“For these are all our children. We will all profit by, or pay for whatever they become.” -James Baldwin
By 2050, white folks will be the minority in the US. (Smithsonian Magazine)
Yet, we continue to suspend, arrest, and incarcerate people of color – including children - at staggeringly inhumane, and grossly racially disproportionate rates. Nationally, 1 in 3 Black and 1 in 6 Latino boys born in 2001 are at risk of imprisonment during their lifetime. (Children's Defense Fund)
The correlations between criminal justice involvement and low educational achievement are well known: 85% of all juveniles who come into contact with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate. (National Assessment of Adult Literacy) And 67% of all federal inmates did not complete high school. (Time Magazine) The more we continue to give up on children in school, and literally push them into the justice systems (Children's Defense Fund), the faster and deeper this epidemic grows.
Correlations between education, incarceration and employment are also clear: having a criminal record significantly limits one’s chances for employment and race compounds this significantly (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission); In a landmark study by Bruce Western, black job seekers with high school diplomas and no criminal records actually fared worse than whites with criminal records. (Princeton University) Low educational achievement limits employment on its own. When low educational achievement is combined with race and criminal justice system involvement, the prospects of employment become minimal.
Recent employment research shows that the US has essentially pushed young people entirely out of the labor market. For 16, 17, and 18-year-olds, their employment rates have dropped to about half what they were a decade ago (PBS). For youth of color, this is compounded. Young black men have a 95% unemployment rate today. (PBS)
And yet, as the catch 22 goes, without work experience as a teenager, it is increasingly difficult to get jobs as an adult. (PBS) The US is sinking in global rank in youth employment. As economist Andrew Sum notes, “In the last 10 years we've moved from the fifth best to the 13th in a pack of 24 OECD [Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, meaning post-industrial] countries. The United States is no longer a leader. There are countries that far surpass us including Canada, Australia, Germany. Kids there not only work, they are much better trained, much more prepared to work.” (PBS)
So who does rise to the top of our ever-sinking labor market if all young people, across demographic groups, are excluded from jobs today? Those that have people to network on their behalf to get them internships and jobs. In other words, people with jobs help people get jobs.
So: if you’re a 16 year old Black, Dominican, or other brown girl or boy, who’s attended under-resourced schools and not gotten much education, has accumulated suspensions and then been arrested (say, because of a fight in school), and you live with a single mother, or with both parents, but neither is employed, HOW, are you possibly supposed to get a job, let alone break this entire virtuous cycle, on your own?
Help exalt youth provide the answer. Join the movement, and get involved.