The internet and some social media have been buzzing over a New York Times op-ed, “Can My Children Be Friends With White People?”, that was published on Sunday. The author, Ekow N. Yankah, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, I assume is of African heritage. A number of supporters of President Donald Trump were outraged by the statement, that we as a nation are being dragged backwards.
But the point that Yankah is making is not about race per se; it’s about empathy. And on that score I think he’s right.
Indeed, he wrote, “Real friendship is impossible without the ability to trust others, without knowing that your well-being is important to them. The desire to create, maintain or wield power over others destroys the possibility of friendship. 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.”
In other words, he’s not talking about casual friendships where people drink beer, watch sports or in some cases even worship in the same church together. It’s about being able to let one’s hair down and share his or her stories and experiences without being judged or attacked for holding a different point of view.