How American Racism Aids our Adversaries

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons / Anthony Crider
Media Outlet: The Washington Post

Theodore Johnson wrote for the Washington Post about how American racism aids our adversaries:

In recent weeks, dog-whistle politics have felt more like rebel yells. White supremacists descended upon Charlottesville flying Nazi Germany and Confederate battle flags — both representing nations that declared war on the United States. Since then, debates about the removal of Confederate statues from San Diego to Baltimore and the president’s lukewarm rebukes of white supremacy have splayed the nation’s festering racial divide before the world.
Adversaries such as Iran and Venezuela have seized on this opportunity to call out American hypocrisy on racism and equality. Iran’s supreme leader, who has previously criticized police brutality in black American communities, took to Twitter to admonish the United States for “meddl[ing] in nations’ affairs” instead of managing its own problem with racism. And Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro claimed that the White House was the power behind the marching “white supremacists, the Ku Klux Klan and fascists.”
This international critique is not new. During the 1940s, enemies of the United States targeted domestic racism as a vulnerability ripe for exploitation. It is a charge the United States is especially vulnerable to, as racial injustice at home undermines its claim to the world that it is a champion of democracy and human rights. Once the United States loses moral authority on these issues, the justification for its foreign policy goals and national security interests is severely compromised, placing the country in the unenviable position of either pursuing its interests hypocritically or finding a new ideology to espouse.

Author:

Theodore Johnson is an Eric & Wendy Schmidt Fellow at New America. He is a national security research manager and an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy.