Friday, February 28, 2014

We Must Be Our Brother's Keeper

Yesterday, the President announced the formation of the My Brother's Keeper Initiative, a program specifically designed to assist African American boys. The imagery of the President's announcement was powerful, compelling and undeniable. The first African American President stood on stage with young black men standing behind him. Trayvon Martin's family and Jordan Davis' family were in the audience. Political opposites, Rev. Al Sharpton and right wing nut Bill O'Reilly, were in the audience as well. It was refreshing to finally see the President do something specifically targeted to address the problems of facing his most loyal supporters, African Americans.

Instead of waiting on Congress to act, President Obama took bold action and gathered philanthropists, business leaders and the faith community to address the problems plaguing African American boys. The President stated that the private sector will invest $200 million over 5 years in various programs that have proven to be effective. That investment is in addition to the $150 million that has already been invested. I commend the President's courageous efforts. I sincerely hope that the President's initiative is a quantifiable success. I hope that it opens doors of opportunity and prosperity.

Although I salute the President's effort, it was disappointing to hear the President again lecture black people on personal responsibility. Certainly, personal responsibility and family life are key ingredients to success. However, our problems cannot be blamed primarily on absent fathers, laziness and other forms of black pathology. Rants regarding dead beat black fathers ignore reality. Contrary to the popular and false narrative, black fathers are involved in their children's lives. As reported on Think Progress,
Although black fathers are more likely to live separately from their children — the statistic that’s usually trotted out to prove the parenting “crisis” — many of them remain just as involved in their kids’ lives. Pew estimates that 67 percent of black dads who don’t live with their kids see them at least once a month, compared to 59 percent of white dads and just 32 percent of Hispanic dads.
While the President's statements about personal responsibility are sincere and less abrasive,  they are reminiscent of Don Lemon's and Bill O'Reilly repugnant rants about black people. Such rhetoric merely perpetuates stereotypes about black pathology and absolves society of its debt and responsibility. Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis did not die because of absentee fathers. Instead of repeatedly lecturing black people, the President and the Congress must do more to address structural institutionalized racism and poverty.  We must be our brother's keeper.

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