Frequently Asked Questions About MBK

1. What is the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Initiative?

MBK is a joint program of the federal government, foundations, and businesses to help boys and men of color succeed in school, work and life.  Leading foundations have pledged nearly $200 million to support projects and activities to advance achievement and opportunity for boys and young men of color.

Tweet: MBK is a $200 million public-private initiative 2 improve life outcomes & address opportunity gaps 4 mboc. #WhyWeCantWait

2. What foundations have partnered with the POTUS around MBK?

The leading philanthropic partners of MBK are members of the Executives’ Alliance to Expand Opportunities for Boys and Men of Color – a coalition of 30 philanthropic institutions “committed to leveraging philanthropy’s role in improving life outcomes for boys and men of color.”  Eleven foundations that are principal partners in MBK “had more than $150 million in active commitments toward improving the life chances of boys and young men of color.”  Their plan for investment acknowledges that African American, Latino, Native American and Asian/Pacific Islander boys face different obstacles, and outlines multiple strategies to tackle them.  It does not, however, address the barriers that their female counterparts confront; nor does it anticipate a targeted investment in their wellbeing.

Tweet: MBK is supported by the Executive’s Alliance: 30 philanthropic institutions & funded by 11 foundations #WhyWeCantWait

3. This is President Obama’s biggest racial justice program.  Shouldn’t we just wait to see how it plays out?

There are only two years left in the Obama Presidency and this is likely to be his signature initiative. Now is the time to act to ensure that the crisis facing women and girls of color will be addressed.  We have an opportunity to ensure that restoring the Nation’s commitment to a robust and viable vision of racial justice will be among the most celebrated accomplishments of this historic presidency.

Tweet: There are only 2 yrs left in the Obama Presidency. Now is the time to act on behalf of women/girls of color. #WhyWeCantWait

4. Why is it wrong to focus on the persistent opportunity gaps that boys and young men of color face in this country?

It is not wrong to address the opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color. While many of us have concerns about the framing of these problems, we do applaud the White House for elevating the concerns facing young men of color. But girls and young women of color are in also in crisis, and they warrant the same targeted investments in their well being as their male peers. Simply put, it is not acceptable for the federal government and private philanthropy to address only the crisis facing boys while ignoring the many ways that girls of color also confront egregious circumstances that compromise their hopes and dreams for the future.

Tweet: It is right to focus on mboc. It is equally right to focus on wgoc. Both are in crisis and need help. #WhyWeCantWait

5. Are you saying that gender-targeted interventions can never be used within a racial justice campaign?  

Not at all, but let’s be clear.  It is one thing to use gender-focused interventions as a tool to enhance the effectiveness of programs that address the needs of youth of color.  Both boys and girls can benefit from targeted interventions.  It is quite another thing to use gender as a means to exclude girls from racial justice interventions altogether.   When addressing racial disparities facing our youth, there is no persuasive justification for failing to acknowledge the crisis facing girls of color, even though they suffer in the same schools, confront similar if not identical racial disparities, and struggle to find affirmation in a society that has yet to convey that their wellbeing matters.  The wellbeing girls and young women of color is marginal at best in society at large; it is all the more troubling when all those who should be advocating for them--their President, community leaders, stakeholders and activists--have essentially told them to wait. This is why we can’t.

Tweet: We can have gender specific programming within racial justice interventions without excluding wgoc. #WhyWeCantWait

6. But aren’t boys and young men of color farther behind than everybody else, including girls of color?  Isn’t this what MBK addresses?

As Paul Butler demonstrates, it is a myth that girls of color are doing better than boys of color across the board. Girls live in the same impoverished communities and attend the same failing schools as boys.  They also suffer from distinctive racial disparities that parallel those faced by their male counterparts.  On many measures, girls of color face social outcomes that are closer to their male peers than to girls of other races.  For instance, among all boys, Black boys have the worst rates of suspension, incarceration, and homicide.  Among all girls, Black girls have the worst rates of suspension, incarceration, and homicide.  These are problems that boys and girls endure together and they should be confronted together.

The goal of racial equality has never been advanced by framing it as a race to the bottom in which males and females compete to be the most deserving of the attention that they both require.  Racial justice advocacy has always emphasized the shared fate of communities as a whole. We should not depart from this tradition by abandoning women and girls of color now.

Tweet: Among boys, blk boys have worst suspension, incarceration, homicide rates. Among girls, blk girls rate worst. #WhyWeCantWait

7. Doesn’t the White House have a similar initiative for girls and young women of color?

No.  Despite mounting evidence that girls and young women of color are also in crisis, the White House has not put forth any public-private initiatives that target the obstacles with which they are confronted. Foundations have been similarly absent in foregrounding the concerns of young women and girls of color.  There is, for example, no Executive’s Alliance to Expand Opportunities for Girls and Women of color as there is for men and boys of color.

Tweet: Despite mounting evidence that girls & young wmn of color r in crisis too the WH hasn’t offered any specific wgoc initiatives #WhyWeCantWait

8. But doesn’t the White House’s Council on Women and Girls address the specific needs of girls and young women of color?

No. The Council on Women and Girls is not an initiative that specifically addresses the crisis facing young women and girls of color. Nor does it have the presidential directive, infrastructure or resources to do so. Unlike MBK, it has not been tasked “to assess the impact of Federal policies, regulations, and programs of general applicability on ‘girls and young women of color’.” Nor has it been instructed to “recommend... incentives for the broad adoption by national, State, and local public and private decision-makers of effective and innovative strategies and practices for providing opportunities to and improving outcomes for ‘girls and young women of color’.” Moreover, it has not been backed by an Executive Council of 30 philanthropic institutions.

Tweet: The WH Council on Women & Girls does not focus on problems specific to women/girls of color.  #WhyWeCantWait

9.  Hasn’t the White House already pursued a number of initiatives that help all women such as the Lily Ledbetter Act, Sexual Assault Reform, Raising the Minimum Federal Wage, ACA etc.?

Yes, women of color may benefit from race neutral policies just like men of color. For example, the President has pursued several policies that are not targeted toward men of color, but will disproportionatey help them, such as an overall increase in the minimum wage. Yet the President rightly observed that these general policies do not replace the need for targeted measures to address the specific needs of boys and young men of color. The same holds true for their female counterparts.

Tweet: Progs that don’t explicitly acct 4 race/racism have a limited benefit 4 ppl of color. Targeted initiatives are more effective. #WhyWeCantWait

10.  What about the Council on Women and Girl’s efforts to encourage girls to be in the STEM-fields. By helping all girls, aren’t they helping girls of color too?

We applaud the efforts of the Council to make sure that no girls in our country fall behind. But, encouraging girls of color to enter the STEM fields through mentoring programs does not make up for the lack of high quality primary education, especially in math and science. Like boys of color, Black and Latina girls are concentrated in under-resourced schools across the country with out-of-date textbooks and science labs.  Due to race and gender biases, they are often tracked out of advanced placement classes in these fields even when they are available.

Girls of color are disproportionately subject to pathways that lead away from academic and professional success to what is commonly referred to as the school-to-prison and the school-to-low wage work pipeline. MBK and BMOC explicitly engage these concerns for boys and young men of color. The WHCWG does not.

Tweet: Like boys of color, w/o access to quality educational options, girls of color fall victim 2 the school-to-prison or low-wage work pipeline. #WhyWeCantWait

11.  What about the Council on Women and Girl’s focus on preventing sexual assault on college campuses.  Doesn’t that count?

We support the President’s recent focus on preventing sexual assaults on college campuses.  But, 44% of rape victims are under the age of 18, and of that group, African American and Native American girls are more likely to be victims of sexual assault than anyone else.  The ripple effect is profound: students who are survivors of sexual assault are more likely to drop out of school and not attend college, to be tracked for low-wage jobs, and to face housing insecurity, economic instability and incarceration over the course of their lifetimes.  An anti-violence initiative that targets this population should incorporate place-based and culturally-sensitive strategies to ensure the safety of girls and young women of color in their homes, neighborhoods and schools.

Tweet: AfAm & Native girls more likely 2 b victims of sexual assault than any other group leading 2 dropout, low-wage work & poverty #WhyWeCantWait

12.  If the Initiative helps boys and young men of color, aren’t you also helping girls and young women of color?

We believe that no racial justice project should rely on trickle down approaches for effectiveness — either implicitly or explicitly.

The singular myth underwriting this idea is the notion that “we are all in this together, so if any one is helped, then we are all helped.” Helping only half of the community is not an effective or efficient way to advance the whole.

Tweet: No racial justice initiative should be segregated. Our community needs both wings to soar. #WhyWeCantWait

13.  Doesn’t it make more sense to have two initiatives –one for boys, and one for girls – instead of dividing dollars and resources?

People of color have long understood that “separate but equal” usually means “separate, unequal but good enough” for nonwhites. Although we have rejected this idea when it comes to race, some people continue to think that “separate, unequal, but good enough” is perfectly acceptable for our daughters.  We do not.

My Brother’s Keeper and BMOC have no parallels for girls of color at either the governmental or philanthropic levels. A professional and community-based infrastructure, a substantial knowledge and funding base, a multiyear commitment, and a Presidential mandate exist for MBK. Even an equally resourced effort cannot put women and girls on similar footing. Efforts to replicate this capacity outside of the existing infrastructure would be costly and counterproductive. Philanthropic partners must invest more resources in this Initiative to expand its content and scope so all our youth are served.

We love our children equally and our investments in them—including time, attention, concern and hope-- should demonstrate our commitment to them. Equality is the way forward, not separate and unequal.

Tweet: We favor more resources, not less, including targeted interventions for men/boys of color AND women/girls of color. #WhyWeCantWait

14.  How does addressing the crisis of youth of color, both boys and girls, help our communities and country?

Our youth are suffering together and the commitment to lifting their prospects should be shared together.  It makes no sense to continue to bar girls and young women from benefiting from the infrastructure, resources and commitments that have been developed over the course of the last decade to address the crisis facing our male youth.  Including girls and young women also strengthens these efforts by shifting away from deficit-based beliefs that it is the boys that are the problem to the structural-based understanding that the problems stem from the racially unequal environments they share as a community.

Tweet: BMOC & WGOC are suffering together #WhyWeCantWait

15.  You say that MBK excludes women and girls, but in fact, the report uses gender-neutral terms? That means that the changes the initiative would bring would be for everyone right?

It is true that the report refers to “youth of color” throughout and we see this as a step in the right direction. It is important to note, however, that the report presented to the President neither acknowledges nor presents data on the status of girls of color. Gender-neutral interventions that are not informed by a gender-sensitive assessment of how girls are experiencing certain conditions may not be effective.

Second, the concerns targeted in the report are those that disproportionately impact boys. While the fact that many girls of color face these risks is too often overlooked, girls are also disproportionately subject to challenges related to their gender. Sexual harassment in school, caretaking responsibilities and other factors affect girls’ to a greater extent than their male counterparts. The exclusion of these concerns means that even though the language of the report may be gender neutral, the substance is not.

Tweet: MBK is not gender-neutral. No mention of girls of color is made & none of the strategies address targeted issues for wgoc. #WhyWeCantWait

16.  Isn’t it true that Black communities just need strong Black male leadership and MBK is designed to provide precisely that?

We think our communities are stronger when everyone has access to the resources they need. The idea that Black men are weak and absent and Black women are strong and dominate dates back to 1965 when Democratic Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan argued that rising rates of out-of-wedlock births and the matriarchal structure of Black culture led to crime, poor academic performance and the breakdown of the Black community. According to Moynihan, this so-called “tangle of pathology” was the source of racial inequality. Racial equality would not be advanced by government programs or laws until Black men and women were remade into proper men and women.

These ideas are being lifted up by many of those who reject our call to integrate gender equality into MBK. The “tangle of pathology” was a bad idea then, and its a bad idea now. It’s time we use a framework that we know works -- one that sees everyone in the entire community as equally valuable and rejects sexism and patriarchy as inconsistent with our commitment to mutual uplift and solidarity.

Tweet: Moynihan’s tangle of pathology thesis was bad social policy 50 years ago, and it is bad social policy today. No to Moynihan 2.0. #WhyWeCantWait

17. These arguments seem reasonable. What has been the response from the White House and Foundations supporting MBK?

We have reiterated to the White House our availability to meet with the President’s key MBK advisors to share the concerns of more that 1600 men and women of color. Carrying their messages forward, we propose broader, more inclusive engagements to re-align MBK towards racial justice objectives that advance the interests of our communities as a whole. We continue to await confirmation of our request and look forward to collaborating with other institutions and stakeholders to shape meaningful and lasting interventions to meet the current crisis in communities of color.

Tweet: The WH shld open dialogue to align MBK to a gender-equitable vision of racial justice that works for us all. #WhyWeCantWait