Why girls of color? Why now?

Watch our policy briefing on this issue

Girls of color are often overlooked when policymakers address issues of gender and racial inequality. That's why our 2016 Stand Against Racism campaign is centered on addressing the ways institutional and structural racism impacts girls of color. YWCA is on a mission to eliminate racism, empower women, stand up for social justice, help families, and strengthen communities.

Black girls face disproportionate challenges in schools and in the justice system, even though so much of the conversation about criminalization and the school-to-prison pipeline centers on boys of color. Latina and Native girls do not trail far behind them. Girls of color who experience trauma are more likely to be met with excessive discipline for acting out behaviors and less likely to get the trauma-informed care they need.

Here are some key statistics that give shape to the problem:

  • Black girls are suspended at higher rates (12%) than girls of any other race or ethnicity, and at higher rates than White boys (6%) and White girls (2%); American Indian/Alaska Native girls (7%) and Latinas (4%) are also suspended at rates that exceed those of White girls.
  • Recent budget cuts have also resulted in fewer school psychologists, social workers, and counselors who might otherwise provide support to girls struggling with trauma or other unmet needs before their behavior leads to punishable offenses: only two states (VT and WY) have counselor-to-student ratios that meet the recommended caseload standard set by the American Counseling Association.
  • A majority of girls who have contact with and are detained in the juvenile justice system pose little or not threat to public safety: 37 percent of detained girls were held for status offense and technical violations (as compared to 25 percent of boys), and 21 percent of girls were detained for simple assault and public order offenses where no weapons were involved (as compared to 12 percent of boys). (A recently released video, showing a school police officer picking up a 12-year-old Latina and throwing her face down onto the ground, illustrates the experiences of far too many girls of color at school.)

This year's campaign is not an attempt to leave out other demographics, whether White girls, boys, adult men and women. Rather, it is a clarion call to all of our better selves, to highlight girls of color's unique struggles and ask what we as individuals and as part of larger organizations can do to improve our society. Our CEO had a lot to say about this in a recent op-ed with Ebony.com.

Want to learn more? Read more details about the injustices girls of color face at school and when they interact with the juvenile justice system in these full backgrounders:

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