Congressional Black Caucus
“From the moment slave ships landed in Virginia more than 400 years ago, Black men and boys have had a target on their backs. Even though we have made progress in America, the events of the last few months have highlighted how far we still have to go. Unless we take the time to give our young men the opportunity to be successful, the system will take advantage of the opportunity to give them some time” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., chair of the House Democratic Caucus, as he applauded Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson for her leadership to get the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act passed in the House.
Jeffries was an original co-sponsor of the bill.
The bill, introduced by Congresswoman Wilson, D-Florida, to establish a 19-member commission examining the social disparities that disproportionately affect Black males in America, overwhelmingly passed the the U.S. House of Representatives July 27.
“I am elated that this legislation, which I have been fighting for several years to pass, is now poised to become national law. The commission will review police brutality, gun violence, fatherhood, recruiting and training Black male teachers, and even sneakers, which play an important role in the lives of Black boys. Welfare reform and the 1994 crime bill, which includes the controversial three strikes provision and harsh sentencing guidelines, also will be revisited. These federal policies left a devastating impact on Black men and boys in America,” Wilson said. “The commission’s underlying goal is to interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and to better understand and eventually eliminate the educational and social chasms that have made it extraordinarily difficult for Black males to become upwardly mobile.
“Perhaps the most dangerous issue facing Black boys in our country is racism itself. Too often they are perceived as criminals by the time they reach the age of five. They’re labeled delinquent, not rowdy. They are hardened criminals, not misguided youth. Their very existence is often seen as a threat. It is a tragic reality that Black males in America are treated as their own class of citizens.”
Led by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, the Senate unanimously passed a companion bill, S. 2163, June 25. The two lawmakers created a similar commission when they served together in Florida’s state legislature.
“Now more than ever, it is imperative that we take action to address the racial inequities that continue to plague our nation,” Rubio declared. “America is more successful when its citizens have equal access to economic opportunity and prosperity, and this is particularly relevant for young Black men. As we confront the challenges of the 21st century, we will need to rely on the talents and contributions of every American. I applaud the House for passing the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act, and I urge the President to sign it into law without delay. I was pleased to lead this legislation in the Senate, and I look forward to the work the Commission will do to address the racial and economic disparities affecting our communities today.”
The act establishes a permanent, bipartisan commission within the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Its 19 members will include congressional lawmakers, executive branch appointees, issue experts, activists and other stakeholders who will examine social disparities affecting Black men and boys in America. Based on its findings, the commission will issue policy recommendations to Congress, the White House, and federal agencies. The bipartisan, bicameral Caucus on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys, which Congresswoman Wilson founded and co-chairs, will craft legislation to implement those recommendations.
“From the days of chattel slavery, Black men and boys have been forcefully removed from their families, tortured, murdered, racially profiled, and oppressed in our country. As the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, I am proud to support my colleague, Congresswoman Fredericka Wilson, in highlighting the psychological and social disparities faced by Black men and boys. This important legislation develops a bipartisan Commission on the Status of Black Men and Boys to begin the process of addressing the barriers of targeted systemic racism towards Black men and developing policy solutions to dismantle them,” said CBC chair Congresswoman Karen Bass, D-Calif.
This treatment is reflected in social outcomes in such areas as education, criminal justice, health care and employment, according to the CBC. More than 1 out of 6 Black men who should be between 25 and 54 years old today have disappeared from daily life. Low rates of high school retention among Black male students directly relate to the high rates of joblessness and incarceration. More than two-thirds of Black male dropouts end up serving time in state or federal prison. And while Black males overall make up roughly 13% of the U.S. population, they represent nearly 40% of all men serving time in state and federal prisons.
“As we witness the deadly outcomes of interactions between Black men and police from Walter Scott to George Floyd, we must seek comprehensive reforms that will change this narrative,” Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C. said. “Police reforms are necessary, but we must also restructure the system that has adversely impacted Black men since birth. I applaud Congresswoman Wilson’s tenacity to establish this commission that will develop a plan to address the systemic conditions that have led to historic disparities between the experiences of White and Black men in this country.”
Wilson reflected on one of the nations most influential civil right leaders and Black youth advocates.
“The final passage of the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act is a little bittersweet for me because my dear friend and colleague, Congressman John Lewis, did not live to witness this landmark day,” Wilson added. “He was one of its fiercest advocates and devoted countless hours during my tenure in Congress to inspiring hundreds of boys who are members of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, a mentoring and dropout prevention program I founded 30 years ago. I am honored to share this legacy with him.”
The legislation is cosponsored by more than 200 members of Congress and has been endorsed by more than 20 renowned civil rights leaders and organizations, including Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, actor Omari Hardwick, My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Council of the Great City Schools, Teach for America, the National Football League, Reform Alliance, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.
“America is undergoing a transformative movement, as we confront and combat the racial injustice and police brutality that are killing hundreds of Black Americans, particularly Black men and boys,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. “Today, the Democratic House will advance our drumbeat of action to achieve justice by passing H.R.1636 to establish a Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys, led by Congresswoman Frederica Wilson: a warrior for justice on behalf of the voiceless and vulnerable. This commission will be a critical force for acknowledging the institutional racism that Black men and boys face every day in America – and then to working to end it.”