ROLAND S. MARTIN: Black Elites Look Silly Over 'My Brother's Keeper' Criticism | Roland Martin Reports

ROLAND S. MARTIN: Black Elites Look Silly Over ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ Criticism

by Roland S. Martin
Editor-in-Chief RolandMartinReports.com
Host and Managing Editor of NewsOne Now

There is no more endangered figure in America than the black man.

A cursory look at the education system, the prison industrial complex, unemployment numbers and mortality rates will show that if you are a minority man in America, you are more likely to be in prison, less educated, underemployed and will die at an earlier age.

Recognizing these dismal stats, President Barack Obama in February launched an audacious initiative to push the philanthropic community to stand in support with community-based groups and assist them in reversing the bleak future for minority men.

He pushed corporate and foundation leaders to pledge to spend $200 million over the next five years — they have already spent $150 million — on programs to offer a future for these men.

It was widely hailed as innovative and greatly needed.

Yet, three months later, the president’s initiative is under assault from a group of 200 men of color, and 1,000 women of color, who are assailing the president and his staff for downplaying and downright ignoring the plight of minority women.

The group of men first wrote an open letter decrying the exclusion of girls of color, and they were then followed up by a group of women. Prominent names like Danny Glover, Mary Frances Berry, Angela Davis, Alice Walker and others are among the nearly 1,500 signatures. A perusal of both will reveal most are academics that spend the bulk of their time living and working in the ivory tower.

Their basic premise? Open up “My Brother’s Keeper” to minority girls and be more inclusive.

My response? Absolutely nonsense. Leave “My Brother’s Keeper” as it is — an intense, targeted focus on a group desperately needing attention.

This public battle reminds me of two children who fight for the attention of their parents. One says the other is the favorite child who gets all of the love and attention.

But what makes this so silly is that in his first 90 days as president, Obama launched the White House Office on Women and Girls, an initiative that mandated that all federal departments and agencies consider the impact of policy on women and girls.

One is a White House effort targeting the philanthropic community, and the other speaks directly to public policy.

But the White House office has been dismissed by some of the woman arguing for inclusion into “My Brother’s Keeper,” saying it has no foundation, no money, no vision.

Yet when I talked Wednesday to Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the president and his closest friend, she said none of the women involved bothered to reach out to her over the last 5 1/2 years to register a complaint or offer to create a plan to focus on minority girls.

Think about that: If a collective body of people are so concerned about minority girls and wanted presidential action, why not use the apparatus he created 90 days into his presidency?

It angers me to no end to see this complaining because the need is so great.

I’ve heard from numerous black women who don’t agree at all with including girls in “My Brother’s Keeper,” saying it should stay the course.

But what also ticks me off is to listen to all of these so-called smart people suggest that because I believe in gender-specific initiatives, I’m sexist. Really? So if it’s a female-specific program, am I still sexist?

I am fully supportive of a plan that targets minority boys of color and one of girls of color. To deal with the complexities of what ails both groups requires a targeted focus.

Any White House is sensitive to criticism, and this one doesn’t want to be trashed for launching and innovative idea whose time has come. But this is one time I would say they ignore the carping and criticism. If those behind the hashtag, #WhyWeCantWait, are serious, then not wait to meet with Jarrett and others to offer a solution.

Writing an open letter and tweeting is fine, but that won’t do a damn thing to raise the collective fortunes of a group of people, male or female.

Roland S. Martin is senior political analyst for TV One and author of the book “The First: President Barack Obama’s Road to the White House as Originally Reported by Roland S. Martin.” Please visit his website at www.RolandSMartin.com. To find out more about Roland S. Martin and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2014 CREATORS.COM

 

  • thefreelancer

    Agreed Roland. Black men especially need this positive focus and support. I want to get involved the best I can. The boys and girls have separate issues. I applaud the President and his staff of My Brother’s Keeper.

    • huge dong

      yeah sure

  • atlchic

    Valerie Jarrett is President Obama’s closest friend? Really Roland? Is that what she told you? I wonder what the President’s wife thinks about this. Even if it were true, that’s a little embarrassing for her to broadcast since one’s husband having his closest friend be another woman I think would be an affront to most wives.

  • atlchic

    Valerie Jarrett is President Obama’s closest friend? Really Roland? Is that what she told you? I wonder what the President’s wife thinks about this. Even if it were true, that’s a little embarrassing for her to broadcast since one’s husband having his closest friend be another woman I think would be an affront to most wives.

  • atlchic

    Valerie Jarrett is President Obama’s closest friend? Really Roland? Is that what she told you? I wonder what the President’s wife thinks about this. Even if it were true, that’s a little embarrassing for her to broadcast since one’s husband having his closest friend be another woman I think would be an affront to most wives.

    • GardensRegular

      Way to take a meaningless snippet and try to make an issue out of it…one of his closest friends, his closest friend…regardless, the FLOTUS surely doesn’t care about how one of THEIR closest family friends is described.

  • Jeffrey McCune

    Roland,

    As a black male professor, scholar, minister and one who generally loves your media and advocacy work, I think the outset of this article starts a bad frame. You say “there is no more endangered figure in America than the black man.” This is setting up an oppression olympics that makes black men and black women in competition. Frankly, we do not need that. This positions the call of women as lesser than the call of men; assuming that the intersections of class, race, gender, and sexuality at different moments does not exacerbate the threat to the lives of black women. Just not helpful. Now the truth is that you are right on one thing: we need programming which targets both men of color and women of color. However, that brings me to another issue in your essay: “Obama launched the White House Office on Women and Girls, an initiative that mandated that all federal departments and agencies consider the impact of policy on women and girls.” This again, is not inclusive of the concerns raised by either letter and ignores the way “women and girls” has so often been codified in ways that exclude women of color, or do not allow for targeted attention to worm on color. Finally, I want to begin to think about how our dismissive tones and paternal voices come out through our writing and allow us to look like the patriarchal soldiers who think we have the right to tell women and other marginalized people HOW to fight and when to fight. As much as I agree with your “target” position, I also feel this is a good hour to pressure the country and the Obama Administration to take young black and brown girls seriously, not as an AFTERTHOUGHT. I hope you will consider a different tone and frame for your dissension here and offer up more advocacy for an initiative which TARGETS women of color.

    • Ty Simpson

      Man, yall kill me. Immigrant, GLBT, and other groups have focused policy. Why can’t black men? Cause you said so? Boy, please.

      • huge dong

        right on ty …you tell it .power to the people … black power… down with whitey… we shall over come.. kill whitey… power to al sharpton .. O J all the way kill whitey

      • Jeffrey McCune

        you clearly didn’t read my paragraph. I totally am in agreement with focused and target initiatives. Women as an after-thought for such a program is THE problem. And now how we talk about women, in being mad at their persistence, is a BIGGER problem.

  • Ty Simpson

    if these sisters are soo mad, why dont they go and meet with Valerie Jarrett to talk about it? They sound like some opportunists who want to bother the President OBama so they can get their pockets lined! Them brothers who signed this form should be ashamed of themselves. They just out here being lapdogs for these black feminists.

  • Ty Simpson

    if these sisters are soo mad, why dont they go and meet with Valerie Jarrett to talk about it? They sound like some opportunists who want to bother the President OBama so they can get their pockets lined! Them brothers who signed this form should be ashamed of themselves. They just out here being lapdogs for these black feminists.

  • sheryl

    I, as a black woman, am in full support of the “My Brother’s Keeper project. I look around and can see many groups and foundations solely for young ladies of color which include mentoring, self esteem workshops, etc. but I hardly ever see the same focus on young men of color. We have annual shows aired on national media telling everyone how girls rock but there is no public outcry for a boys rock. I just believe that we as a people sometimes focus on the wrong thing, all of our kids boys and girls need guidance, love, and support. So instead of these people complaining about My Brother’s Keeper why don’t they as a collective start a My Sister’s Keeper and allow our boys to get some help too.

    • Jeffrey McCune

      Sister, why does standing up for the need for men to have programming equate to black women must create programs for themselves?! There should be governmental programs which advances the health of men AND women of color. Your pointing toward smaller programming in the community and the Black GirlsvRock stuff is like pointing to peanuts versus a robust harvest with resources that can truly invest in women of color’s welfare and health. The point here is not to dismiss the chronic need for black men, but to also push the givernment and our communities to understand the chronic issues of black men. But your suggestion for women to create something that the government is partnering with corporations to do for men is supporting the type of sexism and division that cuts to the core of why more concentrated programs for blAck women are needed.

      • Ty Simpson

        Aint you one of them fools who signed that letter to the President of the United States? Boy, leave that grown woman alone!

  • huge dong

    whose fault is all this i think its these black hos that keep pumpin out these things and not teaching them a thing about real life ..not welfare life

  • samuel_b

    shameful really that these men wrote such a letter. they are opportunists looking for some fame. The real problem is this white tower loser Kiese Laymon. He just sits in an office, gets no real world experience, interacts with 24 year old feminists that he wants to seduce and tries to inject poisonous debate about something that needs none

    • Jeffrey McCune

      This sounds personal, not political.