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Diversity Oversight? Obama’s Initiative, My Brother’s Keeper, Now Includes All

Emil Photo Again Edited 61b7dabb61239

Finally, a little inclusion.

That 60 of the nation’s largest school districts are now joining in on President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper program is indeed great news.

The word of schools being in the mix gives the president’s $200 million dollar program the kind of “buy-in” it needs to really be successful.

Notice, no new money has been added to the initiative. But now that schools are involved, it makes sense for local nonprofit and private sector sources to open up and get involved.

That’s really the only effective way any trickle-down idea works. You seed from the Feds, attract money from local foundations and businesses, and fund real help to community concerns, in this case African-American and Latino boys in need.

And that, as it turns out, was where the glaring omission was with the program, first announced in February. It wasn’t the lack of schools or the missing local money sources.

It was the rest of the boys who needed the trickle down.

What about Asian American boys? Native American boys?

Left out again.

I know the tendency is to think Asians aren’t below the poverty line and are all A students. But the stereotype enables people to ignore the needy minority within the minority. The growing Southeast Asian communities of Hmong and Mien? What about them?

What about all the Asian American boys who find themselves caught in their own version of Asia in America? All you need to do is visit Los Angeles’ Little Saigon. Or Queens in New York. In those places, young boys are often treading two worlds between school and a working-class bilingual home life. Sometimes they make it, many times they don’t.

Not everyone is as lucky as the young Barry Obama to attend the posh Punahou School. In the Makiki area of Honolulu where Obama grew up, most Asian American boys aren’t even shown the keys to success.

And then there are the cities with large Native American communities like in New Mexico, Arizona and Alaska. What happens to Native American boys there when their families struggle?

Too often these boys are just outright ignored. Besides, they’re Native Americans, and when does anyone seem to care about their small minority interests?

It’s strange that the diversity aspect of the program was overlooked. Perhaps the stats on African Americans and Latinos are so urgent it placed blinders on the organizers.

That shouldn’t happen. But it too often does.

Sometimes even the most well-meaning leave out a few details.

Now as the program expands to include all brothers, we all have a rooting interest to see it succeed — inclusively.

Emil Guillermo writes on issues of race for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund ( Like him at and Twitter @emilamok.

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