Genesis 4:9 gives us that question from Cain to the Lord after the Lord asked Cain where is your brother Abel. So Cain answered back with a question “Am I my brothers keeper?” The Lord fired back in verse 10 by saying: “What have you done, your brothers blood cries out to me from the ground.”
Last week President Barack Obama launched an initiative to do something about the plight of boys or young men of color in this country. He stood before us and spoke of his growing up without a father in the home and some of the bad choices he made as a young man. He was quick to add that he was able to overcome those decisions because of people around him guiding and nurturing him for the second and third time.
During his remarks he included some numbers of the dropout, suspension, and expulsion rates and how the injustice of our justice system has negatively affected those boys and young men; that we must be our brother’s keeper before we hear from the Lord of what have we done.
Everyone will have to answer that question for themselves, but many organizations and private foundations are responding to the call by putting money and effort into being their “brother’s keeper.” In other words, they are responding to the silent crying of our boys of color in this country.
I am proud of California Endowment’s leader, Dr. Ross for stepping up and funding programs to take on some of the issues facing a population of underserved boys of color in California.
According to the California Department of Education we have a dropout rate of 25.6%% for Black boys and a 60.3% graduation rate. For Latino boys it is a 68.8% graduation rate and a 19.2% dropout rate. Native American boys have a dropout rate of 21.0% and a 67.2% graduation rate compared to White boys with an 83.6% graduation rate and 10.1% dropout rate.
One could argue that one fourth of the boys of color are not being served by public schools in California even though taxpayers are paying for them to do so. My question is: what are we doing to our boys of color in our public education system that they do not want to stay in school and finish their education? My other question is to the boys: what is so bad that you give up? Why is it that our girls of color hang tough with racial and gender discrimination in school and finish? You too must hang tough and accept the challenge to improve these dismal numbers that reflect failure on your part, while we in the community work hard to remove people and barriers that get in your way.
I recognize that we must elect the right school board members and hire the right staff for you to succeed. Yes parents must stay involved but you are the ones who must put forth the effort and turn off the television and put down that cell phone or video game.
Our negative numbers far exceed our numbers of parity so we recognize that there are forces working against you but that cannot be an excuse for any of us to give up.
That is why I am in full support of President Obama’s initiative to assist boys of color in pursuing the ‘American Dream’ of living life in an abundant way.
Let us roll up our sleeves and get to work by joining organizations that are about the business of lifting them up and becoming our brother’s keeper.