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‘My Brother’s Keeper’ and Government-Sponsored Discrimination



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Various news outlets are reporting that today the president will announce the “My Brother’s Keeper” program. The details have yet to be provided, but apparently it will involve a combined effort of businesses, philanthropies, and government to improve the prospects of at-risk black and Latino young men.

The obvious question, which I raised when the program was first hinted at in the President’s State of the Union speech, is why the program should be limited to young men of certain racial and ethnic groups – indeed, why it should not also include young women.

It is almost always unconstitutional for the government (and any private program that receives federal money) to discriminate on the basis of race and ethnicity. There is no “compelling” interest to do so here. It may be that a disproportionate number of blacks and Latinos are at-risk, but many are not, and many whites, Asians, and others are. This is just another kind of “profiling.”

Nor will it do to say that there are other programs available for those being excluded here, as one White House official is quoted as saying. This is just another separate-but-equal argument.

President Obama has caved in to pressure from the left – the Congressional Black Caucus and others — to do something he was generally unwilling to do up to now: Endorse a federal program that is overtly limited to those of a particular color. Too bad.

Constitutionality aside, it is divisive and unfair to have racially exclusive programs. And what kind of message is given to blacks and Latinos when they are told that their young men are so problematic that they have to be singled out for special help to ensure that they don’t screw up?



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