The police killing of George Floyd, the protests it triggered and the violent police response to them have once again put the deeply rooted inequality facing black Americans in the spotlight, both at home and abroad. In addition to reenergizing a national movement to address that inequality, the events of the past two weeks should serve as a reminder that racial injustice at home is not separate from America’s engagement with the world. To the contrary, it has long been central to it, and the events of the past two weeks make that even clearer.
The direct impacts are obvious. To begin with, a divided America is a weakened America. And America’s racial caste system, characterized by a casual disregard for black Americans’ humanity and enforced by violence, is a fundamental fault line that has defined America’s national identity over the course of centuries. That it is still a feature of American society makes it a stain on the country’s character.
Until America heals that wound, it will fester, sapping the nation’s potential and undermining its cohesion.