Today, in an announcement following a promise made in his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama launched “My Brother’s Keeper” a landmark initiative focused on improving opportunities for young men of color by building pathways for success. LDF applauds this critical effort which recognizes the need to close opportunity gaps for young men of color and confront the challenges that too often derail young lives.
Coupled with the Administration’s recent efforts to end racial disparities in the federal criminal justice system, My Brother’s Keeper represents an powerful and urgently needed federal focus on eliminating structural barriers to opportunity that face African American men and boys.
Since its inception, LDF has worked to eliminate racial disparities that curb opportunities for African Americans. Today, LDF is intimately engaged in efforts to eradicate racial profiling, unjust and overly punitive school discipline policies, predatory policing and prosecution, and mass incarceration – all systems that disproportionately target African-American and Latino men and youth.
My Brother’s Keeper will convene a public-private coalition of businesses and foundations to address the significant range of issues facing youth of color today. This campaign will create a wide array of tools for youth, including literacy and early learning programs, mentoring and career opportunities — all with an acute focus on strategies that have generated positive results. The initiative will also implement a My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, which will identify best practices for the expansion of opportunity, examine programmatic efforts at the federal and state level, and inform strategy on partnerships between local officials and the private sector.
The killing of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, both of whose parents were in the East Room for the President’s announcement, have sparked widespread attention to the persistence of racial stereotypes concerning black men and boys. The acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer struck a cord with many Americans and with the President, who spoke powerfully last year about the challenges we still face in addressing discrimination and in improving the life changes for men and boys of color. Initiatives like My Brother’s Keeper, which focus attention and elevate the challenges we still face in overcoming discrimination and the racial opportunity gap, have the potential to move us forward in reversing these stubborn trends.
As LDF continues to work to end discriminatory police practices like stop-and-frisk that unfairly criminalize young African-American and Latino men and youth, it embraces the opportunity to contribute to the My Brother’s Keeper initiative. LDF recognizes that the efforts we take to dismantle systemic barriers to success are our best chance to ensure that all young men of color in America can reach their full potential. “My Brother’s Keeper” is a significant step forward in that effort.