VAAEYC Admin/ May 25, 2021/ Diversity

Excerpted from the recent NAEYC Affiliate Connections Newsletter. Melanie Felton is a member of the Affiliate Advisory Council. Opinions expressed are those of the author.

As an early childhood teacher educator, I have promoted “anti-bias education” (Olsen, Derman-Sparks & Goins, 2020) for decades. Yet honestly, I was teaching from “head knowledge” because as a white teacher, my “heart knowledge” related to lived experiences of black and brown children was limited. When systemic racism reared its ugly head once again with the death of George Floyd, my heart was broken yet I was an outsider struggling to gain a real sense of the lives of black and brown people so I began serious self-reflection.


I recalled a keynote by Dr. Gail C. Christopher at the NAEYC 2019 Fall Conference where she emphasized the “power of story” noting “use of narrative can help raise questions in those to hold that there is a hierarchy of human value” (Christopher, 2019). This hierarchy of valuing some people over others due to race is evident in the U.S., so stories of how this harmful view affects people’s daily lives must be heard.


When I joined the NAEYC Affiliate Advisory Council in June 2020 I became immersed in the work supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion. Working with such a diverse group of leaders from around the country and reading Affiliate Connection articles reflecting on our progress (Cahill, 2020; Barnea, 2021) and confronting views of race and racism (Marichal, 2021; Simpson, 2021) helped me grow and strengthened my commitment.


In Fall 2020, during a study of White Fragility: Why it’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (DiAngelo, 20218), I learned more but did I “feel” in my heart and my soul what living with racism is like in this country? Read the full article and references.

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