It’s hard to watch the United States once again step into its role as the world’s policeman, weighing our options as we start talking about an all-out war against ISIS in Iraq, without considering how fundamentally corrupt and hypocritical is this worldview when so many African Americans and other Americans are suffering from crooked economic and criminal justice systems.
Most everywhere you turn, people of color are dramatically and disproportionately harmed by some of America’s most longstanding institutions. Whether we’re taking about the American education system, the criminal justice system, the financial system or the employment system, in each of these institutions the prospects and success of African Americans has been severely hampered by American policies and practices designed to work against the Black community.
A reallocation of America’s priorities would substantially alleviate the suffering of African Americans and in the process make America a more secure, stable and morally defensible world force. If we were taking care of American citizens at home, perhaps we’d have more success when we traipse around the world trying to force these nations to follow our wishes—nations that plainly see American hypocrisy in full effect.
In fact, a story in the Washington Post that ran during the angry protests in Ferguson quoted various members of ISIS and other jihadists movements as saying they are using Ferguson as a recruitment tool to attract African Americans and to further propaganda against the U.S.
“In Islam there is no racism, and we think black people will wake up and follow the example of Malcolm X and others who understood that this way is the only way to justice,” Abu Mansour, who lives in Germany and is also a follower of the Islamic State, told the Post.
Though it’s probably foolhardy to use words like “logic” and “common sense” these days when talking about American foreign or domestic policy, a look at the numbers makes it even clearer why real leadership by U.S. policymakers, including President Obama, is in such short supply. The U.S. spent $737 billion on military defense in 2012. Mind you, this is at a time when our list of foreign enemies is much shorter than at any time in decades—the Islamic State notwithstanding.
While we lavish funds on the military, we have school systems right here in America—see Philadelphia—where funding has become so dire that children are being denied school basics like art, music and sports programs. As can be expected, these tragically underfunded districts tend to predominate in overwhelmingly African-American communities.
Just $11 billion could pay the salaries of more than 200,000 teachers annually, which would wipe away the chronic woes of districts like Philadelphia and Los Angeles.
And how about our crumbling infrastructure, which we seem unable to muster the political will to repair? The American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated that it would take $3.6 trillion to make our infrastructure safe by 2020—and in the process create an untold number of jobs that would go far toward lifting many African-American families into the middle class. But in order to move forward with such projects, we would need a political class in Washington that had the ability to put the country’s needs ahead of its own. We are so far from that right now, we might as be governed by a band of circus monkeys.
So instead of real efforts to fix a country that looks increasingly broken, and repair communities that are exploding from the frustrations of being a perpetual underclass, we get tableaus like Sen. John McCain, Republican from Arizona, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Democrat from California, going on the Sunday morning talk shows this past weekend and basically calling President Obama a punk because he seems cautious about spending trillions more American dollars in going after ISIS—a conflict that most serious scholars of the Middle East say we have no chance of winning and that likely will just make things over there infinitely worse.
McCain said ISIS represented “maybe one of the biggest (threats) we’ve ever faced”—now apparently putting the jihadists on the level of Nazi Germany and Cold War Russia. I beg to differ, Senator. I think a bigger threat is having a huge proportion of the country denied equal and fair participation in the American economic system.