2: Conceptualizing the Foreign Affairs Participation of African Americans: Strategies and Effects of the Congressional Black Caucus and TransAfrica
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TWO Conceptualizing the Foreign Affairs Participation of African Americans STRATEGIES AND EFFECTS OF THE CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS AND TRANSAFRICA Michael L. Clemons The general exclusion of African Americans from the formal arena of foreign policymaking has historically been a prominent reflection of the significance of race in global politics. It was not until the end of World War II that government officials and those in pursuit of elected office finally took seriously the implications of the domestic race problem in the United States for foreign policymaking. Prior to that time, the lack of presence of people of color, especially those of African descent, was of little concern to a government that maintained diplomatic relations with countries responsible for the subjugation of the nonwhite peoples of the world (Lincoln, 1970; Isaacs, 1970). Some social analysts and citizens have begun to question whether and how the recent emergence of African Americans and people of color on the institutional scene will affect the substance and direction of, and global response to, American foreign policymaking. Of course, black Americans, even before the opportunity for institutional roles, were involved in foreign affairs activity. Interestingly, the rise of African Americans to prominent institutional roles within the foreign policy establishment starkly contrasts with the muting of race, ethnicity, and culture as important analytical constructs in international and domestic politics, and consequently is sidelined in favor of a complementary multicultural perspective. In other words, multiculturalism’s amorphous effect on perceptions of race, ethnicity, and culture has led to the minimization of these key variables in a way that 33 Nature & Dynamics 34 undercuts the objective of fully extending democracy to all racial and ethnic groups. Indeed, as generally articulated, multiculturalism as a concept obscures or even ignores racial and ethnic differentiation. Its usage and evolved meaning precludes objective measurement of social progress to alleviate racial and ethnic inequality, and therefore, imposes on the extension of democracy and social equity. Multiculturalism as a concept also potentially precludes the opportunity of the nation to parlay its tremendous ethnic diversity in the global arena to achieve desired foreign policy objectives and outcomes. Despite the willingness of black people to engage the global arena on their own behalf as deprived citizens and on behalf of the United States as official representatives, there have frequently been points of tension and challenge with the formulation of foreign relations and policies. Indicative of individual and group connectedness in a global community, these tensions and challenges suggest the need for a more inclusive approach to foreign policymaking, one that is genuinely concerned with fairness, equity , and justice. Largely, the twentieth-century independence movements of African, Latin American, and Asian states were instrumental in prompting the need for inclusiveness in foreign policymaking. As countries in these areas of the world have enhanced their global economic importance, and in particular their economic salience in relation to the United States, policymakers have gradually begun to acknowledge the potential benefits associated with inclusiveness. The turn of the millennium brought with it the conclusion of the Cold War, and it simultaneously converged with the global democratization movement to initiate the alteration of the contours of global politics (Yaffe, 1994; Morris, 1992). Developments such as these, combined with a state’s economic advancement in an era increasingly based on the application of soft power, heighten the need to ameliorate racial discord and incorporate people of color into the foreign policy process . These developments also lay bare the notion that the quality of domestic social relations partially affects a state’s foreign relations, and they demand a conceptual framework of African American participation in foreign affairs that takes into account their unique background and experiences at the domestic level and globally. This chapter presents a conceptual approach to African American participation in foreign affairs. We apply this approach to two of the premier sources of African American foreign affairs organizations—the Congressional Black Caucus (cbc) and TransAfrica Forum—with the aim of assessing their influence in foreign policymaking. Although models are inherently limited, they should depict reality with as much precision as 35 clemons ) Congressional Black Caucus & TransAfrica possible. Lave and March (1975) suggested the following general guidelines for model building: (1) focus on process; (2) identify the implications of the model; and (3) find generality. Conceptual frameworks built on these criteria are likely to provide robust descriptive and explanatory power, and these qualities have been considered in the framework’s design. The largely descriptive and atheoretical nature of scholarly research on black...


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Subject Headings

  • African Americans -- Politics and government.
  • African American politicians.
  • African American legislators.
  • Political participation.
  • World politics
  • International relations.
  • United States -- Politics and government.
  • United States -- Foreign relations.
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