Congress has passed a bill that will establish a commission to analyze how systemic racism affects Black men and boys. Passed on Monday (July 27) in a 368-1 vote, the bipartisan bill was backed by Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and will now head to President Donald Trump to be signed into law.
According to a press release from Rep. Wilson’s office, the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act will establish a 19-member commission to examine “the social disparities that disproportionately affect Black males in America.”
The bill was reportedly proposed by Wilson in March of 2019 and was prioritized after the police killing of George Floyd back in May.
“I am elated that this legislation, which I have been fighting for several years to pass, is now poised to become national law,” Wilson said in the release. “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.”
“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,” she added. “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.”
Sen. Rubio also said the bill was “imperative” in addressing institutionalized racism. According to the Florida Daily, he, Sen. Cory Booker and Sen. Kamala Harris joined forces to propose a similar commission last month.
“America is more successful when its citizens have equal access to economic opportunity and prosperity and this is particularly relevant for young Black men,” Rubio said in a statement. “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.”
Monday (July 27) was also the day after the late Rep. John Lewis’ casket was pulled by a horse-drawn carriage across the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Alabama — the site of where the famed civil rights leader was once beaten during the Selma to Montgomery Marches.
“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,” Wilson said. “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.”
Watch members of Congress support the bill below.