Statistics show that, in 2008, 52 percent of male Hispanic high school graduates younger than 25 were either unemployed or incarcerated. 44 percent of Black males in the same group were either in jail or out of work. Additionally, 34 percent of Black males and 47 percent of Latino males among that group were not enrolled in college.
If these trends continue, we will have a large population of young men who do not have the education or skills to find sustainable work or who will, after being released from jail, have a hard time finding a job. On an economic level, this affects us all, as it is highly possible that government and taxpayers will be called upon to subsidize their lifestyles. On a personal level, the reality is that families and entire neighborhoods will be full of men who, because we as a people didn’t do our duty, are unable to provide for their families and serve their communities.
We simply cannot allow this.
The first step to changing the future for these young men is to reform the education system. Perhaps the national educational system should closely study what Urban Prep Academies in Chicago is doing and then use that to create a national model for education. Urban Prep, founded in 2002, runs a network of free, pen-enrollment all-male college-prep schools made up of Black and Brown students. In 2010 and 2011, the school made national headlines when it was announced that 100-percent of its graduating seniors had been admitted to a four-year college or university.
We must also focus on job skills training and entrepreneurship education. If a student chooses not to attend college, they must have other options available to them. By giving them the tools they need to go immediately to work or to start their own business we are providing these young men with a head start toward their futures. Lastly, we must make sure these young men have access to social workers and counselors who can help them deal with the societal issues—exposure to violence, dealing with poverty and more—that plague them. Instead of sending them to jail when they act out or misbehave, we must recognize that young men of color are often psychologically traumatized in their environments and provide treatment that will help them cope and overcome.
Our young people, regardless of gender, race or class, are our nation’s most precious resource. We must work to ensure they have the tools they need to finish school and to go out into society and become productive citizens. If we fail them, we fail ourselves. That said, it is imperative that we begin in earnest to more fully and holistically support and uplift our young Black and Brown men. We have failed this group, more than any other, and it our duty to make things right.
(Judge Greg Mathis is a national figure known for his advocacy campaigns for equal justice. His inspirational life story of a street youth who rose form jail to Judge has provided hope to millions who watch him on the award-winning television court show Judge Mathis each day.)