Undoing the damage

Program for minority boys is good; fixing root problems would be better

Many of the “Great Society” programs of the 1960s inflicted profound damage on minority families.

Can a program introduced by President Obama help undo some of that damage?

Called My Brother’s Keeper, the largely private-sector-backed program aims to help black and Hispanic youth overcome challenges they face in childhood development, school readiness, educational opportunity, discipline, parenting and the criminal justice system.

Though details on the five-year initiative are scant, it will rely on a federal task force to marshal existing resources, along with $200 million worth of commitments from 20 of the nation’s largest philanthropic organizations.

The Annie E. Casey Foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, the Ford Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and others will invest in proven programs that help young blacks and Hispanics stay out of trouble, succeed in school and land good jobs.

President Obama also spoke in unusually personal terms about his drug use as a teenager and his personal narrative about growing up without a father, stressing the importance of family cohesion.

“We can reform our criminal justice system to ensure that it’s not infected with bias. But nothing keeps a young man out of trouble like a father who takes an active role in his son’s life,” he said.

Amen.

Some may criticize the My Brother’s Keeper initiative for excluding minority girls and minority boys who are not black or Hispanic. But its narrow focus appears better equipped to reverse the damage done by ’60s domestic programs pushed by Democrats. Those initiatives decimated minority families and encouraged personal irresponsibility.

The government tried to sway struggling single parents into believing that a benefit check is a suitable substitute for a bread-winner who is committed to helping rear and love a child. You can’t put a price tag on a solid, nurturing family structure.

One in every 15 black men and one in every 36 Hispanic men in the United States are incarcerated. How many of them do you think came from happy family environments?

“The group that is facing some of the most severe challenges in 21st-century America is boys and young men of color,” the president said. “I believe the continuing struggles of so many boys and young men, the fact that too many of them are falling by the wayside, dropping out, unemployed, involved in negative behavior, going to jail ... this is a moral issue for our country.”

Turn that segment of society around, and it could have a tremendous impact on improving our nation.

While the intentions of My Brother’s Keeper seem good, here’s what would be even better: Direct more civic energy toward fixing the hurtful government programs that caused these problems in the first place.

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