Black Professor Wonders if His Children ‘Can Be Friends with White People’ in Age of Trump

In a New York Times op-ed, Ekow N. Yankah says friendship is impossible between African-American voters and the president's voters

by Kathryn Blackhurst | Updated 13 Nov 2017 at 8:04 AM

A black professor worried that he soon would have to discuss with his boys “whether they can truly be friends with white people” following President Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential election victory, in an op-ed published Saturday in The New York Times.

Ekow N. Yankah, a professor who teaches criminal law at Yeshiva University’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, penned the op-ed, which ran under the headline, “Can My Children Be Friends With White People?” Yankah listed two main reasons for fearing that his children would never be able to make white friends: Trump’s election as president and the deadly, race-fueled August 12 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

"It is impossible to convey the mixture of heartbreak and fear I feel for [my son]," Yankah wrote. "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 they can truly be friends with white people," Yankah added. "Real friendship is impossible without the ability to trust others, without knowing that your well-being is important to them. The desire to create, maintain or wield power over others destroys the possibility of friendship."

Pointing to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.'s "famous dream of black and white children holding hands" in friendship, Yankah wrote that "history has provided little reason for people of color to trust white people in this way."

As a result of the current political and racial climate he claims were brought forth in the age of Trump, Yankah said that he actively will "teach my boys to have profound doubts that friendship with white people is possible" at all.

"When they ask, I will teach my sons that their beautiful hue is a fault line," Yankah wrote. "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."

Related: Why the Media Should Cover Trump's Charlottesville Comments Fairly

The idea that Trump's "America First" and "Make America Great Again" policies could benefit black Americans at all appeared to be anathema to Yankah. In fact, Yankah expressed his outrage that "when systemic joblessness strikes swaths of white America, we get an entire presidential campaign centered on globalization's impact on the white working class."

Yankah accused the president of pulling off an Election Day victory that "has broken bonds on all sides" and made it impossible for Trump voters and black Americans to be true friends. The professor had nothing to add about how it was possible that Trump snatched 8 percent of the black vote on Election Day.

"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," the professor wrote. "Only white people can cordon off Mr. Trump's political meaning, ignore the 'unpleasantness' from a position of safety."

"Surely, they say, politics — a single vote — does not mean we can't be friends," Yankah added. "I do not write this with liberal condescension or glee. My heart is unbearably heavy when I assure you we cannot be friends."

(photo credit, article image: Group of Friends Smiling, CC BY-SA 2.0, by hepingting)

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