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April 2, 2015

Does My Brother’s Keeper leave out young women of color?

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The White House’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative has hit its one-year mark working to improve prospects and correct inequalities for young men of color, but some criticize the program for its focus on males.

Men of color are suspended at twice the number of white students and half as likely to graduate college, and an estimated one in three black males born today will serve time in prison.

My Brother’s Keeper aims to close those gaps with programs supporting literacy, jobs and criminal justice reform and has received more than $300 million in pledges.

But girls of color also face unique challenges in the education system—they are six times as likely to be suspended as their white peers and over ten times more likely to face disciplinary action at school, according to the African American Policy Forum.

Effective interventions for young people of color should address the needs of all genders, argues Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, a professor at the UCLA School of Law.

“We have to realize that, traditionally, racial justice interventions included everybody, from integration, to the right to vote, to employment, protection. And so the interventions need to be addressed to men as well as women, boys as well as girls,” she said.

The program has also drawn criticism for a project to open a school in Washington, D.C. specifically for young black and Latino men. The American Civil Liberties Union has said that the school may violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution and Title IX of Education Amendments of 1972, which states that no one can be excluded on the basis of gender from participation in any education program or receiving federal money.


Warm up questions
  1. How might students of different gender, race, ethnicity experience school differently?
  2. What is educational inequality?
  3. Why isn’t the experience of school the same for everyone?
Critical thinking questions
  1. What are the long-lasting effects of inequality during schooling? How is a person’s future affected by a school suspension, or by dropping out?
  2. How are the problems facing young men and women of color similar, and how are they different?
  3. In response to criticism, Broderick Johnson, chair of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, said that interventions for young men also benefit the women in their lives. Would you agree with this statement? Why or why not?
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