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Barack Obama shares why young Black males can be hit hard by COVID-19

Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow welcomed former President Barack Obama as he took the stage at the Democratic rally on Friday, Oct. 26, 2018, at Cass Tech High School. (Photo credit: Porsha Monique for Steed Media)

Former President Barack Obama recently teamed up with former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss how young Black males can be affected by the global pandemic.

During a recent conference call hosted by My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative created during the Obama administration to empower young Black males, Obama and Holder shared why it’s important for mentors to continue to encourage and inspire.

“The reason we’re here together is that these are not ordinary times,” Obama said. “It’s fair to say that has been true throughout American history, when crises hit the country at large, you can be sure that it will be that much tougher on folks who were already struggling before the crisis hit.”

Obama spoke about the astronomical unemployment rates caused by the pandemic and how young Black males may face hardships.

“In some communities, you already had high unemployment, high rates of dropouts and disproportionate rates of violence,” Obama said. “And you can’t convene and bring people together right now. In some cases, financing your operations is going to be difficult as philanthropies are forced to shift resources … and schools are closed, which leaves a lot more time for young people to be alone and isolated and to lose some of the learning they acquired.”

The lack of education and employment could lead to higher rates of crime for young Black males, Obama believes.

“If they fall further behind, they will have that much more trouble finishing school, getting a foothold in this economy, and because of idleness may get shunted into the criminal justice system, and it’s going to be much harder for them to catch up,” the former president said.

Holder added that a proactive approach must be taken to help young Black males once the severity of COVID-19 passes.

“COVID-19 complicates this,” Holder shared. “But it is going to pass, and we are going to be back where we were, and let’s be honest, it was not a good place. The whole problem of implicit bias will still exist. We need leadership at the national level.”

Obama ended the conversation by saying that the nation will be strengthened by supporting young Black males during this crisis and beyond.

“Too many of our young men have been historically left behind,” Obama said. “If we can give them a hand up, if we can give them mentorship and tools and interventions and resources and love and support, not only can they succeed for themselves, but our communities and our country will be stronger for it.”