President Obama’s announcement today of a race-specific federal program, “My Brother’s Keeper,” is cause for concern – for whites, blacks, and Latinos.
And concern on several levels.
First of all, aren’t we all brothers? I’m serious. What about the civil rights of poor white and Asian men? What about, for that matter, low-income young women?
The keynote of the announcement is that Obama is assembling $200 million in private funds to increase opportunity for black and Hispanic youth.
I don’t think the government should be choosing races – it’s a dangerous precedent – but fine, it’s private money. It’s what’s beneath the headline that’s most disconcerting.
The initiative also includes an interagency task force – headed by Broderick Johnson, one of Obama’s closest advisors – that will, according to the White House:
Assess the impact of Federal policies, regulations, and programs of general applicability on boys and young men of color, so as to develop proposals that will enhance positive outcomes and eliminate or reduce negative ones.
What does this mean exactly? Who knows. It sounds like a variety of federal issue are now going to get run through the filter of race and rated based on how much they help minorities.
It goes further, with the federal government leaning on the private sector and states. The task force will:
Recommend, where appropriate, incentives for the broad adoption by national, State, and local public and private decision makers of effective and innovative strategies and practices for providing opportunities to and improving outcomes for boys and young men of color.
Work with external stakeholders to highlight the opportunities, challenges, and efforts affecting boys and young men of color.
I understand Obama’s motivation, and I believe it comes from two sources: a genuine and laudable concern about the disheartening plight of black men in this society; and hectoring by African American groups who think he’s not doing enough race-specific stuff.
We’ve had race-based hiring and school admission preferences for four decades in this country. How much has this really helped out African Americans? Why are things so bad for black people on so many fronts?
At what point do liberals like Obama come to the realization that a society making color-blind judgements of merit, as dreamed of by Dr. Martin Luther King, should be the goal?
Minorities should be expected to adhere to the same standards as everyone else and receive the same benefits. Then they’ll have the same incentive to succeed. Meanwhile, discrimination must be aggressively prosecuted and punished, and racism isolated and denounced.
Quite frankly, the slowness with which some Republican leaders, including Texas Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, moved to condemn Ted Nugent’s racist remark about Obama was abhorrent. Abbott deserves all the negative publicity he gets for continuing to appear with Nugent after he became aware Nugent called Obama a “subhuman mongrel.”
But continuing to divide the nation along racial grounds helps breed discriminatory attitudes, not diminish them.
There’s no question that centuries of racism and oppression in this country put black people in a position of enormous disadvantage. But special help, and continued discrimination against non-minorities who are disadvantaged, is not the answer. Responsibility, not dependance, is what will cure the ills of the past.