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NEW YORK CITY — For Black children, disparities begin at birth, experiencing the highest infant mortality rate in the country.

Those inequities follow them through school, starting as early as 3 years old.

As the head of Bank Street Center on Culture, Race and Equity, Takiema Bunche-Smith follows the pre-school to prison pipeline and the “adultification” of young children perceived to be four to five years older than their actual age, pushing Black kids into juvenile detention at a much higher rate than white children.

Black children are forced to contend with this and function in this environment at such a young age. Stopping that vicious cycle would require hiring more Black teachers.

In New York City public schools, 56% of teachers are white compared to 15% white students. More than 65% of the nearly million students are black and Latino and only 34% of teachers look like them.

Bunche-Smith says it’s that type of disconnect of an overly white teaching force that has not had training and professional development and personal development to understand how they are impacted by white supremacy and anti-blackness. It’s a wheel that just keeps turning.

For Black and white students, anti-blackness is internalized by the age of five. Breaking that cycle will take years of professional development to create anti-racist and cultural environments to help these kids.

Eliminating high-stakes testing and focusing on play-based education further more inclusive mindsets for children of all races to thrive.