By Arun Kumar
A “sense of unfairness and powerlessness” has helped to fuel protests across America that have occurred after the deaths of black men at the hands of police, according to President Barack Obama.
“By almost every measure, the life chances of the average young man of colour is worse than his peers,” he said Monday at the launch of the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a non-profit foundation, in New York City.
The new initiative builds on “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative launched in 2014 in an effort to help unlock the potential of young men and boys of color, particularly those who were at risk of falling out of school and the workforce.
“Those opportunity gaps begin early, often at birth, and they compound over time, becoming harder and harder to bridge, making too many young men and women feel like no matter how hard they try, they may never achieve their dreams,” Obama said.
“And that sense of unfairness and of powerlessness, of people not hearing their voices, that’s helped fuel some of the protests we’ve seen in places like Baltimore and Ferguson and right here in New York,” he said.
The protests were catalysed by “a feeling that law is not always applied evenly in this country,” Obama said pointing to statistics that show men and boys who are black and Latino are treated differently in law enforcement stops, arrests, charges and incarcerations.
Striking a personal note, Obama said: “In every community in America there are young people with incredible drive and talent and they just don’t have the same kinds of chances that somebody like me had. They’re just as talented as me, just as smart, but they don’t get a chance.”
“I grew up without a dad. I grew up lost sometimes and adrift, not having a sense of a clear path.
“The only difference between me and a lot of the other young men in this neighbourhood and all across the country is that I grew up in an environment that was a little more forgiving.”
Addressing these issues, he said, “will remain a mission for me and Michelle not just for the rest of my presidency but for the rest of my life.”
The White House says that as many as 25 percent of African American and Hispanic men between the ages of 16 and 24 can be considered “disconnected,” meaning they are neither in school nor unemployed.
One such young man can cost society nearly $1 million over his lifetime, it says.
Various business leaders, entertainers, nonprofits and current and former government officials have already put together over $80 million in commitments in support of the new initiative.