Increased militarization on the continent under Trump is part of a long history of institutionalized racism in U.S. foreign policy.
Since the police killing of George Floyd on May 25, several U.S. embassies in Africa have issued statements seeking to mollify African protests against the killings of black people by police and white vigilantes in the United States. The chair of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said the pan-African body rejects the “continuing discriminatory practices against Black citizens” of the United States—just as it did in a historic Resolution on Racial Discrimination in the United States of America made by African leaders at the Organization of African Unity’s first assembly meeting in 1964.
As mass demonstrations against police brutality and institutional racism continue and spread around the world, U.S. diplomats in Africa are reportedly concerned that the reality of violence against people of African descent in the United States creates a propaganda opportunity for China, particularly on the continent. But such thinking—verbalized by U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien—is an insult to the intelligence of all Africans, who are quite capable of judging America on its own failed merits.
Racial violence against African Americans is historic, systemic, institutionalized, and structural. This has been the case since the first Africans were enslaved and taken to America 400 years ago. Despite the abolition of slavery in 1865 and the gains of the U.S. civil rights movement 100 years later, African Americans suffer the consequences of an economic, political, and social system that glorifies and privileges whiteness and uses violence to limit the freedoms, rights, and economic opportunities of black people.
The present unrest is but the latest wave in the struggle for justice and the structural change needed to protect the human rights of people of African descent. Africans know this.
They know it in part because they have experienced the same racism and militarism in U.S. foreign policy toward the continent from colonial times to the present. This history includes U.S. support for Belgian King Leopold II’s brutal rule of Congo at the end of the 19th century, which claimed as many as 10-15 million lives, and the U.S. role in the capture of Nelson Mandela by the apartheid South African state in 1962.
During the Cold War, the United States propped up military dictatorships and repressive one-party states in countries such as Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Liberia, Sudan, Somalia, and Kenya. It only distanced itself from the apartheid regime in South Africa after massive protests in the mid-1980s. More recently, U.S. President Donald Trump’s has subjected African citizens to travel bans and infamously referred to African countries as “shithole countries.”
The current protests come as the coronavirus pandemic has stripped away the facade of American exceptionalism and exposed deep and persistent racial inequalities in the United States—evidenced by the disproportionately high rate of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths among black people. Beyond the public health crisis, African Americans are also the most exposed to the consequences of the economic crisis that follows in the wake of the virus. The cavalier and inept response by the Trump administration and allied white Republican governors demonstrates a depraved disregard for black lives. Africans know this.
The individual victims of U.S. police brutality include people of African descent from Haiti...CONTINUESBY SALIH BOOKER | JUNE 12, 2020, 5:12 PM
Salih Booker is the president and CEO of the Center for International Policy.