Politics & Policy

Blinken Authorizes U.S. Embassies to Fly BLM Flag

An activist flies a Black Lives Matter flag during a news conference outside the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul, Minn., on May 24, 2021. (Nicholas Pfosi/Reuters)

Secretary of state Antony Blinken has authorized U.S. embassies worldwide to fly the Black Lives Matter (BLM) flag to demonstrate awareness of racism and social-justice issues and commemorate Tuesday’s one-year anniversary of the death of George Floyd, according to an internal cable received by Foreign Policy.

The U.S. State Department cable gives chiefs of missions, who lead U.S. diplomatic outposts and consulates around the globe, “blanket written authorization” to display BLM flags and banners as “appropriate in light of local conditions,” according to the report. It specified that the notice is not mandatory but rather only an authorization.

Some U.S. officials believe the directive solidifies the United States’ commitment to promoting human rights abroad as well as equality at home. An anonymous U.S. diplomat remarked that the policy is “a positive signal and a historic step in the right direction,” Foreign Policy‘s report said.

“However, we will need to see much more than BLM flags to signal the department is substantively bridging the disconnect between our domestic record on racial injustice and global rhetoric on human rights,” the diplomat continued.

Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police last May sparked outrage and unrest both domestically and internationally. Multiple countries protested against racism and demanded policing reform in the aftermath.

Prominent Republicans, such as Senator Ted Cruz, have criticized the Biden administration’s progressive politicization of various federal organizations and bodies, such as the U.S. military, which recently declared that combatting climate change is a serious national-security imperative, and the CIA, which has launched public campaigns advocating diversity and inclusion. The U.S. Army recently released a recruiting ad featuring an active-duty corporal sharing her childhood experience with lesbian parents.

Blinken has promised to ramp up diversity and inclusion initiatives within the State Department, even creating the new position of chief diversity and inclusion officer now held by Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley.

In an email statement obtained by Foreign Policy, a State Department spokesperson confirmed the new directive encouraging U.S. embassies to display BLM banners and flags. “The United States remains concerned about the racial and ethnic injustices against people of color and other marginalized communities both domestically and abroad. We encourage our missions around the world to focus on eliminating systemic racism and its global impact,” the spokesperson reportedly said.

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