We challenge young people to recognize the impact of race and racism on American culture while also envisioning a future without racism.
First, let’s distinguish between race, ethnicity, and culture (all from Maurianne Adams and Lee Anne Bell):
- Race: a social construct that artificially divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance (particularly color), ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification, and the social, economic and political needs of a society at a given period of time. Read more about how race is a social construct — and not grounded in science or genetics — here.
- Ethnicity: a social construct that divides people into smaller social groups based on characteristics such as shared sense of group membership, values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interests, history and ancestral geographical base. Read more about the difference between race and ethnicity here.
- Culture: a social system of meaning and custom that is developed by a group of people to assure its adaptation and survival. These groups are distinguished by a set of unspoken rules that shape values, beliefs, habits, patterns of thinking, behaviors and styles of communication.
Some additional and important definitions:
- Racism: a prejudice against someone because of their race, backed up by a system of power. (Ijeoma Oluo)
- Colorism: prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their [shade of skin] color. (Alice Walker)
- Institutional racism: the ways in which policies and practices of institutions (schools, companies, courts, etc.) create different outcomes for different racial groups. The institutional policies may never mention any racial group, but their effect is to create advantages for whites and oppression and disadvantage for people from groups classified as people of color. (Annie E. Casey Foundation)
- Anti-racist: When we choose to be anti-racist, we become actively conscious about race and racism and take actions to end racial inequities in our daily lives. (National Museum of African American History and Culture)
- Racial justice: the systematic fair treatment of people of all races, resulting in equitable opportunities and outcomes for all. Racial justice—or racial equity—goes beyond “anti-racism.” It is not just the absence of discrimination and inequities, but also the presence of deliberate systems and supports to achieve and sustain racial equity through proactive and preventative measures. (Race Forward)
How Racial Injustice Shows Up in Today’s World
- Black students are suspended and expelled three times more than white students. Students suspended or expelled are nearly three times more likely to be in contact with the juvenile justice system the following year. This is one statistic (of many) that points to what is called the “school-to-prison pipeline.” (ACLU)
- Black Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at a rate that is 5.1 times the imprisonment of white Americans. In five states, the disparity is more than 10 to 1. In eleven states, at least 1 in 20 adult Black males is in prison. Latinx Americans are imprisoned at a rate that is 1.4 times the rate of whites. (The Sentencing Project)
- The average white household today has nearly ten times the wealth of a Black household. This is a result of numerous forces, but one of the more significant is redlining policies from the 1930s-60s, when banks would refuse to provide home loans for POC to live in nicer, wealthier neighborhoods. (Marketplace.org)
- Families in urban areas — often families of color — struggle with lower public funding for schools, parks, public transport and more based on local property taxes, while many wealthier white families have moved to the suburbs and started their own cities or school districts. (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)
- Native/indigenous families have experienced incredible loss of land and wealth as a direct result of policies of the US federal government. Learn more about current ways the U.S. federal government keeps Native people in poverty, especially through the “federal trust doctrine.”
- Native American women are 10 times more likely to be murdered than non-Native women. More than one in three have suffered rape or attempted rape, and more than 80% will experience violence at some point in their lives. (US Department of Justice) These statistics represent just a few aspects of the plight of missing and murdered indigenous women or MMIW.
Local Actions to Address Racial Justice
Here are just a few ideas of ways students can take action locally to advance racial justice and anti-racism in your school or community:
- Does your school have police officers or SROs on-site? What is their connection to the local police? What are the standards for referring students to the criminal justice system? Student activists across the US are working to remove police from schools, and to sever the connection between schools and the criminal justice system. See https://dignityinschools.org/take-action/counselors-not-cops/ for resources.
- Are students of color represented in advanced classes such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) or Advanced Placement (AP) programs? Are they represented in honors courses? Students and teachers are pushing back on “tracking” within the educational system which so often exclude students of color from accessing higher level courses. Read this article from Learning for Justice about how one school stopped tracking.
- Does your school district carry “lunch debt” charges for students? There is a growing body of student activism to make school lunch free for all, so that all students can eat regardless of ability to pay. Check out schoollunchforall.org for more information and resources.
- Look into how your school and school district are funded, and how it compares to other nearby districts. Are there disparities along racial lines? Engage school and district leaders to press for change. Here’s an article from NPR on why white-majority districts have so much more money.
- Start a book club, reading one of the suggestions below, or host a movie night with your family, club or class. Make sure to budget time for a facilitated conversation to digest the book or movie with a properly trained facilitator. Check for an upcoming YCD webinar or training on facilitating difficult conversations.
Videos to Explore Racial Justice and Anti-Racism
Stay up to date for future student-generated videos on this topic and more by subscribing to YCD’s YouTube channel here.
What are microaggressions? What is their impact on people of color, and students of color? How can we focus on healing after suffering from a microaggression? In this video a student interviews psychologist Dr. Mariel Buquè about the psychology of microaggressions.
What is “cultural appropriation”? What does it have to do with Halloween? Why is it problematic and how do you know if you’ve done it? Find out more about this topic in this video created by two YCD Student Virtual Board members.
What voices and identities are lifted up the most within the BLM movement? What identities are not recognized and respected within the movement? How has awareness of violence toward Black queer and trans lives affected the political environment? How can the Black community be an ally to all identities within BLM?
What is the “school to prison pipeline”? How do schools push students of color into the juvenile justice system? What can educators and school administrators do differently to disrupt this injustice?
Why are darker skinned girls THREE TIMES more likely to be suspended from school? Why do darker skinned actors struggle to find work compared to lighter skinned actors, as recently discussed by Viola Davis, Lupita Nyong’o and Thandie Newton? The answer is colorism. Colorism is prejudice against people based on the shade or tone of their skin color, and is also sometimes referred to as shadeism.
In this workshop, Josh Rovner from The Sentencing Project shares information on America’s juvenile justice system, starting from police contact, court processing, and detention all the way through the indefensible process of charging and incarcerating teenagers as if they were adults. The speaker also shares how to advocate for change in your community and the successful reforms that have taken place in communities across the U.S.
YCD Workshops on Racial Justice and Anti-Racism
Below are example workshops YCD has hosted in the past through our conferences for students and educators; contact us to request more information or connect with a presenter.
Appropriation and Symbolism: Understanding the Case of the Zia Sun Symbol
In this workshop dive into the world of symbols, meaning, and context from a Pueblo perspective. Start by learning about the history of Native American design appropriation through the case study of the Zia Sun symbol on the New Mexico State flag. Then explore your own understanding and use of symbols in a hands-on activity and group discussion.
Presented by the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center, Albuquerque, NM
Breaking the Chains: Engaging Young Men of Color in School
In this student-led workshop, the Student Board of Education/5280 Challenge team from the Denver Center for International Studies will help participants reflect upon the status of young men of color in schools, as well as share and develop strategies to engage them. Young men of color, particularly African American and Raza male students, are often absent from leadership roles in school, find themselves alienated in classes, and are targeted for harsh disciplinary practices. Each group of participants will develop ways to address this problem in schools. All of us means ALL of us.
Presented by students from Denver Center for International Studies (DCIS), Denver, CO
Dispelling Stereotypes of Modern Native Americans
This workshop will help young people meet modern Native American youth, to learn about the diversity within the Native community and dispel stereotypes about Native Americans. We’ll have an open and frank discussion on how these stereotypes have been formed, but more importantly how we can end them.
Presented by teen leaders from Spirit of the Sun, Denver, CO
Race: A Social Construct
Many think of race as a biological reality, a core characteristic that has implications for things such as athletic ability, intelligence, and temperament. In reality, race is a social construct, a tool for oppression. Race also has a definitive origin story, and one that every anti-racist or social justice activist should know. Join this training to learn a brief history of racial classification in the U.S., and how it influences our mistaken perception of race today.
Presented by anti-oppression trainer Regan Byrd, Denver, CO
Race and the Justice System
We will explore how racial bias shows up in the justice system, and more importantly, what we all can do about it.
Presented by the ACLU of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM
“That’s So Ghetto”: Exploring Race and Gender in Everyday Language
In this interactive workshop we will explore how race, gender, class and sexuality play out in our everyday language and jokes. Does re-thinking our language really matter, or is it just an example of political correctness?
Presented by Jessica Havens, Jeffco Public Schools, Golden, CO
Using Personal Narrative to Decolonize Our Hearts and Minds
Participants will share and breakdown the personal narratives that we all hold, starting with our names (where it comes from, what it means) and moving outward to how we talk about ourselves. Finally, we look at how institutions like media, schools, politics, etc. create narratives about young people. This workshop is an exercise in how to identify, deconstruct, and rebuild narratives for truth, power, and decolonization.
Presented by Generation Justice, Albuquerque, NM
You Mean, There’s RACE in My Movie?
Why is it so difficult to get people to see “eye to eye” on matters of race? Well, in this session, we get our diverse audience to share a common perspective — mainstream movies! Learn specifically how to identify the six primary character patterns occupied by minority characters in mainstream movies and how to use these patterns to leverage more substantive and meaningful dialogues about race at school, home or within the community. You will NEVER see movies the same way again!
Presented by Dr. Frederick Gooding, Texas Christian University
Racial Justice Leaders Who Inspire Us
Here’s a list of just some of the folx who are leading the conversation on racial justice and anti-racism today, whether locally or nationally. They inspire and inform our work. Follow them on social media, or seek out opportunities to hear them speak to dig deeper on these issues.
Who inspires your work on racial justice and anti-racism? Share your points of inspiration with us on Twitter:
.@ycdiversity My work on racial justice is inspired byTweet
Racial Justice Books for Students
Here is a list of recommended books for students and teens that explore and address racial justice issues. You can find free e-books or your local library using OverDrive.com.
Racial Justice Books for Educators and Adults
And this list is for teachers, educators and adults looking for guidance on racial justice within the classroom or school system.
Movies Addressing Racial Justice
Below are movies that address racial justice topics in meaningful and compelling ways.
Podcasts on Racial Justice and Anti-Racism
Here is a list of recommended podcasts you can download and follow to explore racial justice work in more detail.
Organizations Advancing Racial Justice and Understanding
YCD partners with numerous organizations to offer education and trainings for students on racial justice issues. Below are some of these groups; we encourage you to look into what services, resources and information they can offer for a deeper exploration of racial justice and anti-racism.
Advancement Project is a next generation, multi-racial civil rights organization. Rooted in the great human rights struggles for equality and justice, they exist to fulfill America’s promise of a caring, inclusive and just democracy. They use innovative tools and strategies to strengthen social movements and achieve high impact policy change.
The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that promotes peace and justice for all. The organization’s key issue areas include ending discrimination, building peace, defending immigrant rights, ending mass incarceration, and building economic justice.
The Anti-Defamation League, created in 1913, fights anti-Semitism and all forms of hate, and works extensively on issues surrounding race, bias, extremism and hate crimes.
The Black Youth Project is a platform that highlights the voices and ideas of Black millennials. Through knowledge, voice, and action, we work to empower and uplift the lived experiences of young Black Americans today.
The National Congress of American Indians, founded in 1944, is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization serving the broad interests of tribal governments and communities.
The National Indian Youth Council, founded in 1961 in Gallup, New Mexico, is the nation’s second oldest national American Indian organization. For fifty plus years, the NIYC has advocated diligently and continuously to ensure that all American Indians have equitable access to educational opportunities, health and social services, employment, human and civil rights. NIYC was, and is, Indian conceived, Indian controlled, and Indian operated.
Race Forward builds awareness, solutions, and leadership for racial justice by generating transformative ideas, information, and experiences. They define racial justice as the systematic fair treatment of people of all races, resulting in equitable opportunities and outcomes for all and they work to advance racial justice through media, research, and leadership development. Race Forward publishes Colorlines, an award-winning, daily news site where race matters.
UnidosUS serves the Hispanic community through research, policy analysis, and state and national advocacy efforts, as well as partnering with a national network of nearly 300 affiliates across the country to serve millions of Latinos in the areas of civic engagement, civil rights and immigration, education, workforce and the economy, health, and housing.
The Black Organizing Project is a Black member-led community organization working for racial, social, and economic justice through grassroots organizing and community-building in Oakland, California.
Californians for Justice is a statewide youth-powered organization fighting to improve the lives of communities of color and other marginalized communities.
The Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) is working to build a youth, family, and formerly and currently incarcerated people’s movement to challenge America’s addiction to incarceration and race, gender and class discrimination in Los Angeles County, California’s and the nation’s juvenile and criminal injustice systems.
The Asian Pacific Development Center is a community-based organization serving the needs of a growing population of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) residents throughout Colorado. They provide a fully integrated system of care which includes behavioral and medical health services, adult education, youth programming, victim assistance, health policy advocacy, and an interpreter’s bank.
The Brotherhood, based in Aurora, gives young men of color the guidance and support needed to reach their greatest academic and personal potential, through a community of dedicated mentors and positive role models – establishing a meaningful relationship of trust and encouragement that begins early in their academic career and follows them into adulthood.
Intercultural Community Builders (ICB) is a Colorado non-profit organization incorporated in 2010. ICB is committed to building communities where people from all cultural backgrounds feel welcomed and included and are encouraged, supported, and empowered to reach their full potential.
Padres & Jóvenes Unidos is a multi-issue organization led by people of color who work for educational equity, racial justice, immigrant rights and advocating for equal access to achieve a better quality of life.
Sacred Voices promotes unity and healing through creative expression, especially for Latinx and Native American/American Indian youth.
Soul 2 Soul Sisters is a fiercely faith-based, Black Womxn-led racial justice organization focused on Black healing and Black liberation. Through their synchronous racial justice approach, S2SS promotes holistic processes of self and communal health toward engaging in authentic discourse and egalitarian relationship-building. Ultimately, the organizational aim is for people of all racial/ethnic groups to work together to dismantle personal and systemic racism toward developing healthy, just and liberative communities.
Spirit of the Sun works to empower economic development among Native American/American Indian people and tribes, with a goal of fighting poverty within Native communities. The organization also has financial literacy training programs for indigenous youth and young adults.
The Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning provides intercultural training and consulting to help organizations build cultural competence, and also has an extensive interpreter network.
Teens For Equality supports the Black Lives Matter Movement, while also creating a message of equality and support for everyone living in the Las Vegas community.
The Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women (CSVANW), based in Albuquerque, is focused on shaping policy, conducting outreach, increasing awareness, informing priorities and working to ensure that tribal communities are represented within conversations where they have historically been underrepresented. Their grounding in the movement to end violence is not only to organize, but to mobilize our communities towards healthier families and healthier communities. Their youth initiatives include an annual Native Youth Summit, indigenous youth blogs, a Young Indigenous Queer Retreat, community trainings and social media messaging.
Generation Justice is a multiracial, multicultural project that trains youth to harness the power of community and raise critical consciousness through leadership development, civic engagement, media production and narrative shift in the areas that most impact New Mexicans- racial justice, health, education, early childhood development, and economic security.
The New Mexico Asian Family Center, based in Albuquerque, helps Asians and their families become more self-sufficient, empowered, and aware of their rights by utilizing multilingual and multicultural staff members, licensed counselors, and interpreters.
The New Mexico Dream Team is a statewide network committed to create power for multigenerational, undocumented, LGBTQ+, and mixed status families towards liberation. Through trainings and leadership development, they work to engage community and allies in becoming leaders using an intersectional, gender, and racial justice lens—to develop and implement an organizing and advocacy infrastructure for policy change fighting to dismantle systematic oppression.
Together for Brothers (T4B) believes young men of color (YMOC) are, can and should be leaders at all levels in their community. T4B’s model makes spaces for YMOC to practice that leadership in their schools and communities. YMOC with T4B are redefining what it means to be brotherly.
Young Women United, with offices in Albuquerque and Las Cruces, works with young women of color to advance an intersectional vision of reproductive justice around five campaign issue areas: (1) de-stigmatizing mental health alongside LGBTQ youth of color, (2) leading criminal justice reform with a gender lens perspective while de-criminalizing substance use and pregnancy, (3) maintaining and growing access to reproductive health care, (4) increasing access women of color have to a full range of birthing options centering midwifery models of care, (5) and building educational equity and support for expectant and parenting young people. YWU also runs Circle of Strength, a leadership development program for self-identified young women of color ages 13-19.
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