By: Liz Goodwin –
If you can’t appeal to their hearts, appeal to their pocketbooks.
That’s what the president and his administration are doing to sell his My Brother’s Keeper initiative, which seeks to help minority boys and young men succeed at school and in the workforce.
In May, the president said the business and nonprofit leaders who support My Brother’s Keeper are “not doing this out of charity” or to assuage societal guilt.
“They’re doing this because they know that making sure all of our young people have the opportunity to succeed is an economic imperative,” Obama said.
Now the White House has released a report highlighting the potential economic gains the country would sustain if persistent educational gaps between boys of color and white boys were closed, one of the key goals of My Brother’s Keeper. Minority men would earn $170 billion more each year, the total U.S. gross domestic product would spike by 1.8 percent and all American workers would see a 3.6 percent raise, the White House predicts. The more productive workers on the job, the more the economy will grow, the report argues, and investing in education for minority boys would be a fast way to get there.
The alternative is to allow more and more young men of color to continue to drop out of the labor force, adding to a long list of what the New York Times has called “Missing Black Men.”
“For every [minority man] who was born 25 years ago, only half of them are employed today,” said Betsey Stevenson, a member of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers who helped write the report. “That means there are half of them we have lost — that’s a lot of talent we are losing. When you think about it that way, it becomes obvious the toll it’s taken on our nation.”
The boys are lost to jail, early death and high unemployment, all societal problems My Brother’s Keeper hopes to urge private businesses and local governments to tackle. Though the president’s initiative has attracted hundreds of millions of dollars in pledges, the daunting goal of closing education and achievement gaps would take significantly more investment to solve.
The president started My Brother’s Keeper last year, in part prompted by the death of teen Trayvon Martin, who was shot by a neighborhood watchman in an Orlando suburb. Obama was unusually vocal about Martin’s death, arguing that stereotypes about minority boys and men being dangerous make them more likely to face violence themselves. “Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago,” Obama told the press two years ago, recalling how he would hear car doors locking as he walked down the streets. “We need to spend some time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African-American boys.”
The president will make the goals of My Brother’s Keeper a major part of his post-presidency. (“This will remain a mission for me and for Michelle not just for the rest of my presidency but for the rest of my life,” he said in May.) Private-sector leaders have formed an independent nonprofit, called the MBK Alliance, that will continue the work long after Obama leaves office.
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