Commentary: The Ukraine Crisis and Why It Should Matter to Us

The Ukraine crisis has implications far beyond Europe and its neighbors.

Posted: 03/05/2014 05:44 PM EST

Anyone paying the slightest attention to the news in recent days can’t help notice the frequency at which Ukraine comes up as the lead topic. The nation, which borders Russia, was part of the former Soviet Union and became an independent country in 1991.

But recent turbulence in that country has created substantial unrest and Russia has sent troops into the country, specifically into Crimea, the autonomous republic that is part of the Ukraine, prompting a great deal of international concern about the kind of armed conflict that might produce.

President Obama has stressed the importance of an independent Ukraine where the direction of the country is determined by the citizens rather than the Kremlin in Russia. There has been a good deal of saber-rattling noise from conservative forces in the United States, who seem to be reliving the anxieties of the Cold War era.

What does the Ukraine situation mean to America, and even more specifically, what does it mean to Black America? Well for one thing, issues of independence and a population determining their future should be of concern to everyone, whether it’s in the Ukraine, South Sudan, Eritrea or South Africa.

Michael K. Fauntroy, a professor of political science at Howard University, said it best. "We live in a global society and things that impact people in one part of the world can impact them in other parts," Fauntroy said in an interview with BET.com. "If we want people to pay attention to the issues that are important to us, we need to pay attention to the issues that are important to them."

There is one other aspect to this. The situation in the Ukraine has the focused attention of most of the world, which is wondering how deep this conflict might go. And it has certainly diverted the attention of the president of the United States from such initiatives as “My Brother’s Keeper,” which is a program that seeks to coordinate the work of government agencies and private foundations to help young African-American and Latino men.

"There is only so much bandwidth that a president has," Fauntroy said. "He's dealing with the Ukraine, which means that he can't deal as closely with some of the other initiatives. After all, you can't schedule crises."

And so, it behooves all Americans of all races and stripes to encourage a peaceful end to the conflict in Ukraine, not just so the citizens of that relatively new republic can continue to determine the course they want to pursue for their future, but also so that the leaders of the United States can rededicate their focus to the many on the margins of American society who need attention.

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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Follow Jonathan Hicks on Twitter: @HicksJonathan

 (Photo: AP Photo/Kevin Lamarque, Pool)

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