There are times when spoiled, uninformed, and very much privileged White people who don’t know what it’s like to be anything besides White ought to just shut the hell up while adults are talking. The amount of times is damn near endless, but in this instance, I specifically mean criticism of the new initiative, “My Brother’s Keeper.” Unveiled last week, the initiative is spearheaded by President Barack Obama but will be implemented through an extensive partnership with “local and national leaders in philanthropy, business, government, faith communities, and media.”
As outlined via the announcement, “The challenges facing boys and young men of color are broad and multidimensional, and so must be the team we bring to the table to begin fostering solutions.” By no means is the initiative above reproach.
I certainly share many of the concerns echoed by The Daily Beast’s Jamelle Bouie. Yes, this will program is a nice step in the direction of aiding disadvantaged Black and Latino boys, but there needs to be real efforts to tackle the policies that place the majority of minorities at an immediate disadvantage at birth.
For half a century, we siphoned wealth from black families. We denied them loans, closed them off in housing projects, redlined their neighborhoods, and left them to fester. If they saw any investment, it was in police. Not to help the residents, but to keep them in their place.
This wasn’t a lark, something that could be fixed with a few adjustments. In a real sense, this project—turning blacks into pariahs, isolated from the wealth of the society they helped build—was a national obsession, and it formed the basis for policymaking across the spectrum of American government, from cities and localities to states and the federal government.
I’m fine with this sort of critique because it holds our government responsible and doesn’t pretend that Black and brown boys make “bad choices” out of thin air. What I can do without, though, is the sort of disingenuous attacks on “My Brother’s Keeper” based on the idea that it’s “racist,” exclusionary, and unconstitutional.
Writing for The National Journal, Roger Clegg, head of the Center for Equal Opportunity, writes:
It is almost always unconstitutional for the government (and any private program that receives federal money) to discriminate on the basis of race and ethnicity. There is no “compelling” interest to do so here. It may be that a disproportionate number of blacks and Latinos are at-risk, but many are not, and many whites, Asians, and others are. This is just another kind of “profiling.”
Nor will it do to say that there are other programs available for those being excluded here, as one White House official is quoted as saying. This is just another separate-but-equal argument.
Musings about the ugliness of discriminatory policy in the context of a program intended to help minority youth combat historical discriminatory policies in a conservative publication: no thank you. No, seriously, Clegg is rallying against anti-White prejudices for an outlet sleeping in the same bed as the party of outstanding bigotry. This is hysterical.
Then there is champion of false equivalency, Jennifer Rubin, who in the Washington Post, compares “My Brother’s Keeper” to the anti-gay legislation that was introduced in Arizona.
It’s odd, really, that we just got through celebration of the veto of Arizona’s anti-gay legislation that would have allowed business owners to refuse service on the basis of sexual orientation – if they could show they are acting upon a sincerely held religious belief. That was Wednesday. Now on Thursday the government itself wants to exclude at-risk boys who don’t meet the racial and ethnic requirements of the program. (If it was focused on only “straight” youth, would the left be up in arms?)
I want to start an organization for the advancement of Jennifer Rubin’s brain cells. In fact, I’ll start the volunteer work now. Rock with me, Rubin.
Number one: It’s private money, not federal. Isn’t it conservatives who act like corporations are like individuals, thus deserving of First Amendment rights? Let these corps use their voices, Rubin.
Two: If you don’t like government policy that targets specific groups, why is that My Brother’s Keeper is racist and unconstitutional, but George W. Bush can waste money on a pro marriage initiative intended to boost the economic levels of poor people, who are disproportionally Black and Latino? I’ll wait.
Three: Federal dollars can be used to target specific sects of the population. Have you never heard of an educational or health study?
Four: Using money to help minorities in need is not on par with a law that would allow a majority group to openly discriminate against another.
Five: As Cory Booker argued, helping young men of color (and women, too, for the record) helps the country at large. Booker noted that ”our success as a country will depend upon a new ‘Declaration of Inter-dependence.’ A belief in how much we need each other, how much we share one common destiny.” You’d have to be less of a selfish jerk to get this, though.