President Obama’s plan to help young black men has not been exempt from criticism. Most recently, a report from a professor of political science at Columbia University calls out the "My Brother’s Keeper" initiative, arguing that it attempts to replace absent fathers with mentors, which wrongly perpetuates the myth of the absent black dad.
In reality, professor Fredrick C. Harris argues, the black father is very present—just not married.
Harris writes that 1.5 million black men have disappeared from black communities, “either through premature death from disease or murder or from being locked away in jails and prisons.” So in this regard, yes, there is a dearth of black men present to raise their kids. The role of patriarch is, of course, important, Harris told Next America. So as much as My Brother’s Keeper emphasizes that role, it’s a well-intentioned program. But one central problem Harris sees with the program’s premise—the absentee father replaced by a mentor—is that it supports the myth that black men have abandoned their kids, which he says isn’t true.
“Previous studies have shown that black fathers not only are active in the lives of their children but their engagement is equal to or is greater than white and Latino fathers,” Harris wrote in his report, "The Challenges of My Brother’s Keeper."