Racial Justice & Civil Rights

Increasing the equal protections and equal opportunities for people of color is at the heart of YWCA’s mission. We continue our long-standing fight to reduce the incidence of racial and ethnic profiling and criminalization of people of color in communities across the nation, with a particular focus the impact of profiling and criminalization on women and girls of color. YWCA’s commitment to racial justice is one of the common threads that unite local YWCAs across the country. Over 160,000 individuals participate in YWCA racial justice programs annually, addressing systemic barriers in the criminal justice system, housing, healthcare, and education. 
Here is some information about the issues, where we stand, and questions you can ask candidates running for public office this year so that you can be informed when you head to the polls.  In 2018, voters will cast their ballots for elected officials who will determine public policy on major issues that impact the lives of women, girls, and people of color. Together, we can make a difference by ensuring our communities and our voices are heard!


YWCA is committed to ensuring that everyone is afforded equal opportunities and equal protections under the law. Community members, schools, law enforcement, and other government agencies are critical partners in this work. Too often, however, stereotypes, biases and racial power dynamics are embedded in our laws and public policies. They are also reflected in the use of racial profiling, heightened surveillance tactics, targeted enforcement strategies, and other practices that increase policing of certain racial and ethnic communities (but not others) and criminalize people of color. Criminalization and racial profiling shape and influence how police, immigration officers, and school officials interact with people of color. They fuel a cycle of heightened surveillance and punishment, with negative consequences for the people and communities who are targeted. This manifestation of racism at a systemic level is at the heart of the disturbing, and, in some cases, deadly, incidents that we see in school, immigration, and law enforcement settings. The damage is profound: a school suspension or arrest makes completing school, finding a job, and providing for one's family more challenging; targeted implementation of immigration policy tears families and communities apart; and the use of excessive force makes communities less safe and renders law enforcement untrustworthy for many communities of color.


YWCA is addressing these inequities at a systemic and structural level. We oppose laws, policies, and practices that enable racial profiling and the criminalization of people of color. We also support efforts to provide government agencies with tools and resources to address the role that stereotypes, biases, and institutional practices play in their interactions with communities of color and other marginalized groups. YWCA supports the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act of 2017 (ERRPA) and other legislation that advances these objectives.



Questions for the Candidates

  • What is your position on proposals to end racial profiling, such as the End Racial and Religious profiling Act of 2017 (H.R. 1498/S. 411)?
  • What training and accountability measures for police, immigration officers, and school officials do you support?
  • What would you say to a young person of color who feels unsafe interacting with police or immigration authorities?
  • What would you do to address the concerns of communities of color who feel unsafe interacting with law enforcement or immigration officials?


YWCA believes that all trauma survivors should receive access to supportive services to help them heal and thrive. Unfortunately, many girls of color who experience trauma are criminalized instead of being given appropriate community-based support. Trauma survivors often develop specific behaviors as coping mechanisms to deal with trauma and keep themselves safe from further danger. These types of trauma responses are often used by girls and young women and include behaviors like running away, aggressiveness, and truancy. For girls of color, these natural responses are too often criminalized. This criminalization is a driving force behind the overrepresentation of girls of color in the school discipline and juvenile justice systems. The underlying gendered bias that all girls experience is exacerbated for girls of color, who also experience intersectional biases related to racial stereotypes and cultural norms about appropriate feminine behavior.


YWCA supports efforts to ensure that girls of color who have experienced trauma have improved access to community resources to address that trauma, including in the health, education, and juvenile justice systems. To this end, YWCA supports federal, state, and local legislation and policies that expand the availability of community and school-based services. YWCA also supports efforts to ensure that health, educational, and juvenile justice system staff who interact with youth receive training on and utilize trauma-informed practices that enable trauma survivors to heal and thrive.



Questions for the Candidates

  • We know that girls of color who experience trauma are more likely to be criminalized instead of receiving the services they need. What would you propose to ensure that educators, parents, and students have the support systems necessary to deal with such trauma?
  • Youth of color, particularly girls of color, are often disproportionately impacted by schools’ disciplinary policies and are overrepresented in the demographics of students who are suspended and/or expelled from schools. What would you do to address the disproportionate rates of school disciplinary procedures experienced by young people of color?
  • We know that girls in the juvenile justice system have experienced high rates of sexual abuse and trauma and that the criminalization of trauma disproportionately impacts girls of color, particularly Black, Native American, and Latina girls. How can our justice system better respond to their social and emotional needs as survivors?
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