Our Commitment to Racial Justice Efforts

June 18, 2020

Like so many across this community and country, we are outraged by the devastating impacts of police violence and systemic racism. Change is long overdue.

As a domestic and sexual violence service provider, we do recognize and value the critical role that law enforcement and the justice system can play in protecting women and children from violence. We also see the ways in which Black women, Indigenous women and women of color are criminalized and harmed by the very systems that are supposed to protect them– from racial profiling, to the racialized policing of pregnancy and motherhood, to higher rates of adverse outcomes during routine traffic stops. Women of color are the fastest growing jail population, and girls of color are detained at significantly higher rates than their white peers for non-violent offenses, which are typically associated with underlying trauma.

And yet women and girls of color are often overlooked in the discussion of police violence and criminal justice reform. We encourage our supporters, lawmakers and city officials to consider the particular ways that women, girls, transgender and non-binary people of color experience police violence and criminalization. Policy changes should keep their safety at the forefront. This includes appropriate training and increased accountability for law enforcement.

You can read more in a 2017 report issued by YWCA USA, We Deserve Safety: Ending the Criminalization of Women and Girls of Color.

June 9, 2020

At YWCA Missoula we continue to be outraged by the violence and deaths of Black people in America due to police brutality. We stand with YWCAs across the country– including YWCA St. Paul, where George Floyd was a member of a training program and working to improve his future– to demand justice for all.

And while many of the conversations around George Floyd’s murder and police violence are happening on a national and global level, we recognize that there is also much work to be done to dismantle institutional racism right here in this community. Missoula isn’t safe for everyone. With the recent increased presence of white militia groups in our community, many Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) have been targeted and harassed by armed groups that claim to be protecting protesters’ first amendment rights. This is not okay.

This is also not a new experience for our BIPOC community members. In 2018, the YWCA’s Racial Justice Initiative produced a short film about discrimination, featuring voices and experiences of some BIPOC Missoulians. You can watch the film here.

We remain committed to bringing racial justice to the forefront of our daily work of helping homeless families and domestic violence survivors. We continue to examine how racial inequities impact all our programs and our participants, and work toward our vision of a world where everyone is offered equal protection under the law. Equal access to housing. Equal access to safety and security.

As a white-led organization, we urge other white allies to examine their privilege and take action to help dismantle systems of oppression. Last year YWCA staff read and reflected on Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad, and we are now revisiting this resource. Saad’s book and other work is a good place to start.

We also support the efforts of BIPOC-led organizations and neighbors in responding to inequity in our community. If you’d like to take action in defense of Black lives, we encourage you to support the African American Studies Program at the University of Montana. Donations can be made here– indicate “Diana Riley Fund” in the comment section to help fund the annual Black Solidarity Summit in Missoula.