The White House and others defend the males-only framework of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative by pointing to the crisis facing boys and young men of color, who lag behind on measures of well-being, including school dropout rates, unemployment, incarceration and longevity [“Saving our boys,” editorial, July 26]. That defense holds water, however, only for those who insist on ignoring the parallel crisis facing girls and young women of color: They are disproportionately suspended from school; have alarmingly high rates of incarceration; are far more likely to be murdered; experience intimate partner violence at greater rates than white girls and women; disproportionately die from breast and cervical cancer as well as pregnancy and childbirth; and, for those who are unmarried, have one penny of wealth for every dollar of wealth accumulated by their male counterparts and a fraction of a penny for every dollar accumulated by white women.
In other words, girls no less than boys see their futures hobbled in communities beset by poverty, under-resourced schools, unemployment and racial isolation. It’s misplaced to send them a signal that their aspirations, fears, hopes and dreams matter less to the president than those of their brothers, fathers and uncles.
Terry O’Neill and Shireen Mitchell, Washington
The writers are, respectively, the president of the National Organization for Women and the chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations.
As a black man who strongly believes that we all suffer when we fail to address the crisis facing women and girls, I reject the dismissal of their concerns and the suggestion that they can wait. This is the fundamental error in the logic of My Brother’s Keeper. Only when we confront the impediments that women and girls face can we reveal the structural obstacles at the heart of the experiences of youth of color.
Girls of color suffer from zero-tolerance policies, underfunded schools and poor employment prospects. Some indicators for women of color are worse than those for both white females and males of color, including their incomes and level of wealth. When the metrics are broadened to consider other factors such as violence and incarceration, it becomes obvious that women of color, just like men, are clearly in need of interventions that work.
Luke Charles Harris, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
The writer is co-founder of the African American Policy Forum.