Newspaper article International New York Times

Obama Initiative Reaches out to Young Black Men ; President Gets Personal with Measure Inspired by Florida Teenager's Death

Newspaper article International New York Times

Obama Initiative Reaches out to Young Black Men ; President Gets Personal with Measure Inspired by Florida Teenager's Death

Article excerpt

In unveiling a five-year, $200 million program called My Brother's Keeper, the president used his personal narrative about growing up black without a father.

In unveiling a measure to help black youth, President Obama spoke in unusually personal terms at the White House about how he got high as a teenager and was at times indifferent to school as he deplored what he called America's numbness to the plight of young black men.

Drawing on the power of his own racial identity in a way he seldom does as president, Mr. Obama sought to connect his personal narrative about growing up without a father to that of a generation of black youth in the United States who he said faced higher odds of failure than their peers.

"I didn't have a dad in the house," Mr. Obama said Thursday as he announced a $200 million, five-year initiative, My Brother's Keeper, to aid black youth. "And I was angry about it, even though I didn't necessarily realize it at the time. I made bad choices. I got high without always thinking about the harm that it could do. I didn't always take school as seriously as I should have. I made excuses. Sometimes I sold myself short."

Mr. Obama said the idea for My Brother's Keeper occurred to him in the aftermath of the killing of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager whose death two years ago prompted a roiling national debate about race and class. He called the challenge of ensuring success for young men of color a "moral issue for our country" as he ticked off the statistics: black boys who are more likely to be suspended from school, less likely to be able to read, and almost certain to encounter the criminal justice system as either a perpetrator or a victim.

"We just assume this is an inevitable part of American life, instead of the outrage that it is," Mr. Obama told business leaders, politicians, philanthropists, young black men from a Chicago support program, and Mr. Martin's parents. "It's like a cultural backdrop for us in movies, in television. We just assume, of course it's going to be like that."

"These statistics should break our hearts," he added. "And they should compel us to act."

Although Mr. Obama nods on occasion to his history-making status as the nation's first black president, he has sought to avoid being defined by his race. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.