The nice-looking Black man in the White House is at it again. He has done an excellent job of convincing many middle- and upper-class Blacks along with would-be progressives and liberals that he really has the interest of all Americans at heart. Last week he pulled a doozy with his My Brothers Keeper Task Force.
“In this effort, government cannot play the only — or even the primary — role,” said the president. “We can help give every child access to quality preschool and help them start learning from an early age, but we can’t replace the power of a parent who’s reading to that child.
“We can reform our criminal justice system to ensure that it’s not infected with bias, but nothing keeps a young man out of trouble like a father who takes an active role in his son’s life,” the president said. “The group that is facing some of the most severe challenges in 21st century America is boys and young men of color… This is a moral issue for our country. We need to give every child, no matter what they look like…the chance to reach their full potential.”
He is always hustling us. Rather than doing the right thing he talks about doing the right thing while continuing the policies of old and allowing the rich to continue to raid the government’s coffers. This initiative is more of the same old song. Before the Black chief executive can do anything for Black folks he has to remind us that we have somehow fallen short, that we need to take personal responsibility — and no doubt we do — but he never says that about other groups.
When he announced that this was a $200 million initiative one had to read the small print to see that the money is coming from philanthropic foundations and organizations. There was no mention of the feds anteing up. He is simply going to aide the private charity sector to do more of what they have been doing while leaving structural injustice in place.
Admittedly this is smart politics because most Americans don’t want to recognize that the problems these young people face are systemic. And the “brother president” knows most Black Americans are still drinking his Kool-aide.
Fortunately, he can’t fool us all. Thus I am calling this fake program out for what it is: just another effort to make it appear that he cares about Black folks while leaving all the real impediments to young Black progress safely in place.
Ironically, while the Black president was taking shots at absent Black fathers, the federal criminal justice policy that has caused so many fathers to be absent remained intact. While saying they want to alleviate some of this suffering, the Obama administration has done very little to even aide the release of folks who have been locked up far too long for nonviolent offenses.
The ACLU reported that over 3,000 people are locked up for life for nonviolent drug offenses. The Obama administration has aided the release of only eight of these people. Fathers find it hard to take care of children if they can’t find a decent job or one that pays enough to pay the bills. And it hasn’t escaped my notice that men who do try to get their act together after having been in the system are continually denied the ability to recoup their lives.
Many are denied housing, college aide, professional licenses and yes, jobs because of their past record. And imagine that, an effort to help young Black males without moving any of the “real” roadblocks that inhibit their success being called “My Brother’s Keeper.”
I don’t think that’s what the scriptures had in mind when they suggest that we ought to look out for our fellow human beings. A better name for the president’s plan would be, “My So-called Brother: the president’s program to keep every problem limiting Black progress in place while making it appear that I care.”
Charity is good but justice is better.
Mel Reeves welcomes reader response to firstname.lastname@example.org.