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Obama, Edited

Jul 28, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 43 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
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Last February President Obama launched a new initiative to help “boys and young men of color” facing tough odds in life to stay on track and reach their full potential. At the time we observed in an editorial that there was a not-exactly-minor problem with “My Brother’s Keeper” (as the initiative was dubbed): its exclusionary nature. By “color,” the president meant black and brown, and by “boys and young men,” of course, he meant youthful males of those colors.

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In the editorial (“Excluding by Race,” March 10), we asked why the initiative was limited to African-American and Hispanic young men, and why was it not open to young men regardless of color, and for that matter, women too. After all, young Americans facing difficult circumstances come in all colors and races as well as both sexes. And by shutting a door of opportunity against those not of the favored colors or sex, we noted, the administration was risking a lawsuit that it had no chance of winning.

Now it appears that the administration has figured this out. For while the initiative remains focused on helping boys and young men of color, it also has been recast in ways that at least erase its explicitly exclusionary lines.

Thus, the “progress report” recently submitted by the task force implementing the initiative refers to those it aims to help as coming from the ranks of “all young people.” The report identifies ostensible beneficiaries as “boys and young men of color,” but not as though they are the only ones. Clearly, while they may benefit from the initiative more than boys and young men of other colors or national origin, or than girls and young women, they remain a subset of “all young people,” and no one otherwise eligible for some program under the initiative may be excluded from it on grounds of race or sex.

Since The Scrapbook spends its days working with words, we admit to being impressed with the balancing act pulled off by the writers of the report. Thus, when the document says that “young people” are to be helped, it hastens to point out that “young people” include “boys and young men of color.” When it says that “boys and young men of color” are to be assisted, it quickly makes clear that there are to be beneficiaries among “all young people.” As well, when the report says that “boys and young men of color” are to be helped, it goes on to say that their “peers” are too​—​peers meaning every young person similarly situated in some at-risk category.

By the way, The Scrapbook must report that neither “girls” nor “young women” make an appearance in the 61-page report. But by implication they are among “all young people,” and thus they are possible beneficiaries of the initiative. In our view, they are not, by virtue of their not being mentioned explicitly, being warred against, as no good Democrat would ever consider doing that.

As though to complete the editing believed necessary to secure the initiative against charges of bias, the task force included in its report a declaration of nondiscrimination. Thus, the “strategies and recommendations discussed in this report are designed in accordance with the fundamental principle that Federal and federally assisted programs and services may not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, color, or national origin. Nothing in this document should be read to suggest otherwise.”

That fundamental principle is correct. And we applaud the administration for now affirming it. May the president and all his men and women of all colors stick to it.

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