Finn: Look to Obama for empowerment


Courtesy of Wikimeida Commons

On February 27th President Obama gave a heartfelt speech on finding ways to help young boys of color succeed.

Taylor Finn

February 27, President Obama gave a heartfelt speech on finding ways to help young boys of color succeed. The speech was especially touching as you witnessed the President opening up and showing his vulnerable side. He spoke about his childhood, his father and the many obstacles he faced growing up in America as a black boy. He also touched on the individuals in his life who helped him, and inspired him to get where he is now. The president praises the tightly woven support group that kept him on the right path, and how he hopes to recreate that support system for millions of young boys across the nation.

The new initiative he was promoting Thursday night is called “My Brothers Keeper,” and it is going to give black males the influences and the guidance that they need in order to one day be law abiding, contributing members of society. The president will not be going at this alone, on hand he has Colin Powell and Michael Bloomberg, along with many other influential policy makers.

The goals of “My Brothers Keeper” are to assess and suggest improvements to current federal policies, create administration wide online portals to teach practices that improve outcomes for boys and young men of color and to develop a comprehensive public website that will be maintained by the Department of Education that will asses the critical indicators of outcomes for boys of color. Over the next five years, policy makers are hoping to invest at least 200 million dollars to find and implement solutions that have the greatest impact for boys of color.

This initiative is something Obama has wanted to do since he was elected. It is especially important to him because he can relate on a personal level to the black and latino youth who are struggling to make something of their lives. He mentioned Thursday, “I didn’t have a dad in the house, and I was angry about it, even though I didn’t necessarily realize it at the time. I made bad choices.”

It is intuitives like this that everyone should be on board with, the empowerment of today’s colored youth is a concept that every American should be concerned with because it impacts us all. Whenever a sector of the community is struggling, it is our responsibility to lend them a helping hand. The betterment of a minority leads to a betterment of the community as a whole. 

Many would argue that we have done all that we can, that if the black man wants to become something it is up to him to pick himself up by the bootstraps. However, even with the current legislation, that is meant to level the playing field for todays colored youth, minority boys are less likely than caucasian boys to be proficient readers by fourth grade, and are more likely to be expelled throughout their high school years. One in two African American boys grow up in a home with no father. This lack of a role model, can lead children to walk down devastating paths.

African Americans make up 12% of the population, yet 40% of the total jail population. According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are currently 841,000 African American men in jail. When looking at this data it becomes apparent that there is a serious imbalance. Along with the President, I believe that to cure this imbalance we must be proactive. In order to keep minority men out of the jail systems we have to to restructure their childhoods.

An individuals’ youth shapes so much of who they become, which is why this initiative aims to help male minorities at an early age. The President cannot force all fathers to be good role models, and support their children, but what he can do is use policy to ensure that even if a child is not receiving the necessary support at home, he will get it from other community members and teachers who can give young males a shot to get a degree, find a job, and one day support and inspire their own children to do the same.