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Statement from Sherrilyn Ifill on the "My Brother's Keeper" Initiative
In February of this year, President Barack Obama unveiled the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color by building pathways for success. Today, the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, established through the initiative, released a comprehensive report that surveyed programs and practices nationwide to determine which private and public efforts are working to eliminate barriers to opportunity, how effective programs can be expanded, and how federal, state, and local government officials, private organizations and the philanthropic community can collaborate and build bridges to success for boys and young men of color. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), the nation’s oldest civil rights law firm, applauds this substantial first step in the critically important long-term effort to confront the complex challenges faced by boys and young men of color that too often derail young lives.
The Task Force report recommends a focus on key developmental moments—from birth through college and beyond—to address the educational, social and emotional needs of youth and ensure success. Coupled with the Obama Administration's recent efforts to address unjust sentencing practices in the criminal justice system and racial disparities in school systems nationwide, My Brother's Keeper represents a powerful and urgently needed federal focus on eliminating structural barriers to opportunity faced by boys and young men of color. The initiative’s targeting of challenges faced by boys and young men of color is of particular importance given the significant disparities they suffer in education, employment, and treatment by the criminal justice system when compared to their white counterparts. Without question, by improving outcomes and eliminating disparities for boys and young men of color, the efforts undertaken by the My Brother’s Keeper initiative will open doors of opportunity for all, including girls and women of color, who face substantial institutional obstacles to success, as well as discrimination.
Since its inception, LDF has worked to eliminate racial disparities that curb opportunities for African Americans. LDF remains intimately engaged in efforts to ensure access to high-quality education, and works to eradicate racial profiling, unjust and overly punitive school discipline policies, predatory policing and prosecution, and mass incarceration. On the heels of the recommendations detailed in the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force Report, LDF hopes that the public and private sectors will continue to work together to eliminate disparities and expand opportunities. LDF recognizes that the efforts we take to dismantle systemic barriers to success are our best chance to ensure that all young people of color in America can reach their full potential. My Brother’s Keeper is a significant step forward in that effort.