias in ways that are leading to these disparities and these pervasive gaps in education.
Marnetta: Yeah, I love that statement and how you framed that. As you stated, clearly, we do have work to do, whether you're Black or white, whether we're a classroom teacher or making policies that impact a statewide system. But where do we start? I read a quote that you may have heard from Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, and it says, "We absorb bias in the same way we breathe in smog, involuntarily, and usually without any awareness of it."
That was so powerful for me because it's literally that easy. Like you said, No thinking. It just happens.
I was thinking as we were talking about that famous doll test with Dr. Kenneth and Mamie Clark. The children were just three to seven. As you stated, as young as toddlers, what they learned about themselves in what was good and what was bad, what was desired and what was not desirable. It's just sad, so heartbreaking to this day, right? So if a lot of our biases are internalized because you mentioned that briefly, what can we do that will make a difference?
Alexa: It's such a good question and such a loaded question. I'll break it down into a couple of components. The first thing is that we all have to be willing to do the self-work and the [...]. I am a racial equity consultant and I feel that our spaces can be very therapeutic for folks. It's a very similar train of thinking in terms of naming things and investigating how you have become the person that you are.
One of the first things that we do when we teach on implicit bias is we may support leaders of organizations and institutions on implicit bias is to go back to your socialization and begin to challenge, begin to slow down your thinking, begin to slow down your processing and be able to pinpoint this is where I learned that. If people tell you about people who look like you, but people who didn't look like you, what did you learn explicitly? What did you learn implicitly from observation?
The second thing is to call all of the systems and institutions that we interact with in any given environment into question. Overwhelmingly, who shapes our television programming, the commercials that we see, the movies that our kids are watching, the books that our kids are reading. The curriculum that our kids are learning do not reflect communities that are disproportionately impacted by bias—communities of color and marginalized people.
As educators in the education space, being very intentional about diversifying as much as possible what is influencing your students and what is influencing you. De-centering what has been traditionally centered as the norm because that norm is going to influence what you deem as abnormal and what you deem as incorrect. This is what's great and incredible.
What happens when we center Black Indigenous people of color, ways of being, when you center books, perspectives, research, and whatnot that are centered on the lived experiences of people who have been marginalized, people who have not had a voice, and you saturate yourself in that way that we have been saturated inside of the system that they're experiencing? That's the second thing.
I think the third thing that I'll say is, and this especially goes for white people and people who carry power, look around your friend circle, look around who you spend time with. Over 65% of white people in a study recently are primarily associated with people who are white, almost exclusively. Who are your neighbors? Who do you spend time with? Who do you go to happy hour with? Who do you talk to? Who is in your social network?
If you do an inventory on your friend group and who is influencing you, oftentimes, we get into this echo chamber of socialization that is just reinforcing the same biases over and over and over again. Building authentic relationships with people across lines of difference, making an intentional focus to build relationships with people who are different from you, who have different backgrounds, and who can challenge your thinking.
Actually, there's a term in the social sciences called counter-stereotypic imaging—the process of challenging negative stereotypes of validity by inundating yourself with positive images of that group.
Unconsciously, or consciously, many of us have been inundated with negative messages about Black and brown people. It's why I don't watch the local news. We turn to local news, mugshot here, the community of color here, this negative thing here inundated with. Even the white people are doing those crimes and doing those things at the same rate, if not higher than people of color, all we see on the local news is people of color.
If I'm not pausing, interrupting, and saying, I'm actually going to replace those negative stereotypical images of Black and brown people with positive ones. I'm going to see images of Black and brown people smiling, enjoying their life, living with joy, doing what they are doing and not just getting these negative stereotypic images over time, you can start to reroute the quick associations that your brain makes and start to mitigate the impact of biases.
Those would be the three things that I would say. I also want to say, these are not quick fixes. There are no quick fixes. This is lifelong work. This is daily, minute-by-minute work.
Those would be the three things that I would say. I also want to say, these are not quick fixes. There are no quick fixes. This is lifelong work. This is daily, minute-by-minute work.
We tell our clients all the time when you're about to sit down with someone to have a performance conversation, when you're about to lead a meeting, when you're about to have a feedback conversation, when you're about to do anything with your students, pause, call into question, what assumptions am I making? What preferences am I bringing into this interaction? How am I being influenced? Who is influencing me? Making it a practice to ask yourself those questions explicitly and then determine what shifts you need to make in the moment.
Marnetta: I love that. It has to be intentional, with a purpose.
Marnetta: Lots of things came up that I was thinking I didn't want to interrupt you. You were going on and I knew all that train of thought to finish. That was lots of great guidance. Thank you. We have a question in the chat. Anyone have recommendations for books, TV shows, and apps that do a good job of showing different perspectives? I'm trying to be more mindful of what content I give my white three-year-old son so he sees more representation. It kind of piggybacks on what I was going to ask. Let's start with that question, then I'll follow up with what I was going to say.
Alexa: That's such a good question. It's so funny because I'm a mom of a three-year-old, but I'm one of those moms that don't do any screen time, so I cannot tell you even what is on right now and what cartoons, shows, or educational programming to recommend. I will say that my niece is a big Daniel Tiger fan. Even though the characters are not human beings. I think they're all animals, maybe?
Marnetta: They're animals.
Alexa: The messaging of the story, there's a lot on differences, on understanding people who are different from you and whatnot. I think it's connected to Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, which is probably more generationally appropriate that we grew up with. But Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, I would definitely recommend. As far as books, I would say that for my boys, 90% of the books in our home reflect Black characters as the norm. I think when I grew up, when I read books about Black people or Black kids, it was in the context of civil rights or in the context of Black history.
No, no, just people of color being people of color living in their eyes, right? I happen to be a person of color. Not this book is talking about Blackness, no. This book is just about a boy who happens to Black. There's a bookstore called Liberation Station and they have an Instagram handle, I think it's called @liberationstation. They constantly are putting book recommendations of all age ranges that depict children of all different backgrounds, families of all different compositions that you can check out. I love their Instagram. They put on things that they represent there.
Then the last thing that I would say is beyond books, TV shows, and apps, I know that we have different ways in which we're engaging in the world in this COVID times that we're living in, and how we're getting out, but being intentional about going to diverse places to play. If you know that your neighborhood is all white, you only go to the park in your neighborhood, and your kid only ever sees white kids, or if the schools in your neighborhood are all white. Socializing your children in other environments that reflect other cultures where maybe your son is the minority in that space and gets that experience and that's normal for him.
As a three-year-old, he grows up being, oh, I grew up with all sorts of people. Sometimes I was hanging out with white people, sometimes I was hanging out with people that were different from me, and that becomes normal. If you send your children to music lessons or to any sort of extracurricular, are there Black teachers, Black and brown leaders of the spaces that can influence your child?
I think it definitely comes down to what they're watching, what they're absorbing in the home, but also who they're interacting with in the home. Going back to that counter-steer to the imaging when they start to develop real relationships with people who are different than they are, that are positive, that is nourishing, it demystifies these differences and it reinforces the messages that I'm sure you're trying to get across through the books.
Marnetta: Wonderful. I agree with you. I think it's a mixture of both. So at home, I diversified. We're a Black family, but they were able to see different cultures in the literature and the toys. In the experiences, they saw me actively interacting with different people, so it was a norm. It's not just putting them in those spaces. Your behaviors are also mirroring those experiences.
Alexa: Yes, absolutely. People are saying that because children do what they see. They do what they see. Marnetta, you said it perfectly. If your children only see you socializing with people that look like you, when they only see you doing certain things, that's what they're going to mirror. That is just such a great point. I think as parents, we have an additional responsibility because we're influencing the next generation's biases.
We are influencing their socialization. We are influencing what they are coming to understand as normal behavior of what they're coming to understand as safe behavior, what they're coming to understand, we are influencing all of that. Especially parents of young children, be very cognizant of who you're interacting with, what they see you doing, and what they hear you saying because that's what they're going to think to do the same.
Marnetta: Most definitely. Since these behaviors start really young, if you have children that are going through childcare facilities, look into those facilities. Are they able to have caregivers that are not of their race so that they have that experience as well? So many things that we could do in that space. One of the attendees said that she created a Black library in her home. I don't know how to expand on that, because I don't know if this person is a person that is not a Black person. But that is a great idea as well, even in our home.
One of the things I was going to ask you as we were talking about this was how to start those convos with people? If I'm a person who is not marginalized, I have these friends, but how do I start those conversations to build those relationships and not make it weird and a burden?
Alexa: Yeah. I'm a big believer in authentic relationship building. I think asking people and holding space for people to share. Tell me about how you grew up, tell me about what you enjoy doing in your home, what you were exposed to, what some of your favorite things were growing up. I think this is why therapists often tell you to go back to your childhood. I think even in relationships with people, you can understand a lot about a person by listening to their upbringing, listening to what they were exposed to, what the values of their home were, and what their values are now.
I think having those sorts of intentional conversations and then sharing from your perspective as well, I think that we really need to normalize building relationships beneath the surface, moving beyond how are you? I'm good, how are you? How are you really? I think that we need to move beyond only reaching out to your colleagues of color when a national crisis happens and name is a hashtag.
There's a lot happening in the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community right now. There's a lot of rallying around in solidarity in that community, but what does it look like to actively prioritize getting to know your Asian-American colleagues on a daily basis? To frequent, again, shops and spaces in classes and whatnot that are led by communities that you don't belong to. Because, again, Marnetta, you and I identify as Black women, but it's my responsibility to teach my kids about cultures that we don't belong to as well.
We should have books in our home that reflect indigenous children and that reflect Latinx children, that reflect children with disabilities. It is on all of us, but especially groups who hold power to initiate these conversations. I think that as you build trust with people, asking people to share and then sharing from your perspective as well. [...] how you can amplify your understanding in spaces of power that you may be proximate to.
I can tell you for certain that I was in an interaction once at work where it was a beautiful moment where we were having a really hard conversation. At the time, there was a white male who was the executive director and then there was a Black woman, a white woman, and me, and we're on the stage. A Black woman spoke up and got really emotional about something that was shared in the conversation and the executive director kind of shut her down a little bit and was whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.
The white woman who's sitting next to this Black woman interrupted the director and was like, hey, I just want to say, I got emotional a minute ago and you didn't say anything to me. You let me feel my feelings and say them how I wanted to. I observed you policing her a little bit and getting a little bit uncomfortable with her image. So that white woman, as an ally at that moment, using the power that she had as a white woman at that moment to her peer was able to name it, interrupt the interaction, and reroute it.
It was such a beautiful moment because I think when you hold power in your identity, and there's an opportunity for you to say something and not be a bystander, do just that. Say what you see, acknowledge the privilege that you have. Acknowledge the privilege that you have that you as a white person have the privilege to express yourself freely without anyone associating something negative about you to those feelings or to whatever it is that you're saying.
When you notice that a bias may be playing out, but the same is not true, we know the same is not true for your colleagues of color and for your peers of color, then use the privilege in your identity to name that and make it a teachable opportunity. I think the last thing I'll say is that there are a lot of conversations that actually need to happen behind closed doors. So think about these moments at work, in the classroom, in a new friendship, but what are the conversations that you're having inside of your home?
What are the conversations that you're having with your close loved ones when you hear problematic things that a family member says when you observe a bias playing out inside of your home and no one's there to see it? Do you see it? Are you taking the time to put a flashlight on it and to say, oh, I'm seeing that play out now?
But again, it requires day-to-day work. It requires building your muscle that you're going to say the wrong thing sometimes. Your impact may not match your intent. You may offend but it is a learning process. You have to be willing to get messy, make uncomfortable mistakes, and make the process of starting to unlearn these behaviors in mind.
Marnetta: I love that. I love all the things you're saying. I must keep saying just love. It's a great conversation. When you are talking about building that muscle around what you're doing in your home when nobody's looking, you're really leaning intentionally into shaping those behaviors. I think that's really powerful because habits get built by repetition. So not just what happened at work, but that work that I'm doing at home, on the bus, all of those interactions help to make us stronger and build that awareness and ability to name it, interrupt it, and all those things.
It's not something that's just going to happen on the spot, if you're just doing it once in a while when people are looking so you can say, yeah, not near as effective. It's going to take longer, so it's already a long process even with the day-to-day work. They're only going to do it once a month or once every [...], that's quite a while.
Alexa: Two words away. I just think it's one thing. Notice and interrupt. That's the call to action. Notice yourself. Notice your environment. Notice your thoughts. Notice your assumptions. Notice your beliefs. Notice your discomfort. Notice your comfort. Notice yourself. Notice everything that you're doing. Make the unconscious conscious. Make yourself so conscious of yourself you feel like you're yelling at yourself that you noticed.
Notice and interrupt. That's the call to action. Notice yourself. Notice your environment. Notice your thoughts. Notice your assumptions. Notice your beliefs. Notice your discomfort. Notice your comfort. Notice yourself. Notice everything that you're doing.
I tense up a little bit when we drove past that [...]. My heart started racing a little bit when I entered this interaction with this person. I felt more comfortable having this conversation with my colleague who has the same racial identity as me than with this colleague who doesn't and then interrupts.
Notice this, how am I going to choose to pivot? How am I going to choose to do things differently? Because at any given moment, we have the opportunity to perpetuate or interrupt. Whether they're going to perpetuate this assumption with bias, give it power, or I'm going to unplug it, diminish its power, and choose to do something else.
Marnetta: I love that you said that because that was going to be my next thing. You were talking about internalized bias for a moment. I was going to ask, for a person who's suffering from that, how can you get yourself out of that and give the power back to yourself?
Alexa: Yes, yes, absolutely. Something that I'm learning as I teach my son because something I believe deeply, and again, as a mom of Black boys, and my sons will know who they are. They will know that they are powerful. They will know that they are capable. They will know that no matter what anyone tries to say about them, that inner voice is so powerful. Unfortunately, for so many of us Black and brown people, we were socialized to believe that the way to get ahead is to take on the characteristics of white people.
Alexa: For a second and vulnerable. In order to get that job, to go to that interview, straighten that hair, tighten up that language, speak in this way, we learned and accepted code-switching, making ourselves smaller, taking up less space, and doing things in ways that are not authentic to us. I truly believe that it's both [...], so as people of color, we have to be able to name that and be like you know what, that's actually internalized oppression at play and I don't want to normalize that. I don't want to normalize internalized oppression for my kids.
I want to be able to say this is why I've done this and it has benefited me. Becoming proficient and being palatable to white people has benefited me in my life, my education, and my business. I have a responsibility to unlearn some things and [...] from that. My white counterparts have the responsibility as people with the most social and institutional power to create the conditions for me to lean into my authenticity. That I can only do it if the conditions are created, and I'm not going to be penalized for it, judged for it, and shamed for it.
That's why so many people of color operate in fear of losing their job, fear of not getting that job, fear of not being able to be invited to that table again because you were too this or too that. So it is [...] that white people have internalized racial superiority where they have to break down the internalized beliefs and assumptions about people of color, the internalized unconscious belief that the way white people do things is the right way or the normal way. There's work to be done there.
There's work to be done with people of color breaking down our internalization of those white ones as well. They're collectively in coalition with one another in committee with one another, which is what we do with The Equity Paradigm. To create the conditions for those internal racial conversations to happen and those cross-racial conversations to happen so that we can collectively build a strategy and start to recreate systems, policies, and norms where everyone can bring their whole self, and where everyone experiences a sense of belonging, empowerment, safety, and liberation.
Marnetta: I love it. I used to get teased a lot for talking white and so as I was learning more about myself, I would say, oh my goodness, I didn't know you could talk the color. Red's my favorite color. How do you talk red? And people would just be set back from that. I'm just like, what you said was ignorant.
Alexa: Absolutely. We have to stop attaching color and race to behaviors. I'm Alexa and my behaviors are Alexa. That comment is a function of our conditioning inside of the system of racism that we're like, oh, people of color are supposed to talk like this. If you don't, then you're trying to do this. We have to interrupt that conditioning inside of communities of color and in white communities, and again, work in coalition together to hold ourselves accountable for doing that work.
Marnetta: Wonderful. Okay, audience, we have about 10 minutes left. So if you have any questions for us, go ahead and roll this out. While I get those questions in the chat, I have one more question for Ms. Alexa. Are you ready? Do you have any suggestions for what to do when you see others being biased? You talked about some but more actionable steps, or when you notice a policy that inadvertently creates inequities.
Alexa: I will get a perfect example of what I'm doing right now. I'm not going to name the institution because I don't want to put anyone out there. But there's an institution right now that is hiring for an Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and in their description of what they're looking for, they said that a law degree is required for the role. I was talking to one of my friends who's an attorney and I was like, I believe that about 2% of lawyers are Black women, 2%.
Thinking about a role like this where you've automatically shrunk in your pool drastically by making it a requirement that you pull this specific degree because you haven't thought about who even has access to that level of education, who has access to the resources to be able to X, Y, and Z. All this traces back to that systemic racism. So I'm writing a letter to an institution right now to amplify this issue, and to push them to consider broadening their description of the minimum requirements for the role. We'll see what happens after that.
On an institutional level, there's always an opportunity to just take the time when you notice something, do something about it. I looked up as the hiring manager. I did a little bit of research myself. I said, hey, I noticed this, did you know these statistics? Did you know that you may be unintentionally creating a barrier to this position by doing x and that your position may unintentionally favor white males disproportionately to people who hold that specific degree, even though you're looking for somebody to lead your diversity, equity, and inclusion. The irony is palpable, so that's one thing.
On an individual and interpersonal level, I think the example that I shared earlier in the workplace is spot on. I share that story often because it is so necessary for white people to know that you have to be allies, that the only way that there's been no social justice movement that has ever been successful without working in partnerships with people who already hold power and identity.
When we think about racial identity, white people hold the power. When we think about sexual orientation, heterosexual people hold the power. When we think about socioeconomic status, people in the middle class or higher hold the power.
When you think about all these intersecting identities, where do you hold power and your identity? Who can you create space for? In the nonprofit sector, I may be sitting at the table as a Black woman, but I'm a Black woman with advanced degrees. There are other marginalized women who don't have the access and power that I have whose voices may not be represented in that space.
How am I pausing and what assumptions are we making about this group that's not here? How do we actually work in partnership with a group that is not here before making a decision? How do we not make decisions for groups and actually make decisions in partnership groups, in collaboration with groups that are not represented here?
So again, going back to noticing and interrupting. Notice whose voice is not there. Who doesn't get to represent a community? How do you take this up to somebody with power in a position to be able to interrupt moving forward anyway, pausing, and identifying how do we ensure that this voice is [...]?
Marnetta: Wonderful stuff. I think I want to add a follow-up question. For a BIPOC person, a marginalized group, how do you advocate for yourself without worrying about being penalized?
Alexa: It's sad because sometimes it is unsafe. I just want to name that it is an unfair burden that Black Indigenous people of color are up against to have to advocate for themselves. I'm actually a big proponent of putting the work on people with power. I'm going to keep saying that, no, it's not my responsibility to have to name it for myself. I shouldn't have to do that. So when I do have colleagues or counterparts who hold power in their identities, that is their work to do.
I have my own internalized healing work that I need to do, sense-making work that I need to do, rerouting of biases that I need to do with communities that I don't belong to. But when you think about holding power in an institution, I think that it is the responsibility of people in power to interrupt these systemic barriers and these conditions that have been created to feel and perpetuate these implicit biases.
What I will say is, and what I did a lot before I became a racial equity consultant, advocate for your organization to do learning around this. Maybe you don't have to be the one to say it, but hire a professional who can do it. I don't feel I can do that in my own context, but I will do that on behalf of an organization that is paying me for my labor. [...] conversation as a Black woman being paid for the emotional labor that it takes to teach people about racism, to teach people about bias, to teach people about these things that are very heavy, very emotional, and very complex.
People of color can advocate your organization to bring in professionals, bring in people who can help your organization have these conversations in a manner that makes you feel safe, that creates the conditions for you to be able to speak their truth in safety because that is what you deserve.
Marnetta: I love it. I really wanted to frame that question. You said exactly what I was hoping that you would say. What people need to hear is not your responsibility because sometimes we just feel burdened by that. I love that you reinforced and stated that so people understand that it's the people who are in power that hold the power that have that responsibility to make sure that those inequities are addressed. Verlinda would like to know, how do we help parents?
Alexa: Parents get to help ourselves. We need to take personal responsibility. I know that one of my core values as a parent is ensuring that my kids have exposure to people who look like them and people who do not look like them. That is one of the core values that drives how my husband and I parent our kids. It drives our choices. It drives where we live. It drives the activities that we do, where we go, where we spend our time, what we allow our kids to consume.
I think the first step is taking personal responsibility for the role that you have in helping shape your child's understanding of who they are, who they are in the context of the world, and who others are.
The second thing is I think that there are a lot of parents—I've worked with a number of preschools, elementary schools, et cetera who the parent-teacher organizations have gotten together and have hired external consultants to come in and do work to ensure that the people who are teaching their children have done anti-racism work, anti-bias work, and are continuing to do so. That there are policies in place to ensure that biased behavior and biased policies do not disproportionately impact kids of color.
Doing the work on both individual interpersonal level, but also institutional level, when you think about the schools that your kids are going to, how are you taking ownership and responsibility for ensuring the education educators in that building and the policies that guide decisions that are made in that building are yielding equitable outcomes and experiences and empowering experiences, especially for kids of color.
The third thing that I would say for parents is to get out there on Google. I live in Durham, North Carolina and I found there's an anti-racist parents coalition group on Facebook, but I just googled anti-racist parenting near me, boom, groups come up.
So if this is something that is important to you, which it should be, every single parent, this is your responsibility. Get out there on Google and see what groups are getting together, what sorts of events are they doing, what program are they doing, what nonprofits are in the area that is doing this work. There are so many organizations that you have to go out there and do the work and find them then figure out how to get tapped in.
Marnetta: Wonderful. Verlinda followed up. Some parents don't have that knowledge. How do we share that with them to where it doesn't appear to be telling them how to raise their child? Because you know, we get sensitive.
Alexa: We do get sensitive. I was like this is my child and [...]. I can understand. I think that exposure is key. If you are a white parent on this call and you have not read the books White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo or Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum who Marnetta referenced earlier, I would start there. Start with those two books to start to lay the foundation. I think that parents are human beings first before we're parents, and we have to take ownership over our own learning.
I don't think that anyone wants to be told how to raise their kids or what to do. But I think when you get exposed yourself, when you get influenced by something, then it shows up in your parenting, it shows up in how you talk to your kids, and what you teach your kids about what's important to you to impart upon your children. I encourage you if you're somebody that doesn't have a baseline understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion, anti-racism, et cetera, to read those two books.
Marnetta: I think those are great resources right there. I will say that Teachstone provided White Fragility to the organization. There was great feedback around and great discussions around that book.
Alexa: I think that people have mixed feelings about Robin DiAngelo and white people in anti-racism, like white people profiting from anti-racism work. My perspective is there are things that white people can say to other white people that I can't say that will land differently. I recognize that. I truly believe in white people doing the work in ways that feel accessible to you and relatable to you, so sometimes that means sitting in and getting context from somebody who shares a lived racial experience that you have. There's nothing wrong with that, and prioritize learning from people of color as well.
Don't isolate. Don't just read Robin DiAngelo, so I give you both, but then read perspectives from people who again, identify as indigenous, who identify as Asian American and Pacific Islander, who identify as LGBTQ. Diversify the content, but start in a place that feels accessible to you and where you need to be and go from there.
Marnetta: Wonderful. Thank you so much. This has been a great discussion around bias, both internalized and implicit bias. You provided some great resources and support around how to be an ally, how to advocate for BIPOC individuals and marginalized students. I feel that this is a discussion that can happen over and over and over and over and over again. I mean, we can always be deeper and get more. It's a never-ending topic that needs attention.
You are at theequityparadigm.com. So if they want to know more about your work, but also tap into this wonderful opportunity to have some one-on-one, do some deep dive into your organization. If you don't know where to go or where to start, reach out and get a hold of you.
Alexa: Yes. Thank you so much, Marnetta.
Marnetta: You're welcome, Alexa. Thank you so much for joining us. This was amazing. I knew it was going to be amazing when we had our first call. I was like, oh my gosh, we should have recorded that.
Alexa: I wish we were sitting down, having coffee together, and just continuing the conversation. But thank you so much for having me, and to you all, l thank you so much for the questions in the chat box as well. This was a really rich conversation.
Marnetta: It was. Thank you to each one of our conference attendees, especially those who shared their thoughts and questions in the chat box. You can catch this recording in a couple of weeks and find others from our podcast at teachstone.com/impacting. Remember, behind great leading and teaching are powerful interactions. Let's build that culture together. Talk to you guys soon.
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State policymakers have an exciting opportunity to level the playing field for early childhood education with thoughtful system design using the newly released Preschool Development Grant Birth to Five, also known as PDG B-5. This grant provides funding to State early childhood agencies’ to strengthen early childhood systems. In particular, a portion of PDG B-5 funding is targeted for Renewal Grants—24 out of 25 eligible states are expected to be awarded funding for PDG B-5 Renewal Grants. These Renewal Grants will provide three consecutive years of funding to support activities and implementation in each state.
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We were excited to come across this study that reviews the literature on this topic and even more excited when the lead author, Dr. Christine Cipriano from Yale Medical Center, agreed to answer some of our questions about her work!
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