The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act (S.2163/H.R. 1636), introduced by Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson, to establish a 19-member commission examining the social disparities that disproportionately affect black males in America. Led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), the Senate unanimously passed a companion bill, S. 2163, on June 25. The two lawmakers created a similar commission when they served together in Florida’s state legislature.
“I am elated that this legislation, which I have been fighting for several years to pass, is now poised to become national law. The commission will review police brutality, gun violence, fatherhood, recruiting and training black male teachers, and even sneakers, which play an important role in the lives of black boys. Welfare reform and the 1994 crime bill, which includes the controversial three strikes provision and harsh sentencing guidelines, also will be revisited. These federal policies left a devastating impact on black men and boys in America,” said Congresswoman Wilson. “The commission’s underlying goal is to interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and to better understand and eventually eliminate the educational and social chasms that have made it extraordinarily difficult for black males to become upwardly mobile.”
The Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act establishes a permanent, bipartisan commission within the United States Commission on Civil Rights. Its 19 members will include congressional lawmakers, executive branch appointees, issue experts, activists, and other stakeholders who will examine social disparities affecting black men and boys in America. Based on its findings, the commission will issue policy recommendations to Congress, the White House, and federal agencies. The bipartisan, bicameral Caucus on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys, which Congresswoman Wilson founded and co-chairs, will craft legislation to implement those recommendations.
“Perhaps the most dangerous issue facing black boys in our country is racism itself. Too often they are perceived as criminals by the time they reach the age of five. They’re labeled delinquent, not rowdy. They are hardened criminals, not misguided youth. Their very existence is often seen as a threat. It is a tragic reality that black males in America are treated as their own class of citizens,” Congresswoman Wilson continued.
This treatment is reflected in social outcomes in such areas as education, criminal justice, health care and employment. More than one out of every six black men who today should be between 25 and 54 years old have disappeared from daily life. Low rates of high school retention among black male students directly relate to the high rates of joblessness and incarceration. More than two-thirds of black male dropouts end up serving time in state or federal prison. And while black males overall make up roughly 13 percent of the U.S. population, they represent nearly 40 percent of all men serving time in state and federal prisons.
“The final passage of the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act is a little bittersweet for me because my dear friend and colleague, Congressman John Lewis, did not live to witness this landmark day. He was one of its fiercest advocates and devoted countless hours during my tenure in Congress to inspiring hundreds of boys who are members of the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project, a mentoring and dropout prevention program I founded 30 years ago. I am honor to share this legacy with him,” Congresswoman Wilson added.
The legislation is cosponsored by more than 200 members of Congress and has been endorsed by more than 20 renowned civil rights leaders and organizations, including Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, actor Omari Hardwick, My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Council of the Great City Schools, Teach for America, the National Football League, Reform Alliance, Teach for America, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., and Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority, Inc.
“America is undergoing a transformative movement, as we confront and combat the racial injustice and police brutality that are killing hundreds of black Americans, particularly black men and boys,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). “Today, the Democratic House will advance our drumbeat of action to achieve justice by passing H.R.1636 to establish a Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys, led by Congresswoman Frederica Wilson: a warrior for justice on behalf of the voiceless and vulnerable. This commission will be a critical force for acknowledging the institutional racism that black men and boys face every day in America – and then to working to end it.”
“I thank Rep. Wilson for introducing this bill, which I was proud to bring to the Floor today,” said Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD). “Too many African-American men and women are losing their lives as a result of racial profiling, hate, and bigotry. The killing must end, and we must address the disparities and inequalities impacting African-American men and boys when it comes to educational attainment, arrest and incarceration, crime and violence, income and wealth, and health care. That’s why a commission of the kind Rep. Wilson’s legislation would create is so essential. I applaud her for her work on this critical bill, and I was pleased to see it pass the House with strong, bipartisan support today.”
“As we witness the deadly outcomes of interactions between black men and police from Walter Scott to George Floyd, we must seek comprehensive reforms that will change this narrative,” Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) said. “Police reforms are necessary, but we must also restructure the system that has adversely impacted black men since birth. I applaud Congresswoman Wilson’s tenacity to establish this commission that will develop a plan to address the systemic conditions that have led to historic disparities between the experiences of white and black men in this country.”
“From the moment slave ships landed in Virginia more than 400 years ago, black men and boys have had a target on their backs. Even though we have made progress in America, the events of the last few months have highlighted how far we still have to go. Unless we take the time to give our young men the opportunity to be successful, the system will take advantage of the opportunity to give them some time. I applaud Congresswoman Wilson for her tremendous leadership to get the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act passed in the House,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), chair of the House Democratic Caucus and an original co-sponsor of the bill.
“From the days of chattel slavery, black men and boys have been forcefully removed from their families, tortured, murdered, racially profiled, and oppressed in our country. As the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, I am proud to support my colleague, Congresswoman Fredericka Wilson, in highlighting the psychological and social disparities faced by black men and boys. This important legislation develops a bipartisan Commission on the Status of Black Men and Boys to begin the process of addressing the barriers of targeted systemic racism towards black men and developing policy solutions to dismantle them.” Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
“Now more than ever, it is imperative that we take action to address the racial inequities that continue to plague our nation,” said Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL). “America is more successful when its citizens have equal access to economic opportunity and prosperity, and this is particularly relevant for young black men. As we confront the challenges of the 21st century, we will need to rely on the talents and contributions of every American. I applaud the House for passing the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act, and I urge the President to sign it into law without delay. I was pleased to lead this legislation in the Senate, and I look forward to the work the Commission will do to address the racial and economic disparities affecting our communities today.”
“It is time that we come to terms with the fact that America has never fully addressed the systemic racism that has existed in our country—particularly toward black men and boys,” said Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA). “This bipartisan commission is the very beginning of a long overdue effort to confront the negative treatment black men and boys face every day in America. Next, we must continue our efforts with substantive legislation to right historical wrongs that have led to generations of racial inequities. I applaud Congresswoman Wilson and the House of Representatives for taking this step.”
“Almost eight years ago, my son, Jordan, was shot and killed while sitting in the back seat of the car at a gas station with his friends. A man didn’t like the ‘loud music’ they were playing,” said Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA), an original co-sponsor of the bill. “On this day, while we look back at the life and legacy of John Lewis and remark at how far we’ve come, I must also look toward a future without my son and I see how far we still must go. This commission will search for ways to address the hurdles and inequities that many black men and boys continue to face, and help us all work together to create a better world for our children, for our grandchildren, and for American families across the country.”
“As governor, I signed legislation to create a Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys in Florida, and I’m proud to join Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, Senator Marco Rubio, and our colleagues to bring this effort to the national level. This is an important step to help make critical changes across our nation,” said Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL).
“The National Football League is pleased to support this bipartisan legislation, which is both necessary and timely. We applaud Congress for passing this bill, and for taking steps to develop comprehensive, research-based solutions to the systemic social and economic challenges that impact black men and boys in our society,” said Troy Vincent, EVP of Football Operations, NFL.