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HomeGeopolitical CompassThe AmericasThe Legacy of American Racism at Home and Abroad

The Legacy of American Racism at Home and Abroad

Authors: Travis L. Adkins and Judd Devermont

Affiliation:  Georgetown University, Center for Strategic and International Studies 

Organization/Publisher: Foreign Policy

Date/Place: June 19, 2020/USA

Type of Literature: Argument

Word Count: 1779


Keywords: America, Racism, Foreign policy


The authors of this article have a long background in foreign policy in international nongovernmental organizations, the United Nations, the intelligence community, and the National Security Council. They discuss in this article their experiences concerning the impact of domestic racism on foreign policy. They argue that it was believed to be inappropriate for foreign-policy specialists to discuss domestic issues. Accordingly, it takes a long time before Americans can learn how US national security professionals viewed racism within the United States; the ideas and condemnation of diplomats and senior officials about racial inequality and segregations are revealed only in declassified reports and memoirs. The authors suggest that this “artificial divide between the professional and personal sidelined some of our sharpest foreign-policy minds from addressing systematic racism in America.” The latest development with the murder of George Floyd tore down the wall between the personal and professional, as many diplomats openly say what they think. The authors emphasize that if the United States wants to heal its society and remain a source of inspiration abroad it has to embrace self-criticism openly and publicly. The authors also promote the idea to practice what was before rare for foreign- policy practitioners: to use their platforms to speak to the American people and audiences abroad about racism. This will result in changing the way the foreign-policy community operates.  Domestic racism has for a long time undermined the US’ foreign policy, this has especially been the case in Africa. The authors close the article by suggesting that in times of national crises “Americans often hear political, civic, and business leaders decry, ‘We are better than this!’ Now is the chance for the foreign-policy community to prove it.”

By: Leyla Yildirim, Senior Research Associate



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