Sunday, November 19, 2017

Can your kids be friends with anyone?

What's In A Title?

Ekow Yankah’s op-ed in the NYT -- Can My Children Be Friends With White People? – has attracted remarkable attention, despite a silly argument that should have been dismissed out of hand.  The fact that serious and educated people waste any time on this says something about the state of discourse in the USA. 

Ekow Yankah: No You Can't Have Friends

Of course, it gets that attention because of the title, which is provocative, but, in an odd way, politically correct, since the rich and power don’t much care what marginalized people such as many "blacks" (sic)  might not like them.    

Liberal, middle class "whites" (sic) might care about liberal, middle class "blacks" unfriending them because they are often neighbors. 

It's a silly article and a silly argument.

But the NYT likes such things because they get unthinking people stirred up.

 I can think of only one other title that excite people more:
"Can my children be friends with Jews?"  Naturally, the NYT would never publish that, even if the argument -- logically speaking -- is substantially the same if it conflated "Jews" with Zionists.

Could you wrtie an article like : "Can My Children Be Friends With Black People?"  As Rod Dreher points out in the American Conservative an article of that kind got John Derbyshire fired.  
The answer to the question is: no.

Yankah may not get applause for his article.  But his critics are quick to qualify their discomfort with his ideas with loads of sympathy.  Honk, honk, honk, honkey.

The White Yankah
 Honk If You Are A Honkey
“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 at fault.”
Hue?  A variation in color.  Which reminds us that melanin is one color.  And "color" is just a matter of shade".  Which is to say, there are Fifty Shades of "Black" and also Fifty Shades of "White" in this perverse racial S/M game we play. 

Keep in mind that we really don’t know what “hue” his kids are.  They could be almost "white" like their mother.  Or very African looking like Dad. While Yankah is very dark. The multiracial mother is “white”.  

DNA testing shows we are almost all mongrels. And, as with most animals, healthier and happier for it. 

This whole “black/ white” dualism is an arbitrary heuristic that makes little sense -- it is counter-factual, a mass delusion.  At least 85% of "blacks" have "white" DNA.  And as much as 30% of "whites".

Like I said, "mongrels".  Me too.  Black.  Indian. But I look white, except for a mongoloid cast to my eyes.  

What Yankah is really talking about when he uses this word “hue” (shade) is appearance – , as I have just said, visible difference – which means “otherness”.

He is talking about belonging to community on the basis of  "sameness"   -- determined by stereotypes of what a member of that community is supposed to look like.  "Supposed" to look like?  According to whom?

But Yankah doesn't belong to that community which he claims to represent.   

Mr. Yankah, by his own admission, was raised in a tolerant community.  He is obviously affluent and who teaches at a very liberal Jewish University.  He is married to a woman who is mixed racially – but, like me, looks white. He lives in an upper middle class liberal community.  He never experienced the kind of trauma that poor black kids endure daily on the Mean Streets. 
He talks about “black” people as if he knew them -- just because he looks African.   

Has he ever been homeless?  Does he know the Mean Streets? No.  He’s has probably drive those streets in his BMW. But he hasn’t lived there. He clearly doesn’t know anything about poor black people.Or poor white people.  Poor anything

I have lived that life on the street and although I look white (as I mentioned my DNA says otherwise) I have a better claim to membership in the community of victims, the powerless and oppressed.

Yankah has never been a victim.  He has never lacked power.  

Fifty Shades Of Black  Hurt Me I Love It

Yet in his game of Fifty Shades of Black , Yankah is at war with white-dom.
“If they are not clearly allies, they will seem unsafe to me.”

Says Yankah.   But he published in that ever so white, ivory tower, the NYT.  Because, presumably, the NYT is supportive. 

 “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”
Friendship for Yankah is a Catch 22.  You cannot be friends with someone unless they prove their loyalty to your core beliefs through action.  But why would they want to do that unless they were first friends?

In other words, Yankah’s kids can’t have any friends – not really, maybe not even with each other, depending on the degree of melanin in their skin.

Yankah would teach a nasty kind of paranoia  fear of the putative Other, people who cannot prove they are the same.
Othering and Dehumanization

What is this sensibility that Yankah would teach?  Not racism – but something just as bad -- maybe worse -- call it "othering" where we categorize people as human  according to identity with us--and inhuman accordingo their difference from us.   

Those other "identities are alien -- not human if they are not fellow travelers wearing a compatible mantel of victimhood.  We don't care about them - except in in terms of their usefulness to our cause. And if they are not useful -- fuck'em.  They are the Deplorables.

The rich looked down on the poor for thousands of years, uncaring, thinking of them as less than human, undeserving of rights, even sometimes freedom.  The American people allowed its government to kill as many as 20 million people since WWII in unnecessary wars - the biggest pogrom in history -- because, well, those 20 million were not Americans, therefore not really human.  

Americans today feel no shame and continue to idolize the military.  Will you ever see a Hollywood movie about a courageous Viet Cong superhero killing American soldiers?

There is no “white” or “black” in the US of A – only exploited and disenfranchised communities, which may be blackish, brownish, whiteish or yellow-ish, each of which is “other” to those who have privilege and power – people such as Yankah who cannot really care about what he doesn't know and doesn't want to know.  

Our enemy should not be each other – but this insidious "othering" this culture of dehumanization that perpetuates itself through poverty and inequality . 

Our challenge should be to overcome the visceral reaction to perceived difference – “black” (sic), “white” (sic), male, female, young, old, gay, straight --whatever.    We should resist "divide anc conquer".

If This Be War
If this is a war, then people like Ekow Yankah collaborate with the enemy -- sadly, the worst part of ourselves.

In this mongrel nation, e pluribus unum makes more sense.  Let us celebrate difference, not fear it. There are no "others" – only us.

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