Fellow members of the Council, last August, President Obama stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington to celebrate 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on those same steps to declare that “Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.” The United States has witnessed great progress in fighting racial discrimination in the half century since that speech, but as the first African-American U.S. President reminded the crowd: “The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own. To secure the gains this country has made requires constant vigilance, not complacency.”
This constant vigilance is why the United States remains deeply committed to fighting racism and racial discrimination at home and abroad. Our history as a nation chronicles not only the failures and shortfalls in ensuring equal rights and opportunities for all but also our constant struggle to meet those challenges head on and to end racism. We work on many different fronts to ensure that the inalienable rights promised in our foundational documents are attainable by all and reflected in both the spirit and letter of our laws.
For example, the United States recently launched a major new effort to help young men of color. The initiative, called “My Brother’s Keeper,” will bring foundations and companies together to test a range of strategies to support such young men, taking steps to keep them in school and out of the criminal justice system. The effort will also more rigorously evaluate what programs work best at helping young men of color, and is focused on unlocking the full potential of boys and young men, to the benefit of all Americans.
Last September, the mayors of cities all across the United States partnered with UNESCO to establish the U.S. Coalition of UNESCO’s Cities Against Racism and Discrimination. By joining the Coalition, these mayors signed on to a Ten Point Action Plan to promote inclusive policies that support civil rights and address racism and discrimination. The mayors also pledged to increase job training and child care availability, reduce unemployment, and examine criminal justice policies to eliminate unfair sentencing disparities and strengthen protections for our most vulnerable populations.
In addition to My Brother’s Keeper, the United States has been working hard in other ways to increase opportunities for Hispanic Americans. For example, we have made key federal investments in post-secondary education, including grants and low-cost loans to families in need to make college more affordable. The university enrollment of Hispanic students has increased by more than 50 percent from 2008 to 2012. These are just a few of the examples of how we continually strive to fight racism and intolerance and work towards a world where men and women are judged solely by the content of their character.
- Cross posted from the U.S. Mission to Geneva