Foreign Issues Black America? By Demetrius Dillard


In most – if not all – mainstream newspapers and broadcast media operations, there are entire sections and segments dedicated to world news, foreign affairs or international happenings and interests. And in many cases, breaking international stories of importance are headlined in television news or appear on the front pages and covers of newspapers and magazines.

However, an array of recent polls, surveys and reports indicate that a great deal of the American populace believes there is a disproportionate amount of media and governmental attention placed on foreign issues, and not enough consideration for the numerous issues that persist “here at home.”

A report by Scott Bittle, Jonathan Rochkind and Amber Ott of Public Agenda – a nonprofit based in New York, included a survey asking Americans what they thought is the most important problem facing the U.S. in its dealings with the rest of the world. Unsurprisingly, 27 percent of the respondents said the “Middle East” was, and closely following was “Domestic Problems” at 26 percent.

In slight contrast, a 2014 political report by the Pew Research Center entitled “Foreign Affairs, Terrorism and Privacy,” included a poll which indicated that “60% say the U.S. should pay less attention to problems overseas and concentrate on problems here at home, while just 35% say it’s best for the future of the country to be active in world affairs.”

A Sept. 26, 2016 article by Max Bearak and Lazaro Gamio of the New York Times noted that the Obama Administration and Congress just reached a historic deal with Israel, in which the Middle Eastern nation was awarded a military aid package of $38 billion over a 10-year period.

The article also recorded the foreign-aid budget, which is $50.1 billion. Of that $50.1 billion, $18.1 billion goes to economic and development assistance (also known as humanitarian aid), $18.1 billion goes to security assistance (military aid) and the remaining $23.9 billion goes to “other.” Though the $50.1 billion was only 1.2 percent of the national budget, which was $4.15 trillion, many still feel that a portion of that money could go to ameliorating some of the systemic issues prevalent in underprivileged communities in the U.S.

With that considered, could it be argued that the U.S. government has failed at prioritizing its problems? A great deal of Black Americans, perhaps, would say so.  The Black community in the United States has an estimated collective buying power of roughly $1.2 trillion, which is a huge indicator of their immense contribution to the nation’s economy. While the aforementioned figure may suggest overflowing amounts of wealth in Black America, that certainly is not the case.

Though the national unemployment rate is reportedly dropping, the Black unemployment rate is twice as high as White unemployment and three times as high as Asian unemployment.

In addition, the poverty rate for Black Americans in 2016, according to the National Urban League, is an astronomical 27 percent – not too much higher than what it was 40 years ago. A number of recent studies and statistics reveal the deplorable economic state of Black America: according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median income for Black households was $35,481 in 2016, lower than any other demographic in the nation.

A recent poll reveals that 71 percent of Black Americans strongly believe the U.S. government should decrease foreign aid spending, which is understandable taking into account – as mentioned earlier – the lamentable poverty rate, unemployment rate, failing public education system, mass incarceration, the socio-economic plight and structural racism which has historically had a more adverse effect on Black Americans than any other demographic in the country.

With a growing number of Americans who believe U.S. global power and prestige are on the decline along with the ignominious financial state of Black America — it is no surprise the “public thinks that the nation does too much to solve world problems, and increasing percentages want the U.S. to ‘mind its own business internationally’ and pay more attention to problems here at home,” as written in a 2013 Pew Research Center article titled “Public Sees U.S. Power Declining as Support for Global Engagement Slips.”

Demetrius Dillard is a recent graduate of Winston-Salem State University and a North Carolina-based freelance writer.