Charlie Bruner on Policies for America's Future
[R]ace Equity and Children

The “R” Word. Race has been called the “third rail of politics” and often has failed to be discussed explicitly and intentionally in child policy. When issues of race and racism are raised, there usually is agreement that child advocates need to engage in uncomfortable discussions – but when these discussions occur they generally remain at an abstract level (and more about economic class than race). While, in the United States race and poverty intertwined, they are not the same. So, too, discussions of “equity” in child policy are not possible without a large share of that discussion being about racial inequities. The following are some of Charlie’s (with some with his friends) efforts to define these issues of race, racism, language, and culture, particulalry in early childhood but also beyond.

Race and Early Childhood Systems Building. Very young children are discovering who they are and how they fit into the larger world well before the enter school or have a civics period in the fourth grade. They and their families need to be valued and children need to learn how to deal with difference in a tolerant and inclusive way. While it is comfortable to take a universal and colorblind approach to early childhood development, the reality is that kids’ and their families’ experiences related to race, language, and culture set a foundation for subsequent development. This document on what we know about diversity and young children was developed through engaging a diverse group of child policy researchers,
policy makers, and advocates as a foundation for subsequent research, policy and action.

When White Professionals Hold the Power. Charlie contends that, while there is nothing wrong being white (and, for Charlie male and over-educated) those with those backgrounds should use some of that “privilege” to open doors and level the playing field for others. Here’s a specific piece Charlie developed in response to a question about how those who are white and in positions of influence can raise and elevate issues of racial equity with their colleagues.

Examples of Structural and Institutional Racism. While the United States has made gains in addressing de jure discrimination by race, discrimination still exists on an individual/personal, institutional, and structural level. While there are some elegant definitions of institutional and structural racism, it is really in concrete examples that they are best described. Here are several concrete examples, along with an extended excerpt from Native Son.

QRIS Through and Equity Lens. While no one can argue with the goal of high quality,affordable child care and its positive impact upon child development for all childen, the particular role of state Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) development (and any other strategy or policy approach) needs to be examined through an equity, and particularly a racial equity lens. The following is are some of Charlie's initial thoughts.

Where Have All the Male Role Models Gone? When working on ex-offender re-entry issues, Charlie wrote a piece, “Where Have All the Young Men Gone?” about the disproportionately negative impacts by race (African American male) and place (poor neighborhoods) of the increase in incarceration and justice system involvement. This disproportionately in justice system involvement and its impacts upon African American men and family formation continue, but this is only a part of the story regarding both structural and cultural barriers that exist for African American young men in assuming roles as present parents and fathers. After providing trend data showing the increasing structural barriers that have faced African American men in the shifting economy from 1970 to 2010, William Julius Wilson and Barack Obama both are quoted extensively in suggesting increased dialogue, and action, that can address both structural and cultural issues affecting fatherhood.
Living Document
White Professionals
Structural Racism
QRIS Equity Lens
Men and Fatherhood