Fran Scott and Abdulah Osman
The literature on the influence of ethnic/racial groups 1 on U.S. foreign policy identifies a number of factors that help determine an ethnic identity group's effectiveness. These factors include the state of American race relations and ethnic diversity, relations between the United States and the group's homeland, and the homeland's policies toward its overseas diaspora. In addition, organizational resources and ethnic/racial group characteristics influence a particular group's success or failure. The organizational resources available to a group allow it to mobilize its constituency, enter into political coalitions with other groups, and obtain economic resources and an institutional infrastructure. Ethnic/racial group characteristics include the level of group consciousness, whether the group has established a consensus on a particular issue, whether the members actively participate in the political process, demographic features (such as size and location), and the economic resources of the group. 2
Group consciousness—“the collection of beliefs through which ethnic groups view their collective identity and status in American society” 3 —is possibly the most important factor because it is necessary for political action. Without a sense of collective identity, individuals will be unable to mobilize on issues that affect them and on foreign policy issues concerning their ethnic kin and historic homeland. The forces affecting group consciousness are of critical concern for ethnic group elites seeking to mobilize their potential constituents, which, in turn, is needed to maximize the group's impact on the foreign policy decision-making process.
This chapter focuses on the mobilization of African-Americans to influence U.S. foreign policy toward problems in Africa, the African-American historic