'Can My Children Be Friends With White People?'
Before the liberal revolution is over, we'll be back to segregating the sexes -- in the name of "safety" -- and the races -- in the name of "empowerment." Behold this op-ed in the New York Times, one of the saddest things published since the heyday of the civil-rights movement:
My oldest son, wrestling with a 4-year-old’s happy struggles, is trying to clarify how many people can be his best friend. “My best friends are you and Mama and my brother and …” But even a child’s joy is not immune to this ominous political period. This summer’s images of violence in Charlottesville, Va., prompted an array of questions. “Some people hate others because they are different,” I offer, lamely. A childish but distinct panic enters his voice. “But I’m not different.”
It is impossible to convey the mixture of heartbreak and fear I feel for him. 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.
Would a four-year-old child, left to his own devices, really say such a thing, were it not put in his mouth by a parent? But that's nothing compared with the author's conclusion:
As against our gauzy national hopes, I will teach my boys to have profound doubts that friendship with white people is possible. 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.
Let me assure you that my heartbreak dwarfs my anger. I grew up in a classic Midwestern college town. With all its American faults, it was a diverse and happy-childhood kind of place, slightly dull in the way that parents wish for their children. If race showed in class lines, school cliques and being pulled over more often, our little Americana lacked the deep racial tension and mistrust that seem so hard to escape now.
What’s surprising is that I am heartbroken at all. 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.
Who's to blame? To ask is to answer:
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.
... But the deepest rift is with the apologists, the “good” Trump voters, the white people who understand that Mr. Trump says “unfortunate” things but support him because they like what he says on jobs and taxes. They bristle at the accusation that they supported racism, insisting they had to ignore Mr. Trump’s ugliness. Relying on everyday decency as a shield, they are befuddled at the chill that now separates them from black people in their offices and social circles. They protest: Have they ever said anything racist? Don’t they shovel the sidewalk of the new black neighbors? Surely, they say, politics — a single vote — does not mean we can’t be friends.
I do not write this with liberal condescension or glee. My heart is unbearably heavy when I assure you we cannot be friends.
What, then, is the solution? It's a question Americans of good will have been asking themselves, and trying practically to implement, since Reconstruction. But for Ekow N. Yankah, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, the answer is: wait.
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.
Did the political transition from Obama to Trump really mark a watershed in race relations, and give the lie to the best efforts of presidents from Lincoln and Grant onward to Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon to grapple with our nation's most intractable issue -- an issue so great we fought the bloodiest war in our history to resolve it politically? Is #resist really the best we can do? And if it is, what does that say about us?