Why Being My Brother’s Keeper Matters

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As a black man, my heart aches over the disproportionate numbers of men and boys of color left back by schools, left out of jobs and caught up in crime. As a black public official, I am struck by how little appetite there seems to be among law makers to deal with the root causes of this. So, I am encouraged by President Obama’s leadership in his “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative.

We all know the statistics. Disproportionately more African- and Hispanic- American boys are in poverty, ill-nourished and without adequate health care; more stuck in achievement gaps or in underperforming schools; more subject to school discipline; more “disconnected,” as the social scientists say, from college education and jobs; more victims of violence or in jail. We also know how interconnected these calamities are, how poverty, for example, connects to school readiness, or how critical good fathers are to growing boys into responsible men. And yet we listen to the statistics and the news reports with a measure of resignation, as if these realities are beyond our capacity to care about and to solve.

The president has wisely engaged us all. His initiative brings business and philanthropic leaders together with policy makers, educators, faith leaders and law enforcement, to consider how to save boys and men of color. A comprehensive approach is inherently ambitious, but it is the right approach. The task force is charged to consider the whole picture, the combination of challenges and opportunities presented by personal behavior and related policy affecting an at risk population, to stop doing what isn’t working and to scale what works.

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