The public is overwhelmed by budget deficits, shrinking public supports, and the inability of its government to compromise. In this climate, so-called minority issues seem like a distraction. But black and Latino men between the ages of 16 and 24 are profoundly more likely to be poor than whites, more likely to be unemployed or the victims of violent crime, and less likely to graduate from high school. This hasn’t changed since Lyndon Johnson first tried to address problems of racism and poverty, calling American Negroes “another nation: deprived of freedom, crippled by hatred, the doors of opportunity closed to hope.” Forty years later, young black and Latino men remain in a state of crisis, yet government has been, on the whole, unresponsive.
Enter Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and the City of New York, who assessed the situation earlier this month: “Young black and Latino men are not sharing in the full promise of America,” and announced an innovative public solution. His $127 million Young Men’s Initiative (YMI) has been called the “boldest and most comprehensive” plan to serve this population ever undertaken by a local government. Almost half of the total funding has come from the private philanthropies of two men, Bloomberg and his fellow New York billionaire George Soros. The program will seek to improve outcomes for young black and Latino men on four quality of life measures: education, employment, health, and criminal justice.