President Barack Obama said Monday that recent urban protests show the United States needs to do more to make sure its youth – particularly black and Latino boys and young men – have an equal chance to succeed in America.
"We cannot guarantee everyone's success," Obama said, but the country can "ensure an equal shot."
Speaking at Lehman College in New York, he announced the launch of a nonprofit foundation aimed at carrying out his My Brother’s Keeper initiative to improve education and job prospects for youths across the country – particularly in impoverished communities.
Announcement of the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance came a week after rioting and looting erupted in the eastern city of Baltimore, Maryland, following the death of a young black man from a spinal cord injury while in police custody. Six police officers have been charged with various crimes in the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray.
Protesters in Baltimore also cited high unemployment and poor schools in their inner-city neighborhoods.
Obama said a sense of hopelessness in such neighborhoods "begins with birth and compounds over time" – and helped fuel a week of protests in Baltimore and elsewhere.
Minority groups have complained of overly aggressive police tactics in some communities such as Baltimore, a city that has paid out more than $5.7 million to settle lawsuits in recent years. But the president said that merely retraining police would deal with the problem "too narrowly." Obama said the nation needs to make certain that equality of opportunity is not an empty promise.
"It's about who we are as a people," Obama said. "What kind of society do we want to have?"
Leading the nonprofit alliance will be Joe Echevarria, former chief executive of the Deloitte accounting and consulting firm. The White House said it already has gotten more than $80 million in financial and in-kind commitments from Deloitte, American Express, PepsiCo, BET and other firms, the Associated Press reported.
Businesses aren't extending help "just to assuage society's guilt," Obama said in his speech. "They're doing this because they know that making sure all of our young people have the opportunity to succeed is an economic imperative."
Watch a related TV report by Chris Simkins:
Baltimore returning to normal
Meanwhile, Baltimore slowly returned to normal Monday after a citywide curfew ended Sunday after five nights. National Guard troops started to withdraw and stores began to reopen.
Parts of the city exploded in violence after Gray's funeral a week ago, leaving stores and cars burned, police officers injured, and more than 200 people arrested, although many were later freed as police struggled to process arrest records.
Prosecutors say that Gray was arrested for no reason and that officers ignored his pleas for medical help. Baltimore state's attorney's office charged the six officers – three of whom are African-American – with crimes ranging from manslaughter to murder. The police union is fighting the charges.