This summer, the U.S. Department of State’s Office of International Visitors (OIV) initiated a virtual International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) project which explored racial and social disparities, probing America’s complicated history, current social justice movements, and the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on communities of color.
The project was titled, “The Problem We All Live With: Dismantling Racial and Social Injustice,” alluding to the 1964 Norman Rockwell painting which depicts an iconic moment from the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.
Twenty-five participants, representing twenty-three countries, attended virtual sessions hosted by program partners in Washington, DC; Cleveland, Ohio; San Francisco, California; Jackson, Mississippi; and Little Rock, Arkansas. Accompanying these meetings was a special presentation delivered by the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield. During her remarks, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield highlighted her personal story and encouraged the participants to work together to dismantle systemic racism and advance civil rights in their own countries and around the world. The video of Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield’s presentation is available below.
By the end of the project, many participants expressed a greater sense of understanding of the Black American experience in the United States and noted that they were motivated and dedicated to continuing the fight toward dismantling racism in their own countries. Khalid Ghali Bada, a virtual participant from Spain, shared, “One of the most significant concepts I’ve come to understand, during this program, is the correlation between legislation, the administrative political system, and racial hierarchy. By understanding this, it has given me an understanding of institutional racism in the U.S. and how it produces inequality in multiple areas.”
Through short-term exchanges, the IVLP allows current and emerging foreign leaders to foster lasting relationships with American counterparts, address topics of strategic interest, and develop greater familiarity and understanding of American culture and communities.