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What’s missing from America’s debate on race?

Commentary by MBK Alliance board member Lori Dickerson Fouché and board chair Joe Echevarria.

Over the past few months, conflicts between law enforcement and young men of color in places like Ferguson, Missouri, Staten Island, New York and most recently, Baltimore, Maryland, have placed the civil rights challenges America continues to face squarely on the front pages. As tragic as these events are, the dialogue they’ve sparked is nonetheless productive. Yet as our nation continues to grapple with the complexities of race in modern society, a critically important piece of the puzzle often goes unexamined: The plight of boys and young men of color in America is just as much a matter of economic rights as it is civil rights.

Among African-American and Hispanic males between 16 and 24 years old, a staggering 25% are considered disconnected from society – meaning they are neither in school nor employed. This might seem like an easy problem to ignore, but a single disconnected young man costs the U.S. $1 million over the course of his lifetime. Providing opportunities to better integrate these youth into our society through education and employment paths could grow the U.S. economy by as much as $2.1 trillion a year.

The private sector must be a part of the solution. While businesses are supportive, they aren’t sure how best to find the solutions. Now is the time for them to start taking action. Over the next few years, our economy will need 22 million new workers with post-secondary degrees, but the U.S. is currently on track to fall short by 3 million workers. In fact, projections show that 123 million high-skill/high-wage jobs will be available in 2020, but only 50 million workers will be qualified for them.

With the majority of Americans under age 18 set to be persons of color by the end of this decade, there’s no denying the fact that positioning African-American and Hispanic youths for success is an economic imperative. Today, 95% of low-income youth express a desire to go to college, but only 8% actually earn a degree by 24. Surely, we can do better.

Read the full article HERE.

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