By Cindy Arenberg Seltzer, President & CEO of The Children’s Services Council of Broward County
The Children’s Services Council (CSC) of Broward County condemns racism and stands with the families and children hurt by violent and systemic racist acts. Every day we see evidence of the ways Broward’s children and families are deeply impacted and traumatized by systemic and institutional racism as well as violence against Black people. The American Academy of Pediatrics and other national experts and associations have declared racism a pervasive public health crisis preventing our children and families from leading healthy, safe and thriving lives.
As an organization with a mission to provide the Leadership, Advocacy and Resources necessary to enhance children’s lives and empower them to become responsible productive adults, this commitment to fighting racism is not only about words but also actions. CSC has always used a wide variety of quantitative and qualitative data to determine where attention and resources can best be spent to “turn the curve” toward better outcomes for our children. That continual analysis led to an inescapable conclusion that while CSC funded programs were clearly making a difference, racially segregated communities were still suffering disproportionately. As we dug deeper, the undeniable conclusion was the power of institutional racism – sometimes hidden, sometimes clearly in plain sight – as well as unrecognized and unaddressed trauma were forces we had to take on if true, meaningful, lasting change could occur for our children and families. Recent events have validated that conclusion in very powerful ways.
This commitment has meant engaging with partners including Community Leaders, Broward County Human Services Department, Broward County Public Schools, the Florida Department of Health in Broward County, ChildNet, the Urban League, a wide array of social service providers and most important – our children and families in a journey to learn, listen, analyze and co-create solutions.
We strive to educate our staff and our community partners about implicit bias, race and the local and national history of racism in America. We’ve learned that race is a false construct designed to keep power in the hands of a few at a heavy cost to many. It is an idea born from slavery and codified into laws. In Broward, the Black communities and neighborhoods created under Jim Crow segregation laws in the 20th century still have the highest concentration of poverty and the least access to high quality housing, employment, health care, education and equal justice under the law. We have also learned how damaging this system of oppression is to all of us regardless of race.
We are having honest and difficult conversations about race relations, white supremacy and systemic bias internally as well as externally. CSC has a multiracial workforce and we have taken the time and created safe spaces for honest dialogue about how current and historic incidents of violence are impacting our employees, their children and families. These conversations can be raw and challenging but you can’t fix what you can’t name and acknowledging and validating our staff and partners’ experiences and emotions reminds us of our humanity and the need to continually evaluate our approaches and solutions.
Our local data clearly shows where and how racism shows up in education, healthcare, economic mobility, the justice systems and other areas impacting one’s quality of life. But numbers are only part of the story. We are also looking at the lived experience that surrounds those numbers and breaking down the data by race to see outcomes based on race and by training and engaging community members as co-researchers. It has also made clear the importance of continual feedback loops to ensure they are having the intended result. Oversight of policy implementation is equally important as we have seen all too often, even the most well-meaning policies can result in disasters for the communities they were designed to benefit.
No one has all the answers, but we do know all the good will in the world will not be enough to dismantle racism if all we do is wait for someone else to do the heavy lifting. The collective voices calling for real change are stronger and clearer, standing on the shoulders of the civil rights warriors of earlier generations. The CSC stands with our Youth who are once again leading in powerful ways. And we join the amazing rainbow of colors, ethnicities, ages, beliefs, gender identities, politics and cultures assembled by the millions across the Nation who are demonstrating our Country’s strength, resilience and belief in justice. All of this reinforces the notion that ending systemic racism once and for all is ultimately in everyone’s interest and perhaps within reach.