Posted on August 18, 2021

America Should Make Racial Justice Part of Our Official Foreign Policy

Brett Bruen, Business Insider, August 14, 2021

Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently told American diplomats that when conversations about human rights turn to difficult discussions about America’s history of racial justice (or lack thereof) they should, “acknowledge our imperfections.”

It’s a good step that helps to foster a more honest discussion about the way forward for equality. But, the United States and our officials abroad can and have to go much farther.


America taking aggressive steps to address discrimination around the globe would send a powerful message. The first step in this process should be to address the issue more often, not just during important anniversaries. {snip}

Equality also needs equal time. The Department ought to regularly raise the topic during important meetings, integrate it into our work in other areas, including climate change, development, and even peace talks. {snip} Increasing the frequency and the prominence given to the subject would force foreign officials to come prepared to discuss what progress they are making in their own countries, which could in turn pressure them into making actual changes.

And it doesn’t stop on the governmental level, some of the most significant steps taken in the United States on diversity and inclusion in the last year came from the private sector. This has not always been replicated by companies overseas. The American government can use our private sector’s experiences to encourage and enable businesses across the planet to engage in expanding opportunities for minority groups.

There also has to be some serious penalties put in place for countries that fail to live up to the standard of racial justice. When I was a junior diplomat working on visa approvals there were some actions the law considers so serious as to constitute a permanent ineligibility for entry to the United States. These include obvious crimes like drug offenses and murder, but also things like corruption and tax evasion. Public racist statements or actions should absolutely be added to that list.

We can send a clear message that those who discriminate are not welcome. These visa bans have bite, as they often impact the richest and most powerful people in the country. The criteria should include anyone who provides support for systems or policies that deny equal treatment to all people. Importantly, this would not just cover government officials, but those who run schools, businesses, or other organizations that withhold opportunities to certain groups.