As the country marks the first anniversary of the murder of George Floyd by former police officer Derek Chauvin, questions about where the social justice movement will take from here continue to abound. Legislative progress to directly address the plight of black men like Floyd has been an uphill battle. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act has been passed by the United States House of Representatives but has yet to be passed in the Senate.
The main national law that was passed in direct response to Floyd’s murder was a bill that created the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys. The legislation was introduced in the House by Democratic Congresswoman Frederica Wilson and in the Senate by Republican Senator Marco Rubio. It was passed by both houses of Congress in July 2020 and was promulgated by former President Donald Trump in August 2020.
According to a Press release From Congressman Wilson’s office, the bill “establishes a permanent bipartisan committee within the United States Civil Rights Commission.” Its 19 members will include congressional lawmakers, executive appointees, subject matter experts, activists and other stakeholders who will examine social disparities affecting black men and boys in America. Based on its findings, the committee will make policy recommendations to Congress, the White House, and federal agencies. “
This commission will raise issues such as disparities in “education, criminal justice, health, employment, fatherhood, mentoring and violence” and create an infrastructure to lobby towards the goal of better understanding and eventually to eliminate the conditions which made it extremely difficult for an unacceptable number of black males to become upward mobile.
The implications of the Commission for higher education can be manifold. It could be used as a “railroad” to convey best practices of access, retention and completion for black men in higher education to institutions across the country. The Commission offers a new opportunity to examine what is working and to reinforce these practices, programs and procedures with resources to incentivize the expansion of these infrastructures of opportunity.
There may not be one model that works everywhere, but there are sets of common practices and principles that have shown models of lasting success and scalability that can be modeled to meet the needs of different localities and institutions. The Commission can complement and help expand existing efforts and build the capacity of those already entering space. A coordinated and focused effort like this with the support of multiple federal departments and stakeholders can overcome the barriers that typically prevent necessary expansions of successful systems.
Higher education institutions can be the backbone of these efforts because of their ability to provide multiple points of connection for black men and boys. Higher education remains the most accessible ladder to get out of poverty. Colleges, universities and trade schools should be partners in the work of the Commission. They are a direct food for boys leaving high school, a hub for improving men’s skills to become or remain economically relevant, and a potential partner for K-12 schools and community organizations that serve all groups. age of boys and men.
The “railways” that may be created by the Commission can transmit the best practices of the country to post-secondary institutions to help deploy them for the use of the community at large. They can serve as distribution centers to inject opportunities into underserved communities. There is a point of connection for higher education to all aspects of the Commission’s purpose and burden, including tackling unemployment, health disparities, academic achievement gaps and salaries disparities in the criminal justice system.
Legislative proposals generated by the Commission can incentivize with significant funding practices that can directly address the systematic targeting of black men and boys for destruction. They are struck by a deceptive combination of a forehand of mass incarceration and a deadly left hook of economic marginalization. This combination has been used in many cases to lock up and lock up a disproportionate number of black men. The Commission is one of the only federal forms of redress available to this population and can be a powerful weapon against systems that have seriously damaged the quality of life of the black community as a whole.
Forming this integrated federal effort can tackle these challenges with education, mentorship, access to capital, and policies and practices that will provide solutions and remedies for accumulated disadvantage resulting from slavery, Jim Crowe, redlining, discrimination in employment and contact, harsher sentences for the same offenses, mass incarceration and the list goes on and on.
The bottom line is that there are systems and institutions that have consistently produced racially disparate results, regardless of the intentions of the people who work there. The absence of overt or deliberate racism sometimes masks an unintentional bias that is embedded in many policies. Systemic racism does not begin or end with police brutality. The chasms of opportunity for black men and boys that are glaring in the data are often the cumulative effect of subtle, silent movements that are made behind closed doors that exclude them from crucial opportunities. A series of systematic attacks requires a series of systematic responses.
As the country returns to “normalcy” after the COVID-19 pandemic has plagued the country for more than a year, it should be remembered that the status quo has not worked well for the masses of people. ‘black men and boys. We must remember that normality meant exclusion and the search for disparity and shrugs. Higher education institutions can seize this moment and help the Commission strategically and courageously leverage their power to transform and reorganize institutions across the country to advance the plight of black men and the country as a whole.
This unprecedented federal apparatus focused directly on black men and boys can be a railroad that brings prosperity and progress to a population that has faced enormous obstacles and challenges. Change is not always about creating new legislation, but it can also be about maximizing the potential of current policies that are already in place. The Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys can help the nation move forward with what already exists while striving for further legislative advances.
Dr Marcus Bright is an academic and educational administrator.