June 3, 2020
Dear P.A.W.S. Families,
I have been struggling to find the right words to use to write this email given all that is happening in the world and especially in light of recent events, that are sadly not new, but highlight and underscore the significant and historic challenges with race in our country.
Over the past few months with the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen countless acts of selfless sacrifice as doctors, nurses, police, fire fighters, letter carriers, grocery store workers, delivery personnel and so many others show up to serve and help while putting themselves at risk. We have seen teachers and community helpers working tirelessly to help others, while sacrificing their own needs and the needs of their own families and we have in turn thanked them with notes of gratitude, neighborhood chalk messages, posting hearts and rainbows in our windows and offering comfort through water or snacks offered.
But in the same three months two white men murdered Ahmaud Arbery while he was jogging, Breonna Taylor was killed in her own home, and George Floyd was murdered as he stated, “I can’t breathe.” We also witnessed Asian Americans blamed for a virus, with no basis, and overall Covid-19 has caused disproportionate death and devastation to our Black, Brown, and indigenous community members. I know so many of you are saddened and angered by these events, and the PAWS community is as well.
I value and cherish the innocence of childhood, but I also know it is our responsibility to work with all in our community to actively fight against racism by helping our children and their families learn how to talk about race, diversity, equity, and inclusion. From Teaching Young Children to Resist Bias we’ve learned that, “Research tells us that between ages 2 and 5, children become aware of gender, race, ethnicity, and disabilities. They also become sensitive to both the positive attitudes and negative biases attached to these four key aspects of identity by their family and by society in general. Young children develop “preprejudice”: misconceptions, discomfort, fear, and rejection of differences that may develop into real prejudice if parents and teachers do not intervene.”
At PAWS we promote inclusivity, compassion, acceptance, and respect for human differences. One of the best ways to help our children understand different perspectives is to have developmentally appropriate discussions with them. Some families are well versed in these conversations. For other families beginning to engage in those conversations, here are some resources you might find useful when Talking to Young Children About Race.
I hope that your preschoolers have been sheltered from the graphic images portrayed on TV and in the media, and I hope that they can remain blissfully unaware of the violence. But even as we protect our children from the violent reality that exists, we need to work to intentionally raise children who are caring, thoughtful, inclusive citizens. When it comes to talking about race, at the website www.embracerace.org they state, “You don’t have to be an expert on race to talk with your child. Be honest about what you don’t know and work with your child to find accurate information.” We can not afford to keep silent about racial injustice. The costs of not engaging in the conversation and work are far too important.
Attached here are additional resources for PAWS parents and families.
I hope you and your families stay safe and well as we work together for our community and for society as a whole to support each and every person.
Be well and treat each other well,