‘My Brother’s Keeper’: A Call for Social Responsibility

In the wake of President Barack H. Obama’s unveiling his ‘My Brother’s Keeper‘ initiative, he remarked that “we shouldn’t care whether it was a Democratic program or a Republican program or a faith-based program or — if it works, we should support it… recognizing that my neighbor’s child is my child, that each of us has an obligation to give every child the same chance this country gave so many of us.” President Obama’s initiative should be championed, and supported, by all Americans regardless of geographic, identity, political, or religious differences or peculiarities. Unfortunately, there are a few irrational individuals, primarily situated along the far-Right,  who will continue their blind hatred of any and all things Obama; if only they had the ability to lay down their vitriolic racially based hatred for even an instant, I believe that they would have been pleasantly surprised by the call for social responsibility supporting President Obama’s latest initiative.

It is this call for ‘socially responsible individualism’ that has polarized racial groups and caused much intra-racial discord amongst African-Americans throughout the past fifty years. Put simply, whites, regardless of their socioeconomic status or political leanings, tend to assume that African-Americans assume no responsibility for their marginal socioeconomic status. Incredibly, this perspective that African-Americans lag behind due to their own shortcomings not racial obstacles and impediments found throughout society has been parroted by many prominent African-Americans. One would expect successful Blacks to have a more nuanced understanding of the reality that hard work has not routinely translated into material success.

However, this contentious issues raises a pernicious subject; that being, what responsibilities do the beneficiaries of the ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ have to themselves and the society that is seeking to aid them? President Obama glances the issue when he states he is attempting “…to give more young Americans the support they need to make good choices, and to be resilient and overcome obstacles and achieve their dreams.” In the minds of many African-Americans, President Obama is walking a fine line by calling for African-American males to take responsibility for their lot in life. Unbeknownst to many, this championing of socially responsible individualism, although routinely vilified by a vocal minority, is the favored position of most African-Americans.

The President, along with a multiracial and politically diverse contingency of Americans, prods these young men, who are often overlooked as an untapped national resource, to move forward with the confidence of knowing that this society promises to provide them with two priceless commodities: opportunity and choice. In a tone reminiscent of a doting parent, demanding athletic/academic coach, or concerned mentor, President Obama admonished the nation’s Black and Brown males with the following assertion.

“But you have got responsibilities too. And I know you can meet the challenge… if you make the effort. It may be hard, but you will have to reject the cynicism that says the circumstances of your birth or society’s lingering injustices necessarily define you and your future.

It will take courage, but you will have to tune out the naysayers who say the deck is stacked against you, you might as well just give up or settle into the stereotype. It’s not going to happen overnight, but you’re going to have to set goals, and you’re going to have to work for those goals. Nothing will be given to you.

The world is tough out there, and there’s a lot of competition for jobs and college positions. And everybody has to work hard. But I know you guys can succeed.”

Mr. President, on behalf of myself and the nation, I must say that we support your vision and words of encouragement toward this next generation of young men.  However, I pray that these young men heard you and realize that the ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ initiative not only provides an increased opportunity for success, but also lays the final outcome for success or failure in their hands, I pray that they chose the former and never the latter.


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