Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his Young Men’s Initiative during an early morning press conference on Thursday to focus, he said with much aplomb, on a series of issues affecting young Black and Latino men disproportionately in the areas of employment, education, criminal justice and health.
Bloomberg proclaimed that his $127 million initiative was created in response to the results of an investigation he launched in 2010 regarding the obvious racial barriers endured by Black and Latino men.
Don’t drink the Bloomberg Kool-Aid, advised Councilman Charles Barron. Other critiques too have questioned the Eugenics-esque “order from Massa from the Big House” tone in Bloomberg’s initiative. For instance, Michael Meyers, executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, slammed the “missionary zeal” of this off-the-mark proposal as an exercise in “paternalism” and “Noblesse oblige.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has apparently had an epiphany.
While launching his initiative, he declared that “even though skin color in America no longer determines a child’s fate, sadly, it tells us more about a child’s future than it should. And so this morning, we are confronting these facts head-on, not to lament them but to change them, and to ensure that ‘equal opportunity’ is not an abstract notion but an everyday reality for all New Yorkers.”
Some observers are embracing the initiative, however.
State Sen. Jose R. Peralta determined, “Good intentions have too often produced little more than lip service. In the Young Men’s Initiative, we may finally have an effort where ambitious vision, planning and resources replace platitudes and promises. I applaud the mayor for his commitment to dealing with problems that have devastated many minority families and communities for generations. I thank him and Mr. Soros for their generosity.
“I stand ready to help the administration however I can. I also stand ready to hold the mayor’s feet to the fire on this initiative. Many of the communities I represent, [along with] our city and country, desperately need this initiative to succeed.”
Proudly, Bloomberg and his hedge fund buddy George Soros waxed lyrical about the $30 million each said they were personally donating, leaving the city to find $66.5 million. They went over the key points of their initiative, including the $18 million for a literacy and mentoring service and the almost $25 million for young folks to get job opportunities through Jobs-Plus.
The mayor also issued an executive order to insure that there were no longer barriers in hiring practices in city agencies against anyone with a criminal conviction unrelated to their jobs. Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott will oversee the implementation of the initiative across city agencies, with the mayor having the agencies report to him each month on their progress.
City Councilman Charles Barron is unimpressed and affronted. He said the city should rip off this Band-Aid approach and apply some real, effective treatment to a critical situation. “Mayor Bloomberg is hypocritical and self-serving in offering this bogus, Band-Aid approach to the issues of Black and Latino youth with his Young Men’s Initiative,” he said.
“After 10 years in office, for him to come up with a mere $127 million for a bogus initiative that has no job creation, but money for the Department of Probation to reverse recidivism is unreal. It would take more than that.
Money for an education success program when he has already failed with the existing $23 billion budget from the Department of Education and money to teach young men to be fathers and for job training but no jobs to place them in is absolutely ridiculous. The only people who are going to benefit from Bloomberg’s initiative are those who get the contracts to implement the work for this toothless initiative.”
Eddie Ellis, director of the NuLeadership Policy Group, told the AmNews, “While I applaud the mayor for putting up his own money to support this initiative, there does not seem to be anything new or innovative in the approach being adopted, and I suspect the final outcomes will reflect that lack of creativity. The issues are jobs and education. Unless and until these two issues are dealt with in a serious and sustainable manner, from a community-specific and culturally competent perspective, we will continue to witness the same problems confronting young Black men.”
Ellis’ NuLeadership Policy Group is an independent public policy think tank, formerly located at Medgar Evers College in the City University of New York, whose research and reports are conducted by formerly incarcerated academic professionals.
“Nothing in the mayor’s program suggests any change in how these issues are being handled,” Ellis noted. “He needs to broaden his base of advisors and funding opportunities to include neighborhood activists who are doing the work at the local level. He should also talk to Greg Mayers [Walcott’s senior staff person] about our NuUrban Marshall Plan.”
In his Huffington Post piece, Myers said Bloomberg’s Young Men’s Initiative “underplays this dire nationwide economic distress which has so many minorities unemployed, and underemployed and ensnared in poverty – including minority women and young girls who aren’t eligible for the Young Men’s Initiative’s paid internships, job training, and mentoring. No doubt, minorities are disproportionately in lockup – but that is, in part, because of the vestiges of racial discrimination in the form of outmoded law enforcement policies that punish victimless drug offenses – the kind that has always provided an underground job industry to the underclass and undereducated.”
Myers said that the initiative also “doesn’t consider the racial impact of NYPD’s stop and frisk practices on young minority males, whose profiling by police is legion and fits the stereotype of “criminal.”
To have Walcott track Black and Latino males in schools “and study them as if they’re guinea pigs for tips about ways to raise their academic achievement and self-esteem,” is not only “plain stupid” but the Black and Latino community “is dis-served by good-intentioned paternalism,” said Myers. “Such strategies for addressing the racial gap between non-whites and their peers are doomed to fail because they are trying to sell hope through charity and group blame.
“Noblesse oblige is not a program of social change. It won’t make the public schools functional or improve instruction or, for that matter, train a single person for real jobs. Noblesse oblige is pure and simple charity that takes the form of handouts and differential treatment of people of color from others similarly situated in conditions of poverty and despair.
“This, wittingly or unwittingly, overlooks the underlying causes of why so many minorities are involved with the criminal justice system, drop out of school and can’t find work,” Myers added. “At the heart of this missionary zeal is what scholar Theodore Cross describes as ‘the human desire to rescue the life of a less fortunate person” which “produces, it seems, a parallel need to defame the character of the victim who is often said to be unable to help himself.’”
Bloomberg did not respond to an AmNews request for comment.