The phrase "my brother's keeper" comes from the book of Genesis in the Bible, where God asks Cain, the son of Adam and Eve, for the location of his brother Abel, who Cain had killed. In some versions, Cain replies: "Am I my brother's keeper?" Obama has quoted those Bible verses several times during his presidency, saying Americans should look out for each other.
Freed from the pressure of seeking re-election, Obama also has taken a more visible role on issues affecting minorities.
The president, who famously said — "I'm not the president of black America. I'm the president of the United States of America" — has moved to commute sentences for nonviolent drug offenders, hoping to combat sentencing disparities that disproportionately imprison minorities. His attorney general, Eric Holder, this month encouraged states to repeal laws that permanently bar felons from voting even after they have served their sentences. And Obama identified personally with the issue last year when he declared, after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, that Trayvon Martin, the black teenager killed in an encounter with Zimmerman in Florida, "could have been me 35 years ago."
The White House has been strongly criticized by some civil rights leaders for not using the presidential bully pulpit to do enough to address generations of disadvantage borne by the African-American community. But things are changing, said NAACP Interim President Lorraine Miller, who along with other civil rights groups met with the president in the White House last week.
"I think he's looking at a more strategic way how he can make an impact in the African-American community (not only) with employment but with health care and all the kind of issues we face every day," said NAACP Interim President Lorraine Miller in response to a question from The Associated Press on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers."
Associated Press writer Josh Lederman contributed to this report. Follow Jesse J. Holland on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/jessejholland
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