On Sunday, the New York Times did its part to promote racial harmony, running a piece headlined, “Can My Children Be Friends With White People?”
The piece, by law professor Ekow Yankah at Yeshiva University in New York, argues whites can’t be trusted, aren’t reliable friends and ignore “centuries of exclusion and robust evidence of continuing racism.”
Yankah talks about how his 4-year-old son was trying to “clarify how many people can be his best friends,” but “even a child’s joy is not immune to this ominous political period.”
There were questions in his house about the political violence in Charlottesville last spring.
“Some people hate others because they are different,” the father told the son, “lamely.” But a “childish but distinct panic enters his voice. ‘But I’m not different.'”
Yankah writes that real friendship is not just a feeling or the ability to share a beer. It is impossible without the ability to trust others, “without knowing that your wellbeing is important to them.”
“History has provided little reason for people of color to trust white people in this way, and these recent months have put in the starkest relief the contempt with which the country measures the value of racial minorities.”
America is “transfixed” now on solving the opioid crisis, Yankah says, but “when black lives were struck by addiction, we cordoned off minority communities with the police and threw away an entire generation of black and Hispanic men.”
We still talk about joblessness in poor neighborhoods in terms of “bad choices and personal responsibility,” Yankah wrote. But when swaths of white people find themselves out of work, “we get an entire presidential campaign centered on globalization’s impact on the white working class.”
And that means trouble.
“Even the nerve of some rich or visible African-Americans to protest that America, in its laws and in its police, has rarely been just to all has been met with howls of a president who cannot tolerate that the lucky and the uppity do not stay in their place.”
Yankah says Trump supporters are “practiced at purposeful blindness,” starting from Trump claiming before he ever ran for office that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. This was an electoral tactic, ginned up by the Clintons to battle Obama in the 2008 Democrat primaries, but it has become a symbol on par with Klan robes for some.
“That his political life started with denying, without evidence, that Barack Obama is American that this black man could truly be the legitimate president is simply ignored,” he writes. Trump’s apologists “deny there is any malice whatsoever in his words and actions and dismiss any attempt to recognize the danger of his wide-ranging animus as political correctness.”
So the verdict is in for Yankah and, unfortunately, for his young sons who are about to be carefully taught to embrace racism.
“As against our gauzy national hopes, I will teach my boys to have profound doubts that friendship with white people is possible,” Yankah wrote. “When they ask, I will teach my sons that their beautiful hue is a fault line. Spare me platitudes of how we are all the same on the inside. I first have to keep my boys safe, and so I will teach them before the world shows them that this particular brand of rending, violent, often fatal, betrayal.”
Teaching your boys hate and distrust will not help them, but it doesn’t seem Yankah can do it any other way.
“It is impossible to convey the mixture of heartbreak and fear I feel for him,” Yankah writes of his son. “Donald Trump’s election has made it clear that I will teach my boys the lesson generations old, one that I for the most part nearly escaped. I will teach them to be cautious, I will teach them suspicion, and I will teach them distrust. Much sooner than I thought I would, I will have to discuss with my boys whether can truly be friends with white people.”
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