ed_gr_unlocking_opportunityA new report released by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (NAACP LDF) and the National Women’s Law Center. “Unlocking Opportunity for African American Girls” offers historical context for black girls’ and women’s educational and economic experiences, but also provides policy recommendations to address these racial gaps.

Colorlines provided a several grim statistics about Black girls and women that support why this report is needed:

34 percent of Black girls did not graduate high school on time in 2010, compared to 22 percent of all female students.

Twelve percent of Black pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade female students received an out-of-school suspension during the 2011-2012 school year. Black girls’ suspension rate is six times higher than their white female counterparts. In the state of Wisconsin that school year, more than one in five of every black girl received an out-of-school suspension. Researchers have found that racial disparities in student rates of misbehavior do not account for this gulf.

In 2013, 43 percent of black women without a high school degree were living in poverty, compared to 28 percent of white women with the same levels of educational attainment. Black women with full-time jobs working year-round still make just 64 cents on the dollar compared to white men, and 82 cents for every dollar that their white female counterparts make.

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According to Colorlines, the report is especially critical not only because it addresses issues facing Black girls and women, but it is a response to the excitement and concern inspired by My Brother’s Keeper, the Obama administration initiative to support boys of color. The $200 million, five-year initiative was launched in February with the involvement from federal agencies and private corporations. Critics of My Brother’s Keeper have argued that racial inequity is not felt more deeply by boys than girls, and that excluding girls dismisses their very real experiences.

In August, the African American Policy Forum and UCLA School of Law’s Critical Race Studies Program hosted a hearing in Los Angeles, the third of its kind, as a means to raise awareness about the experiences of girls of color who, as co-host and law professor Kimberle Crenshaw said, “experience some of the same things boys experience and some things boys never dream of.”

Hopefully this report is only the beginning and will have the potential to educate those unaware of the historical context that impact Black girls and women, all while being the rallying cry for necessary policy changes.

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