My Brother’s Keeper
By Adam Weatherall
President Barack Obama spoke a few weeks ago at the White House where he announced the “My Brother’s Keeper” program. Managing to introduce the new initiative to help young men of color succeed in the final days of Black History Month, President Obama described the program as one that “goes to the very heart of why I ran for President.” He then expounded into his own life as to why such an initiative is needed, speaking candidly about his father, even touching on the taboo topics of drugs and race. During the P.O.T.U.S.’s rather emotional and uncharacteristic indulgence into the subject of race he asked himself “If he was his brother’s keeper” and in turn called on the public to question themselves if “they were their neighbor’s keepers”. This phrasing, reminiscent of his popular 2004 DNC speech, harkens back to an earlier Senator Obama and topics briefly covered in his books The Audacity of Hope and Dreams from My Father.
A White House official said Obama improvised a good portion of his remarks and was more emotional than many planners of the event had anticipated. During the proposal, the President took ample opportunity to distinguish the differences between this program from other large social programs announced by past democratic administrations, in that this program will be heading by private business and corporate interests. The federal government will only be helping those organizations in a somewhat auxiliary fashion that has yet to be completely specified. The President cited alarming statistics to solidify the programs necessity. These statistics however, while shocking, do not surprise.
“By almost every measure, the group that is facing some of the most severe challenges in the 21st century, in this country, are boys and young men of color,” he said.
President Obama noted that if you’re African-American, there’s about a one in two chance you grew up without a father in the house. If you’re Latino, you have about a one in four chance.
“As a black student, you’re less likely than a white student to read proficiently by the fourth grade and far more likely to be suspended or expelled by the time you reach high school, he continued.
“You’re also more likely to wind up in the criminal justice system and as a victim of a violent crime.”
“The worst part is we’ve become numb to these statistics. We’re not surprised by them. We take them as the norm. We just assume this is an inevitable part of American life, instead of the outrage that it is,” the President said.
“But these statistics should break our hearts, and they should compel us to act.” The Presidents words, have called me to question, “Am I my brother’s Keeper?” I am half black, half white, making me a man of color, (at least as much color as the president). Being a man of color it can all too often seem easy for me to use the increasing large pile of chips stacked against me as to why my own gambles have not paid out. In short, I’m taking a page out of Truman’s book, and putting that “THE BUCK STOPS HERE” placard back on my desk. Taking the notion of “MY brother’s keeper” completely to heart, I am going to be working with my own little brother to ensure his future, is one of his choosing. He has shown an interest in journalism and I have realized that he offers a unique and underutilized perspective of a young black teen in America,(something that is increasingly more and more dangerous to be). Cases like Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis affected him far more than myself. In the future when issues like those mentioned present themselves , I will at least offer him the opportunity to write an article and offer his underrepresented perspective as our special “junior correspondent”. During those times I and my team will do our best to guide him so that one day he can become the journalist he wants to be. While this is only a small first step, it is one of many I hope to add to over the course of a long and expansive journey. The “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative’s goal is to expose young men of color to opportunities they might not have otherwise been afforded and to hold them accountable for the responsibilities that go along with those opportunities.
According to the administration’s website the WhiteHouse.gov, My Brother’s Keeper will accomplish its goals by “Forming partnerships with leading foundations and businesses that will take a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach to build ladders of opportunity and unlock the full potential of boys and young men of color.” The President went further than just sighting statistics, by signing a Presidential Memorandum establishing the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force to help determine which public and private efforts are working, how the Federal government can support those efforts, and how we can get more folks involved in those efforts across the board. The website then states:
“That doesn’t only benefit our kids facing tough circumstances — it benefits all Americans.”
Being biracial and having multiple little brothers, one African American, and two Caucasian male siblings, I can see the difference in the adversities they face on a day to day basis. At times it can be sickening to realize the separate world that still to this day exists between races in this great big American melting pot. It’s also sickening when you began to understand that most of the people reading this text have no good reason to appreciate a difference in perspective between the races, and it’s not their fault. Most of us live sheltered, insulated 21st century lives increasingly immune to problems that occur outside of the world we have customized for ourselves. It is that mind numbing perspective that breeds ignorance and hate, and it is a viewpoint I will personally no longer subscribe to. I have of late come to realize that if the tomorrow of our dreams is to be achieved it will be through hard work today. That hard work might mean blood, sweat and tears, but I am ready to work hard and bleed to make that future a reality. My feelings actually have little to do with Barack Obama’s recent speech, his sentiment is simply one in which in this instance I to echo. A sentiment I have long since held, but rarely acted upon. It’s time for us all to not only realize that a better future for your neighbor’s child means a better future for you and me. And for those of you who don’t realize how this affects you, or are worried about other pressing world events in places like the Ukraine or Venezuela. I would remind you that inequality for even a few means there isn’t any equality after all. You are, however, right to be concerned about those issues, and many, many other issues that occur every day worldwide, we will do our best here at PowerFist.US to cover those topics as well. For a direct link to watch the President’s proposal you can watch it here, or go directly to the whitehouse.gov site. I hope that one day the world will present itself on equal terms to young men of color, and that it is not a necessity for the President to spend White House time on issues of race. Because the day when all inequalities that affect men of color and all other disenfranchised groups have been rectified is surely the day that logic will prevail.