Let me also take this opportunity to respond to those critics who say, “why would we on the left or far left actually expect or look to the federal government to save Black people’s lives?”
Good question. And valid point. At best, MBK is a neoliberal framework that abdicates the federal government of actual monetary responsibility to ameliorate the social conditions it created. It suggests that helping men and boys of color is a public good, but that the actual machinery to lift them up is a private duty. It simply outsources that private duty from communities of color to corporations.
And in a world where corporations are people, (rich, white male people who can practice religion apparently) outsourcing the fate of Black boys to said corporations is dubious at best.
But here’s the issue: MBK is the president’s signature racial justice initiative. I know it doesn’t deserve that designation, but such as it is, it is what we have. And what this initiative does at a discursive level is make a powerful and unprecedented argument about the ways that long-standing racial structures have structurally disadvantaged and limited the pathways to success for men and boys of color, particularly Black men.
Thus the initiative suggests that when a group is structurally disadvantaged the government has a prevailing responsibility to stand up and offer resources to ameliorate those conditions.
This is an important argument, despite the fact that I have serious reservations about its execution.
But when juridical structures interpellate identities, which is a fancy way of saying that when the law recognizes your unique structural position, it sets a precedent for future forms of recognition.
What MBK does is remove Black women, very particularly, from this social equation. By arguing forthrightly for the legitimacy of excluding us, it suggests that we are not structurally disadvantaged by long standing systems of racism. Or if we are, the refusal to commit resources to help us, suggests that we have magical powers to overcome these systems.