How has the history of racism within child care led to the current landscape that we see today? And how can we learn from the past to help change our future?
We talk about this and much more in today’s episode with Dr. Iheoma Iruka. Iheoma is a professor teaching at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. She's also the Founding Director of the Equity Research Action Coalition.
Dr. Iheoma walks us through the ways in which historical racism has shaped the world of child care and how we can begin to shift the needle towards a more equitable future through legislation and community building.
This project is funded through a grant with the Tennessee Department of Human Services and Signal Centers, Inc.
Overcoming a Legacy of Racism Within Childcare
Thu, Nov 10, 2022 2:24PM • 46:23
early childhood, childcare, educators, community, people, money, pay, understand, black women, literally, centers, racism, power, system, policies, many ways, women, create, families, kids
Iheoma Iruka, Alex Farrell, Wesley Mayes
Iheoma Iruka 00:00
You're called a teacher versus a childcare worker in the Department of Labor, you have different access, choose whether is the kind of mortgage loans you get, whether your your your loan is forgiven, the kind of even even on the other end, the kind of protection and privilege you get is actually determined by your category of your job. And that tells us everything about your worth.
Alex Farrell 00:28
Hey, everyone, this is Alex Moss from the lean into podcast, and today we're super excited to talk to Dr. Ian Maruka. Yama is a professor teaching at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. And she's also the founding director of the Equity Research Action Coalition. In our conversation, today, we're going to talk a little bit about the history of an legacy of racism within caretaking. It's really important to kind of understand that, that history and that legacy, this provides a bit of a framework for helping us understand where childcare is today, it really kind of shines a light on the importance of calling that out for what that is.
Wesley Mayes 01:07
Right. And another thing that Yoma did, that I really appreciated was not just leave us at that state of understanding. Of course, like you mentioned, Alex, calling it out is very important. And then moving forward, you know, how do we start addressing some of these these things in childcare that still exist from a from that history of racism within the caretaking industry. One thing that she brought up was how important community is, and how, as we work together, we can start seeing the ways in which we have this legacy, and then moving forward, how we can change them together.
Alex Farrell 01:44
So we hope you enjoy this conversation with Dr. Eomer ruca, about overcoming a legacy of racism within childcare. Hello, Jana, how are you? I'm good. How are you doing? Well. We're super excited today to have you on. So thank you. Thank you so much for joining us to talk a little bit about what feels really urgent to you in your work was an early childhood. How kind of understanding a bit of the framework or the foundation of racism historically within caretaking and that sort of thing, how that affects Child Care policy? And then what what how can educators respond to that, and policymakers perhaps as well respond to that. So before we get started, can you just introduce yourself a little bit of what your work looks like? And then I'm also really interested to hear how you specifically got into this field of early childhood and research and that sort of thing?
Iheoma Iruka 02:49
Yeah, well, no, thank you all for having me. So I applied to be a psychologist by training, which really means I care about how children develop in a healthy way. And I did my program, my doctoral studies at the University of Miami, and I really focus on historic family. So my, my mentor, Dr. Derek Greenfield, did, there was a his his research was really focused on Headstart communities and Headstart partnership. And so I did my work. It has source, I feel like that was my full entree into early childhood. because prior to that, I was really doing mostly, you know, young children, but really in elementary school years. And I think that that that got me activated, but it's really more activated in the family space, I was more interested in how do we make sure that families are engaged and connected and just doing the best they can for those living in poverty. So that was really where my leg my lens was, I was really more a family researcher than an early childhood researcher. And I think as sort of as life would have it, I eventually came to my postdoc at UNC with the Frank Porter Graham, and really got even further institutionalized, if I can say, into sort of early childhood, right, because here I am my friend, Porter Graham, we're doing work on the quality rated improvement system here in North Carolina. We're doing work around Hester, we're doing a look at our measurement. So for me, it almost it made sense. And so I feel like for me, I think about early childhood, but I'm also expanding my notion of I want to focus on early childhood, both as a program as a system for really, as a tool, one of the tools of transformative change, but not the only ones that kind of, I feel like I'm kind of going through early childhood, and also hopefully entering other doorways. That matters for children's early years. So I think of early child almost as one of the vehicles, but like, I could get a Tesla or Ford.
Wesley Mayes 04:45
That's really cool. That's a really cool take. Because you're right, it is. I mean, we talked about early childhood as being sort of the springboard for the rest of your life, the most important period in a child's life. And there's just so much more out there. Like Alex said, we kind of want to go into the the history of racism as it relates to care, caretaking and child care policy. I know in our conversation previously, you said you might go into a little bit of that history, would you would you mind going into that?
Iheoma Iruka 05:17
I will be happy to. And I want to sort of frame it in sort of in this like first before I kind of just jump in a little bit detail is that I think we have to just acknowledge that personal racism is a structure. It's a social engineer structure. That's really based on what you look like. That's really it. And I'm actually you know, now reading and I should have been, I should read a while back. Isabella Isabella, Wilkinsons book caste, right. And so in the end of it racism is really a structure of power and privilege. And I think we also have to think about the intersection with racism. So right and as soon as sexism, right, which is the idea that for many centuries, a lot of paid domestic service workers has been viewed as really the domain of women of color, primarily women and black women, where it started with them. First being enslaved people who work for their their their enslavers. And then when they became free, they then ended up sort of work in, you know, for low pay, but mostly as domesticated workers. And also in in southwest, predominantly, Mexican and Mexican American women did childcare work. And in the West, it was Japanese women. So there's a history also of Indigenous women and girls who were taken from their homes to be domestic Labor's for white family. So the level of both domestic work and caring for families and children and sort of the ideas that exist. And then we also know that there's just, you know, this sort of gender stereotypes that we know as a reason for the depress pay for women who do caretaking work, like they may do the same job as the men, right, the fact that we have nurse's aide and housekeepers, and at the same time, we have janitors, and building cleaners, they kind of do the same work. But because it's male dominated, they get paid more. So we need to recognize that part. But then, but then I say that, because I think in many ways, we do have to, I think, really understand that there the childcare system. It can be disentangled from its origins, race, specifically, the role of black women in child rearing, including Mexican American women, Japanese women, and even our indigenous women. Right. And that we know that I would say, arguably, a lot of is really the black woman's role as who was enslaved and then how they were sort of their bodies, their labors, and their child rearing was used. So like, for example, let's take the 1900s to the 1930s. After the Civil War, some states actually began to adopt sort of the widow's pension. And so this meant that women were given money to encourage them to stay home, and not use quote unquote, nurseries, aka childcare. Right? And that there was a recognition that there was a need to actually pay women who cared for children. And we should also underscore that the widow's pension was really available for worthy women who they believe were deprived of support of a man. And so this was it means that for the most part, and the data shows that that many of the recipients of the mother's pension was 96%. White, right, and then maybe 3%, black and 1%, a whole nother race. So basically, if you are worthy of this pension, you got it. And as a black woman, as a woman of color, you were in some ways excluded from getting money, because you cared for children. I'm gonna get remind you, I tell you, black women, both as enslaved people and freed were caregivers of many of their slavers, children. And of course, these allowances eventually took a form of the aid to dependent children. And then, of course, and then, of course, we do see in the 19, late 1930s, Congress did sort of pass this other Fair Labor Act, right, which implemented policies like the 40 Hour Workweek, overtime, pay bargaining rights. But you know, who they excluded domestic workers, which included childcare workers, right? And so, again, remembering that almost to over two thirds of black women, because again, remember than they did 30s, the 40s black women want exactly, you know, what they want in the boardroom. And so we do know many black women with domestic workers. So literally, when we had protections for workers, especially for when white women were starting to go into the workforce, we see where, you know, we see national policies being passed, that actually explicitly excluded groups of people, which happened to often be women of color, again, black women, indigenous women, Mexican American women, etc. And so this is an illustration of policies from back in the 1900s. Right, that systematically oppressed black women. Yeah, I mean, I can continue going on until like the 1930s and the 40s into At the same, it's I mean, we have a, a journey where a lot of our policies were really in many ways, either created to exclude black women and other women of color, or in many ways to prove black women in America that they deserved it. So for example, we think about sort of the childcare and welfare reform, the reason that was reformed in the 1990s, there under Bill Clinton was this idea of sort of the welfare queen, right, this idea that this woman is in that home, collecting, you know, welfare checks, and just getting rich. Now, if you know what welfare checks look like, you understand nobody, first of all, you barely got out of extreme poverty, you barely literally paid your bills. And so the idea that for you to get access to quote, unquote, this free money, you had to basically go to work. And then of course, the most of it was this idea, this imagery that was black women, especially who were lazy sitting at home, who had to go prove that they deserve sort of some sort of childcare subsidy or some sort of get benefits, and then that the proof took to tell them that you're working so you can get these benefits. And so in many ways, we need to recognize that a lot of our policies, including a child, you know, childcare didn't block grant, you know, they're really what we're really work support programs, they really weren't thinking about child development, it was really around, how do we make sure that children have a place to go, but we're not going to pay for it. So if you think about it, even our childcare development grant, most of them don't pay for the quality of care. So similar to how we did it in the 1900s. And even before that, when we don't pay people there, they're worse, we don't pay them to to do labor, we just say we're gonna pay you what we want to pay you, right? We don't even pay for the full quality of care. And we want people to kind of subsidize us to have, you know, high quality care and say, Oh, my goodness, why is it not high quality. So we need to really recognize how a lot of our policies, the way that we have governed with our CCDBG, that goes through states, and in many states, where you happen to just have a big chunk of black people and people living in poverty, you see where the, the childcare subsidies are lower, worse, right? They don't pay for the full cost of care, you have to do a whole lot, you have a lot of waiting lists. And so again, we have to really ask ourselves, to what extent are we really supporting fair compensation for groups of people who continue to sort of work for limited pay, again, this is something that's just historically based. And we still see that in our current and our contemporary policies, where again, we continue to, to want more, but don't pay for the cost of it. And then blame people feel like oh, my goodness is low quality, because you're providing low quality notes, low quality, because you're not paying for the cost of quality. And then of course, it's having an impact and reverberation on the grid resignation, the whole pandemic, so So I think we need to really begin to attend to sort of our historical legacies of really, you know, taking the labor and the wealth of particularly women, women of color, especially black woman, as well.
Alex Farrell 13:09
That's so that's really, it's really interesting kind of hearing that thank you for kind of laying out that framework. It's interesting for a couple different reasons. Only, because, as you said, obviously, our history definitely greatly is impacted, is directly connected to our present day in innumerable ways. But one thing that I think is really interesting, that is maybe not quite as material is the value that stereotypically we've placed on, on this industry. Of we talked about that a lot on this podcast of like, how do we get the general public to really understand what early childhood is about how what how valuable early childhood educators are. And if that history of caretaking is the roots of that is literally dealing with a population that at the time was seen as literally lesser than, then you're going to place a value judgment from the positions of power on those on those places. So the naturally, it's only a natural graduation up to even though that role of caretaker is much more diverse than it's ever been, you still have this value judgment, this, this legacy of not being valued, rather, of still being lesser than that is a huge thing that we need to overcome, aside from the whole other issue of the actual physical policies that are affecting the work on the day to day, right.
Iheoma Iruka 14:31
Right. That's right. It's like, exactly, it's like that. It's like we need to recognize that, you know, people have coded words, when they say, oh, so so the more we say we have a more diverse childcare population, there's more black and brown. I'm like, you know, that doesn't help anybody. Because they're like, well, that's the people we're not we don't think it's worthy of it. So it really in some ways, as much as we say it, and we I think as a community as a sector, we're proud of it. I think we have to, I think really on Earth, the value that we have subscribed It's not just the value of today, but it's really a value that that is the legacy. And I think it's up to us to talk about the values in ways that says look, like if we shut down like this is where you know, when when K to 12. Teachers remember it was a two years ago, three years ago, when they were like, we're going to take a hiatus. Good luck, where your kids go to school. Like imagine if the full early childhood, right? Literally our childcare can be based providers, shut it down our home based providers, our center base for gratis, and they said, you know, what, I'm taking a whole week off, you know, most of us will just die. And we saw evidence of that literally, people could not go to work, they could not even if they tried to say let me work from home and zoom in meetings, imagine your baby having to be fed, or like me, my three year old running around with his head cut off, I couldn't function even when I tried to sew. So I think we haven't we haven't really shown Elise articulated clearly and explicitly, the value of this, this sort of basically underpaid market that we have created, but also the value of what they do for children development, the fact that they're really supporting children in the most critical time, and in many ways, like the ability to form relationships, you know, develop their physical development develop some much like because that's an important to the time period. And even for businesses, right? The fact that I can come to work or go to work, and know that my kid is safe, and it's going to be safe and not be harmed. And I can focus on whatever I'm doing. We I think we have not fully, I think consolidate data that And until we do, and also I will say also address the fact that look, you don't want to pay the people because they're mostly black and brown women, you don't think they weren't there. Like I think people need to literally say, prove it, then prove it otherwise, because we have to sort of say, Okay, give money to childcare, versus give money to pre K, people make a decision to get them into pre K. And then you're like, well, who's in pre K, it definitely no black and brown women. So I think we need to just say, Look at what you're doing, you don't have to just follow the money. And then whether or not you want to be called a racist, not my job is to say that the data says where you prefer to park your money with and who you prefer to not pay adequately, because you treat them differently. If you're called a teacher, versus a childcare worker in the Department of Labor, you have different access, choose whether is the kind of mortgage loans you get, whether your your your loan is forgiven, the kind of even even on the other end, the kind of protection and privilege you get is actually determined by your category of your job. And that tells us everything about your worth.
Alex Farrell 17:37
It's really interesting, because especially in I mean, this has always been a super vital conversation, but it seems like at least from an on the national it's been put on the national stage in a way that maybe never has before. And is forced everyone to engage with it in some way. Right. And I think what's what's interesting is, by that, I mean, like, it's possible our educators have heard a lot of this stuff. What I want to make sure that we do here is is okay, we have this knowledge of the system, the history, the framework, the graduation, how it affects policy in today. Now, kind of like how how do you think and understanding for our frontline educators and administrators, directors? How do you think and understanding of the systems that are in place currently, that may have a legacy and racism? How does that do you think that affects stress levels of educators that are just trying to show up and do good work every day? You know what I mean?
Iheoma Iruka 18:42
really educated, I haven't to make a lot of decisions under the biggest stressors, right? Imagine you got 18 kids, and even if you're even if you're two adults with 18 children, is still a lot, most of us can barely handle a one or two. And then you got kids doing it in all kinds of different needs. And so we do have other sectors that have that are in the same position. I think the probably the difference that they are at least acknowledging that we got to least change a system. We got to make it better for both the workforce and the experiences of the families. And also recognize, and I think in many ways, apologize and knowledge that your system was inherently racist. Like that is to me, it's almost like I can't I can't go through like, you know, what is the 12 step of an Alcoholics Anonymous? Like if I gotta admit you got a problem? Yeah. And to me, early education as a system that doesn't actually exist. It's not your system, but they need the knowledge. Yeah, we probably started under some faulty grounds. And we probably are still experiencing that because we're still asking many women primarily to work under low pay, not be protected, either physically or financially, to subsidize a whole country to go back to work and we still like oh, sorry. And so we need to I think it's always we need to listen Now Jack publicly face it. And then I think we can move forward. But if you don't, at least not the harm you've done, and at least try to correct it somehow, then all you're doing is kind of like, oh, let me get you some money. But you haven't even you just do bring me over, you still haven't even said you ran me over. So I think we need to kind of announce some of that, that kind of historical and justices and even contemporary and justices.
Wesley Mayes 20:20
Yeah, I think that really, I mean, that contextualize, is it right? Because before you are able to fully fix a problem, you have to know what the problem is. And without that history, that history of racism, that history of you know, essentially making sure that an entire population is not well provided for, you can't, you can't actually create the, you know, systems that can fix it. Right. So you have to do that. And I think that there's also a level of disenfranchisement that educators have feeling like, like you said, to educators in a classroom with 18 kids, right, it can be very, you can feel very alone in that, right. I think that, you know, recognizing this problem, this is a problem on the, you know, the structural level, saying, okay, look, this is where we've been, but there's also a bit of community building that needs to happen, right? For educators to sit to come together and say, Look, we're all in this together, we're all experiencing the same thing and maybe call for that. Do you see community as kind of an antidote to some of the things that are going on? Like, like in the classroom, like we're talking about?
Iheoma Iruka 21:35
It, I do see it as like an important strategy, right? Because if you think about any change that has happened, it's actually happened because the community said, Love y'all, we are tired, and we're tired of being sick and tired, right? Like that whole idea. So I do think that there's a level of, and hopefully, we're not asking just the educators, right? Like, like, of course, they need to tell us look, we already we know, they already tell us, look, ya'll, we got issues that I'm trying to be, I'm gonna be here, do my best give you my all, and I'm gonna hope that you're gonna fight for me. And so I feel like, yes, it should include the providers educators. But I think it's going to require also us who are not in the classroom or direct service, to also be the community that both protects them. And also, you know, argues and Feistel more, right, like you mentioned, the teaching wages program that Alex and Tina and you all sort of overcharged, like over. And I'm like, those are good Patchwork, they literally, you know, like, you're like, we're trying to at least address the issue of wages. Because we know that, at the minimum, let's at least try to turn the table on, at least trying to fairly pay somebody for their work is not enough. We know that that definitely is not enough, right? That you can give somebody a couple of dollars. But you know, you need to be more than a couple of dollars. So you're at least starting to say, look, we got to do more, we can do more. And so I do think the community includes some of these things that we're trying to do from the wager side to teacher side. But I think we got it, I think, I think we're at the time, where people are going to have options. And you know, you have right now you probably have the older, more seasoned mature generation people were like, you know, I'm doing this not for my own personal wealth, because you don't do this because you want to get rich. I mean, yes, there's a few providers who may make money, but on the whole, nobody is going to go buy a Lamborghini and a whole Tesla, because they have childcare provided that is not what's going to happen. And so I think we need to recognize that there's a lot of people who are given not just their their their economic wealth, but are also given their labor and wealth. And so how do we at least say, you know, we're going to give you more than a little bit, we don't want you don't wanna just get Patchwork, let's give them a lot more, that is significant, because we're probably going to have to eventually, or we're gonna have to kind of like, do some more Patchwork, because we're seeing the rubber, the reverberation of COVID-19, the great resignation. I mean, we have inflation, right? We're hearing a lot of providers now who are like, Okay, I used to maybe be able to, sort of, at least be zeroed out. But now that I'm gonna have to pay for more, both, we still have COVID-19, because the kids are still not able to be vaccinated. So there's still all these costs, that is still impacting the sort of the, the financial well being of providers, and I just feel like, at some point, you're gonna be like, you know, what, I give up, I'm gonna just enter the school system, I'm gonna go open up, you know, forget being in this childcare world, I'm gonna go just go and get a job, be protected, have medical leave, act, have health insurance, be able to not have to deal with brand builders and be responsible for the health and well being of children. At some point, we're going to chase them away. And I hope that's not what happens, right? I hope we don't have to do that. But I do think we need to really take this moment to create exactly like you said, the community and the community has to be more than just educators. It has to be our families. It has to be, you know, those who have power to me, that you To me is good. But the power folks, those who have either power themselves, or close access to power, to me are the ones who I mean, unfortunately have a lot of that right? Like, yes, we can mobilize, I think there was a whole sort of a conversation on top of the hill the other day, and we can begin to push on that. But this is not new. This information we're sharing is not new. And the question is why? Why are we still waiting for an answer?
Alex Farrell 25:27
Yeah. Yeah, I think it's one thing that's been really important for me as I do outreach and recruitment for the wages program, is I try to whether you're eligible for money with wages or not, I tried to have the conversation with everyone that like, hey, look, we're we're a team of 10 people, for the entire state of Tennessee. None of us in our office, we think we do good work. And we think the program is good, but no one here is under the illusion that the wages program is the end all be all savior of childcare. We think it is a start. And I personally believe that it's the kind of thing that could affect policy on in the long term. But it was really interesting when we were at the teaching wages conference, that Marsha Breslow believed her last name was Brazza. Basil, basil, basil. Oh, thank you. With childcare services Association in North Carolina. mentioned, basically, you know, if, in some some ways, it's a little sad that we have the wages program, and that hopefully, if we're doing really good quality work and moving the needle, and there's we're honoring and lifting up advocates and give in taking a bit of power for the profession. That one day, we will have worked ourselves out of a job because the wages program won't be necessary anymore, which is really interesting to think about. But no, it's I think it's really important, though, that we have I'm proud to work for a program that says, hey, there are some systematic failures here. And we need to be honest about those. And let's, let's stop pretending like, like we've nailed it. We've nailed it first, first go, and that we're well represented, and that you know, that we're centering all of these voices if we are not, probably aren't, but But it's yeah, it's, I'm proud to have the transparency. That is the precursor for growth. Right. Yeah. And real, authentic change.
Iheoma Iruka 27:29
I agree. But if you think about it, too, and I'm not being a pessimist, because it's Friday, that's when we're taping it people. That what industry has to have an offshoot of a way supplement? Right. Yeah. You know, I mean, there's probably some, maybe there's something out there just can't and I really have thought about I thought it was like, is there another industry that has to basically have this offshoot because we know how much we either underpaid or don't really compensate? And I think, and I think, you know, like, imagine if you were a doctor, or surgeon, a janitor, and they're like, Well, you know, we're not paying you, well, we're gonna create a whole nother program to make sure you get money. It's like, No, I'm not, like, which, what I was gonna say, I'm gonna wait for a check. To compensate me, no, must have become like, No, I'm gonna find the job that's gonna pay me exactly what they're supposed to pay me. Like, and I feel like, you're right, that it's at least a beginning to highlight that we recognize the problem. But it's also one that's like, we're creating so many new systems, that is, like, do we, if we literally just paid you, we will donate the wages, if we paid you're gonna need like 1516 different national centers for training, like it means like, you know what, I can go ahead and get this head degree, go get my certification, do all this stuff. And then you don't need 15 Different TA that each of them probably have to $2 million per year to spend. Because that money should just be going in my pocket, because I've already gotten in school and gotten a training. And I just need, you know, every now and then I need maybe like, you know, 25 hours a year just to kind of maintain whatever, like we I think we need to really be really clear about, again, there's not enough money in the system. I'm not even suggesting that. But what I'm saying is that money in the system, why does that be indirect access to money or even resources
Alex Farrell 29:23
is really interesting. Again, when I'm out on outreach and recruitment at this point, I've been to all four corners of Tennessee and been to zero star centers, three star centers and everything in between. And it is really interesting. How you can get walk into one center that may be part of a kind of a corporate chain of centers that have resting corners with aquariums that are 10 feet tall and, you know, jelly fish that I'm like, I'm so soothe and I feel like there's someone that comes up from behind me and massages my shoulders and gives me a green tea and which is Don't get me wrong, I was awesome, that actually happened. But then I can go, you know, and that's a three star center. But then I can go across town to another three star center. And there are bolt holes in the windows, and there's not enough bathrooms for everyone. And there's not enough. And they're doing both early childhood and school age at the same time. And so, and I left only being in that center for four or five hours, I left with a heightened level of stress. And I'm a very, like, relatively stress free person, I'm pretty good at emotionally regulating throughout the day. And I left I'm just like, oh my gosh, I gotta get out of here. And so think about the people that have to be in that environment every single day. Right? And what are the things that led into those discrepancies?
Wesley Mayes 30:43
Right? And that's three, both three stars. So they both both high quality care.
Alex Farrell 30:47
Right, right. Right. Right. Which is really interesting.
Iheoma Iruka 30:50
And, you know, we there's a group that published a report looking at quality and and the Trust for learning and kind of, and you know, we exactly what, like, how did somebody get their quality rating? And what are the markers, and one of my arguments is always that, you know, what, we have to look at it, and I call like, the echo system, right? Like, like you just described to Claire when like, we could both be three stars. But there's something clearly not the same that I'm feeling, and to recognize that. And then also, with those three stars, we're gonna say you get a three star, your three stars, so you get, you know, a 20% increase or 10 reimbursement rate, you get 20, right, because we're both research. But really, is that equitable? Like, yes, we have given you three star ratings, we've given you the 20%, whatever the reimbursement rate for three star could be. And is that equitable? Right, because the condition that we're working in is vastly different. Right. And I think that's the part I feel like we have we have Jager in a way that we really don't think about equity in the same way we don't understand. Does this money mean the same thing in northern part of Nashville versus the southern part of Nashville? Like, have we really thought deeply about it? I mean, I'm not saying that what we're doing is wrong, per se. But like, is it precise enough to create sort of the equity of experiences the equity of resources, right? Because if you're gonna compare me the both resources are the same. But are you going? are we comparing apples and apples? are we comparing something different? are we comparing the fact that you know what, you have a different level of community, a different level of stress, we have a different level of stress, you can do you can you can see, I'm lighter, my feet, I got a home massage, I can go home to my kids and my family and be well rested. But to the second one you went to you were like, Oh, my God, I'm so stressed. And that is sucking the blood out of you, you're likely going to die earlier, you're not going to be able to sort of think about the job. Let me go go go get another education degree or certification to get more money.
Alex Farrell 32:47
You're in survival mode. Yeah, yes. And that's
Iheoma Iruka 32:51
a cortisol level we talk about and we understand COVID-19 character you quicker, because we understand COVID-19 was one that says if you if you have particular condition, health conditions, you are susceptible to COVID-19, but also in terms of how it actually materialized in your body. So we need to understand that there's also a health consequences that were impacting the workforce who are in these stressful conditions. And then on top of that, we don't pay them your benefits, not going to cover it, you can't take time off. Because if you take time off, there's no money you don't you don't get paid if you don't work. So I think we need to really, I think and I just I loved your your your your your sort of your analogy, we need to do a better job of unpacking, where are the opportunities to ensure equity, just because you have a three star four star, they don't equate the same thing. We think about what is the echo system that I'm functioning under? Are there resources that we're not accounting for, or their trauma that we're not accounting for? And I'll just tell you this one quick story. I remember going to my one of my last face to face meeting and 2020 Right, yeah, 2020. And I remember talking to these teachers, high quality programming, where they're like, Yeah, we're high quality, at least on paper. But if when that when the assessors came out to observe us, they didn't, they didn't know that just you know, the other day, we literally lost one of our young kids, because they were a victim of gun violence. They didn't understand that whenever I'm one of those kids relatives, that their their, their cousin is also here. And we they don't understand that we're literally dealing with the secondary trauma of having lost a kid to gun violence, and also what is doing to our community. They can even feel that they were just looking for like, oh, how you interact in the materials, but they never got under the hood, to really understand what kind of quality we provide and what what is the the other stuff. And I remember them saying that they like, yeah, they just don't understand some of the stressors that we as educators are dealing with on a day to day because that's not on the needs assessment. That's not on the measurement. That's not on the quality improvement systems. You don't ask us, what are the things that has really impacted your sense of self that's creating more trauma. They don't ask us that. If they did, we will tell them. And then that means that there's a different level of writing and support that we need. But right now you want to talk about, you know, the classroom materials. You want to talk about this and this, but you're not talking to us about what does it mean when we lose children from gun violence? What does it mean, we have families who are losing loved ones, because of the way COVID-19 is impacting them. Like, we don't talk that deeply about the manifestation of inequities in different communities. So I remember that. And I think we need to be very clear about how our, our assessment tools, our systems, in many ways tries to cover up and then not anatomy cover up like in a negative, but they just, they don't see it, because it's not part of it. We can't measure it. We can't, we can't measure it in ways that we can measure whether you're talking to a child or you have a material. They're not easy to operationalize. And to rate.
Alex Farrell 35:51
Yeah, it's almost impossible to to systemize the intangibles.
Iheoma Iruka 35:58
But if you pay for me adequately, trust me, the benefit is going to outweigh any debt that we have, I think we need to begin to speak those in some ways, economic language for those who need to hear it, the more language for those who want to hear it, the charter met language for those who care about children's development, the business lingo. So I think we need to, I think, and I think we do do that to some extent. But the racism and the sexism, one, we actually have never really talked about economix of it. All right, that's the part that some other groups have done, but we have not done it like that helps field has done that, you know, we CCDC talk a lot about strategic tournaments of help. And we need to do better about talking about the economics. You know, in the end of it, enslavement was an economic decision. That means racism is an economic capitalistic decision. And we need to really be clear about that.
Alex Farrell 36:47
Yeah. Yeah, yeah, no, that's so much to unpack there. It's the life's the lifetimes, it's a lifetime of work for sure. You, you started to talk a little bit earlier about community as a form of healing to some degree. In our prep call to you, if you'd said something specifically that within those communities, one of the ways that we can kind of all band together to start to, to go towards a different path or to kind of push push the needle a little bit, is activating our power and our privilege within certain communities. Can you talk a little bit more about what that means? And how we can maybe start to do that?
Iheoma Iruka 37:28
Yeah, I mean, I think in many ways, right? You know, a lot of people when they think about, oh, how do I distress you know, various people, right? I think they say go to your home, or go to the lights turn off the email, right. But I think we in many communities, part of how you use distress, is to actually lean in to those who are your your communities, whether it's your church group, whether it's your sorority and fraternity, there's a reason why some of those are one of the most powerful agents and connectors. And the more you can really call on your community that in many ways, in of itself is actually a way of both healing, but also a boat of a way of strategy, right? There's a reason why, as I said, people may go to some people may go to church, right? People say, Oh, you just go to church to go pray. But no, Allah, if you think about the sort of the faith based world, particularly in black communities, and we also see it in indigenous communities, especially when you know, when they sort of come together is both a way to distress from sort of white normative white racialized stressors. But it's also a way to say, Okay, how do I help you either navigate the space you're in? Or how do I can begin to create a coalition to think through some of the big issues facing our communities. And I think we have to think of sometimes community building and coalition building is a way to distress because for me, think about it when you're under the biggest stress. And you're like, Oh, my God, oh, my god, the thing you want is, how do I get a solution to that, and sometimes sitting in your closet is not gonna be it, you need to go out there and say, Okay, I got an issue, please help me, there's, you know, Facebook understood that they understood, the way people begin to really distress in many ways is to lean in on whoever their community is, go find it, and go connect and build bridges, build a sort of advocacy, build whatever power or privilege you can, can figure out what each of you have, like, you may be like, okay, look, I know somebody over the mayor's office. I know, somebody you know, who runs a program, like, in many ways, is really about how do we create sort of this coalition that says, We by ourselves, we're not going to be that good. But together, we can maybe begin to address issues. So I think in many ways, we need to see that both as a strategy, build it as a coalition building as a problem solver, but also as a way to distress because when you can kind of know that your burden that you've been calling for can be shared with others. That actually is helpful. I think this idea of you got to go to the mountains and kumbaya or go to mountain home. There's nothing wrong with that. But I think We also have to recognize that there's other ways of distressing and be mindful. This is I'm being mindful by being able to to create a coalition and strategy building with others who have similar issues. So So I think we need to kind of begin to really, you know, remember that there's a power in community, because that has been the power that shapes civil rights. That was the power, that sort of even shaped early child, even as we know, today, in many ways, right, because people say we need, we need something. So I think the more we can lean in on that, especially for women who often are having to do a lot, I mean, people of color who are having to do a lot, the more we can lean in on that. But also remember, we should not put a lot of burden on the women on the companies of color, because it's like, they're gonna help create, and then they're never gonna benefit from it. And that's what we don't want to continue to see happen.
Wesley Mayes 40:47
I love that approach to you. I think it's something that we miss even on this podcast, right? Like, we all the time, we talked about personal work, we talked about the personal internal work, we talked about mindfulness, all of these things, and, you know, great conversations in great ways to oftentimes put band aids on things, right. But the real, the real self care, is the thing that's going to take that stress away for good, right. And so what that looks like, like your to your point is just is banding together, recognizing the shared experiences that we have, that are causing the stress, and then going up figuring out ways to go about and fix them. And I think, I think to a big part of that is recognizing that, you know, we are stronger together, right? We're stronger whenever we can, when all of our voices are our one asking for something than just one person asking for something. There is power in and collectivism that's often missed in our very individualistic society. Right?
Iheoma Iruka 41:58
That's right. That's right. That's right. And that's how I guess how a lot of indigenous communities, black communities, you tend to operate more in the collective. So if you go to whether it's in South America, to the tribal lands, in sort of different parts of Africa, you realize you're really much more collectivism in terms of the way you approach the world is not about you. But here, we do think a lot about individualism. There's nothing wrong with that, per se. But what it does do is that it says Your problem is your problem, even though it was the collective that creates your problem. So I think the more we can kind of figure out what is the perfect union, it's only happens if it's a perfect union, only when all of us can really see ourselves in it, we see that we have a power to change, we see that we are allowed to be treated and be humanized. Right? Some of us have more human capital than others, right, for many reasons that was purposely created and maintained. So I think the more we can create a coalition is also seeing the value of each individual amongst this larger sort of ecosystem.
Wesley Mayes 42:56
Yeah, right. And there's only so much that you can do as one person with the connections that you have, right? When you come together, you can utilize the one person that might have a connection that you don't have. And so all of those things just make one person's ability to wield power. Easier, right? Because he can do it through that individual or that individual.
Alex Farrell 43:18
Yeah, I know I mentioned this in our prep call that there was I read an article once about I forget what the tribe is called, was a tribe in Africa where if they're within the village, if there's some sort of wrongdoing, whether it's something as minimal as someone steal something all the way up to something as egregious as one person has murdered another person, that the the tradition within that village is not to penalize but is to for the rest of the village to come around and surround that person. And for something like 72 hours, speak encouragement and life into that person as a not as like, oh, the thing that you did was okay, not at all. But community. The the most transformative healing comes from the power of collective community.
Iheoma Iruka 44:05
That whole restorative is humanity. You're not perfect, neither are we, but we're gonna still love you like that unconditional love, but also says you can't do that. Yeah.
Alex Farrell 44:14
Yeah, no, that was great. So you're on my we really appreciate you coming on and talking about this. It's never an easy conversation. But gosh, it's such a necessary one. And it's one that we need to continue to have over and over and over again, until we're blue in the face really. We usually like to sign off with our with our guests saying hey, what what did you do for self care? How do you kind of recharge? And then also, do you have a word of encouragement for educators?
Iheoma Iruka 44:42
Oh my god. So I would say the way I try to recharge is like literally chasing my two kids because you know what, these people that keep me busy. I feel like it's just exciting to see them finding joy like to me that like finding joy and for you know, for me, black kids is like how do we find joy? So that's one and I would say the same thing for education. is finding time to find joy, like where is the joy in your space, whether at home or in the program, like find that joy, and really lean into the joy and create more of it as much as possible. So thank you for having me.
Alex Farrell 45:14
Wesley Mayes 45:15
Thank you so much.
Alex Farrell 45:16
Such a great simple sign off. So Dr. Yama, Ruka. Really appreciate your time and we hope you have a fantastic weekend weekend.
Iheoma Iruka 45:23
You as well. Thank you so much. I can't wait to hear it.
Alex Farrell 45:26
Thank you so much. Take care.
Iheoma Iruka 45:27
Thank you. Bye.
Alex Farrell 45:31
Thank you for tuning into the podcast today.
Wesley Mayes 45:33
This podcast is funded through a grant with the Tennessee Department of Human Services and signal centers. Signal centers is a nonprofit in Chattanooga, Tennessee, whose mission is to strengthen children, adults and families through services focusing on disabilities early childhood education and self sufficiency. If you'd like to leave a review a comment or have a suggestion for a future episode. Please do so on our Instagram account at lean into you pod. That's one word at lean into you pod. Follow us on Instagram for weekly self care tips clips from our episodes and graphic takeaways from many of the talking points from our conversations. Thanks again for listening to the lean into your podcast and we hope you have a fantastic week.