Our Ground, Our Voices

Systems of power are the beliefs, practices, and cultural norms on which individuals lives and institutions are built. They are rooted in the social  constructions of race and gender and embedded in history (colonization, slavery, migration, immigration, genocide), present-day policies, and practice. These systems of power reinforce white supremacy, patriarchy, and heteronormativity as defining power structures in the United States and feed the structural barriers that are the root causes of inequity experienced by young women of color. 

The Center for Law and Social Policy’s (CLASP’s) Our Ground, Our Voices Toward Economic Justice for Young Women of Color builds from the lived experiences of young women of color and focuses on how race, gender, and their intersection impact the structural barriers they face. 

Our conversations* with Hmong American, Latina, Native, African-American, LGBTQ+, and gender non-conforming young people identified a set of seven structural barriers that are root causes of the economic marginalization they experienced: low-wage work, financial strain, educational inequality, mental health, housing instability and homelessness, exposure to violence, and the justice system. These issues are not new to this population. Unfortunately, young women of color are often left out of policy conversations and forgotten.

As long as the systems of power are at play, the pathway to equity is obstructed. The first step toward equity for young women of color is visibility. Only by understanding and naming the roots and the ground that produce outcomes for young women of color can we begin to dismantle these barriers and challenges and avoid replicating inequity.

Addressing these challenges requires large-scale investment and bold policy proposals to achieve meaningful change. 

To learn more, read our brief Systems of Power and Young Women of Color, along with our fact sheets describing seven structural barriers:

* In 2017, CLASP conducted five focus groups with African American, Hmong American, Native, and Latina girls and young women as well as gender non-conforming youth as part of a research project with Frontline Solutions focused on structural barriers and identity.