President Obama increases awareness of obstacles facing young men of color and especially young black men. Christian Science Monitor reports:
High unemployment. High incarceration rates. High dropout rates. These and many other pathologies have long plagued communities of color. But for the nation’s first African-American president, dealing with the “black” issue has been tricky. “I’m not the president of black America,” President Obama has said many times. “I’m the president of the United States of America.”
But increasingly, Mr. Obama has been addressing minority issues more directly. On Thursday, he will focus on the challenges of young black and Latino men when he unveils “My Brother’s Keeper” – an initiative named for a biblical phrase he uses regularly, conveying a belief that society must help those facing challenges. It aims to keep young minority men out of what is often called the “school-to-prison pipeline.”
“The president has made clear the challenges facing young men and boys of color are of great importance to him,” White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett said. “He also as president sees a larger picture. A stronger, better prepared workforce means more investment and a competitive le up as we face a globally competitive marketplace.”
The initiative is the latest in a series of incremental steps the Obama administration has taken to combat racial disparities in public policy over the past year. Last February, Obama met with a group of young men at Hyde Park Academy on Chicago’s South Side who were a part of the “Becoming a Man” program within the school. He spoke candidly with the group about his experiences, acknowledging the fact that as a man of color who was raised by a single mother, their lives were inherently similar. The only difference, he said, was the fact that he grew up in an environment that was more forgiving.
From The White House on the launch of the program:
President Obama announced that philanthropies and corporate leaders have pledged to invest at least $200 million over the next five years — on top of $150 million that they have already invested — to figure out which programs are the most successful in helping young men of color and replicate them in communities across the country. He also signed a presidential memorandum directing the federal government to determine the best methods to improve the odds for young men of color.
The President made clear, however, that government can’t fix the problem by itself. Helping our young men of color has to be a multifaceted, sustained effort in all areas of our society.