A New York Times opinion piece published on Saturday questioned whether African-Americans can be friends with with white people.
“Donald Trump’s election has made it clear that I will teach my boys the lesson generations old …” writes Ekow N. Yankah for the Times opinion pages. “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 they can truly be friends with white people.”
Yankah invokes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of “black and white children holding hands,” famously saying in his “I Have A Dream” speech that he hopes his children will one day live in a world where they will not be judged for the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
The entire Jim Crow South’s perversion of the Equal Protection Clause relied on the state application of unequal justice — punishing people based on their skin color, and not on their actions.
In the piece headlined “Can My Children Be Friends With White People?” Yankah explores the possibility of having a real friendship with white people who “desire to to create, maintain or wield power over others destroys the possibility of friendship.”
Ironically, Yankah is guilty of exactly what he condemns, blaming all whites for a history racial injustice many played no part in, and want no part of.
“History has provided little reason for people of color to trust white people in this way,” Yankah writes. To him, Donald Trump’s election, along with the white nationalist protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, was an indicator of how “the country measures the value of racial minorities.”
Yankah rests high minority unemployment as the fault of racist whites, and claims the president’s backlash against NFL players protesting while taking a knee during the national anthem is his way of lamenting the “lucky and the uppity” that “do not stay in their place.”
“As against our gauzy national hopes, I will teach my boys to have profound doubts that friendship with white people is possible,” Yankah writes. Ironically perpetuating the myth that skin pigmentation can define ones character, not their words or deeds. The lessons he will teach his boys, play into this very idea.
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 this particular brand of rending, violent, often fatal betrayal.
His lesson to his boys is that white people are the enemy, often violent, trying to stymie their success. And if they cannot achieve whatever success they aim for, it is the fault of whites, and cannot, by any means, be the fault of their own.
Yankah admits that the “classic Midwestern college town” he grew up in “was a diverse and happy-childhood kind of place.” His own childhood “lacked the deep racial tension and mistrust that seem so hard to escape now.”
His lamentations of racial tension and mistrust are odd considering the very lesson he will teach his children is to mistrust those with a different skin color, and tell them it is they that put them at a disadvantage, making them victims before any injustice has yet to occur.
Yankah tacitly acknowledges there has been very little racial tension until the election of Trump. Perhaps he forgot about the riots in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore during Barack Obama’s eight years in office — racial tensions ginned up by the far-left long before the exculpatory evidence was released to the public.
Sadly, he places all the blame for racial tension on the president and his supporters, painting them with broad racial brush, and leaving those that exploit perceived racial divisions over policy debates as a political cudgel — completely unscathed.
Yankah never once engages in a policy debate, or engages the merits or demerits of the president’s policies and their effects on minority communities. His only reference to policy at all is a brief acknowledgement that “we cannot agree on our politics.”
“Of course, the rise of this president has broken bonds on all sides … ” says Yankah. “His election and the year that has followed have fixed the awful thought in my mind too familiar to black Americans: ‘You can’t trust these people.'” His reference to “these people” meaning whites as one monolithic group rather than many disparate individuals.
“I do not write this with liberal condescension or glee,” Yankah admits, after condemning Trump as a “vulgar, bigoted blowhard,” and his many “allies and apologists” for their “purposeful blindness.”
But ultimately, Yankah doesn’t want to be “misunderstood,” and ends on a more hopeful note.
“White Trump supporters and people of color can like one another … We can still all pretend we are friends. If meaningful civic friendship is impossible, we can make do with mere civility … In the coming years, when my boys ask again their questions about who can be their best friend, I pray for a more hopeful answer.”