Image by Cheryl Holt
On November 11, New York Times published one of their most clickbait opinion pieces of undoubtedly the last few years: Can My Children Be Friends With White People? In this piece by Ekow N. Yankah, a Professor of Law at Yeshiva University, he asserts that in this post-Trump era, racism is more prevalent than ever, and that’s why his children cannot befriend their white classmates and neighbors. Back in his day (Yankah was born in the 1970s), racism was nowhere near as bad, and things were beautiful and everyone was caring. Then 2016 happened, Donald Trump happened, and he discovered racism had been around all along, and that we cannot trust white people. While this may sound like an exaggeration of Yankah’s words, you’d be wrong:
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.
Yankah tells us that the opioid addiction facing many Americans is disproportionately reflected as nonwhite Americans, and this is because of racism, as African Americans are under-prescribed medications and thus turn to opioids for relief. Instead of looking to solutions, Yankah instead blames white people, Trump supporters, and white people:
As against our gauzy national hopes, I will teach my boys to have profound doubts that friendship with white people is possible.
How is it acceptable for a respected newspaper like the New York Times to publish this sort of race-baiting claptrap? This is the same man who quotes Martin Luther King Jr in an article about how black and white people should be separated because white people will always betray their nonwhite cohorts. He is teaching his sons that it is okay to judge someone on the basis of their skin color and not their character, which goes completely against the words of MLK. He talks about it in terms of heartbreak and loss, but we must realize this is someone talking about how we should separate the races. Does he not recall Jim Crow laws, or is he looking at them as a sort of inspiration?
Ekow Yankah is not the only person to be inflaming racial hatred in the post-Trump era. Many like him seem to believe that 2017 United States is worse than even the Jim Crow era, where the Ku Klu Klan was rampant and lynchings were predominant. A couple of dimwitted white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, is nowhere near the prevalence of the KKK in the early twentieth century, and for these sorts of race baiters (whom are both white and nonwhite in ethnicity) to claim otherwise is to trivialize and erase history. It is to ignore fourteen year old Emmett Till, who was tortured and lynched for allegedly whistling at a white woman. It is to ignore three black circus workers from Minnesota who, in 1920, were attacked and lynched by a mob of thousands, who later took photographs with their corpses and sold the pictures on postcards. It is to ignore racial segregation, where black people were forced to sit at the back of buses, attend different schools and colleges, and drink from different water fountains and other public amenities.
Certainly, the problems Yankah mentions in his opinion piece are real problems, as sure as the problem of police brutality is a real and terrifying one. However, to blame President Trump and, in essence, all white people, for these acts is truly absurd. If a white supremacist wrote an article for The Daily Stormer announcing that he distrusts all nonwhite people because a few of them are responsible for terrorist attacks, we would rightly call them a racist. For whatever reasons, it’s a-ok to blame white people for any misdeeds, even if only a certain subset of those white people (upper class, generally male but not always) are the actual problem.
But white people have been privileged for millennia! you may retort. This ignores the many white people who have been oppressed over history, just like the many nonwhite people who have been oppressed over history. Oppression isn’t only experienced by one race, even though some races experience more oppression in regards to certain issues (such as Yankah’s example of the opioid epidemic, or the police brutality issue). However, people like Yankah are using these issues to stir up racial hatred for the sake of dividing people.
What these sorts of articles ignore is many different people voted for Donald Trump—not just white people, but also “people of color”. This isn’t just because those nonwhite Trump supporters have “internalized” racism, or because they are actually secret Russian bots in disguise, but because not all nonwhite people vote for the same reasons. To assume every black or otherwise nonwhite person would have voted for Hillary Clinton is rather racist, considering Clinton has her own record of human rights violations against countries with majority nonwhite populations.
Articles like the one by Ekow Yankah only exist to divide the United States. While Yankah ends his piece by saying civility between races can be achieved, this is not evidenced by the majority of what he has written, which only serves to divide, not unite. For the same sorts of people who constantly claim “Love Trumps Hate”, they certainly seem to believe hating others is somehow the way to achieve love and equality.
Enough with the clickbait. Enough with the divisiveness. If we truly want love to trump hate, then stop with the publishing of hatebait articles. It just leaves us with one question: is Trump himself really the racist, or is it actually those who oppose him that are the true racists?