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A 5-year old girl who is enrolled in Save the Children's Emergent Reader program at her school in Tennessee sits pensively in her classroom. Photo credit: Shawn Millsaps / Save the Children 2019.

Why Fighting Racial Injustice Must Begin in Childhood

Save the Children's Official Statement on Racial Injustice

Save the Children stands in solidarity with the Black community, people of color, and all those suffering the racism that pervades our world today. We know that racism and inequity begin in childhood, and limit the lifelong potential of children.

Our organization is built on universal values including child rights, and we work with children around the world suffering the injustice and deprivation of institutional racism. From the moment they are born, millions of children are routinely denied the rights and privileges granted to their white peers – from education, to health care, to housing. Ongoing failure to address systemic racism traps families in a cycle of poverty and inequity that blights every aspect of a childhood and threatens their futures.  

In the United States, racism has existed overtly for centuries, and tacitly for decades. It is built into the very structures that should be designed to serve and support children. This results in Black children in America suffering disproportionately from poor health, hunger, inadequate education and violence.

  • Black babies in America are more than twice as likely to die before their first birthday as white babies.
  • Black babies are more than 3 times as likely to die from complications related to prematurity as compared to white babies.
  • U.S. maternal mortality rates for Black women are 3 times as high as rates for white women.
  • Research by the National Black Child Development Institute has shown that Black children do not have equal access to high-quality early education and are suspended or expelled from programs at higher rates than any other race.
  • Black students are twice as likely as their white peers not to graduate high school on time.
  • Black children are 3 times as likely to live in poverty as white children.
  • Black children are 8 times as likely to be murdered as white children.

Without access to early education, children are more likely to drop out of school, become a teen parent, never attend college and be arrested for a violent crime – perpetuating the cycle of poverty. Black children are being held back from the start and this is unacceptable.  

Powerful institutions must do more to confront and challenge racial discrimination and the structures that perpetuate it. Each of us has a role to play in ending systemic discrimination and institutionalized racism. We must all listen and educate ourselves, each other and our children, and vote at all levels to support those who will stand up to injustice and actively fight inequality. 

To build a more equitable and inclusive future, we need to start in childhood. Save the Children reaches hundreds of millions of children every year, promoting racial equity, right from the start – empowering future generations today. 

Save the Children works throughout the U.S., and a disproportionate number of communities where children are being left behind are Black communities and communities of color. We work to ensure children have access to the learning and resources they need to succeed in school and in life. Internally, we have committed to, hiring practices aimed specifically at attracting, retaining and promoting a diverse workforce. We also work against racism and inequity in our advocacy for children’s rights in the U.S. and around the world, and through the programs we deliver to communities, families and children worldwide.

We do not have all the answers, but we are dedicated to learning, listening and fighting for what is just. These are some of the organizations we admire for their work addressing systemic racism, but we know there are many others:

We recognize there is much more we can do to promote diversity, equity and inclusion inside our organization, in the communities we serve, and in national and international policies.

A century ago, Save the Children was founded to fight injustice, and this fight is every bit as necessary today. We must all work harder, together, to dismantle the systems of racism and oppression that create inequity and threaten children’s survival, learning and protection, and demand accountability from elected officials and those charged with protecting children and their families.  

Commit to vote for children’s futures at every level of government and to make change for children a priority this fall. Promise to consider each candidate’s commitment to racial justice and promoting equality – what are they doing to address disparities? Use your power at the ballot box to provide equal opportunity for our nation’s children.