A black law professor in New York wondered publicly whether or not his children could be “friends with white people.”
It’s certainly an incredibly racist question, so one might applaud Ekow N. Yankah for his unabashed honesty.
But that applause should only be brief before the admiration turns into horror over what this Oxford-educated professor is suggesting.
Writing in the New York Times with the headline “Can my Children be Friends with White People?” , Yankah tells us that he will teach his children to have “profound doubts that friendship with white people is possible.” Essentially, he is passing down his racism to the next generation.
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.
Yankah tell us that it makes him really sad that he will have to teach his boys to be racist. He grew up in a Midwestern town, you see, in a town that was diverse and was a “happy-childhood” kind of place. A town, he tells us, that lacked any deep racial tension.
So why did he decide to teach his children to hate? You guessed it: Donald Trump.
It is only for African-Americans who grew up in such a place that watching Mr. Trump is so disorienting. For many weary minorities, the ridiculous thing was thinking friendship was possible in the first place. It hurts only if you believed friendship could bridge the racial gorge.
Of course, the rise of this president has broken bonds on all sides. But for people of color the stakes are different. Imagining we can now be friends across this political line is asking us to ignore our safety and that of our children, to abandon personal regard and self-worth. Only white people can cordon off Mr. Trump’s political meaning, ignore the “unpleasantness” from a position of safety. 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.”
Yankah tell us it’s not just Donald Trump who has made the decision for him to teach racial hatred in his children. It’s all the people who support him.
Mr. Trump’s supporters are practiced at purposeful blindness. 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. So, too, is his history of housing discrimination, his casual conflation of Muslims with terrorists, his reducing Mexican-Americans to murderers and rapists. All along, his allies have watched racial pornography, describing black America as pathological. Yet they deny that there is any malice whatsoever in his words and actions. And they dismiss any attempt to recognize the danger of his wide-ranging animus as political correctness.
The good professor tells us that we can pretend we are friends – even in “Donald Trump’s America.”
There is hope, though. Implicitly, without meaning to, Mr. Trump asks us if this is the best we can do. It falls to us to do better. We cannot agree on our politics, but we can declare that we stand beside one another against cheap attack and devaluation; that we live together and not simply beside one another. 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.
What do you think? Is teaching your children to hate the answer to Donald Trump? Of course not? Sound off below!