Obama Announces Program To Help Young Minority Men

The program, called "My Brother's Keeper," is aimed at supporting young minority men and helping them to improve their lives.

Obama Announces Program To Help Young Minority Men
The White House

"I said I would pick up the phone and reach out to Americans willing to help more young men of color, facing especially tough odds, to stay on track and reach their full potential so that America can reach its full potential." (Via The White House)

With those words Thursday, President Obama announced a $200 million initiative called "My Brother's Keeper" — an effort aimed at supporting young minority men. 

The Wall Street Journal reports the public-private effort will focus on providing "economic and educational opportunities to disadvantaged black and Latino youth" and will create a task force to help implement those changes.

A writer for The Grio says "My Brother's Keeper" is a two-pronged approach: Obama is ordering federal agencies to look at ways to help young men of color while foundations and business have also pledged their support. That's where the $200 million comes from. 

Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to, and close friend of Obama, previously said improving the lives of young men of color is a personal issue for the president. (Via The White House)

On the White House's blog, Jarrett and Broderick Johnson — assistant to Obama and cabinet secretary — wrote "Opportunity has disproportionately lagged behind for boys and young men of color" and listed some troubling statistics. 

14% and 18% — Those are the percentages of black and Hispanic boys, respectively, who read at proficient or above level in 4th grade.

42% — That's the percentage of black male students that have been suspended or expelled by 9th grade, compared to 14 percent for white male students.

37% — That's how much of the prison population is made up of young black men, more than double that group's size in the general population.

In his speech, Obama said the statistics are awful but the perceptions of young men of color that come along with those stats are even worse.

"We've become numb to these statistics. ... We're not surprised by them, we take them as the norm. We just assume that this is an inevitable part of American life instead of the outrage that it is." (Via C-SPAN)

"My Brother's Keeper" isn't just an effort to change the perception of young minority men, but also possibly a way for Obama to change how he has been perceived. 

A writer for Time says Obama largely avoided race issues during his first term while concentrating on recovering from the recession and passing the Affordable Care Act. She writes Obama "has spent his second [term] taking a piecemeal approach to assisting minority youth."

Obama commented on issues of race following the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012: "You know, if I had a son, he would look like Trayvon." (Via ABC)

Not coincidentally, the speech was held close to the second anniversary of Martin's death. Both the parents of Martin and the parents of Jordan Davis, another black boy who was shot and killed in Florida, attended Thursday's announcement. (Via The White House)

According to the Wall Street Journal, "My Brother's Keeper" also has the support of prominent figures such as former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former basketball star and entrepreneur Magic Johnson and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.