It’s Time To Prioritize The Health And Well-Being Of Black Families And Children

Dear Friends, Partners and Supporters,

As health professionals, we condemn, in the strongest possible language, structural racism in all its forms. We all are witnessing the consequences of unchecked, normalized, and institutionalized racism and discrimination in our country. Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Nina Pop, and George Floyd are names in an endless list of those whose lives have been tragically and senselessly stolen since the first African slaves reached our shores in 1619 — simply because of the color of their skin.

To our national detriment, we have long ignored or downplayed the experiences of discrimination Black people encounter frequently, to the point that many whites feel comfortable weaponizing law enforcement against Black people engaging in mundane, every day activities. Many of us may be just acknowledging, perhaps for the first time in our lives, that not all people are treated fairly, that they are in fact singled out racially—sometimes fatally—for harassment and harm. That is frightening. It is jarring. But it is real, as is the white supremacy and privilege that engenders the inequity we are seeing. This is done by design, it is intentional and deliberate — but we can make different choices.

As an organization, we know that racism plays a role in the health disparities we see on the ground in the families and children who come to the emergency rooms and primary care clinics at our sites in Boston, Baltimore, Little Rock, Minneapolis and Philadelphia. We cannot ignore that structural racism is written on the bodies and brains of children and families, but it does not have to be. Research demonstrates that families of color face more challenges meeting basic needs, especially food, housing and health care. For example, we have shown that among caregivers of color with young children, those who experienced discrimination were more food insecure and at more severe levels. Compounding this, COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting communities of color, keeping us apart when we want to come together. To dismantle racism, we all can, and must, take action.

Now, more than ever, Children’s HealthWatch is committed to the internal work of weaving equity into our organizational practices and research, and externally sharing evidence on how racist policies harm the health and development of young children and the well-being and economic stability of their families. We will educate policy makers at all levels of governance and offer alternatives to racist policies so we may improve children’s health for communities of color.

Below are some ways you can support and lift up the voices of those who are protesting as well as begin the necessary work of acknowledging, rectifying and eliminating racism and discrimination. Inaction is no longer an option. Silence is complicity. For those of us who are white, it is time to shoulder the responsibility of eradicating racism.

Our country must be one where EVERY child and family has the opportunity to thrive. We accomplish that when everyone feels safe, protected and empowered, with equitable access to adequate health care, nutritious food, clean water, great neighborhoods and schools, well-paying jobs and affordable housing. But most of all, it must be one where the inherent, undeniable humanity of Black people and communities of color is not questioned, disputed or diminished.

The work continues. Let’s make change happen.