Amplifying the Encounters of Young Black Children with Anti-Black Racism: An Exploration of Parents’ and Early Childhood Educators’ Perspectives on Early Learning and Child Care Environments

Keywords: early childhood education, anti-Black racism, colour-evasiveness, positive racial identity, equity


There is ongoing attention to equity and inclusion in early learning but a paucity of stories on diverse experiences. This study sought to understand the experiences of Black children in Nova Scotian early learning and child care environments through the perspectives of their parents and early childhood educators (ECEs) working in African Nova Scotian (ANS) communities or with Black children in Nova Scotia, Canada. Following in-depth interviews with parents and ECEs (n=15) three interrelated themes were identified using reflexive thematic analysis: anti-Black approach to curriculum; inaction on racism, social justice, and equity; and precluding Black children from culturally safe environments. The results highlight critical issues of racism in early learning environments and the importance of building culturally safe environments for young Black children and their families.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...


Agarwal-Rangnath, R. (2021). Teaching for social justice in early childhood classrooms: Developing humanizing and critical spaces for young children. Multicultural Perspectives, 23(4), 197–205.

Allen, R., Shapland, D.L., Neitzel, J., & Iruka, I.U. (2021). Viewpoint: Creating anti-racist early childhood spaces. 76(2).

Annamma, S.A., Jackson, D.D., & Morrison, D. (2017). Conceptualizing color-evasiveness: Using dis/ability critical race theory to expand a color-blind racial ideology in education and society. Race Ethnicity and Education, 20(2), 147–162.

Baker, M. (2021). Perspectives on the use of Afrocentric approaches in non-school settings within Toronto on the education, employment, and Black identity of African Canadian men [Master’s thesis, University of Toronto]. TSpace.

Bernard, W., & Smith, H. (2018). Injustice, justice, and Africentric practice in Canada. Canadian Social Work Review / Revue Canadienne de Service Social, 35(1), 149–157.

Berry, O.O., Londoño Tobón, A., & Njoroge, W.F.M. (2021). Social determinants of health: The impact of racism on early childhood mental health. Current Psychiatry Reports, 23(5), 23.

Boutte, G.S. (2008). Beyond the illusion of diversity: How early childhood teachers can promote social justice. The Social Studies, 99(4), 165–173.

Boutte, G., & Bryan, N. (2021). When will Black children be well? Interrupting anti-Black violence in early childhood classrooms and schools. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 22(3), 232–243.

Boutte, G.S., Lopez-Robertson, J., & Powers-Costello, E. (2011). Moving beyond colorblindness in early childhood classrooms. Early Childhood Education Journal, 39(5), 335–342.

Brady, J. (2017). Education for whom? Exploring systems of oppression and domination. Canadian Journal for New Scholars in Education, 8(1).

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2019). Reflecting on reflexive thematic analysis. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise, and Health, 11(4), 589–597.

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2022). Thematic analysis: A practical guide. SAGE.

Braun, V., Clarke, V., Hayfield, N., & Terry, G. (2019). Answers to frequently asked questions about thematic analysis. Thematic analysis: A reflexive approach.

Brown, K.D., & Brown, A.L. (2020). Anti-Blackness and the school curriculum. In C.A. Grant, A.N. Woodson, & M.J. Dumas (Eds.), The future is Black: Afropessimism, fugitivity, and radical hope in education. Routledge.

Caldwell, V.F., & Crenshaw, K.W. (1996). Critical race theory: The key writings that formed the movement. Columbia Law Review, 96(5), 1363.

Center on the Developing Child. (2007). InBrief: The science of early childhood development.

Center on the Developing Child. (2010). The foundations of lifelong health are built in early childhood.

Daniel, B.-J.M. (2020). Embedding anti-oppression and anti-racism perspectives in the field of child and youth care: A case for rearticulating relational care. Child & Youth Services, 42(2), 109–135.

Daniel, B.-J., & Escayg, K.-A. (2019). “But, I don’t believe it’s about race”: Challenging fallacies of race and racism amongst early childhood educators in Ontario. Journal of Curriculum, Teaching, Learning, and Leadership in Education, 4(2), 14.

Dei, G.J.S., & Kempf, A. (2013). New perspectives on African-centred education in Canada. Canadian Scholars.

Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J. (2017). Critical race theory: An introduction. Dev Publishers & Distributors.

Diaz, A.R., Schutz, K.M., & Woodard, R. (2021). “I didn’t want to be ignorant”: An exploration of why preservice teachers sometimes choose silence in critical conversations about texts with elementary children. Literacy Research: Theory, Method, and Practice, 70(1), 330–348.

Dumas, M.J., & ross, k.m. (2016). “Be real Black for me”: Imagining BlackCrit in education. Urban Education, 51(4), 415–442.

Eizadirad, A., & Abawi, Z. (2021). State of emergency: Mapping inequities in early childhood education and care in Canada. In Z. Abawi, A. Eizadirad, & R. Berman (Eds.), Equity as praxis in early childhood education and care (pp. 1–20). Canadian Scholars.

Escayg, K.-A. (2019). “Who’s got the power?”: A critical examination of the anti-bias curriculum. International Journal of Child Care and Education Policy, 13(1), 6.

Escayg, K.-A. (2021). Reflect, enact and transform: A preliminary anti-racism guide for early childhood educators. In Equity as praxis in early childhood education and care (pp. 165–179). Canadian Scholars.

Farago, F., Sanders, K., & Gaias, L. (2015). Addressing race and racism in early childhood: Challenges and opportunities. In J.A. Sutterby (Ed.), Advances in early education and day care (Vol. 19; pp. 29–66). Emerald Group.

Ford, C.L., & Airhihenbuwa, C.O. (2010). Critical race theory, race equity, and public health: Toward antiracism praxis. American Journal of Public Health, 100 Suppl 1, S30–35.

Frank, L., Fister, L., & Saulnier, C. (2021). 2021 report card on child and family poverty in Nova Scotia: Worst provincial performance over 30 years. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

Government of Canada. (2022). Early learning and child care agreements.

Hamilton-Hinch, B.-A., McIsaac, J.-L.D., Harkins, M.-J., Jarvis, S., & LeBlanc, J.C. (2021). A call for change in the public education system in Nova Scotia. Canadian Journal of Education / Revue Canadienne de l’éducation, 44(1), Article 1.

Hammond, Z. (2021). Liberatory education: Integrating the science of learning and culturally responsive practice. American Educator, 4–39.

Husband, T. (2010). He’s too young to learn about that stuff: Anti-racist pedagogy and early childhood social studies. Social Studies Research and Practice, 5(2), 61–75.

Iruka, I.U., Durden, T.R., Gardner-Neblett, N., Ibekwe-Okafor, N., Sansbury, A., & Telfer, N.A. (2021). Attending to the adversity of racism against young Black children. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 8(2), 175–182.

Kerr, J. (2014). Western epistemic dominance and colonial structures: Considerations for thought and practice in programs of teacher education. Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education, & Society, 3, 83–104.

Kitchen, J., & Berry, A. (2022). In memory of George Floyd. Studying Teacher Education, 18(1), 1–4.

Ladson-Billings, G. (2013). Lack of achievement or loss of opportunity? In P.L. Carter & K.G. Welner (Eds.), Closing the opportunity gap: What America must do to give every child an even chance (pp. 11–22). Oxford Academic.

Ladson-Billings, G., & Tate, W. (1995). Toward a critical race theory of education. Teachers College Record: The Voice of Scholarship in Education, 97, 47–68.

Livingstone, A.-M., & Weinfeld, M. (2015). Black families and socio-economic inequality in Canada. Canadian Ethnic Studies, 47(3), 1–23.

Lopez, A.E., & Jean-Marie, G. (2021). Challenging anti-Black racism in everyday teaching, learning, and leading: From theory to practice. Journal of School Leadership, 31(1–2), 50–65.

Love, B.L. (2016). Anti-Black state violence, classroom edition: The spirit murdering of Black children. Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy, 13(1), 22–25.

MacNevin, M., & Berman, R. (2017). The Black baby doll doesn’t fit the disconnect between early childhood diversity policy, early childhood educator practice, and children’s play. Early Child Development and Care, 187(5–6), 827–839.

Maynard, R. (2017). Policing Black lives: State violence in Canada from slavery to the present. Fernwood.

McCarthy, C. (1996, April 22). Amnesty International’s freedom fighters. The Washington Post.

Mott Young, A.H., Parker, D.M., Ansoanuur, F.P., Werner, I., & Banks, Y.S. (2021). Talking to children about race and racism. JAMA Pediatrics, 175(5), 544.

Mullings, D.V., Morgan, A., & Quelleng, H.K. (2016). Canada the great white north where anti-black racism thrives: Kicking down the doors and exposing the realities. Phylon: The Clark Atlanta University Review of Race and Culture, 53(1), 20–41.

Neergaard, M.A., Olesen, F., Andersen, R.S., & Sondergaard, J. (2009). Qualitative description: The poor cousin of health research? BMC Medical Research Methodology, 9(1), 52.

Nxumalo, F., & Pacini-Ketchabaw, V. (2022). Centering Black life in Canadian early childhood education. Gender and Education, 1–13.

Poth, C.N., & Creswell, J.W. (2018). Qualitative inquiry & research design: Choosing among five approaches. SAGE.

Ritchie, J. (2015). Disentangling? Re-entanglement? Tackling the pervasiveness of colonialism in early childhood (teacher) education in Aotearoa. In V. Pacini-Ketchabaw & A. Taylor (Eds.), Unsettling the colonial places and spaces of early childhood education (pp. 147–161). Routledge.

Sandelowski, M. (2009). What’s in a name? Qualitative description revisited. Research in Nursing & Health.

Sturdivant, T.D., & Alanís, I. (2019). Teaching through culture: One teacher’s use of culturally relevant practices for African American preschoolers. Journal for Multicultural Education, 13(3), 203–214.

Tracy, S.J. (2010). Qualitative quality: Eight “big-tent” criteria for excellent qualitative research. Qualitative Inquiry, 16(10), 837–851.

Trent, M., Dooley, D.G., & Dougé, J. (2019). The impact of racism on child and adolescent health. Pediatrics, 144(2).

Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (2015). Honouring the truth, reconciling for the future: Summary of the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Uppal, S., & Savage, K. (2021). Child care workers in Canada. Statistics Canada.

Williams, R. (1999). Cultural safety: What does it mean for our work practice? Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 23(2), 213–214.

How to Cite
Pimentel, M., McIsaac, J.-L., Watson, C., Stirling-Cameron, E., Hickens, N., & Hamilton-Hinch, B. (2023). Amplifying the Encounters of Young Black Children with Anti-Black Racism: An Exploration of Parents’ and Early Childhood Educators’ Perspectives on Early Learning and Child Care Environments. Journal of Childhood Studies, 38-55.
Articles from Research