In an effort to close disparities which often prohibit any Black and Latino men from finding success, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg rolled out a $127 million three-year assistance program which includes job placement, mentorships and fatherhood initiative. But critics were quick to highlight the initiative’s potential problems.
“The Young Men’s Initiative,” announced Aug. 4, seeks to create opportunities for Black and Latino males through educational, employment and mentoring services—assistance that they may not otherwise have access to, according to press release issued by Bloomberg’s office.
“When we look at poverty rates, graduation rates, crime rates, and employment rates, one thing stands out: Blacks and Latinos are not fully sharing in the promise of American freedom and far too many are trapped in circumstances that are difficult to escape,” Bloomberg said in the release.
The public-private partnership would revamp the Department of Probation, which has 300,000 New Yorkers under supervision, and launch five satellite offices in neighborhoods with the “highest number of disconnected youth,” the mayor’s office said. The city would also be able to identify schools that have failing Black and Latino males thanks to a new metric system added to the School Progress Reports.
But Michael Meyers, Executive Director of the New York Civil rights Coalition and The Huffington Post columnist, disagreed with the new microscope that would be placed on Black and Latino males in schools. He said the school system should not study minorities “as if they’re guinea pigs for tips about ways to raise their academic achievement and self-esteem.”
Meyers, an African American, went on to call the study of Black and Latino men “stupid,” and said the project should divert its attention to people who are doing well “despite the odds of their ghettoization and impoverishment.”
“The jobs, mentoring and paid internships and better schooling efforts should be focused on the young people who are breaking the patterns of dysfunction, who are staying in school, using the library, working part-time,” he wrote.
He added that the program was wrong to address a group as large and diverse as Black men in such a sweeping way.
“I strongly disagree with this the so-called ‘Black male problem’ analysis,” Meyers said. “It is akin to how pseudo-scholars and scientific racists used to study and discuss ‘the Negro problem,’ or, as some put it, ‘the problem of’ the Negro.”
Democratic New York Councilman James Sanders told The Queens Tribune that he praised the Mayor’s move to focus on minorities, but acknowledged that previous unsuccessful programs, policies and efforts have done more harm than good.
“While this tremendous initiative will positively impact over 300,000 youth, many poorly thought out policies, procedures and rules are putting them 10 times more at risk,” Sanders said.
Councilman Ruben Wills, another Democrat representing Queens, said the dysfunction of minority men is a result of a “systemic problem.”
“The education system has actually failed our children,” Wills said. “We are the greatest city in the world, but for us to have such a high dropout rate among minorities—there’s something wrong there.”
The initiative is funded by Bloomberg himself, the city and the Campaign for Black Male Achievement of the Open Society Foundations.