Many children are derailed from success by insurmountable barriers. The harsh truth is that racism is one of those barriers in our community.

This injustice can become the context of a child’s existence; the subconscious awareness that prejudice can show up unannounced. It shows up when a teacher assumes that she isn’t capable, when a friend doesn’t invite her to spend the night, when he is called a racial slur by a classmate whose mother looks on silently. These hurts break the tender heart of a child and many do not recover.

If we would not tolerate this for our own child, then we must not tolerate this for any child.

Racism results in feeling unwelcome, unappreciated, unknown for who you really are. Perhaps this is the harshest of all disadvantages, for acceptance and respect are essential to the foundation of success. Others’ acknowledgement of our potential inspires us to accept challenges and reach goals. With privilege we assume we are entitled to these social gifts; but for many this assumption has never existed. The result becomes a culture of fear, shame, and despair – the opposite of the community nurturing needed by a child.

For a child, this toxic culture can kill self-confidence and trust in others. Hope may become the casualty for those without resilience. This loss of hope is devastating to a child’s growth and development, and this is how failure becomes predictable. A child quickly concludes “if others do not value me, then I must not be of value.”
It is precisely this hopelessness that often compounds disparities for many children in Northwest Louisiana, and it will continue to erode our community unless we make changes within ourselves, and insist on the same from our leaders, to better the lives of all children.

Children cannot thrive in our current environment and neither can our community.

The economic cost of racism is staggering, yet the solution is free. Eliminating discrimination will not raise our taxes or reduce our resources. It is not a zero-sum game where someone’s gain is another person’s loss; rather it multiplies blessings for everyone. But clearly, transforming hearts and institutions is not painless. It requires brutally honest self-reflection and a willingness to change.

Our opportunities for change lie not just within ourselves, but with our own children, and our community leaders. Step Forward is committed to this effort.

We must teach the principles of acceptance and respect to our children through our own relationships, words, and behaviors. We must set an example of inclusion, and loudly challenge those who do not. We must deeply examine the laws and policies that were created in a bygone era. People and policies must be held to the standard that every child and every person has the right to be presumed of value and worth, and to be treated as such.

It is time to demonstrate through our words and actions that opportunities must be available and attainable for all children.

Our children will judge our efforts. They will know without being told if their community cares for them. It will be evident to them in a thousand ways. Step Forward is committed to supporting a community that will do whatever it takes for each and every child to thrive.

This is how we ensure success for every child.