I'd like to talk about our sons and brothers. Although I have a son, I am also thinking about my daughters. You may be wondering why talking about our sons will help the future of my daughters?
These boys and young men are our daughters' future husbands and the fathers of our future grandchildren. They will build upon what the previous generation achieved with the goal of doing a better job than my generation. I want my daughter to experience the same joy my wife and I shared raising her. And I want my daughter to have the same kind of loving relationship I share with my wife.
Some may say that I've beaten the odds. I'm a black man who has succeeded. This begs the question why we don't say that about other races and ethnicities. You don't hear people saying that white or Asian guy really beat the odds because he succeeded.
We, as a nation, desperately need our men to be the best they can be. That means giving our sons -- all our sons -- the essential ingredients to do well in life. Right now, we're failing to do this for far too many. The poor outcomes in education, employment and health plaguing our sons and brothers are not set in stone. We can change them and when we help our boys, we help everyone.
What's essential for boys? Here are two things: 1) give them help to cope with the epidemic of toxic stress and violence that too many of them face every day; and 2) stop kicking them out of school for being boys and instead teach them how to do right.
We're Americans -- we thrive on adversity. We've got grit. At least that's our history. But I'm very worried that our future will be in jeopardy unless we do something to help change the trajectory for all our sons and brothers.
Some amount of hard stuff is good -- it builds character. But too much hard stuff puts us in overload and shuts us down. And when the hard stuff comes without enough of the good stuff -- like strong families, schools and neighborhoods -- then it's a recipe for disaster.
For too many kids, and especially our black sons, we're handing them impossible odds that cannot be beaten.
Let's commit that we will quit allowing some neighborhoods to be saturated with unhealthy challenges: abundant violence; lack of transportation, fresh food, safe places to play; and ridiculously high school suspension rates.
Let's commit that we will quit calling our sons defiant when they misbehave and instead give them tools to regulate their behavior and a few stable, caring adults with whom to talk. Let's put mental health counselors back in schools.
Let's commit that we will teach our sons to read and keep them out of the justice system by helping them do the right thing.
This isn't rocket science -- this is what every child deserves.
I want to stress the togetherness of this work -- it brings us together. I know that when we help our sons, we're building future fathers, colleagues, and productive members of society. When we help our sons, we help our daughters -- and everyone.