Black Men Urge Obama to Add Females to My Brother’s Keeper

Where do “the complex lives of black women and black girls fit into the White House’s vision of racial justice?” the men ask in an open letter.

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President Barack Obama delivers remarks about his 'My Brother's Keeper' initiative with students from the Hyde Park Academy in the East Room at the White House February 27, 2014 in Washington, D.C.

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Doctors, lawyers, security guards and professors are among more than 200 African-American men who signed an open letter to President Barack Obama urging him to include women and girls in his far-reaching My Brother’s Keeper initiative.

The letter at African American Policy Forum comes on the heels of an announcement Friday by the president that former NBA all-star and entrepreneur Earvin “Magic” Johnson would help recruit more private-sector partners to become involved in his My Brother’s Keeper initiative. Obama announced the initiative in February, saying it is aimed at empowering and improving the lives of young men of color.

But the men write that the initiative is shortsighted in its exclusion of women and girls.

“We write as African-American men who have supported your presidency, stood behind you when the inevitable racist challenges to your authority have emerged, and have understood that our hopes would be tempered by the political realities that you would encounter,” the letter states. “While we continue to support your presidency, we write both out of a sense of mutual respect and personal responsibility to address what we believe to be the unfortunate missteps in the My Brothers Keeper initiative (MBK).  In short, in lifting up only the challenges that face males of color, MBK — in the absence of any comparable initiative for females — forces us to ask where the complex lives of black women and black girls fit into the White House’s vision of racial justice?”

Further, they call on the president to expand the program.

“We recommend an expansion of the MBK — and all other national youth interventions — to include an explicit focus on the structural conditions that negatively impact all black youth.  Of course encouraging young black men and women to do their very best is important, as is holding them accountable when we think that is warranted. Our interventions, however, must acknowledge that the life chances of youth of color are impacted by the converging dynamics of racism, sexism, class stratification, homophobia and other such factors. For example, MBK, in its current iteration, solely collects social data on Black men and boys. What might we find out about the scope, depth and history of our structural impediments, if we also required the collection of targeted data for Black women and girls?”

Read the entire letter at African American Policy Forum.