Robert-RossRobert Ross, executive director of The California Endowment, discussed what we can do to save our sons. He asked people around the country what they thought was happening to young men of color and what should be done about it.

He talked to 65 people. including young men themselves, some for an hour and some for as long as three hours.  The tone of what he heard: worried, urgent, concerned….

The themes he heard: culture (including family and parenting), jobs, race. trauma and school to prison pipeline.

The tensions surrounding the issues:

— 400 year history of what “white, racist America has done to us” vs. the image of the ideal black family. The issue of parenting and fatherhood was part of “our dirty laundry” in the black community and we should not talk about it. Number of deeply concerned comments about the absence of fathers in families of color.

–Black vs. brown issues: In California, it is a black and brown, men of color issue, but that dynamic did not always exist in the  East.

Among the comments he heard:

“This about jobs, jobs and jobs, and good jobs.”

“We need passionate teachers. We need to get rid of  hard, zero-tolerance policies.”

$55,000 to $120,000 = The cost to house an inmate per year.

The systemic markers along the schools-to prison-super highway: 1.  Can’t read by third grade  2. chronic absence  3.  juvenile/foster care  4.  schools suspensions.

$6,000 to $12,000 = Cost to raise a

global, contributing citizen per year.

Ross picked markers that have a systemic approach to dismantle the superhighway:

— Scale parenting, early childhood and grade-level reading investments. Eighty percent of African American males are not reading at grade-level
proficiency by third grade.

— End school  push-out phenomenon. We need to keep kids in school. According to young people: Zero tolerance is not working. 800,000 school suspensions in California last year. In state of Texas, more than 50 percent of students suspended. This is the pattern of criminalization and stigmatization begins. Restorative justice practices work as an alternative.

— Scale the Texas success on correctional reform. Texas and Missouri are ahead of California in the area of correctional reform.

— Jobs, intervention and mentoring for young men, invest in youth development.

Critical points of intervention: early childhood to third-grade reading, chronic school absences, suspensions/expulsions and youth in juvenile justice system. Time does not heal all wounds. The underlying issue is how we deal with the rage, not anger, these young me are dealing with.

Hopes to launch a multi-year campaign to save our sons. There are pockets of unfinished business in the civil right movement. This is one of them.

Final thought: “When we engage in charity at the expense of justice, we a complicit in the act of injustice.” You cannot solve a justice problem with charity. We need to become more innovative in our advocacy.