The Startling Data Behind “My Brother’s Keeper"

Young men of color drop out of school, come into contact with the criminal justice system, and become victims of violence at alarmingly high rates compared to their white peers. My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative recently announced by President Obama, aims to change that. Here are some startling figures that underscore the need to address this problem, which Obama calls “an issue of national importance:”

  • 86 percent of African-American boys and 82 percent of Hispanic boys are reading below proficiency levels–compared to 54 percent of their white peers–by the time they’ve hit fourth grade.
  • African-American and Hispanic young men are more than six times as likely to be victims of murder than their white peers and account for almost half of the country's murder victims each year.
  • African-Americans make up 16 percent of the overall youth population but account for 28 percent of juvenile arrests and 37 percent of prisoners and jail detainees.

Manuel Criollo, an organizer with the Los Angeles Labor-Community Strategy Center, calls the announcement of the new initiative “an important breakthrough for the movement and for institutions and foundations that have been working on this issue.”
Ten foundations, including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, have committed to raise and provide $200 million over the next five years for programs for the initiative and will take a collaborative approach to increase opportunity and unlock the potential of young men of color.
In addition, a My Brother’s Keeper Task Force will review policies and programs to determine what’s working, how the initiative can become more effective, and highlight programs with the most positive impact.

Image at top by Flickr user Opacity

Ashley Heinonen writes the Friday news roundup, opportunity board roundup, and contributes articles featuring information about juvenile justice reform to She graduated from Loyola Marymount University and is currently an assistant account executive for Prichard Communications.

Updated: March 12 2014