Advocates for Youth Statement on Racial Justice

Many of our communities are under attack during this time. Young people’s very identities are under assault – and our identities are multifaceted and layered, comprised of race, sexuality, gender, ability, and other concepts. Beyond the concerns of the present moment, our country needs to acknowledge its troubled history that extends back to its very founding. As the Board of Directors of Advocates for Youth, we want to take this opportunity to affirm Advocates for Youth’s values and offer up a vision for how Advocates for Youth’s mission reflects and includes racial justice. Our vision is of a journey toward racial justice and healing and a country that values and celebrates all young people, including their diverse and intersectional identities.

Advocates for Youth commits to working for racial justice and for an end to systematic oppression. We oppose violence and discrimination within the health care, education, and criminal justice systems. We support the rights of immigrants, including undocumented immigrants, refugees and Muslims who are under particular attack. We will do the work of examining our own biases and privilege to better understand the systems of oppression. We will challenge the reproductive and sexual health and rights movement to acknowledge and value the contributions of people of color. We will nurture the leadership of activists of color, and will be guided by their lived experiences in finding a path forward toward equity and justice.

Advocates for Youth’s focus is reproductive and sexual health and rights. These rights are inextricably linked with the environment young people grow up in. Young people live in communities around the nation where the specter of racially motivated violence is ever-present and looms large. Young people are immigrants or the children of immigrants, facing both racism and fear of deportation. Young people of color are denied access to health care, education, and economic opportunity in communities across the nation. Young people live in the shadow of a dangerous and violent prison system that imprisons people of color, especially Black people, at vastly disproportionate rates. In the media, culture, and the political environment they face near constant attacks on their very value as people. The political climate is openly hostile to Muslims, refugees and immigrants and scapegoats them for the ongoing economic inequality that many communities continue to experience in the U.S. In this environment, protecting one’s health and advocating for one’s rights becomes a challenge on multiple levels – from dealing with trauma, pain, and disorder in everyday life, to fearing that contact with government systems could hurt more than it helps.

Systematic racism, built into our culture in ways large and small, is what is poisoning the future of our young people. From health disparities and voting rights to the legal system and educational opportunities, young people of color face a complex web of injustices that affect every aspect of their lives.

Young people of color are also leading the movement toward just and safe communities for all. They are on the front lines of groups working for the rights of Blacks, Latinos/as, Asian Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, Muslims, immigrants, and refugees.

As we work toward ensuring reproductive and sexual health and training up youth activists, we must stand with young people of color and simultaneously commit to working to ensure racial justice.

Our own mission is a part of a long-term struggle toward freedom and democracy for all – and we pledge to stand in solidarity with all working in that struggle.