Make ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ unnecessary

On Feb. 27, President Barack Obama launched “My Brother’s Keeper” — a campaign to “build ladders of opportunity for boys and young men of color,” he said at the time.

The initiative has its share of supporters and detractors. This time, however, combatants are not just Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, CNN or Fox News. The faction cheering and jeering the loudest are African-Americans.

The fact African-Americans have opposing points of view about “My Brother’s Keeper” is a tremendous sign of growth. For too long, our community has been viewed homogeneously. There is even a well-known anecdote that makes fun of our so-called uniformity: “You know we all look alike.” Samuel L. Jackson was correct: We don’t all look alike.

“My Brother’s Keeper” has garnered evidence that, for us, this issue is no laughing matter. There is no consensus. All sides of the initiative present what they believe are facts to support their positions.

For some, the campaign is timely. For others, it’s too little, too late. Still for others, “My Brother’s Keeper” is historic, and for many, it’s inconsequential. Some say the campaign is disrespectful, while others deem it reverent. Every perspective is true.

German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche may have articulated it best when he said: “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way and the only way, it does not exist.” His words are applicable to “My Brother’s Keeper.”

No presidential initiatives, laws or judicial decisions receive unanimous approval. African-American history is replete with examples of difficulty agreeing on major social and economic issues. There was discrepancy about whether to remain enslaved or revolt. There was the great debate between Booker T. Washington and W.E.B Dubois. And the conflicting strategies of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

Rather than squabble about whose is the right, correct and/or only way, maybe we should do our part individually to make the “My Brother’s Keeper” campaign unnecessary. Instead of trying to validate personal intellectual, economic or social superiority, we should do what we can independently to make it passé.

Whether you are an advocate or adversary, we — individually and collectively — have the power and responsibility to care for, help, value and invest in the sons, brothers and future fathers of our community.

If both supporters and detractors give their unconditional, unremitting and altruistic best to build ladders of opportunity for boys and young men of color, those boys and young men who now have little to no opportunities may finally have ladders. Not only will that enable them to climb, but to ascend to unimaginable heights.

Nathanial A. Turner, a financial adviser and writer, lives in Indianapolis.

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