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Editorial: My Brother’s Keeper: The right move

Recently, President Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative aimed at helping young men of color attend college. The White House has been active in its efforts to make higher education more accessible since the beginning of Obama’s presidency. We are heartened by the president’s newest program, which will attempt to give one of the most disenfranchised groups in America equal footing to receive a higher education, and we hope that the University will lend its support.

During Obama’s first term as president, 22,000 black men were murdered in the United States. Young black men are particularly at risk, since deeply rooted structural patterns lead many who grow up in low-income neighborhoods to resort to violent crime. In fact, the Center for American Progress has calculated that a startling one in three black men in the United States can expect to go to prison during his lifetime, though many of these individuals are incarcerated for non-violent drug-related crime. Obama maintains that these problems are not independent of access to higher education.

Those born into low-income households are 13 times less likely to graduate from college than wealthier Americans. This clearly shows the extent to which poverty impedes access to higher education. “These statistics should break our hearts, and they should compel us to act,” Obama said in a speech at the White House. Obama recognizes that these trends will not correct themselves. He pointed to examples of “extraordinary achievement,” such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Magic Johnson and Colin Powell, who were able to bypass the structural barriers working against them.

It is time to turn these extraordinary examples into everyday instances. “This is an issue of national importance. This is as important as any issue that I work on. It’s an issue that goes to the very heart of why I ran for president,” Obama declared. He has pledged $350 million in private donations and has teamed up with a variety of philanthropic organizations to bring the initiative to fruition.

The president is correct in calling the issue a matter of national importance, and we hope that Brown will continue to address it. We laud Brown for its commitment to geographic, racial, social, economic and religious diversity. But we seek to emphasize that there is still work to be done, and the My Brother’s Keeper initiative highlights that reality. The University should provide outreach programs to low-income communities in order to educate youth early on about the possibility of attending college. Instilling the idea that college can be a reality for these individuals will go a long way toward providing hope and the inspiration to stay on the right track. In addition, Brown should make a renewed commitment to providing financial aid for this group of particularly at-risk youth.

Obama clearly acknowledges the structural boundaries that undermine true equality of opportunity in America. Taking on the My Brother’s Keeper initiative as a personal cause, the president is sending a heartening message about the need for broad changes. We hope that the University, along with its peer institutions, will continue to join in the reforms.

 

Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editors, Matt Brundage ’15 and Rachel Occhiogrosso ’14, and its members, Hannah Loewentheil ’14 and Thomas Nath ’16. Send comments to editorials@browndailyherald.com.

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