At the White House today, President Obama announced a new program called “My Brother’s Keeper.”
President Barack Obama on Thursday launched his “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative, urging stronger efforts to create more opportunities for young minority men and to improve conditions that keep them impoverished and imprisoned in disproportionate numbers.
If you keep reading, however, you see that Obama doesn’t really mean “minority men,” or, as he also put it, “boys and young men of color.”
The White House listed a litany of facts showing the need for the effort: The unemployment rate for African-American men over the age of 20 was 12 percent last month, compared with 5.4 percent for white men. Hispanic men over the age of 20 faced an unemployment rate of 8.2 percent. The U.S. Census Bureau showed a poverty rate of 27.2 percent in black households and 25.6 percent for Hispanic households in 2012, compared with 12.7 percent in white and 11.7 percent in Asian households.
Chinese-Americans make more money, on the average, than white Americans, the “income gap” between Jews and Gentiles is wider than that between whites and blacks, and I believe Iranian-Americans have recently surpassed Jews as the highest income group of all. The issue here is not being a “minority.” On the contrary, if one sincerely wanted to help young African-Americans, an obvious starting point would be to ask why other Americans “of color” have done so much better. But that isn’t what the White House has in mind.
“By almost every measure the group that’s facing some of the most severe challenges in the 21st century in this country are boys and young men of color,” Obama said, ticking off statistics on fatherhood, literacy, crime and poverty.
“We assume this is an inevitable part of American life instead of the outrage that it is,” Obama said, to applause.
There is no mystery here. African-American men are disproportionately imprisoned because they commit an extraordinary number of crimes. They are disproportionately raised in poverty because their fathers usually don’t marry their mothers. Also, drugs. That is really all there is to it.
Obama’s theology is no better than his policy analysis. As many have noted, he himself has a brother–not a figurative “brother,” but an actual brother, the son of his father–living in poverty in Africa. But Obama, a wealthy man, has never done anything to help his own brother. The Associated Press helpfully explains the “brother’s keeper” reference:
The phrase “my brother’s keeper” comes from the book of Genesis in the Bible, where God asks Cain, the son of Adam and Eve, for the location of his brother Abel, who Cain had killed. In some versions, Cain replies: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Obama has quoted those Bible verses several times during his presidency, saying Americans should look out for each other.
The moral of the story of Cain and Abel is not that people “should look out for each other,” but rather, that they should not commit murder. Cain–a murderer, not a theologian–tries to change the subject when asked about his brother Abel’s whereabouts by asking, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” But God’s problem with Cain was not that he failed to “keep” Abel, but rather, that he killed him.
This story has, I think, a public policy analog. The federal government is not, in my view, anyone’s “keeper.” But it has contributed to the devastation of African-Americans in many ways: by profligate welfare policies, which more than anything else have destroyed African-American families; by enforcing affirmative action, which has created the belief that advancement can be divorced from accomplishment; by suppressing school choice; by endlessly yammering about “discrimination,” long after any significant discrimination ceased to exist, which perhaps more than anything else has poisoned the ability of African-Americans to make the sort of progress that other groups, like Japanese-Americans, Chinese-Americans, Korean-Americans, Jews, Iranian-Americans and others have made. Just as Cain had no obligation to “keep” Abel, the federal government has no obligation to “keep” African-Americans. Just as Cain should have simply left Abel alone, the federal government should stop worsening the condition of African-Americans through misguided policies.
PAUL ADDS: Given the prevalence and devastating effect of fatherless households, President Obama would have been better advised to launch a “son’s and daughter’s keeper” initiative.