Black Lives Matter Now Represents America’s Best AmbassadorsRoundup
tags: racism, Black lives matter
Vivien Chang is a Ph.D. candidate in history at the University of Virginia.
George Floyd’s killing took place in Minneapolis, but its effects are reverberating far beyond the confines of the Twin Cities — and the nation. In London, a rainbow coalition demonstrated at Trafalgar Square and along the River Thames. In Bristol, England, protesters toppled a statue of a slave trader and plunged it into the harbor. In Abuja, Nigeria, protesters surrounded the U.S. Embassy, demanding justice for Floyd.
At a moment when pundits and academics may lament how President Trump’s America is retreating from the world stage, the persistence of the black freedom struggle and ongoing protests on six continents make plain that the longing for self-determination, human rights and egalitarianism — values the United States touts but often fails to live up to — continues at home and abroad. But leadership is emanating from the streets rather than the White House.
This is not the first time racism has called attention to the fallible soul of American democracy. At the height of the Cold War, domestic racial crises exerted a negative influence on international opinion and jeopardized U.S. diplomatic objectives in the developing world. As Washington sought to “contain” communism and win the “hearts and minds” of emerging or nonaligned nations, American racism became, in the words of historian Mary L. Dudziak, the nation’s “Achilles’ heel.”
The late 1950s and early 1960s coincided with the early years of the modern civil rights movement and decolonization in Africa and Asia. Out of the global crises wrought by white supremacy and imperialism emerged a strengthened sense of solidarity among people of color.
Building on earlier incarnations of Pan-Africanism — among them, Marcus Garvey’s back-to-Africa movement, the Negritude project spearheaded by Aimé Césaire and Léopold Senghor, and the Pan-African Congresses W.E.B. Du Bois chaired — the links between the aspirations of Africans and Afro-diasporic communities ran especially deep.
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