Reach beyond U.S. borders to offset home-grown racial hostility
When President Obama proclaimed: “There’s not a Black America or a white America … there is the United States of America,” many people believed him. They should reconsider. If the recent contentious election with all of its racial overtones was not enough, a recent study on racial attitudes in America shows that the president’s soaring rhetoric is at best wishful thinking.
An Associated Press poll conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan, Stanford University and the University of Chicago shows that 51 percent of Americans have attitudes that are explicitly anti-Black. When implicit racial hostility is measured, the study shows that 56 percent have anti-Black sentiments. A similar study was conducted in 2008, and its results show a significant measurable increase in hostility towards people of African descent over the past four years.
The study is noteworthy because, in assessing the quality of life for Africans in America, less attention is generally paid to intangible factors like individual bigotry while more attention is usually given to objective measurements of discrimination and inequities in health care, education, employment and the criminal justice system.
These and other research results show that notwithstanding President Obama’s recent election victory, the “Black Experience” in America remains one of severe disadvantage endured in a sea of intense and increasing hostility. In years past when this isolation was more apparent because of more blatant discrimination, observers sometimes referred to the U.S. African-descended minority as a “nation within a nation.” Like any “nation” African America will be best served by not counting on the goodwill of hostile neighbors, and, in the interest of security, establishing direct interdependent relationships with the people of other nations, particularly those in Africa.
The terms and style of interdependence vary from nation to nation. Many countries rely upon diplomacy and friendship. Other countries like the U.S. often assume a hegemonic posture. They may make diplomatic gestures but will not hesitate to resort to intimidation and force whenever necessary. For example, both China and the U.S. need access to Africa’s vast supplies of oil, minerals, timber and other natural resources, but both countries have very different approaches.
China offers to build infrastructure for African governments in exchange for access to resources. These projects include everything from oil refineries to highways to railroads and more. Since 2010, China has invested in countries throughout the African continent. The U.S. makes relatively few offers to build infrastructure, but U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) offers to provide military training to African armies, which can be conveniently used as proxies to carry out missions to protect U.S. “interests” (i.e., access to Africa’s oil and other natural resources).
The desperate competition between China, the U.S. and other countries for beneficial relationships with Africa makes the absence of African America from that contest all the more striking — particularly when Blacks in the U.S. could really benefit from African resources. “Those Africans don’t like us” is an oft-repeated refrain, but it seems silly when others with no historical African connections or even affinity for Africa’s people have worked very hard to make a place for themselves on the continent.
The Black community in the U.S. may not be in a position to finance highways and power plants for Africa, but we can be Africa’s overseas advocates. Our professional and technical expertise can support Africa’s efforts to become truly independent of the U.S., China and other dominant foreign governments and corporations as Africa strives to provide for its people with the continent’s own resources. Against a backdrop of racial hostility in America, only good can come from much more aggressive efforts to forge respectful, friendly, mutually beneficial relationships with the people of our ancestral homeland.
Mark P. Fancher is an attorney who writes frequently about armed conflicts and exploitation in Africa. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.