Wharton: City Must Target ‘Black Boy Crime’
By Bill Dries
Feb. 28 Behind The Headlines
As President Barack Obama talked from the East Room of the White House last week about violence and young African-American men and boys, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. was among a group of mayors meeting in New Orleans who say they are ready to back a new approach to the problem.
Wharton is among the big city mayors who formed “Cities United” to explore common issues and concerns. And the meeting in New Orleans was the inaugural session of the coalition.
“We know where the challenge is – it’s with young men of color,” Wharton said on the WKNO-TV program “Behind The Headlines” the day after the gathering and the White House speech. “We’ve got to just fess up to that – face up to that. … Young male blacks in the city of Memphis are in grave jeopardy – in the United States as a whole.”
Obama’s approach to the problem is My Brother’s Keeper, a private program with federal coordination and local support.
“The stubborn fact is that the life chances of the average black or brown child in this country lags behind by almost every measure, and is worse for boys and young men,” he said.
My Brother’s Keeper would work across several fronts, including mentorship programs and juvenile and criminal justice system changes aimed at a basic “disconnectedness” the president said is at the root of a cycle of problems and lowered expectations.
“We just assume this is an inevitable part of American life, instead of the outrage that it is,” Obama said. “That’s how we think about it. It’s like a cultural backdrop for us – in movies and television. We just assume, of course, it’s going to be like that. But these statistics should break our hearts. And they should compel us to act.”
Wharton termed the problem “black boy crime” and he said it is the specific issue that some social services agencies and advocacy groups want to avoid.
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