Hey, NYT, friendships are built on something deeper than race

Hey, NYT, friendships are built on something deeper than race
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We all know that proactive headlines are one way to get people to pay attention to your op-ed. That is certainly the case when I read the recent New York Times headline “Can my children be friends with White People?”

But that is not satire or a gag headline to get you to read a story about the importance of tax cuts, that is an actual title from an op-ed that attempts to support that absurd question. As I read the post by Ekow Yankah I discovered, sadly, he was actually serious.

Let’s just get down to brass tacks and help him out by saying definitively, yes, not only can your children be friends with white people, but they should. Diversity is important.  I am not blessed to have children of my own yet but, when the time comes, I want my children to be exposed to as many different types of cultures, ideas and people to be a well informed, productive, intellectually curious global citizen and that, yes, they can really be friends with white people.  

Yankah writes:

“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.”  

First, this liberal myth that somehow Donald J. Trump is the creator of racism, hatred, bigotry and violence, which he has denounced many times over the years in public and in private, is absurd. He is no more responsible than the last president. In fairness, this issue transcends Trump. It makes no sense to teach a child to purposefully discriminate, pre-judge and, in essence, discourage a healthy friendship, bond, love for someone who has a lighter hue or political persuasion.

He did not talk about socio-economic backgrounds, faith, upbringing, or values. The law school professor questioned whether or not his black children, the eldest of which is four years old, could be friends with white children.

Second, Yankah tries to use history as the measure to prove his point. “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.” He goes as far as to actually take Dr. King out of context by saying:

“The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous dream of black and white children holding hands was a dream precisely because he realized that in Alabama, conditions of dominance made real friendship between white and black people impossible.”

But he ignores King’s previous paragraph where he says he dreams that his children would be judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin.

If we applied Dr. King’s standard from 1963 to Professor Yankah’s logic in 2017, we have not only made zero progress we are regressing when a black father is advocating for his children to actually judge other children, white children, by the color of their skin and not by the content of their character.

Third, one should be able to formulate an opinion without personal attacks. The professor does what many on the left like to do, and that is attack the president and his millions of supporters. Remember Sec. Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonElise Stefanik seeks to tackle GOP’s women ‘crisis’ ahead of 2020 Russian pop star linked to Trump Tower meeting cancels US tour Graham angers Dems by digging into Clinton, Obama controversies MORE and her “basket of deplorables” or “basement dwelling baristas” comments? It is sad when Yankah writes “Were it not for our reverence for money, Mr. Trump would be easily recognized as the simple-minded, vulgar, bigoted blowhard he is,” but he singles out Trump’s supporters to somehow make his illogical hypothesis logical.

The real question is can this man ever be friends, true friends, with one of the 8 percent of blacks who voted for President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump claims media 'smeared' students involved in encounter with Native American man Al Sharpton criticizes Trump’s ‘secret’ visit to MLK monument Gillibrand cites spirituality in 2020 fight against Trump’s ‘dark’ values MORE? Can he get beyond his own biases and blinders to see that there at least one black Republican that could care about him, his well being, his children?  I have non-white, liberal or “Never Trumper” friends who do not line up with me politically or socially, but we are still friends, some, close friends.  

I am proud that noted political commentator, who is by no means a conservative, Angela Rye is my friend. We could not be further apart politically, but we are genuine friends in real life and have mutual respect. I bring up Rye because the author suggests that he can only be friends with white people who are essentially like-minded in social and political actions and mindsets. That said, could his children ever be friends with black kids that happen to come from a more conservative or Republican home?  

We talk about Charlottesville but not the root of it, lack of diversity. We talk about college campuses being open and honest and free but ignore the countless examples of conservative or Trump-supporting voices being silenced. It is all diversity.  

A revealing study by the Public Religion Research Institute stated that roughly 75 percent of white Americans don't have a single non-white friend with a 91 percent white “circle of friends.”  Furthermore, the study revealed that about 65 percent of black Americans don't have any friends that are white. That study prompted a Georgia networking event that used their own attention grabbing headline “Come meet a black person.” No, this did not happen in 1947, it happened November of 2017. This is precisely why Republican Senator Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottIf Republicans rebuked Steve King, they must challenge Donald Trump McConnell rebukes Steve King over white nationalist comments Steve King faces new storm over remarks about white supremacy MORE (S.C.) talked about having Sunday dinner with people from other races to foster dialogue, understanding and yes, friendships.

The call to Make America Great Again is one to hopefully make America a more perfect union, a union where we are not so divided by socio-economic, racial and political lines. I have close friends, real friends, mentors, people who have in many ways acted like family to me, are my friends, and if it matters, some of them happen to be white. One of them, Gerard W. Tobin (Uncle Jerry), has sons who are like my blood cousins, we grew up together. And when I had the honor of introducing Tobin’s son Harrison to President George W. Bush at an event in Dallas a few years ago I said “Mr. President this is my cousin, Harrison!”

Real friendships have to be built on something deeper than race. I pray that my children will be able to find meaningful friendships without judgment, and that my future wife and I will be examples for them, and our community. At the end of the day, I want what President Trump wants, a better America. That America is Dr. King’s America where we are able to bond across party lines, zip codes and skin color.  

Paris Dennard (@PARISDENNARD) is a communications strategist and GOP political commentator who has worked in the George W. Bush White House, the Republican National Committee (RNC), and most recently works on behalf of the nation’s public Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).