NYT op-ed: Black professor says that he’s teaching his children that they can’t be friends with whites

Here we have a sad example of someone who’s been driven into unreasonable thoughts and behavior by Trump’s election, and puts it on display in the New York Times. (Click on screenshot below to go to the op-ed.) The person is Ekow N. Yankah, an African-American professor at the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University. According to the piece, his wife is “bi-ethnic”, apparently having a white mother and a black father. But that doesn’t stop Yankah from answering the title question with a firm “NO!”

Yankah’s whole attitude towards white people changed with Trump’s election. When he grew up in the Midwest, he didn’t experience much racial tension, but that’s all changed since November. And indeed, while I’m not sure that Trump’s election created racism, it certainly brought the bigots out of their lairs and, to some extent, “normalized” bigotry—or at least made it more public. Yankah cites the lack of attention to the drug problem in black communities, as opposed to the focus on the largely white opioid crisis, as one symptom of racism. But what gets him most is simply Trump’s election and surprising popularity among Americans.

Yes, Trump is a moron, and clearly doesn’t speak out strongly in favor of helping the poor and dispossessed. And yes, a lot of people voted for him, though not all share his bigotry. But to Yankah, the latter doesn’t matter, for he’s decided, based largely on Trump’s election and popularity, that he’s going to teach his sons not only to be wary of white people, but that they can’t be friends with any of them, including children of the many whites who despise Trump.  A few snippets:

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.

. . . 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.

. . . 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.”

Several times in the article Yankah mentions “safety”, which of course resonates with those of us who hear the same thing in college. For blacks, perhaps, the risks of personal injury are higher since the election, as data do show a rise in hate crimes (many with black victims) since the election. But Yankah doesn’t cite this data, and one gets the feeling that it doesn’t matter: the more public displays of bigotry by Trump and some of his supporters are sufficient to make Yankah fear for his children and, most distressing, to teach them to avoid all white people, regardless of the content of their character. But does befriending a white child really make his children more unsafe? I find that hard to believe.

He goes on:

I do not write this with liberal condescension or glee. My heart is unbearably heavy when I assure you we cannot be friends.

. . . For African-Americans, race has become a proxy not just for politics but also for decency. White faces are swept together, ominous anxiety behind every chance encounter at the airport or smiling white cashier. If they are not clearly allies, they will seem unsafe to me.

Here Yankeh is judging people solely by the color of their skin rather than the content of their character.

At the end, Yankah admits that he does have white friends, but ones that have proven their credibility by having engaged in anti-racist protests. As for the rest of white people, well, his kids will be taught to avoid them. This makes me sad because, living near the University of Chicago’s famous Lab School, which is deeply dedicated to diversity, I often see mixed-race groups of children hanging out, playing sports, and just being friends. (Granted, the Lab School is expensive, though it grants many scholarships, but it’s not a cross section of Chicago’s black community. Still, I’m pretty sure Yankah makes a decent living.)

While I sympathize with Yankah’s increased wariness, and hatred of Trump, and do not have black children (or any children), it seems to me counterproductive to teach your kids to view all white people as the enemy. That will foster a persistent divisiveness in America, a divisiveness even worse than what we see now. If I believe one thing strongly, it’s that bigotry is best dispelled by familiarity: not by withdrawing to within your own group, but by mixing with others and experiencing our common humanity. That sounds Pollyanna-ish, but I feel it strongly. And if Yankah prevents his children from becoming friends with white people—just as when white people teach their kids to not befriend blacks—then we’ll forever form two separate and mutually suspicious groups. Somehow, I think, if Martin Luther King were alive, he’d disagree with Yankah’s views.

145 Comments

  1. alexandra Moffat
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    His children, or some of them, may make up their own mind and make friends regardless of color. trump & co certainly are not helping but kids often go in opposite directions from parents. ( Yah, truism). We can hope.

    • Posted November 13, 2017 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      Never trust someone with fake tan? 🙂

      • Posted November 13, 2017 at 10:50 am | Permalink

        … Trump I mean…

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted November 13, 2017 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

          So that wasn’t a euphemism for blackface?

          😉

          (Sorry, couldn’t help myself)

          cr

  2. Posted November 13, 2017 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    What about greys, or greens?

    Seriously, when is white ‘white’ & when is black ‘black’? How white or black does one have to be?

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted November 13, 2017 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      Since you raise it, truly white or black people are almost vanishingly rare.

      We’re all varying shades of dirty beige or brown.

      cr
      (Oops, that’s my second reply to a Dominic comment. I’m not targeting you, man 🙂

      • Eric Grobler
        Posted November 13, 2017 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

        Something I want to know.

        Why is someone like Obama referred to as black when he was raised by a white mother?
        Surely he could just as well be called white?
        Is that not in itself a sort of racism?

        If a person’s one parent is “white” and the other is of “mixed race” how do Americans refer to that person?

        Reminds me of Germany when a person would be classified as Jewish if one grand parent was Jewish (not 100% sure if I am correct).

        • Posted November 13, 2017 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

          As I recall, Obama felt like he had to decide whether to focus on his white heritage or black and, eventually, chose black. I am a Heinz 57 variety white female. I have tried to write “human” rather than “black” or “white” on any forms asking me that question. I have tried to raise my three children not to be racist. I have two mixed race grandchildren of whom I’m inordinately proud. They’ve had to decide which culture, white or black, they feel most comfortable in. They have to behave differently for each one; learn the language, appropriate topics, dances moves, songs for each. I would be devastated if they were unable to include me in their lives because I am white. I, too, worry about their safety. But, it is my hope that those of us who love all colors of people win out in the long run, and sooner rather than later.

          • Eric Grobler
            Posted November 13, 2017 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

            We should look and judge Obama as an individual, just like your grandchildren, you do not relate to them by their color, but by their personalities.

        • Posted November 13, 2017 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

          FTR, obama was raised mostly by his white grandparents. His mother was mentally unstable and abandoned him when he was 10.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted November 14, 2017 at 1:22 am | Permalink

          “Why is someone like Obama referred to as black when he was raised by a white mother?”

          Because he chose to self-identify as ‘black’. I see nothing wrong with that.

          And, to be honest, if he’d tried to identify as ‘white’ millions of voters would have said “he’s not white!” based on his looks. So, almost certainly, better for him to confront the issue head-on and admit his (part-)black parentage.

          (Still didn’t stop the ‘birther’ morons from trying to discredit him, they probably realised that trying to block him because he was black would have shown them up for the bigots they were, so they tried to split (imaginary) hairs over his nationality instead.)

          cr

          • Eric Grobler
            Posted November 14, 2017 at 1:38 am | Permalink

            “Because he chose to self-identify as ‘black’. I see nothing wrong with that.”

            I agree, my question was more general, why do society tend to classify people like him as black.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted November 14, 2017 at 1:46 am | Permalink

              Umm, because he is obviously ‘non-white’? So, since he isn’t 100% pure Aryan white, he must be something else.

              (Personally I consider all this ‘white’ business to be so much BS. I’m English – biggest mongrels in the world).

              cr

              • Eric Grobler
                Posted November 14, 2017 at 1:55 am | Permalink

                ” So, since he isn’t 100% pure Aryan white, he must be something else.”

                That is my impression!

                “I’m English – biggest mongrels in the world”
                Especially Londoners!

            • Guthrie Bowron
              Posted November 14, 2017 at 2:11 am | Permalink

              A relic of the old one-drop rule I suspect: that is, any identifiable black ancestry made one black. It’s something that although never codified in law, nonetheless persists to some extent sociologically. It seems a uniquely American phenomenon.

              • Eric Grobler
                Posted November 14, 2017 at 2:32 am | Permalink

                “It seems a uniquely American phenomenon.”

                Thanks for your insight.

                It also seems to me from afar that in this political climate more people would identify as black (like Dolezal/King) rather than white?

                Is it that you can gain some advantage by being a “victim”?
                I just find all this racist identity politics strange when the consensus among liberals (or decent people) were that people should be judged my character and we should aim for a “color blind” society. But I am old out of touch!

        • Max Blancke
          Posted November 14, 2017 at 10:00 am | Permalink

          In Obama’s case, he sought out and cultivated a Black identity. I guess he could have identified as a “human” of indeterminate race. there are quite a few such people in the public sphere.
          There was a time when race was pretty obsessively classified. People were “quadroons” or “octaroons” or whatever. I think everyone just gets to identify as whatever they want to be now.

          • Posted November 18, 2017 at 6:58 am | Permalink

            I don’t know if there are still laws in the U.S. that designate a person that is 1/16 black
            as legally black, but there used to be.

            Since it is now thought that our ancestors migrated out of Africa, we all may be considered somewhat black. Recently, we’ve learned that we Homo Sapiens are part Neandertal and Denisovan. Who knows what other groups we may also have bred fertile offspring
            with. There have been eons of people immigrating, perpetually conducting warfare, raping and pillaging, enslaving, etc. We could be mixtures of peoples we have no awareness of because they are hidden so far back in our family’s prehistory that it can’t be found in our genealogies. I can only trace my father’s family back to my great grandfather who was an orphan. Some parts of my family I can trace further back. Others may have been able to
            learn more about their families. But, still, most of our ancestry is unknown to all of us and we could be any mixture of races and colors.

  3. helenahankart
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    I think we should all teach our children to be much more careful around orange people

  4. rasmo carenna
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    He is being racist. It’s that simple.

    • Jake Sevins
      Posted November 13, 2017 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

      There is a school of thought that says something like this: “Racism is about power. Blacks are disenfranchised and powerless. Therefore blacks cannot be racist.”

      This means that this professor can say whatever he wants to his readers (and to his children) without being racist. If a white person did this, however, then it would be.

      • Posted November 14, 2017 at 5:48 am | Permalink

        Oh yes, the “it’s okay when we do it” school of thought. A.k.a. blatant self-serving bullshit.

        • Posted November 14, 2017 at 6:28 am | Permalink

          To elaborate on that a bit: in American society, power does not originate from your skin color, but from your individual position in society. This dude is a lawyer and a professor who can get his opinions published in the friggin New York Times; I’ll bet he has more power by any reasonable metric than most if the white shmucks he meets in everyday life.

          Even if that were not the case, making the classification of an individual’s statements and actions dependent on some relation of that person’s ethnic identity to some other ethnic group introduces a completely unnecessary complication. Assume that there’s a revolution, and Black Lives Matter take control, and proceed to implement demands that they announced before, like grant all black people (but no one else) a guaranteed income and free access to universities. Same mindset, same plans, before they were supposedly not racist, now they are. Doesn’t make sense to me.

          • darrelle
            Posted November 14, 2017 at 8:00 am | Permalink

            To elaborate on that a bit: in American society, power does not originate from your skin color, but from your individual position in society.

            This is not true, at all. Both skin color and class are significant factors. The relative significance of each varies with circumstances. In the case of African-American’s the two are directly connected. Their skin color has been a significant factor in the class they have been able to attain for a long time. For nearly all of our history.

            This professor’s personal “power” may be less affected by the color of his skin than his class, but he belongs to a subgroup, African-Americans, that includes many people, a much higher percentage than White-Americans, whose “power” is negatively affected by the color of their skin. You sound like you think it’s a bad thing that this professor identifies with his subgroup. As if he’s immoral for giving a shit about racism because he himself isn’t (as) affected by it.

            • Posted November 14, 2017 at 9:40 am | Permalink

              I’m not arguing that it’s just as easy for an average black person to become a law professor as for a white person. I’m arguing that any given black person can be just as powerful as any given white person, and that actions by that person therefore carry as much impact, and that excuses along the lines of “x belongs to group y, which has less power, so x’s action are less reprehensible than the exact same actions by a member of group z” are just that, bullshit excuses.
              I also did not write about “class”, in some abstract sense.
              I wrote “the individual’s position”.
              Do you think that Yankah has less power over his students than his white colleagues?
              Do you think that fewer people read his op-eds because he’s black?
              Do you think that if he were to argue a case as a lawyer, the judge could just ignore his statements because ge’s black?
              Did Obamas executive orders carry less authorithy because he was black?
              Does Oprah’s money buy her less because she’s black?

              • darrelle
                Posted November 14, 2017 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

                Yes, I understood your arguments the first time. You can take my response as me saying your arguments are bullshit, simple as that I suppose. Should have just left it at that.

      • Posted November 14, 2017 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

        Susan Haack (in another context) pointed out (something) that as a woman but a professor she has by most measures “more privilege” than the mentally homeless guy asking for quarters in the subway. The same applies here, which shows this “power over” thing is a bit weird.

  5. Posted November 13, 2017 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    This piece should be condemned for the unabashed racist crap that it is. The KKK and Nazis can find rationalizations for their hatred and so can this racist ass.

    You don’t think this is racist crap? Swap out the word “white” with “asian” or “hispanic” or “muslim” or any other character* and see how it passes your filters.

    *I know that muslim and hispanic are not races. Don’t be pedantic, you know what I mean.

  6. BJ
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    This is one of the most bigoted things I’ve ever read.

    “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.”

    Wow. Just…wow. Sounds a lot like something people in some parts of the south might have said about the black people in the neighborhood on the other side of the tracks. Except their views aren’t actively being spread by supposedly progressive intellectuals, politicians, activists, and university professors as some ideology of supreme justice and racial redemption.

    Regarding the “safety” argument, even if the author was making the argument Jerry supposes he might be making, it still wouldn’t apply to him Mr. Yankah and his children. Mr. Yankah is an upper-class intellectual living in NYC, not a poor father in the backwoods of Alabama. Even if the latter conditions were true, there still isn’t an enormous statistical risk (the risk would be higher if he was Jewish, but I’ve never seen such articles from Jews). It’s clear that this “safety” argument is the same one alluded to in Jerry’s post, the same made by college activists and critical theory professors: we must ensure certain groups are kept safe from ideas that have been predetermined by a handful of elites to be harmful to them.

    • BJ
      Posted November 13, 2017 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      I forgot to include this gem: “White faces are swept together, ominous anxiety behind every chance encounter at the airport or smiling white cashier. If they are not clearly allies, they will seem unsafe to me.”

      Sounds exactly like people who assume any black person they encounter is likely to be a dangerous criminal.

  7. Randall Schenck
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    What Yankah should be working on is getting other blacks registered and voting to remove this cancer from our political society. I am sure he can find some white people who would agree. He will more likely find safety if this is accomplished.

  8. XCellKen
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    The Government (which government?) is taking the opiod problem seriously? Since when ?

  9. Historian
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    There is no doubt that many, if not most, of Trump’s supporters are white tribalists. Their “whiteness” is as important to them as people of other races may think of their skin colors. Despite attempts by the right wing to accuse leftists of being the exclusive practitioners of identity politics, Trump’s supporters practice it more and better than any other group. Yankah is quite right to be wary of these people. They are unworthy of trust. While it is true that a majority of whites voted for Trump, a sizeable minority of them and probably a majority of younger ones despise Trump.

    Yankah is making a mistake in characterizing almost all whites as tribalists, if not outright racists. His views seem to mirror those of self-segregating African-Americans of the past, such as Marcus Garvey’s black nationalism of the 1920s or the Nation of Islam. Such a philosophy didn’t work then and will not work now. The advancement of any minority group in the United States requires alliances with other groups. In this situation, African-Americans need to make common cause with the vast number of whites that support their aspirations. I hope that Yankah can overcome his bitterness and become an active member in the “resistance” against Trumpism.

    • Jeff Rankin
      Posted November 13, 2017 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      “There is no doubt that many, if not most, of Trump’s supporters are white tribalists. Their “whiteness” is as important to them as people of other races may think of their skin colors.”

      How do you know this?

      • Posted November 13, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

        Recent public events have had many of them publicly stating exactly this: Their whiteness is important to their self esteem and sense of self. (I heard many quoted on NPR. “I’m not racist, but I’m proud to be white. It’s part of my family, history, etc. The Confederate Flag is part of that.” I paraphrase only slightly.)

        • Craw
          Posted November 13, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

          There’s a difference between some, sought out and interviewed, and “many, if not most”

          So your interview is an anecdote, not data.

          • Posted November 13, 2017 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

            How big is “many”?

            Of course it’s an anecdote.

        • Jeff Rankin
          Posted November 13, 2017 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

          Yeah I see content on youtube that echoes this. I’m wondering what the magnitude is and if indeed a prime factor in most people voting for Trump was racial identity.

          I personally don’t think so.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted November 13, 2017 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

          There’s one thing the writer said in the quotes Jerry provided that I agree with – that oftentimes it’s whites who are able to separate Trump’s politics from his racism. Just like a lot more men are able to separate his politics from his treatment of women. Christians find it easier to separate out his anti-Muslim rhetoric. I could go on of course.

          • darrelle
            Posted November 13, 2017 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

            Same here.

      • Historian
        Posted November 13, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

        Here’s how I know. A recent poll shows that 55% of whites feel there is discrimination against whites.

        From Time Magazine: “NPR explained that the results showed a correlation among white respondents between income and response, with those making less money believing discrimination was more rampant.” These folks are the heart of the Trump constituency. Those white people who feel that they are somehow oppressed are tribalists.

        http://time.com/4996106/discrimination-white-people-survey-poll/

        • Craw
          Posted November 13, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

          That’s a flaming non-sequitur. I think there is discrimination against Asians. I am not Asain much less an Asian tribalist. And I know Asians who agree with me — the evidence is 100% clear in re university admissions — who are not tribalists.

        • Eric Grobler
          Posted November 13, 2017 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

          “55% of whites feel there is discrimination against whites.”

          And why do they believe that?

          • Historian
            Posted November 13, 2017 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

            For a full discussion of white identity, I suggest you look at this column by Tom Edsall in the NYT. He provides a review of the academic literature on this topic. Among many other things, he notes the strong correlation between the aggrieved whites and support of Trump.

            • Eric Grobler
              Posted November 13, 2017 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

              I am not an American – just watching the train wreck from afar, however
              it seems to me that both whites and blacks experience an exaggerated sense of victimization.
              I think it is the media (and articles like this) that fuels paranoia and I do not see any responsible adults on stage.

              • Craw
                Posted November 13, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

                Plus the questions are worded to elicit answers. Is there discrimination against whites in America? Yes, demonstrably. You can find examples; there was recently a DNC job posting for instance. So a lot of people will answer yes. Is it widespread and oppressive — different question! and not the one asked. So there will likely be a different answer. But people pretend that the answer to one is the answer to the other. Look at Historian’s argument which is based on precisely this conflation.

          • Posted November 14, 2017 at 7:23 am | Permalink

            Maybe because they cannot open any left-leaning magazine without finding some “white people suck, whiteness is oppressive, don’t read books by white authors for a year, and dear white people, stop behaving so white” bullshit?
            Maybe because posters saying “it’s okay to be white” caused an uproar at universities because of their divisive and racist message?
            You could say that’s not real oppression, and I’d tend to agree. But hey, it wasn’t right-wingers who came up with the concept of microaggressions.

        • Max Blancke
          Posted November 14, 2017 at 10:37 am | Permalink

          I have a kid in college, and he sees it every day. We are White as can be, but we had lived in Japan for a large proportion of my son’s life. He is used to being different, and being treated as different by his Japanese friends and schoolmates.
          But what has been happening at University in the US is shocking to him. Complete strangers barge into his study groups and scream at them about their “Whiteness”. Lots of threats and obscenities. And it happens pretty regularly. Some of the kids eat in their dorm rooms because they are afraid to be confronted in the public spaces like cafeterias and libraries.
          It is particularly maddening because those kids have done nothing to provoke any of this. And they don’t see anyone else provoking it, either. Universities like that, as they are today, are probably the least oppressive places in human history, as far as race or other differences are concerned. But there are groups like BLM that really believe that they are being actively oppressed, and feel that it is their responsibility to punish those oppressors. At my son’s school, they have apparently decided that the med students, who are not even particularly White, are part of that oppression.
          So, if you ask someone who is experiencing these things if they feel there is discrimination against Whites, they will probably say “yes”. But they would not say it publicly, for fear of reprisal.

    • Eric Grobler
      Posted November 13, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      ” Despite attempts by the right wing to accuse leftists of being the exclusive practitioners of identity politics, Trump’s supporters practice it more and better than any other group. ”

      So that dumb white Trump supporters practise identity politics.

      WHAT IS YOUR EXCUSE?

      • Historian
        Posted November 13, 2017 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        I am not going to take the time to write an extended essay, but I will say now that “identity politics” is not only practiced by both parties, but it is actually a good thing, the essence of how a democratic system works. People naturally identify with certain groups. This could be based on many factors including race, religion, ethnicity and economic status. Whether or not it is a good idea that people do this, the reality is that they do it. These groups make alliances with other groups to achieve their ends through the electoral process. The give and take of politics determines how successful the groups ultimately are.

        My thinking has evolved recently and I say that the practice of identity politics is a necessity for a democracy and is therefore GOOD. That is my EXCUSE. Yes, extremists will appear on both ends of the political spectrum, but that is hardly surprising in a country that allows free expression. Unfortunately, the right wing has attempted to smear the left for practicing identity politics, while being the most successful practitioners of it by playing to the fears of whites. Some on the Left have drunk the Kool Aid and swallowed the right wing disinformation. It’s time for those on the Left to stop cowering under their beds and speak out against right wing hypocrisy

        • Eric Grobler
          Posted November 13, 2017 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

          “My thinking has evolved recently and I say that the practice of identity politics is a necessity for a democracy and is therefore GOOD. ”

          Interesting, my feeling is the exact opposite, but perhaps I need to analyze it deeper. My gut feeling is that the effect of tribalism will be fairly unique from country to country. Perhaps in can lead to a stable system in one country and genocide in another.

        • Jeff Rankin
          Posted November 13, 2017 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

          Groups, sure. I don’t think that necessarily implies identity politics and everything that ships with it.

          • Craw
            Posted November 13, 2017 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

            If you don’t agree with the group you are a traitor. That is the *essence* of identity politics. It’s odious and stupid. It’s not ‘good for democracy’.

            • Historian
              Posted November 13, 2017 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

              Once again, you make a meaningless generalization. Different groups have different agendas. But, the important issue is this. Given the extreme partisanship that now exists in the United States, just what would you replace identity politics with that has a realistic chance of taking effect? You rant a lot. I’m waiting for practical solutions.

              Identity politics have always been a part of American politics. The trick in our current situation is to tamper down the more radical views of some members of some groups. This is the only way to save democracy. Your wish to do away with identity politics is a fantasy since it flies in the face of human nature.

              • Posted November 13, 2017 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

                There may be no practical solutions but perhaps only that you educate using internal assessments based on how to identify when you’re being shafted by e.g. tribalism.

                Unfortunately this requires a bit of serious cognitive work and not in isolation “we are our own biggest fool” and overestimate values via fluency, vivid imagery, retrieval effects.
                Needless to say, rampant human nature, as neuroscience and understanding of our psychological underpinnings are finding, there are somethings that are worth guarding against.
                If Trump can have an effect like Professor Yankah has slumped too then the opposite can be true also, then, momentum towards a critical mass away from Trumpism and bad ideas is something people could hope and work for.
                If the benefits are real people will respond.

            • Craw
              Posted November 13, 2017 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

              There’s another non-sequitur. We can’t cure cancer therefore cancer is a good.
              I agree identity politics has long been with us. The KKK for instance is identity politics in a distilled form. Just because we’ve always had it doesn’t mean we’ve always had the same amount of it either. We have had periods with less of it and periods with more of it.

              I suggest that if either of us rants, it is you.

              • Posted November 13, 2017 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

                Although many American children have been taught (or led to believe) that all (or most) immigrants to North America were avidly for the Revolutionary War, I later learned that it was more like a third were pro-British, a third were pro-Revolution, and a third just wanted it all to go away so they could live. I hazard a guess that we still have these divisions of avidly pro one side, avidly pro the other, and those who just want to live.

                The pendulum swings from one extreme to the other. Many Americans who have felt disenfranchised for years are speaking up vehemently and loudly when we were used to them stifling it. They’ve been watching Fox news ad nauseum, day in, day out, and believing it. We need to get away from the “my way or the highway” form of government and work together. We also need to get the major corporations and oligarchs out of financing politics in their benefit instead of ours. We also need to addres restrictive voter documentation rules and gerrymandering. How do we underlings do this without initiating another civil war?

        • Posted November 13, 2017 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

          It’s good in the limited sense that identity politics reflects the wishes of a constituency. Democracies are supposed to be built from a cacophony of voices in which all have a say. That is central to a healthy democracy. Another essential ingredient of a healthy democracy is a willingness to reach compromise on all but the most basic rights.

          The problems happen -with any constituency- when there is no willingness for compromise. Identity politics is nothing if not unwilling to compromise.

          Ours is NOT a healthy democracy.

          • Historian
            Posted November 13, 2017 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

            I agree with you that our democracy is not healthy. The reason for this is that the Republican Party is scared stiff of the Bannonites. Its members are so frightened of being “primaried” that compromise has become impossible and the normal politics of give and take between various interest (or identity) groups has disappeared.

            I suspect that most people have little appreciation of how the primary system has so distorted American politics to allow extremist candidates to be nominated, particularly in the Republican Party. Primary elections as a means of nominating candidates first made its appearance in the early 20th century. They were touted by the progressives of the era as an advancement in democracy where candidates would no longer be picked by politicians in smoke filled rooms. Little did they suspect that primaries would become a tool of extremists. This is because due to the apathy of the American public only the most politically active and dedicated people vote, often for people who are not in the mainstream as defined by the public at large. I do not know if there can be any alternative system proposed that has a chance of being law. I fear we will live for quite some time with the primary system and the havoc it can create.

            • Posted November 13, 2017 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

              I believe in some countries, like Australia (IIANM), voting is compulsory. THAT would help this problem.

              • Craw
                Posted November 13, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

                Is Canada as bad as the USA in terms of identity politics and political dysfunction? I don’t think so, not close really, though we certainly have some of both. But it’s possible to be better or worse. So, will more identity politics make things better? Would it make Canada better to have American-style identity politics?

              • Posted November 13, 2017 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

                “Would it make Canada better to have American-style identity politics?”

                I don’t see how more identity politics could be helpful in Canada, but then I am not very familiar with the state of affairs in the Great White North. I’m of the opinion that this kind of politics is, in general, bad and is the cause of some of the current political mess here in the US.

                I was trying to address Historian’s point about the importance of primaries in the stupidification of American politics. He is right that it is a problem and I agree with assessment of one of the causes. One thing that might help in that regard is too require all eligible voters to cast a vote, as they do in Oz. Doesn’t mean the politics in Oz isn’t also stupid, but if it is it’s probably for other reasons.

    • Posted November 14, 2017 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      And note one positive effective of Islam seems to have been when Malcolm X did the hajj and realized that there was a humanity in common …

  10. Christopher
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    I taught my son not to be friends with a**holes…especially people like Yankah.

    • Posted November 13, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

      And asshole status does not correlate with skin color, race, etc.

      • Christopher
        Posted November 13, 2017 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

        Yep. To paraphrase something I heard once, all races are like loaves of bread, there’s crumbs in every one.

  11. Posted November 13, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Familiarity only dispels “bigotry” between races when the people thrown into contact share enough cultural values. Otherwise, proximity breeds contempt. Put some middle class whites into central Baltimore and see how long it takes them to flee from the ignorance and violence of hip-hop culture.

  12. Eric Grobler
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    “Yankah’s whole attitude towards white people changed with Trump’s election.”

    I am not convinced, this sounds like a post hoc excuse.
    Identity politics with the narrative that white people are by nature racist and white culture/civilization is the most pernicious form of the “patriarchy” which is responsible for all evils from slavery to the destruction of nature has been in the vogue among academics and the left for a decade, thus before Trump.

    Yankah being a comtempory academic is surely influenced by the postmodernist ideology around him and see Trump as final proof that this form of “reverse” racism is justified.

    Sadly, I think identity politics exacerbated polarization and directly contributed to the election of Trump.

    • Historian
      Posted November 13, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      It may be hard to gauge where whites reside on the “perniciousness” scale vis-à-vis other races, but, at least in the history of the United States, they can stand proud and tall.

      • darrelle
        Posted November 13, 2017 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

        Yes. I too disagree with Yankah for a variety of reasons, but it isn’t as if he doesn’t have some serious provocation. Because of that I think the attitude of some of these comments is disappointing.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted November 13, 2017 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

          I agree.

      • Eric Grobler
        Posted November 13, 2017 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

        I know you do not mean it like this, but it is this kind of lopsided statements that fuels the fire.
        Yes, the white settlers killed and conquered the land from native peoples, used slaves etc.
        But children must also be taught that Indian tribes were a murderous lot themselves, African tribes were also killing and conquering other tibes etc.

        There was nothing “exceptional” about white american barberism.
        What made America exceptional is the implementation of enlightenment principles and the first functional “semi” democrartic state with a sound constition.

        • Posted November 14, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

          What is often not taught about others (who were violent, too, yes) is that *they wanted to be left alone*. The fact that they were in some cases hypocritical does not negate that. (Also there is the sheer scale, but …)

  13. Posted November 13, 2017 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    A public debate with that guy ought to be a quick and easy win:

    “I believe people should not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. Does my opponent disagree?”

    • Craw
      Posted November 13, 2017 at 11:34 am | Permalink

      It depends on the venue. Try that on campus and you’ll lose.

  14. Vaal
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    So he’ll be teaching his kids to be racist.

    I’m sure that will help things.

    Yeesh.

    BTW, does he include all white people? Even Canadians like me and every other Canadian friend I have – and like much of the rest of the world – who cheered Obama’s election and who were horrified at Trump’s election?

    My American friends tend to be Liberal and they are agonized by Trump and any racially inequalities. But, as Jerry says, Yankah will teach his children to evaluate them on the color of their skin before the content of their character or beliefs. They are to FIRST be put in the faceless white masses category. How terrible…for his kids and anyone else who would be influenced by this type of racist thinking.

    On the general issue of “Black Experience” (and other variations) I am completely open to listening to anyone’s report of their lived experience. What I’m not open to is automatically taking that report as true gospel, and automatically presuming it is accurate in every way, or that the inferences a person is drawing are true or reasonable.
    We are all human and all subject to bias and lapses in reason.

    It’s like, more generally speaking, many people *feel* that “society is going to hell,things were so much better in the past,” but (per Pinker etc.) a more sober look at the evidence doesn’t bare out this impression (even if specific instances may motivate that impression).

    Yankah, a perfect example, may *feel* that all white people are to be first distrusted, but I’m going to look at whether the evidence supports his impression…and I certainly do not find that it does.

  15. Eric Grobler
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    “it seems to me counterproductive to teach your kids to view all white people as the enemy. ”

    Prof Coyne,
    Don’t you think “counterproductive” is a bit mild for such a flagrant violation of humanist principles that borders on racism?
    (Not real criticism, I just found your choice of words interesting – I sense you reacted with real sadness and disappointment to Prof Yankah article)

    “That will foster a persistent divisiveness in America, a divisiveness even worse than what we see now.”

    Yes, that is truely frightening.
    Martin Luther’s dream that people be judged by their character rather than the color of their skin is being dismanled before our eyes.

  16. claudia baker
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    A couple of years ago, I was in the airport at Philadelphia, after a long flight back from Thailand via Doha. I had run out of cash, was hungry and tired. I had a VISA on me, but was too tired to be arsed to use it. There was an 1 1/2 hour wait for my flight to Ottawa, so I wandered around the airport a bit just to pass the time (and also keeping an eye out for suitable place to grab a nap). I passed a pretzel stand, with a middle-aged black woman attending it. I stopped and chatted with her and asked: “Are these the famous Philly pretzels?” She laughed and said “yes!” then asked me if I wanted to buy one. Though I was starving, I told her I had no cash, so I couldn’t. I didn’t elaborate beyond that: that I did have a credit card, that I had just had a wonderful month-long holiday in Thailand etc. She immediately wrapped one up and handed it to me with a smile and said “here you go – enjoy it, honey.” It was the best food I have ever eaten. I’ll never forget that woman, her smile and her warmth.

    I guess my point is, we had a lovely, quite unexpected interaction, black and white middle-aged women, total strangers. Such a sweet moment, I like to think, for her too. Now, isn’t that a better strategy than to decide not to trust a person based on their colour? And worse still, to teach your children not to trust them. Just as f’n moronic as what Trump and the Trumpets are doing.

    btw: Are there such a thing as “famous Philly pretzels”, or did I make that up?

    • darrelle
      Posted November 13, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I think so. If only parents would try harder not to pass on their hang-ups to their children. In my experience younger generations these days are very noticeably less conscious of race in their relationships.

      • claudia baker
        Posted November 13, 2017 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

        I have noticed that too, in my children’s generation. It doesn’t seem to be an issue with tham at all.

        • claudia baker
          Posted November 13, 2017 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

          *them*

        • Posted November 13, 2017 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

          Yes. Both my young sons are completely dumbfounded by racism. I hope they stay this way.

        • Steve Pollard
          Posted November 13, 2017 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

          And their children. My four-year-old grandson has just started (UK) reception class. His best friend, who he sits next to, is a lad of West Indian background. He has also joined the juniors at the local rugby club, where the 50-odd other four- or five-year-olds include many black or Asian boys (and quite a few girls!)

          Racism, like religion, is something imposed on children by prejudiced adults.

          • Dave
            Posted November 14, 2017 at 7:18 am | Permalink

            Unfortunately, the prejudiced adults are probably now more likely to be found working as university academics and student activists than among the white working class.

            Just wait till your kids go to college. A good dose of indoctrination in Critical Race Theory will soon knock all that toxic colour-blindness out of them.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted November 13, 2017 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

      Dear Claudia

      You didn’t imagine it – soft pretzels are to Philly as deep-dish pizza is to Chicago & bagels to New York. The operative word is “soft”. I would love to try one, just out of the oven & slathered with mustard!

      Here’s the skinny from the NYT – I hope it’s not paywalled [I have a sub with the NYT]: http://www.nytimes.com/1988/11/13/travel/fare-of-the-country-philadelphia-s-twist-on-the-pretzel.html?pagewanted=all

      • claudia baker
        Posted November 14, 2017 at 9:41 am | Permalink

        Hi Michael,
        Thanks for that interesting article. Having never been to Philly before the airport incident, I wasn’t sure about the pretzels. But did vaguely remember hearing about them. As I recall, it was delicious, but it wasn’t warm or dipped in mustard. I imagine that would be sublime!

  17. Bob Murray
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    The maternal grandmother of the children must be overjoyed with this piece.
    Unless it is just a contrived device to get back at his mother-in-law. If so, I can get behind that sentiment!

  18. Carey Haug
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    This guy sounds like a Ta Nehasi Coates imitator. All backs are oppressed, good people. All whites are bad unless they meet the “ally” criteria which involves endorsing critical race theory and apologizing for their privilege.

    It’s hard to see how anyone of any race will benefit from the level of distrust he advocates.

  19. Posted November 13, 2017 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    See, it’s simple: You are perfectly OK (righteous even) judging another group, as a group, instead of individuals. As long as you have a high enough oppression score.

  20. J. Quinton
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    Reversing the direction of bigotry isn’t justice. It’s just more bigotry.

  21. Posted November 13, 2017 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

  22. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    I went over to the NYT website and opened Yankah’s piece prepared to loathe it. But I do not. He’s not preaching hate; he’s voicing sadness. His ire is directed not at white people generally, but at those who support Donald Trump. With them, he grants that he can be “friendly,” can share a mutual civility, but a deep “civic friendship” is
    not possible. As to his children, he will teach them to be “cautious” and “suspicious” in their relationships with white folk.

    I lament the distrust and desperation Yankah is passing on to his sons, but I understand his anguish. Reading his piece is like watching the final scene of The Defiant Ones, — the scene where Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis almost, almost, almost make their escape on the train together.

    • Eric Grobler
      Posted November 13, 2017 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      “but at those who support Donald Trump”
      Still racism if he see all Trump voters as evil whites.

      Many Trump voters voted for Obama in the previous election.

      It is really stupid to call swing voters who voted for Trump dirty names.
      Rather ask the question, why did ex-Obama voters turn and voted for Trump.
      Surely part of the answer is that Hillary was a terrible candidate and a general disillusionment with both parties.

      Do liberal people in America even ask the question why voters voted for Trump or do they just assume they are racist?
      If you do not care then you are just tribal.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted November 13, 2017 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

        Who’s calling Trump swing voters dirty names? Not Yankah. (Ok, maybe I’ve had a choice word or two for Trump voters in general, but I’ve never singled out swing voters for particular scorn, and agree it would be a tactical error to do so.)

        All Trump voters are not racist, far from it. But everyone who voted for Trump demonstrated a high threshold of tolerance for racism in their candidate, since his bigotry and xenophobia and misogyny were on ample display for anyone paying attention throughout the campaign — indeed, throughout all the decades of his entire public life. (Chrissakes, the jerk was the nation’s highest-profile proponent of the risible “Birtherism” claim; that alone should’ve disqualified him from serious consideration for the office of the presidency.)

        • darrelle
          Posted November 13, 2017 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

          +1, again.

        • Eric Grobler
          Posted November 13, 2017 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

          “But everyone who voted for Trump demonstrated a high threshold of tolerance for racism”

          There you go…”everyone”, bla, bla bla.
          The point is that many people who voted for Trump did not believe he was a racist and thus were not motivated by racism.
          (I am not denying that many Trump supporters are petty racists)

          Do not project your perspective on other people. Many voters are naive and not as intelligent and sophisticated as you!

          Perhaps it will be less insulting if you call them stupid as opposed to racist.

          • Ken Kukec
            Posted November 13, 2017 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

            Give me a non-racist justification for Birtherism (which launched Trump’s political career, which gave him his initial voter “base,” and which he promoted as loudly and publicly as possible from 2010 right through September 2016).

            I’ll wait.

            • Eric Grobler
              Posted November 13, 2017 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

              “Give me a non-racist justification for Birtherism”

              Machiavellian political opportunism.
              In Ireland in the 90’s all politicians were against gay marriage. Now they are all in favor. (as were clinton)

              Very few politicians are principled and Trump is of course not one of them.

              To say he is necessary racist because he says racist things to get ellected is naive – however we do know he is a narcissistic asshole.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted November 13, 2017 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

                So let me get this straight: it’s bad to be racist, but it’s ok to cynically manipulate racists to gain their support? And it’s a good non-racist reason for someone to vote for a candidate that the candidate is so good at manipulating racist voters?

                Your analysis is completely unfair — to Niccolò Machiavelli.

              • Eric Grobler
                Posted November 13, 2017 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

                “but it’s ok to cynically manipulate racists to gain their support? ”

                Where did I say that?
                What I said might be unfair to Machiavelli but you are unfair to me as well!
                I am just saying that you cannot know if a politician is racist/homophobic etc in interpersonal relationships from what they say in public, because most of them will say anything to get elected.

                For example an evangelical preacher might preach that homosexuals will go to hell while being gay himself.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted November 13, 2017 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

                What I’m saying is this: First, birtherism was racist to its core; it had no other raison d’être. (For present purposes, it matters not if Trump is racist himself or merely cynically manipulated the racism of his supporters).

                Second, everyone in America knew Trump was a birther. It was his only political claim to fame when his campaign started. (For a Trump voter not to know about his birtherism, that voter had to have not only fallen off the back of a turnip truck; he’d have had to have been plucked from the ground himself and transported by turnip truck to the voting booth.)

                So, birtherism was racists, and everyone knew Trump was a proponent of it. Therefore, my original point that you contested stands — everyone who voted for Trump had to have at least a high tolerance for racism, even if they were not themselves racist.

              • Diane G.
                Posted November 14, 2017 at 1:02 am | Permalink

                +1 to every Ken comment in this comment thread.

              • Eric Grobler
                Posted November 14, 2017 at 1:35 am | Permalink

                “So, birtherism was racists, and everyone knew Trump was a proponent of it. ”

                Sure, but someone who exploits it for political gain does not necessarily believe in it.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted November 14, 2017 at 1:41 am | Permalink

                “Sure, but someone who exploits it for political gain does not necessarily believe in it.”

                A bit like Hitler and Xtianity, come to think of it…

                (Did I just compare Drumpf with Hi*ler? Godwin alert! Godwin alert!)

                cr

              • Posted November 14, 2017 at 8:55 am | Permalink

                Well, you beat me to it. I was thinking the same thing. Does it matter if Hitler actually was Catholic or just used it for propaganda’s sake? I invoke duck typing on this one.

              • Posted November 14, 2017 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

                Any sufficiently advanced Machiavellianism is indistinguishable from actual malice. (That’s what I used to say about people defending aspects of the Bush and Obama (yes) administrations that resulted in violence and death.)

            • josh
              Posted November 14, 2017 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

              Birtherism was an excuse to go after a Democratic president, that’s all the Republicans needed. Because Obama’s father was foreign and he spent time growing up in a foreign country they could convince stupid people that he wasn’t a legitimate president. This also played into the “secret Muslim” idea which allowed them to cast him as insufficiently strong on Islamic threats. It’s fair to say that all of this worked better because he’s black and fit the image, but if circumstances had allowed this gambit against a white Democrat they would have played that angle too. John Kerry got swift boated. Bill and Hillary got the “Clinton body count” and numerous corruption conspiracies. Obama got birtherism. Basically, all Dem presidents and candidates get outrageous smears and conspiracies against them due to the modern right-wing propaganda machine. I can’t say that race plays no role, but Republican tribalism is the big factor.

    • darrelle
      Posted November 13, 2017 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      +1

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted November 13, 2017 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      I agree with Ken as well.

    • Posted November 13, 2017 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      You are ding kind but overly so, Ken. What do you think would happen if he was white and intended to teach his children to be “cautious” and “suspicious” in their relationships with black folk.”?

      Do you think the NYTimes would even publish it? If they did do you think a professor who wrote THAT would keep his job?

      • Posted November 13, 2017 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

        “ding” = “being”. Don’t know how THAT got autocowrecked.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted November 13, 2017 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

        As much as you and I may long for the day, Mikey, we do not yet live in a colorblind society where everyone’s judged by a single standard. To answer your question, if a white person had written the assertion you raise about blacks, he’d be shunted out of respectable journalism (the way John Derbyshire was when he wrote just such a thing for National Review.)

        By the same token, consider if you will the vicious racial stereotypes that would have plagued Obama had he ever been caught saying what Trump did on the “Access Hollywood” tape, or had he gotten caught getting a hummer from an intern, or had he even ever asked (à la Dubya) “is our children learning?” He’d’ve never survived those things politically, the way his white peers did. Hell, Obama knew all it would take for him to be run out of politics for good — to be labeled the “black power” candidate — would be a single photograph of him with a raised fist. The only way he climbed the heights he did was to live by the “twice as good” standard in conducting his private life.

        For the time being at least (and while we work for change), we must take society as we find it.

        • Posted November 13, 2017 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

          You have a point but I will simply state that this is an easy out. One that is employed as often as possible as it is very useful. All sorts of bad behavior can be swept under the rug with it. Very useful indeed.

          • Diane G.
            Posted November 14, 2017 at 1:10 am | Permalink

            I don’t understand how anyone can be unaware of the racism US blacks experience every day. Perhaps you haven’t read some of the many articles, op eds, essays, etc., routinely published on this very topic? The racism blacks experience in this country is an order of magnitude greater than anything whites experience from them.

            (Before you protest, simply consider how very much whites outnumber blacks in the US.)

            • Posted November 14, 2017 at 8:58 am | Permalink

              The advantage for white people in the United States lies in the fact that they can largely ignore racism directed at them, while for black people it creates daily inconveniences from being watched closely while browsing in stores to being unable to hail cabs. I was once out with one of my black friends in Manhattan and he was trying to hail a cab home. 4 or 5 went by him. I stepped out to hail one; the first one stopped and I let my friend in. The cab driver looked, shall we say, disgruntled.

        • claudia baker
          Posted November 14, 2017 at 9:51 am | Permalink

          Dear Ken,

          A “hummer” ?? LOL

  23. Richard
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    This NYT op ed is just another shoe dropping from post modernist neo-nazi “critical race theory.” Like critical race theory itself, the op ed has no value, no positive aspect and, as described above, merely takes us from “gazing” into the abyss to entering the abyss itself.

  24. Rich
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    I find your reaction to this racist horror remarkably tepid.

    The thought that he is, as far as I know, going to be allowed to continue to teach our young people, is absolutely shocking.

  25. Dave
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    “I first have to keep my boys safe, and so I will teach them…..”

    If he wants to keep his precious boys safe, the first thing he should teach them is to avoid people who look like them. A young, urban black male is many times more likely to be assaulted or murdered by another young, urban black male than by a white racist.

    • Jeff Rankin
      Posted November 13, 2017 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

      BLM in a microcosm.

  26. Posted November 13, 2017 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Yankah’s whole attitude towards white people changed with Trump’s election.

    I doubt it. Trump is given too much credit. I expect the hatred has been bubbling beneath the surface all along and his election has licensed both sides to spew their bile.

  27. Aaron
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    This op-ed is such a self-contradictory, self-refuting mess. Throughout the article, Yankah changes his target from from white people generally to Trump supporters to white people who don’t combat racial injustice as fervently as the author does. By the end of the article, he makes exceptions for certain white people based on their individual character and behavior, completely contradicting his premise that white people (including children?) should be judged based on the color of their skin. His distrust of white people because some number of them are racist or Trump supporters is no different than a white person distrusting all black people because some number of them are criminal gang members. It’s the definition of racial prejudice. If Yankah is really just talking about distrusting white people who aren’t BLM-type activists, then he should say so, but of course that wouldn’t make for clickbait as effective as generalizing an entire race.

    Also, if you do not engage in activism on racial issues in exactly the way Ekow Yankah wants you to, and with as much enthusiasm, you are of course complicit in white supremacy. I see this ridiculous argument all the time. Never mind that others may share the goal of ending racial discord (one Yankah actually doesn’t seem to share in light of this op-ed) while disagreeing with the potentially counterproductive tactics of certain activists and organizations. Never mind that there are countless righteous causes to devote one’s energy to, and nobody can possibly be active in all of them. How much time and energy does Yankah devote to the plight of homeless veterans? What is his record on issues facing Native Americans? How much attention has he paid to the famine in Yemen? How much money has he devoted to the Multiple Sclerosis Society? If he hasn’t done everything he can on those issues and more, I guess he’s complicit in all of them, and I should tell my children not to befriend him.

    • Vaal
      Posted November 13, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      A mighty + 1 for you!

      Racism, injustice, social inequality sure have to be fixed wherever they are found (I have very close family members who are affected by these issues). But we should be free to call out forms of addressing the problem that do more damage than good.

  28. Sean
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Remember when this sort of thing was portrayed (parodied?) in “Die Hard with a Vengeance” (third movie)? :/

  29. E.A. Blair
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    This reminds me of my days in grade school. I attended a Catholic parish school from 1963 to 1970, and we were periodically lectured – only by the nuns, not the priests or lay teachers – on the many reasons we should not be friends with non-white children. In the lower grades, we were told that “those” kids would steal our toys and bikes; later we were told that dog didn’t want races to mix. Since I stopped paying attention to my teachers from the third grade on, that never took with me.

    • XCellKen
      Posted November 14, 2017 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      The nuns were too busy beating me to preach such hatred.

      Altho, in 6th grade art class, I drew a picture of a Black man. That took them back a bit.

      And a year later, for speech class, I decided to give the “I Have A Dream” speech. I was told to pick another speech.

      And my one man Vietnam War protest outside the school during lunch one day didn’t get over so well either

  30. Michael Fisher
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    It’s complete bollocks – I sense an underlying purpose to his blather.

    This Prof. lives in the liberal West Village environment of designer boutiques, cobbles, squares & professional dog walkers – the wonderful Village Vanguard jazz club is on his doorstep & I’m a little jealous! It’s a sweet 5-10 min bicycle ride across 6th & 5th to get to work [he has a bike in the background of one of his vids]. The sweet life.

    I suspect this is a first move in lining himself up for some sort of law related political city position. I can’t find out anything about his past prior to Oxford University – would love to know more. He’s a blank.

  31. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    I’d be more sympathetic if he said that trust and friendship with white folk is conditional, a privilege that needs to be earned.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 13, 2017 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

      You mean like when he said:

      “I have not given up on being friends with all white people. … Among my dearest friends, the wedding party and children’s godparents variety, many are white. But these are the friends who have marched in protest, rushed to airports to protest the president’s travel ban, people who have shared the risks required by strength and decency.”

      Or when he said:

      “There is hope, though. … 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.

      Like that?

      • Diane G.
        Posted November 14, 2017 at 1:13 am | Permalink

        Sometimes I think you & I are the only two sixties-style liberals still commenting here…(aside from our host, of course!).

  32. zoolady
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Let’s hope his children do what children have done forever….ignore the old fart and make their own friends.

  33. josh
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    The thing is, Trump, as bad a president and person as he is, hasn’t actually *done* anything to black people. He’s made a few clumsily insulting remarks, but I can’t think of anything that really affected the status quo for black people. He’s gone after immigrants, which might be a legitimate grievance for people of Central American or Middle Eastern affiliation. Those people are worse off, not black Americans.

    Trump has embraced the “preserve our heritage” narrative for Confederate statues, and tried to take advantage of the Charlottesville debacle by spreading some of the blame around. Those are stupid, insulting gestures, but they have nil real impact on the lives of this professor or his children.

    It drives me crazy that fellow liberals get hysterical about things that don’t matter and Trump supporters get to, correctly, play the game of defending him from overblown charges of Nazism and laugh at the snowflakes. Meanwhile, Trump gets to sell the government out from under us to benefit his cronies at the expense of the poor and middle class. Trump isn’t a fascist, he’s a robber baron.

    • Diane G.
      Posted November 14, 2017 at 1:17 am | Permalink

      How about Trump equating white supremacists with those protesting them in Charlottesville?

      • josh
        Posted November 14, 2017 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

        I specifically mentioned that. But Trump was correct that there was violence on both sides. He’s a ham-fisted asshole so he focused on that when he could have 1)decried the one guy who committed murder, 2) denounced the KKK/neo-nazi ideology, and then 3) affirmed the right to peaceful assembly and protest and called for restraint on all sides.

        But, as I said, that’s just an issue of political theatre. I can’t see how Trump’s handling of Charlottesville has actually made life any worse for any black people. Maybe he has emboldened some bad elements by not denouncing them vociferously enough, but that is getting into very tenuous connections of guilt. The real actions he has taken are slopping the corporate trough, stripping protections, and generally mismanaging the government, plus of course immigration.

  34. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 13, 2017 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Jeez, Jerry, it seems many of the commenters here didn’t make the jump to read Yankah’s article themselves via the link you provided — or even read the blocked excerpts of it you included in your post — but are simply drawing inferences from headlines (either yours or the one some NYT editor slapped on Yankah’s piece).

    • Vaal
      Posted November 14, 2017 at 2:02 am | Permalink

      I read the article when it originally appeared, and again when Jerry wrote this post.

      I just read it for a third time.

      While I can see a point in his despair, I still feel the thrust of his article, it’s click-bait title and conclusions, are wrong headed. (And another problem is that in trying to dance around and soften the click-baity title, the article becomes somewhat incoherent).

      This kind of thing: “I will teach them to be cautious, I will teach them suspicion, and I will teach them distrust.”

      …is giving in to and perpetuating paranoia into his children, sewing more division.
      The majority of white people did not vote for Trump and if his distrust was only towards Trump voters it should not have had the title it did.

      Yes, at some point he says he can still be friends with white people…but note…ONLY those who have gone to lengths such as marching in protests. So his distrust clearly casts a far, far wider net than only the Trump voters (which is already a dubiously wide net to begin with)…it apparently comprises all the rest of white America, even those who voted against Trump, but who have not met Yankah’s criteria of being active protestors.

      • darrelle
        Posted November 14, 2017 at 8:23 am | Permalink

        The majority of white people didn’t vote for Trump and yet Trump is president. And the political party that enabled that, that has worked diligently for 30 years or more purposely to create the circumstances that led to Trump becoming president, they have been in control of the legislative branch for most of that 30 plus years and currently have all branches of government in their control. With the possible exception, maybe sometimes, depending on the case, the judicial branch. And white voters did that.

        I don’t agree with the courses of action this professor says he has decided on either, but he has some valid points and he (and racial minorities generally) has some pretty serious provocations. Racism is still a significant issue in the US and racists have recently become more noisome because of the political environment.

  35. Posted November 13, 2017 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    I’m a foreigner only, and it was already weird that one has to read up on Critical Race Theory to understand the various mutated offshoots that are now influental in the anglo-american zeitgeist.

    The matter is complicated.

    (1) On the one hand, the author has a point. Trump is still too popular — even with his record-low approval rating. 5% would be generous. Every other day, he offers another fantastic lunacy (or distraction). Right now, he shot elementary school insults over to the “glorious leader” of nuclear rogue state. The Republican party officially entered comic book supervillain level a while ago. Fearful white, evangelical voters are their prototypical voters. Supremacists also really feel emboldened, it seems. I also found the cases and examples for everyday discrimmination plausible, as cited by the Critical Race Theorists. The author mentions painkillers which fit into that impression. I’m inclined to agree that racism is still very commonplace.

    (2) On the other hand, it’s the usual problem. Woke Culture, Intersectionalists, SJWs, you-name-them, race/gender bait the heck out of everyone (it’s just not acknowleged, because to them “racism = prejudice + power”); they carpet bomb the social landscape with privilege checking and toxic “whiteness” and oppressors and the likes. They douse everything in this toxic cloud of “rape culture” and “Nazis everywhere” and then, predictably, people feel less “safe”, which they use to argue for extra “safe spaces”, where their ideology converts more followers. They have created this climate long before Trump was elected. Arguably, it was also their crying wolf, and their normalization of (mostly fictional) racists and misogynists that eventually allowed the “real” ones to creep out eventually.

    Even though the author comes from law school, and might be influenced by the (actual) Critical Race Theory framework, I believe that he’s mostly reacting to the zeitgeist I describe in (2). He pins it on the Trump election, but it’s charged up “racially” not because of some particular actions, but because the perception and narrative created by the Woke people.

    He’s basically the same as Matt Dillahunty commenting on MythCon. He’s utterly and totally blind to the “Woke” / intersectionalist fearmongering and agendapushing, only sees the “other side” and then argues from there. What he sees is a large narrative frame, in which confirmation bias can lodge itself comfortably, and which is then filled up with (real) examples of terrible people that “confirm” the impressions. It’s remarkable, but this tactic seems to work excellently.

  36. Posted November 13, 2017 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    I teach my kids to be careful around irrational people of all stripes.

  37. Posted November 13, 2017 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    That’s not racism — it’s unfriending up.

  38. Diane G.
    Posted November 14, 2017 at 1:23 am | Permalink

    Dear Mr. Yankah,

    Please remember that we’d never have had our first black president (not counting Clinton 😉 ) were it not for millions of white voters. I hope you also point that out to your sons.

  39. Yi
    Posted November 14, 2017 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    It’s somewhat disappointing to see a professor concludes BS like this from Trump’s victory. There are so many things wrong in this essay. If anything, Trump’s victory actually shows at least more than half of the country doesn’t share his ideology and nationalism. What he’s going to teach his children will only make things worse. Not helping.


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