“Young men of color face a crisis – one which President Obama has talked about the past five years but seemed uninterested in truly correcting. We’re glad the President is addressing this issue, but with Black and Hispanic youth unemployment at 26.2 percent and 15.5 percent, respectively, why has it taken the President more than five years to act?,” said Republican National Committee Communications Director for Black Media Orlando Watson.
“Fifty years after Dr. King talked about his dream for America’s children, the stubborn fact is that the life chances of the average black or brown child in this country lags behind by almost every measure and is worse for boys and young men,” said President Obama today in the East Room of the White House.
Today, President Obama announced My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative to help Black and Hispanic young men.
Though details on how many young men the initiative would likely assist and exactly what philanthropic funders would do to assist them are unclear, a readout from the White House says that, “foundations supporting today’s call to action have already made extensive investments, including $150 million in current spending,”
That the President is making the plight of Black and Hispanic men in America a priority in itself is validating news to many. For decades, the plight of African American males in particular has been the bleak antithesis of Jefferson’s call for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
But 238 years after that famous goal only designed for white men in Declaration of Independence was made, the U.S. is still struggling with the reality of damage done by a legacy of racism that included slavery, lynching, discrimination and over incarceration.In a reminder that even in the face of historic adversity all things are possible, President Obama, the first Black President of the same nation who would have viewed the same individual a non-person not long ago, stood in front of a group of young men from Chicago from the group Becoming A Man.
“These statistics should break our hearts. And they should compel us to act,” the President said. “By almost every measure, the group that is facing some of the most severe challenges in the 21st century, in this country, are boys and young men of color. To say this is not to deny the enormous strides we’ve made in closing the opportunity gaps that marred our history for so long. My presence is a testimony to that progress,” President Obama said.There was much praise for the initiative that was tempered with the realities of assisting million of Americans.
“The real tragedy is that this has to be a private initiative. While this is a lot o money in philanthropic dollars it’s not very much in terms of government money. Let’s be very clear: The life outcomes of young men of color in this country are related to specific bad public policy — bad federal policy in the 20th Century,” said Prof. Jelani Cobb to Joy Ann Reid on her new show the Reid Report.
“We are pleased that the Obama Administration will focus on ending the school-to-prison pipeline caused by overuse of suspensions and arrests, pushing young people off of an academic track and onto a track to prison. Our national discipline crisis requires immediate attention,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis.
A statement from he Kellogg Foundation, which is participating in the My Brother’s Keeper initiative said, “we applaud President Obama for elevating the obstacles faced by young men and boys of color to a national priority. Boys and men of color must overcome barriers that are rooted in historic patterns of racial bias, segregation and poverty, from stop-and-frisk policies and street sweeps by police in New York, Chicago and elsewhere, to media portrayals that too often stereotype and criminalize, and overexposure to weapons,” a statement read.On the other side, Republicans had a predictable reaction. Though the GOP has yet to offer a similar policy initiative for an obvious problem, they did offer criticism.