There is a bitter irony in America’s first black president continuing to boycott the UN’s international conference on racism scheduled for this month.
President Barack Obama’s position on attending the conference translates roughly into: Do it our way or we won’t play. He has already gotten all references to Israel, to reparations for slavery, and to a proposed ban on speech defaming any religion dropped from the conference’s draft document. Yet, he is still unwilling to have the United States attend. Even if the administration bullies its way into getting its final points, it is not really a win for the United States.
Obama’s foot dragging and threat of a boycott will begin to deplete whatever goodwill he has created for himself and America in the nations of color. People in those countries, like many Americans, hoped he would head up the fight for racial justice, not become one of the obstacles to it.
The president’s decision to boycott will undercut his attempt in Turkey to reach out to the Muslim world. It has been reported that the boycott was urged by members of the Jewish community in both the United States and Israel. If he continues to cave to that pressure, it will be seen in the Muslim world as more proof that America cannot be counted on as an honest broker in any peace process.