Race & Ethnicity—Definition and Differences [+48 Race Essay Topics]

essay topics about race relations

Race and ethnicity are among the features that make people different. Unlike character traits, attitudes, and habits, race and ethnicity can’t be changed or chosen. It fully depends on the ancestry.

But why do we separate these two concepts and what are their core differences? How do people classify different races and types of ethnicity?

To find answers to these questions, keep reading the article.

Also, if you have a writing assignment on the same topic due soon and looking for inspiration, you’ll find plenty of race, racism, and ethnic group essay examples. At IvyPanda , we’ve gathered over 45 samples to help you with your writing, so you don’t have to torture yourself looking for awesome essay ideas.

Race and Ethnicity Definitions

It’s important to learn what race and ethnicity really are before trying to compare them and explore their classification.

Race is a group of people that belong to the same distinct category based on their physical and social qualities.

At the very beginning of the term usage, it only referred to people speaking a common language. Later, the term started to denote certain national affiliations. A reference to physical traits was added to the term race in the 17th century.

In a modern world, race is considered to be a social construct. In other words, it’s a distinguishable identity with a cultural meaning behind. Race is not usually seen as exclusively biological or physical quality, even though it’s partially based on common physical features among group members.

Raramuris native chihuahua mexican.

Ethnicity (also known as ethnic group) is a category of people who have similarities like common language, ancestry, history, culture, society, and nation.

Basically, people inherit ethnicity depending on the society they live in. Other factors that define a person’s ethnicity include symbolic systems like religion, cuisine, art, dressing style, and even physical appearance.

Sometimes, the term ethnicity is used as a synonym to people or nation. It’s also fair to mention that it’s sometimes possible for an individual to leave one ethnic group and shift to another. It’s usually done through acculturation, language shift, or religious conversion.

Though, most of the times, representatives of a certain ethnic group continue to speak their common language and share some other typical traits even if derived from their founder population.

Differences Between Race and Ethnicity

Now that we know what race and ethnicity are all about, let’s highlight some of the major differences between these two terms.

  • It divides people into groups or populations based mainly on physical appearance
  • The main accent is on genetic or biological traits
  • Because of geographical isolation, racial categories were a result of a shared genealogy. In modern world, this isolation is practically nonexistent, which lead to mixing of races
  • The distinguishing factors can include type of face or skin color. Other genetic differences are considered to be weak

India women dancing.

  • Members of an ethnic group identify themselves based on nationality, culture, and traditions
  • The emphasis is on group history, culture, and sometimes on religion and language
  • Definition of ethnicity is based on shared genealogy. It can be either actual or presumed
  • Distinguishing factors of ethnic groups keep changing depending on time period. Sometimes, they get defined by stereotypes that dominant groups have

It’s also worth mentioning that the border between two terms is quite vague . As a result, the choice of using either of them can be very subjective.

In the majority of cases, race is considered to be unitary, which means that one person belongs to one race. However, ethnically, this same person can identify themselves as a member of multiple ethnic groups. And it won’t be wrong if a person have lived enough time within those groups.

Race and Ethnicity Classification

It’s time to look at possible ways to classify racial and ethnical groups.

One of the most common classifications for race into four categories: Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Negroid, and Australoid. Three of them have subcategories.

Let’s look at them more closely.

– Caucasoid. White race with light skin color. Hair ranges from brown to black. They have medium to high structure. The subcategories are as follows:

  • Alpine. Live in Central Asia
  • Nordic . Baltic, British, and Scandinavian inhabitants
  • Mediterranean. Hail from France, Italy, Portugal, and Spain

– Mongoloid. The race’s majority is found in Asia. Characterized by black hair, yellow skin tone, and medium height.

  • Asian mongol. Found in japan, China, and East-India
  • Micronesian. Inhabitants of Malenesia

– Negroid. A race found in Africa. They have black skin, wooly hair, and medium to high structure.

  • Negro. African inhabitants
  • Far Eastern Pygmy. Found in the south Pacific islands
  • Bushman and Hottentot. Live in Kala-Hari desert of Africa

– Australoid. Found in Australia. They have wavy hair, light skin, and medium to tall height.

Different colors in the air.

It’s fair to mention yet again that it’s practically impossible to find pure race representatives because of how mixed they all got.

Speaking of ethnicity classification, one of the most common ways to do that is by continent. And each of continent’s ethnic groups will have their own subcategory.

So, we can roughly divide ethnic groups into following categories:

  • North American
  • South American

Race Essay Ideas

If all the information above was not enough and you’re looking for race essay topics, or even straight up essay examples for your writing assignment—today’s your lucky day. Because experts at IvyPanda have gathered plenty of those.

Check out the list of race and ethnic group essay samples below. Use them for inspiration, or try to develop one of the suggested topics even further.

Whatever option you’ll choose, we’re sure that you’ll end up with great results!

  • The Anatomy of Scientific Racism: Racialist Responses to Black Athletic Achievement
  • Race, Ethnicity and Crime
  • Representation of Race in Disney Films
  • What is the relationship between Race, Poverty and Prison?
  • Race in a Southern Community
  • African American Women and the Struggle for Racial Equality
  • American Ethnic Studies
  • Institutionalized Racism from John Brown Raid to Jim Crow Laws
  • The Veil and Muslim
  • Race and the Body: How Culture Both Shapes and Mirrors Broader Societal Attitudes Towards Race and the Body
  • Latinos and African Americans: Friends or Foes?
  • Historical US Relationships with Native American
  • The experiences of the Aborigines
  • Contemporary Racism in Australia: the Experience of Aborigines
  • No Reparations for Blacks for the Injustice of Slavery
  • Racism (another variant)
  • Hispanic Americans
  • Racism in the Penitentiary
  • How the development of my racial/ethnic identity has been impacted
  • My father’s black pride
  • African American Ethnic Group
  • Ethnic Group Conflicts
  • How the Movie Crash Presents the African Americans
  • Ethnic Groups and discrimination
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Racial and ethnic inequality
  • Ethnic Groups and Conflicts
  • Ethnics Studies
  • Ethnic studies and emigration
  • Ethnicity Influence
  • Immigration and Ethnic Relations
  • A comparison Between Asian Americans and Latinos
  • Analysis of the Chinese Experience in “A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America” by Ronald Takaki
  • Wedding in the UAE
  • Social and Cultural Diversity
  • The White Dilemma in South Africa
  • Ethnocentrism and its Effects on Individuals, Societies, and Multinationals
  • Reduction of ethnocentrism and promotion of cultural relativism
  • Racial and Ethnic Groups
  • Gender and Race
  • Child Marriages in Modern India
  • Race and Ethnicity (another variant)
  • Racial Relations and Color Blindness
  • Multiculturalism and “White Anxiety”
  • Cultural and racial inequality in Health Care
  • The impact of colonialism on cultural transformations in North and South America
  • African American Studies
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103 Race Essay Topic Ideas & Examples

Inside This Article

Race is a complex and sensitive topic that has been at the forefront of discussions for centuries. From systemic racism to cultural appropriation, race plays a significant role in shaping our society and the way we interact with one another. If you are looking for essay topic ideas on race, here are 103 examples to help you get started:

  • The history of racism in America
  • The impact of colonialism on race relations
  • White privilege and its effects on society
  • The role of race in the criminal justice system
  • Racism in the workplace
  • The intersectionality of race and gender
  • The portrayal of race in the media
  • The effects of racial profiling
  • Colorism within communities of color
  • The role of race in education
  • Interracial relationships and their challenges
  • The cultural appropriation of minority groups
  • The impact of race on mental health
  • The history of affirmative action
  • Racial disparities in healthcare
  • The stereotypes associated with different racial groups
  • The role of race in politics
  • The representation of race in literature
  • The effects of gentrification on minority communities
  • The role of race in sports
  • The experience of being a person of color in a predominantly white community
  • The impact of race on social mobility
  • The role of race in shaping identity
  • The effects of racism on mental health
  • The history of racial segregation
  • The portrayal of race in popular culture
  • The impact of race on access to resources
  • The representation of race in art
  • The effects of racial microaggressions
  • The role of race in shaping beauty standards
  • The impact of race on voting rights
  • The portrayal of race in advertising
  • The effects of race-based trauma
  • The role of race in shaping political ideologies
  • The representation of race in video games
  • The impact of race on environmental justice
  • The effects of race on access to affordable housing
  • The history of race-based discrimination in the legal system
  • The portrayal of race in historical monuments
  • The role of race in shaping immigration policies
  • The impact of race on access to quality education
  • The representation of race in fashion
  • The effects of racial disparities in the criminal justice system
  • The role of race in shaping reproductive rights
  • The portrayal of race in social media
  • The impact of race on access to healthcare
  • The effects of race on access to clean water
  • The history of race-based violence
  • The role of race in shaping economic opportunities
  • The representation of race in music
  • The impact of race on access to technology
  • The effects of racial disparities in the foster care system
  • The role of race in shaping environmental policies
  • The portrayal of race in reality TV shows
  • The impact of race on access to transportation
  • The effects of race on access to healthy food options
  • The history of race-based hate crimes
  • The role of race in shaping international relations
  • The representation of race in comic books
  • The impact of race on access to mental health services
  • The effects of racial disparities in the juvenile justice system
  • The role of race in shaping social movements
  • The portrayal of race in online communities
  • The impact of race on access to reproductive healthcare
  • The effects of race on access to childcare services
  • The history of race-based housing discrimination
  • The role of race in shaping cultural norms
  • The representation of race in theater
  • The impact of race on access to legal services
  • The effects of racial disparities in the education system
  • The role of race in shaping family dynamics
  • The portrayal of race in animated films
  • The impact of race on access to public transportation
  • The effects of race on access to affordable childcare
  • The history of race-based employment discrimination
  • The role of race in shaping religious beliefs
  • The representation of race in documentaries
  • The impact of race on access to affordable housing
  • The effects of racial disparities in the healthcare system
  • The role of race in shaping cultural traditions
  • The portrayal of race in video games
  • The impact of race on access to affordable childcare
  • The effects of race on access to public transportation

When choosing a topic on race, it is important to consider your own perspective and experiences. By exploring these essay topic ideas, you can gain a deeper understanding of how race shapes our society and the ways in which we can work towards a more equitable and inclusive future.

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Doing Race: 21 Essays for the 21st Century

essay topics about race relations

Doing Race focuses on race and ethnicity in everyday life: what they are, how they work, and why they matter. Going to school and work, renting an apartment or buying a house, watching television, voting, listening to music, reading books and newspapers, attending religious services, and going to the doctor are all everyday activities that are influenced by assumptions about who counts, whom to trust, whom to care about, whom to include, and why. Race and ethnicity are powerful precisely because they organize modern society and play a large role in fueling violence around the globe. Doing Race is targeted to undergraduates; it begins with an introductory essay and includes original essays by well-known scholars. Drawing on the latest science and scholarship, the collected essays emphasize that race and ethnicity are not things that people or groups have or are, but rather sets of actions that people do. Doing Race provides compelling evidence that we are not yet in a “post-race” world and that race and ethnicity matter for everyone. Since race and ethnicity are the products of human actions, we can do them differently. Like studying the human genome or the laws of economics, understanding race and ethnicity is a necessary part of a twenty first century education.

About the Author

Paula Moya

PAULA M. L. MOYA, is the Danily C. and Laura Louise Bell Professor of the Humanities and Professor of English at Stanford University. She is the Burton J. and Deedee McMurtry University Fellow in Undergraduate Education and a 2019-20 Fellow at the Center for the Study of Behavioral Sciences.

Moya’s teaching and research focus on twentieth-century and early twenty-first century literary studies, feminist theory, critical theory, narrative theory, American cultural studies, interdisciplinary approaches to race and ethnicity, and Chicanx and U.S. Latinx studies.

She is the author of  The Social Imperative: Race, Close Reading, and Contemporary Literary Criticism  (Stanford UP 2016) and  Learning From Experience: Minority Identities, Multicultural Struggles  (UC Press 2002) and has co-edited three collections of original essays,  Doing Race: 21 Essays for the 21st Century  (W.W. Norton, Inc. 2010),  Identity Politics Reconsidered  (Palgrave 2006) and  Reclaiming Identity: Realist Theory and the Predicament of Postmodernism  (UC Press 2000). 

Previously Moya served as the Director of the Program of Modern Thought and Literature, Vice Chair of the Department of English, Director of the Research Institute of Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, and also the Director of the Undergraduate Program of the Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. 

She is a recipient of the Dean’s Award for Distinguished Teaching, a Ford Foundation postdoctoral fellowship, the Outstanding Chicana/o Faculty Member award. She has been a Brown Faculty Fellow, a Clayman Institute Fellow, a CCSRE Faculty Research Fellow, and a Clayman Beyond Bias Fellow. 

50+ Essay Topics on Racism for Students


Table of contents

  • 1 Why Choose Racism Essay Topics for Writing Purposes?
  • 2 How to Choose Racism Essay Topics?
  • 3 Best Essay Topics on Racism
  • 4 Good Racism Research Topics
  • 5 Easy Racism Essay Topics
  • 6 Research Questions about Racism
  • 7 Argumentative Essay Topics about Racism
  • 8 Topics about Racism for Essay

Why Choose Racism Essay Topics for Writing Purposes?

There are many reasons why someone might choose to write an essay on racism. For some, it may be a way to explore their own personal experiences with racism. Others may want to raise awareness about the issue, or explore the history of racism in America. Whatever the reason, there are a number of potential essay topics to choose from. One potential topic is to explore the origins of racism in America. This could include a discussion of the slave trade, and how racism has been perpetuated throughout history. Another possibility is to discuss the current state of racism in America. This could include a discussion of the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, and how racism is still a very real problem in our country. No matter what topic you choose, it is important to remember that your essay should be well-researched and well-written. Be sure to support your claims with evidence, and be sure to cite your sources. With a little effort, you can write a compelling and thought-provoking essay on racism.

How to Choose Racism Essay Topics?

There are a lot of racism essay topics to choose from. However, it can be difficult to decide which one to write about. Here are some tips to help you choose the right topic for your essay:

  • Pick a topic that you are passionate about.
  • Choose a topic that you know something about.
  • Make sure the topic is something that you can research.
  • Be sure to choose a topic that is controversial.
  • Be sure to choose a topic that is interesting to you.

Best Essay Topics on Racism

  • Racism is a social construct that has been used to justify discrimination and violence against certain groups of people
  • Racism is a form of discrimination that is based on the belief that one race is superior to another.
  • Racism can be manifested in the form of individual prejudice, institutional discrimination, or hate crimes.
  • Racism is often used as a justification for xenophobic and anti-immigrant sentiment.
  • Racism has a long history in the United States, dating back to the colonial era.
  • Racism is a global problem that affects people of all races and ethnicities.
  • The rise of Donald Trump and the alt-right has emboldened racists and white supremacists in the United States.
  • The Black Lives Matter movement has brought renewed attention to the problem of racism in America.
  • Racism is a complex issue that cannot be solved overnight.
  • Education is key to combating racism and promoting social justice.

Good Racism Research Topics

Racism in America: A History from Slavery to Today

  • The Impact of Racism on African Americans
  • Racism and Discrimination in the Workplace
  • The School-to-Prison Pipeline: How Racism Contributes to the Mass Incarceration of African Americans
  • The Role of Media in Promoting Racism
  • The Impact of Racism on Mental Health
  • Racism and the Criminal Justice System
  • How has racism changed over time?
  • What are the different forms of racism?
  • How does racism affect people?
  • What are the causes of racism?
  • How can racism be prevented?
  • What are the consequences of racism?
  • What are the solutions to racism?
  • Is racism a global problem?
  • How does racism affect society?
  • What is the history of racism?

Easy Racism Essay Topics

  • The history of racism and its impact on society.
  • The different forms of racism and their effects on individuals and society.
  • The role of race in shaping individual and group identity.
  • The ways in which racism is perpetuated through institutional policies and practices.
  • The impact of racism on economic, social, and political life.
  • The challenges of living in a racially diverse society.
  • The role of the media in perpetuating or challenging racism.
  • The impact of racism on personal relationships.
  • The role of education in combating racism.
  • The challenges of addressing racism in the workplace.

Research Questions about Racism

  • How has racism impacted the lives of people of color in the United States?
  • What are the origins of racism in the United States?
  • How has racism changed over time in the United States?
  • What are the current manifestations of racism in the United States?
  • How do people of color experience racism in the United States?
  • What are the psychological effects of racism on people of color in the United States?
  • What are the economic effects of racism on people of color in the United States?
  • What are the educational effects of racism on people of color in the United States?
  • What are the health effects of racism on people of color in the United States?
  • What are the social effects of racism on people of color in the United States?

Argumentative Essay Topics about Racism

  • Racism is a major problem in our society today and it needs to be addressed.
  • Racism is a major barrier to social cohesion and harmony.
  • Racism is a major cause of discrimination and prejudice.
  • Racism is a major source of tension and conflict in our society.

Topics about Racism for Essay

  • Racism as a social problem.
  • The history of racism and its impact on society..
  • Racism in the criminal justice system.
  • The different forms of racism.
  • Racism in the media.
  • The causes of racism.
  • Racism in the workplace.
  • The effects of racism on individuals and society.
  • Racism in education.
  • Racism and its impact on mental health.

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Home — Blog — Topic Ideas — Essay Topics on Racism: 150 Ideas for Analysis and Discussion

Essay Topics on Racism: 150 Ideas for Analysis and Discussion

essay topics on racism

Here’s a list of 150 essay ideas on racism to help you ace a perfect paper. The subjects are divided based on what you require!

Before we continue with the list of essay topics on racism, let's remember the definition of racism. In brief, it's a complex prejudice and a form of discrimination based on race. It can be done by an individual, a group, or an institution. If you belong to a racial or ethnic group, you are facing being in the minority. As it's usually caused by the group in power, there are many types of racism, including socio-cultural racism, internal racism, legal racism, systematic racism, interpersonal racism, institutional racism, and historical racism. You can also find educational or economic racism as there are many sub-sections that one can encounter.

150 Essay Topics on Racism to Help You Ace a Perfect Essay

General Recommendations

The subject of racism is one of the most popular among college students today because you can discuss it regardless of your academic discipline. Even though we are dealing with technical progress and the Internet, the problem of racism is still there. The world may go further and talk about philosophical matters, yet we still have to face them and explore the challenges. It makes it even more difficult to find a good topic that would be unique and inspiring. As a way to help you out, we have collected 150 racism essay topics that have been chosen by our experts. We recommend you choose something that motivates you and narrow things down a little bit to make your writing easier.

Why Choose a Topic on Racial Issues? 

When we explore racial issues, we are not only seeking the most efficient solutions but also reminding ourselves about the past and the mistakes that we should never make again. It is an inspirational type of work as we all can change the world. If you cannot choose a topic that inspires you, think about recent events, talk about your friend, or discuss something that has happened in your local area. Just take your time and think about how you can make the world a safer and better place.

The Secrets of a Good Essay About Racism 

The secret to writing a good essay on racism is not only stating that racism is bad but by exploring the origins and finding a solution. You can choose a discipline and start from there. For example, if you are a nursing student, talk about the medical principles and responsibilities where every person is the same. Talk about how it has not always been this way and discuss the methods and the famous theorists who have done their best to bring equality to our society. Keep your tone inspiring, explore, and tell a story with a moral lesson in the end. Now let’s explore the topic ideas on racism!

General Essay Topics On Racism 

As we know, no person is born a racist since we are not born this way and it cannot be considered a biological phenomenon. Since it is a practice that is learned and a social issue, the general topics related to racism may include socio-cultural, philosophical, and political aspects as you can see below. Here are the ideas that you should consider as you plan to write an essay on racial issues:

  • Are we born with racial prejudice? 
  • Can racism be unlearned? 
  • The political constituent of the racial prejudice and the colonial past? 
  • The humiliation of the African continent and the control of power. 
  • The heritage of the Black Lives Matter movement and its historical origins. 
  • The skin color issue and the cultural perceptions of the African Americans vs Mexican Americans. 
  • The role of social media in the prevention of racial conflicts in 2022 . 
  • Martin Luther King Jr. and his role in modern education. 
  • Konrad Lorenz and the biological perception of the human race. 
  • The relation of racial issues to nazism and chauvinism.

The Best Racism Essay Topics 

School and college learners often ask about what can be considered the best essay subject when asked to write on racial issues. Essentially, you have to talk about the origins of racism and provide a moral lesson with a solution as every person can be a solid contribution to the prevention of hatred and racial discrimination.

  • The schoolchildren's example and the attitude to the racial conflicts. 
  • Perception of racism in the United States versus Germany. 
  • The role of the scouting movement as a way to promote equality in our society. 
  •  Social justice and the range of opportunities that African American individuals could receive during the 1960s.
  •  The workplace equality and the negative perception of the race when the documents are being filed. 
  •  The institutional racism and the sources of the legislation that has paved the way for injustice. 
  •  Why should we talk to the children about racial prejudice and set good examples ? 
  •  The role of anthropology in racial research during the 1990s in the USA. 
  •  The Black Poverty phenomenon and the origins of the Black Culture across the globe. 
  •  The controversy of Malcolm X’s personality and his transition from anger to peacemaking.

Shocking Racism Essay Ideas 

Unfortunately, there are many subjects that are not easy to deal with when you are talking about the most horrible sides of racism. Since these subjects are sensitive, dealing with the shocking aspects of this problem should be approached with a warning in your introduction part so your readers know what to expect. As a rule, many medical and forensic students will dive into the issue, so these topic ideas are still relevant:

  • The prejudice against wearing a hoodie. 
  •  The racial violence in Western Africa and the crimes by the Belgian government. 
  •  The comparison of homophobic beliefs and the link to racial prejudice. 
  •  Domestic violence and the bias towards the cases based on race. 
  •  Racial discrimination in the field of the sex industry. 
  •  Slavery in the Middle East and the modern cultural perceptions. 
  •  Internal racism in the United States: why the black communities keep silent. 
  •  Racism in the American schools: the bias among the teachers. 
  •  Cyberbullying and the distorted image of the typical racists . 
  •  The prisons of Apartheid in South Africa.

Light and Simple Ideas Regarding Racism

If you are a high-school learner or a first-year college student, your essay on racism may not have to represent complex research with a dozen of sources. Here are some good ideas that are light and simple enough to provide you with inspiration and the basic points to follow:

  • My first encounter with racial prejudice. 
  •  Why do college students are always in the vanguard of social campaigns? 
  •  How are the racial issues addressed by my school? 
  •  The promotion of the African-American culture is a method to challenge prejudice and stereotypes. 
  • The history of blues music and the Black culture of the blues in the United States.
  • The role of slavery in the Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. 
  •  School segregation in the United States during the 1960s. 
  •  The negative effect of racism on the mental health of a person. 
  •  The advocacy of racism in modern society . 
  •  The heritage of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and the modern perception of the historical issues.

Interesting Topics on Racism For an Essay 

Contrary to the popular belief, when you have to talk about the cases of racial prejudice, you will also encounter many interesting essay topic ideas. As long as these are related to your main academic course, you can explore them. Here are some great ideas to consider:

  • Has the perception of Michael Jackson changed because of his skin transition? 
  •  The perception of racial problems by the British Broadcasting Corporation. 
  •  The role of the African American influencers on Instagram. 
  •  The comparison between the Asian students and the Mexican learners in the USA. 
  •  Latin culture and the similarities when compared to the Black culture with its peculiarities. 
  •  The racial impact in the “Boy In The Stripped Pajamas”. 
  •  Can we eliminate racism completely and how exactly, considering the answer is “Yes”? 
  •  Scientific research of modern racism and social media campaigns. 
  •  Why do some people believe that the Black Lives Matter movement is controversial? 
  • Male vs female challenges in relation to racial attitudes.

Argumentative Essay Topics About Race 

An argumentative type of writing requires making a clear statement or posing an assumption that will deal with a particular question. As we are dealing with racial prejudice or theories, it is essential to support your writing with at least one piece of evidence to make sure that you can support your opinion and stand for it as you write. Here are some good African American argumentative essay examples of topics and other ideas to consider:

  •  Racism is a mental disorder and cannot be treated with words alone. 
  •  Analysis of the traumatic experiences based on racial prejudice. 
  •  African-American communities and the sense of being inferior are caused by poverty. 
  •  Reading the memoirs of famous people that describe racial issues often provides a distorted image through the lens of a single person. 
  •  There is no academic explanation of racism since every case is different and is often based on personal perceptions. 
  •  The negatives of the post-racial perception as the latent system that advocates racism. 
  •  The link of racial origins to the concept of feminism and gender inequality. 
  •  The military bias and the merits that are earned by the African-American soldiers. 
  •  The media causes a negative image of the Latin and Mexican youth in the United States. 
  •  Does racism exist in kindergarten and why the youngsters do not think about racial prejudice?

Racism Research Paper Topics 

Dealing with The Black Lives Matter essay , you should focus on those aspects of racism that are not often discussed or researched by the media. You can take a particular case study or talk about the reasons why the BLM social campaign has started and whether the timing has been right. Here are some interesting racism topics for research paper that you should consider:

  • The link of criminal offenses to race is an example of the primary injustice .  
  • The socio-emotional burdens of slavery that one can trace among the representatives of the African-American population. 
  • Study of the cardio-vascular diseases among the American youth: a comparison of the Caucasian and Latin representatives. 
  • The race and the politics: dealing with the racial issues and the Trump administration analysis. 
  • The best methods to achieve medical equality for all people: where race has no place to be. 
  • The perception of racism by the young children: the negative side of trying to educate the youngsters. 
  • Racial prejudice in the UK vs the United States: analysis of the core differences. 
  • The prisons in the United States: why do the Blacks constitute the majority? 
  • The culture of Voodoo and the slavery: the link between the occult practices.
  • The native American people and the African Americans: the common woes they share.

Racism in Culture Topics 

Racism topics for essay in culture are always upon the surface because we can encounter them in books, popular political shows, movies, social media, and more. The majority of college students often ignore this aspect because things easily become confusing since one has to take a stand and explain the point. As a way to help you a little bit, we have collected several cultural racism topic ideas to help you start:

  • The perception of wealth by the Black community: why it differs when researched through the lens of past poverty?  
  • The rap music and the cultural constituent of the African-American community. 
  • The moral constituent of the political shows where racial jargon is being used. 
  • Why the racial jokes on television are against the freedom of speech?  
  • The ways how the modern media promotes racism by stirring up the conflict and actually doing harm. 
  • The isolated cases of racism and police violence in the United States as portrayed by the movies. 
  • Playing with the Black musicians: the history of jazz in the United States. 
  • The social distancing and the perception of isolation by the different races. 
  • The cultural multitude in the cartoons by the Disney Corporations: the pros and cons.
  • From assimilation to genocide: can the African American child make it big without living through the cultural bias?

Racism Essay Ideas in Literature 

One of the best ways to study racism is by reading the books by those who have been through it on their own or by studying the explorations by those who can write emotionally and fight for racial equality where racism has no place to be. Keeping all of these challenges in mind, our experts suggest turning to the books as you can explore racism in the literature by focusing on those who are against it and discussing the cases in the classic literature that are quite controversial.

  • The racial controversy of Ernest Hemingway's writing.  
  • The personal attitude of Mark Twain towards slavery and the cultural peculiarities of the times. 
  • The reasons why "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee book has been banned in libraries. 
  • The "Hate You Give" by Angie Thomas and the analysis of the justified and "legit" racism. 
  • Is the poetry by the gangsta rap an example of hidden racism? 
  • Maya Angelou and her timeless poetry. 
  • The portrayal of xenophobia in modern English language literature. 
  • What can we learn from the "Schilder's List" screenplay as we discuss the subject of genocide? 
  • Are there racial elements in "Othello" or Shakespeare's creation is beyond the subject?
  • Kate Chopin's perception of inequality in "Desiree's Baby".

Racism in Science Essay Ideas 

Racism is often studied by scientists because it's not only a cultural point or a social agenda that is driven by personal inferiority and similar factors of mental distortion. Since we can talk about police violence and social campaigns, it is also possible to discuss things through different disciplines. Think over these racism thesis statement ideas by taking a scientific approach and getting a common idea explained:

  • Can physical trauma become a cause for a different perception of race? 
  • Do we inherit racial intolerance from our family members and friends? 
  • Can a white person assimilate and become a part of the primarily Black community? 
  • The people behind the concept of Apartheid: analysis of the critical factors. 
  • Can one prove the fact of the physical damage of the racial injustice that lasted through the years? 
  • The bond between mental diseases and the slavery heritage among the Black people. 
  • Should people carry the blame for the years of social injustice? 
  • How can we explain the metaphysics of race? 
  • What do the different religions tell us about race and the best ways to deal with it? 
  • Ethnic prejudices based on age, gender, and social status vs general racism.

Cinema and Race Topics to Write About 

As a rule, the movies are also a great source for writing an essay on racial issues. Remember to provide the basic information about the movie or include examples with the quotations to help your readers understand all the major points that you make. Here are some ideas that are worth your attention:

  • The negative aspect of the portrayal of racial issues by Hollywood.  
  • Should the disturbing facts and the graphic violence be included in the movies about slavery? 
  • Analysis of the "Green Mile" movie and the perception of equality in our society.  
  • The role of music and culture in the "Django Unchained" movie. 
  • The "Ghosts of Mississippi" and the social aspect of the American South compared to how we perceive it today. 
  • What can we learn from the "Malcolm X" movie created by Spike Lee? 
  • "I am Not Your Negro" movie and the role of education through the movies. 
  • "And the Children Shall Lead" the movie as an example that we are not born racist. 
  • Do we really have the "Black Hollywood" concept in reality? 
  • Do the movies about racial issues only cause even more racial prejudice?

Race and Ethnic Relations 

Another challenging problem is the internal racism and race and ethnicity essay topics that we can observe not only in the United States but all over the world as well. For example, the Black people in the United States and the representatives of the rap music culture will divide themselves between the East Coast and the West Coast where far more than cultural differences exist. The same can be encountered in Afghanistan or in Belgium. Here are some essay topics on race and ethnicity idea samples to consider:

  • The racial or the ethnic conflict? What can we learn from Afghan society? 
  • Religious beliefs divide us based on ethnicity . 
  • What are the major differences between ethnic and racial conflicts? 
  • Why we are able to identify the European Black person and the Black coming from the United States? 
  • Racism and ethnicity's role in sports. 
  • How can an ethnic conflict be resolved with the help of anti-racial methods? 
  • The medical aspect of being an Asian in the United States. 
  • The challenges of learning as an African American person during the 1950s. 
  • The role of the African American people in the Vietnam war and their perception by the locals. 
  • Ethnicity's role in South Africa as the concept of Apartheid has been formed.

Biology and Racial Issues 

If you are majoring in Biology or would like to research this side of the general issue of race, it is essential to think about how we can fight racism in practice by turning to healthcare or the concepts that are historical in their nature. Although we cannot explain slavery per se other than by turning to economics and the rule of power that has no justification, biologists believe that racial challenges can be approached by their core beliefs as well.

  • Can we create an isolated non-racist society in 2022? 
  • If we assume that a social group has never heard of racism, can it occur? 
  • The physical versus cultural differences in the racial inequality cases? 
  • The biological peculiarities of the different races? 
  • Do we carry the cultural heritage of our race? 
  • Interracial marriage through the lens of Biology. 
  • The origins of the racial concept and its evolution. 
  • The core ways how slavery has changed the African-American population. 
  • The linguistic peculiarities of the Latin people. 
  • The resistance of the different races towards vaccination.

Modern Racism Topics to Consider 

In case you would like to deal with a modern subject that deals with racism, you can go beyond the famous Black Lives Matter movement by focusing on the cases of racism in sports or talking about the peacemakers or the famous celebrities who have made a solid difference in the elimination of racism.

  • The Global Citizen campaign is a way to eliminate racial differences. 
  • The heritage of Aretha Franklin and her take on the racial challenges. 
  • The role of the Black Stars in modern society: the pros and cons. 
  • Martin Luther King Day in the modern schools. 
  • How can Instagram help to eliminate racism? 
  • The personality of Michelle Obama as a fighter for peace. 
  • Is a society without racism a utopian idea? 
  • How can comic books help youngsters understand equality? 
  • The controversy in the death of George Floyd. 
  • How can we break down the stereotypes about Mexicans in the United States?

Racial Discrimination Essay Ideas 

If your essay should focus on racial discrimination, you should think about the environment and the type of prejudice that you are facing. For example, it can be in school or at the workplace, at the hospital, or in a movie that you have attended. Here are some discrimination topics research paper ideas that will help you to get started:

  • How can a schoolchild report the case of racism while being a minor?  
  • The discrimination against women's rights during the 1960s. 
  • The employment problem and the chances of the Latin, Asian, and African American applicants. 
  • Do colleges implement a certain selection process against different races? 
  • How can discrimination be eliminated via education? 
  • African-American challenges in sports. 
  • The perception of discrimination, based on racial principles and the laws in the United States. 
  • How can one report racial comments on social media? 
  • Is there discrimination against white people in our society? 
  • Covid-19 and racial discrimination: the lessons we have learned.

Find Even More Essay Topics On Racism by Visiting Our Site 

If you are unsure about what to write about, you can always find an essay on racism by visiting our website. Offering over 150 topic ideas, you can always get in touch with our experts and find another one!

5 Tips to Make Your Essay Perfect

  • Start your essay on racial issues by narrowing things down after you choose the general topic. 
  • Get your facts straight by checking the dates, the names, opinions from both sides of an issue, etc. 
  • Provide examples if you are talking about the general aspects of racism. 
  • Do not use profanity and show due respect even if you are talking about shocking things. The same relates to race and ethnic relations essay topics that are based on religious conflicts. Stay respectful! 
  • Provide references and citations to avoid plagiarism and to keep your ideas supported by at least one piece of evidence.

Recommendations to Help You Get Inspired

Speaking of recommended books and articles to help you start with this subject, you should check " The Ideology of Racism: Misusing Science to Justify Racial Discrimination " by William H. Tucker who is a professor of social sciences at Rutgers University. Once you read this great article, think about the poetry by Maya Angelou as one of the best examples to see the practical side of things.

The other recommendations worth checking include:

- How to be Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi . - White Fragility by Robin Diangelo . - So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo .

The Final Word 

We sincerely believe that our article has helped you to choose the perfect essay subject to stir your writing skills. If you are still feeling stuck and need additional help, our team of writers can assist you in the creation of any essay based on what you would like to explore. You can get in touch with our skilled experts anytime by contacting our essay service for any race and ethnicity topics. Always confidential and plagiarism-free, we can assist you and help you get over the stress!

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248 Racism Essay Topics To Inspire Your Writing

248 Racism Essay Topics

If you are reading this article, it probably means you are looking for the best racism essay topics. After all, you want to get a top grade on your next academic paper. The good news is that we have compiled a list of brand new topics for high school, college and university students right here on this page. And yes, all these topics are 100% free. You can use them in any way you see fit (you can even reword them). There is no need to give us any credit.

In addition to the list of unique racism essay topics, we also have some great tips on how to write the perfect essay in the shortest time possible. Remember, our experts are here to assist you with any kind of assignment right now, even if it’s the middle of the night. If you don’t require professional writing help right now, just pick one of our topics and start writing your essay!

Quick Way to Write an Essay About Racism

Before we get to the topics we have prepared for you, it’s time to talk about how you can write an essay about racism quickly and get a top grade on it. We won’t get into many details because we assume you already know what is racism essay. So, here is what you need to do if you want to write your paper fast:

Choose one of our topics. Make sure that topic you choose is original and interesting. You want your paper to stand out from the rest. Think about a strong racism thesis statement. It should be just one or two sentences long. The thesis statement is basically the goal of your research. Create a racism essay outline. Remember, even our most experienced academic writers start their projects with an outline. It will keep you focused on the most important talking points. Write the introduction and don’t forget to start it with your thesis statement. Provide a bit of background information about the topic and transition to the first body paragraph. Write three body paragraphs. Each one of them should discuss a single idea that supports your thesis. It’s a good idea to start the paragraph with a statement and use the rest of the paragraph to support it. Write the conclusion. In this section, you have to summarize everything and show your readers that your findings answer the research questions. Edit and proofread your work at least twice. Keep in mind that you can quickly lose points for minor mistakes such as typos or improperly formatted citations/references.

Best Race Topics to Write About

Now that you have a quick guide to follow, it’s time to show you some of the best race topics to write about. Keep in mind that this list of topics is updated periodically and that we go to great lengths to make sure every student has access to the latest original topics. Furthermore, you can contact us with a “ write my dissertation for me UK ” message and we will happily help you save your time and nerves. So, what are you waiting for? Pick one of these topics and start writing your paper:

Racism Argumentative Essay Topics

We will start our list with some very interesting racism argumentative essay topics because we know these are some of the most popular assignments nowadays. Here are some of our latest ideas:

  • The best way to put an end to racism
  • Things the need to change to end racial discrimination
  • Gender bias versus racism
  • Top 5 celebrities fired for racism
  • Racial bias in Canada
  • Discuss the role of racism in our society
  • Systemic versus indirect racism
  • The consequences of racism
  • Talk about the evolution of civil rights in America
  • Discuss race-motivated crime in the UK
  • The state of racism in 2023
  • Why do most Black people earn less than white people?

Race and Ethnicity Essay Topics

Are you interested in writing your academic paper on something related to race and ethnicity? Our experts have compiled a list of unique race and ethnicity essay topics just for you:

  • The differences between race and ethnicity
  • Research the ethnicities of South Africa
  • Talk about the Mexican ethnicity in the United States
  • An in-depth analysis of your ethnicity
  • Talk about the concept of ethnic relations
  • Link between race, ethnicity and culture
  • Analyze ethnicities in the United States
  • Race, ethnicity and religion in the United Kingdom
  • Analyze the concept of ethnicity on social media
  • Analyze the Hispanic ethnicity in the US
  • Discuss ethnic cleansing incidents in history

Easy Essay Topics on Racism

Pick one of these easy essay topics on racism is you want to spend just a couple of hours writing your paper. Keep in mind that some of these topics may be a bit too simple for some professors:

  • Define racism and give some examples
  • Talk about racism in ancient history
  • What is an act of racism
  • Talk about anti-racism legislation
  • Discuss ways to prevent racist behavior
  • Modern examples of racist behavior
  • COVID-19 and racism in the United States
  • Negative effects of racism on culture
  • How does racism affect Black people in the US?
  • Negative effects of racism on science
  • Racism in our law enforcement agencies

Our Latest Racism Essay Ideas

In this section, we are constantly adding our latest racism essay ideas. You can rest assured that these topics are all original, so go ahead and choose one right now:

  • Talk about the stigma associated with racism
  • Are all Muslims terrorists?
  • Talk about the Quaker initiatives
  • Social reactions to racist remarks
  • Famous anti-racist movements
  • Confronting systemic racism in the UK
  • Talk about the “merciless Indian savage” passage of the Declaration of Independence
  • Discuss Islamophobia in the world today
  • An in-depth look at the Abolitionist movement

Race and Ethnic Relations Essay Topics

Of course, we also have plenty of race and ethnic relations essay topics for high school, college and university students. Choose one of these ideas and start writing your paper today:

  • Ethnic relations in the 21st century
  • Talk about the life of James Loewen
  • Talk about the concept of scientific anti-racism
  • Talk about the first racial equality proposal
  • Discuss ethnic relations in South Korea
  • Talk about John Brown’s blessing (painting)
  • The life of Friedrich Tiedemann
  • Discuss the rise of BLM (Black Lives Matter)
  • The role of the UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur

Topics for Race Discrimination Essays

Writing about race discrimination can be a very effective way to get a top grade, as we’re sure you already know. To help you out, we have compiled a list of the best topics for race discrimination essays right here:

  • What is the Anti-Nazi League?
  • Analyze racial discrimination in healthcare
  • The importance of the World Conference against Racism
  • The life and works of Richard Wright
  • The role of Layla Saad in fighting racism
  • A closer look at the Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism
  • Give an example of racial discrimination
  • Talk about race discrimination at the workplace
  • Authors that have been deemed racist

Persuasive Topics About Racism

Are you looking to persuade your audience to adopt your point of view on a sensible subject related to racism? No problem, we’ve got your back! Here are our latest persuasive topics about racism:

  • Racism is even bigger than we know
  • The link between nationalism and racism
  • The link between gender and racial discrimination
  • Most famous anti-racism author
  • Mandatory prison sentences for proven racists
  • Problems with racism in Germany
  • The rise of white supremacy movements
  • Malcolm X: The racism warrior
  • Black writers that never received acknowledgement

Racism Research Topics

If you are interested in writing your paper on a very interesting topic, we have some great racism research topics right here. Check them out below:

  • The most controversial racism writer
  • Research the mental health effects of racism
  • Research the rise and fall of Klu Klux Klan
  • Analyze the negative effects of racial bias
  • Discuss wages in relation to race
  • Research the history of racism
  • Racism on social media
  • Discuss racism in our schools
  • Talk about racism in our judicial system

Racism Essay Thesis Topics

We know that you may be looking for some topics for a thesis on racism. This is why we have put together a list of original racism essay thesis topics for students:

  • The new racism in the US
  • The impact of racism on my professional life
  • The role of anti-racist education
  • Talk about race relations and criminal gangs in the United States
  • The link between prejudice and racism
  • Racism against Black Americans
  • Research the Critical Race Theory
  • The life of Martin Luther King Jr.
  • The fights against racism in Europe

Injustice Essay Topics

Injustice (including racial injustice) is a very sensible subject nowadays. However, don’t be afraid to pick a topic related to injustice. Here are some of the best injustice essay topics you can find today:

  • Talk about the book The One-Way Street of Integration (written by Edward G. Goetz)
  • The sad truth behind Indian reservations
  • Racial injustice in Austria
  • Poverty in Indian reservations in the US
  • Research racial injustice in sub-Saharan countries
  • Racial injustice and racial bias
  • Discrimination against women of color
  • Talk about injustice done to native Indians
  • Social injustice in developed countries

Best Racism Research Questions

We have discovered that the best way to find a great topic for your next paper is to take a look at some intriguing research questions. Below, you will find our best racism research questions:

  • What is racism?
  • Is there a link between Covid-19 and anti-Asian racism?
  • What causes racism?
  • Can racism cause psychological problems?
  • How do you feel when somebody calls you racist?
  • Was Hitler a racist?
  • What is the difference between racism and xenophobia?
  • How do we stop white supremacy?
  • What is racial bias?
  • Does the police use racist tactics today?
  • What is the extent of racial discrimination in the US?
  • What is the anti-Semitic movement?
  • Does racism affect scientific decisions?
  • What caused the most popular racial myths?
  • Is human thinking the only cause of racism?
  • Can racism appear in the peer-review process?
  • What is the anti-Indigenous movement in the US?

Topics for an Essay About Racial Inequality

As you probably already know, racial inequality is a hot potato nowadays. This does not mean you should not write a paper about it though. Take a look at these great topics for an essay about racial inequality:

  • Analyze the book Driving While Black written by Gretchen Sorin
  • Racial inequality in Zimbabwe
  • Negative effects of racial inequality
  • Racial inequality in Zanzibar
  • 3 manifestations of racial inequality
  • Racial inequality in India
  • Why is racial inequality still a problem?
  • Racial inequality in Afghanistan
  • Racial inequality in Israel (against Palestinians)

Solution to Racism Essay Topics

Our experts are here to help you if you need to write an essay about the solution to racism. We have some of the most interesting solution to racism essay topics for you right here:

  • The ultimate solution to racism
  • What can we do to stop racism?
  • People who have fought racism and won
  • Celebrating other cultures
  • Banning hate speech from the media
  • Teaching anti-racism classes in school
  • Establishing new human rights organizations
  • Think about the best solution against racism
  • Imagine a world without racism

Informative Topics Related to Racism

Are you looking for some informative topics related to racism? Don’t worry, we’ve got plenty of them. Take a look at the list below and choose the topic you like the most right now:

  • Racism in Ancient Egypt
  • Peculiarities of racism in the UK
  • Discuss racism and xenophobia in Thailand
  • Analyze racism from a racist’s POV
  • What it means to be a racist in America
  • The 4 important parts of racism
  • Talk about anti-Asian hate
  • Hate crimes in the modern world
  • Terrorism and hate crimes

Illuminating Racism Topics

Finding interesting and original topics about racism can be difficult, we know. This is why we have created a list of the most illuminating racism topics. You can find it right here:

  • 5 famous racists
  • Compare and contrast racism and xenophobia
  • Discuss racial bias and gender bias
  • Racism in science
  • Are humans racist by nature?
  • Famous racist remarks
  • Is racism 100% hate?
  • The coronavirus and the hate against Asian people
  • Hate crimes against women in the US

Revealing Topics About Racism

Some topics in racism have the potential to earn you some very useful bonus points from your professor. Check out our list of revealing topics about racism right here:

  • Discuss the book “A More Beautiful and Terrible History” (written by Jeanne Theoharis)
  • Signs of racism in the United Knigdom
  • Talk about the targets of racial discrimination
  • Discuss the effects of racism on mental health
  • A closer look at police brutality in the US
  • Analyze the term “casual racism”
  • How can we recognize racism?
  • A closer look at hate speech in Western Europe
  • Is racism and bias the same thing?
  • Understanding systemic racism in the United States
  • Talk about slavery and racism
  • Discuss racism in Nazi Germany

Essential Racism Research Questions

Our experts know that students can quickly find a great topic for their next essay simply by looking at some essential racism research questions. Here are some of our latest ideas:

  • When did the term “racism” first appear?
  • Is racism such a wide-spread phenomenon?
  • What caused the apartheid in South Africa?
  • Can you find any signs of racism in Ancient Rome?
  • Do all racists deserve prison sentences?
  • What makes a person become racist?
  • How can we effectively combat racism?
  • Can racist remarks ever be considered harmless?
  • Who was Martin Luther King?
  • Why is racism such a big deal in the United States today?
  • Do we need more severe anti-racism laws?
  • What does white supremacy mean to you?
  • What does white privilege mean to you?
  • Can you find signs of racism in religious texts?
  • What is afrophobia?
  • What is indirect racism?
  • What is white supremacy?

Controversial Racism Topics

As you can imagine, racism can cause a lot of controversies. However, we encourage you to write your paper on one of these controversial racism topics to get some bonus points from your professor:

  • Racial discrimination in politics
  • Racial bias in healthcare
  • Failed anti-racism movements
  • Inequalities between Black and white Americans
  • International human rights and racism
  • Racism and oppression in Palestine
  • Racism in schools
  • Talk about racial equity
  • Is bullying racism?

Great Racism Essay Ideas

In the list below, we have selected only what we consider to be great racism essay ideas. Yes, there are many other interesting ideas in our list, but these topics will work great in 2023:

  • Fight racism in your neighborhood
  • Examples of racist politicians
  • A closer look at the book “The Origin of Others”
  • Talk about racism laws
  • Racism’s effects on language acquisition
  • Discuss systemic racism in Europe
  • What is the American Apartheid?
  • Discuss the book “The Souls of Black Folk”
  • What makes a speech racist?

Important Issues Related to Racism

You don’t have to write your paper on a topic closely linked to racism to make a point. There are many other important issues related to racism that you can talk about, such as:

  • Racism in the 21st century
  • Racial inequality in Australia
  • New anti-racism movements
  • 3 new forms of racism
  • Racism in 2023
  • The evolution of hate speech
  • Racial bias in developing countries
  • Talk about the book “Racism: A Short History”
  • Who is Rachel Cargle?

Complex Topics Related to Racism

College and university students should choose topics that are a bit more complex. Your professor expects you to do extensive research and write an excellent paper. This is why we have a list of complex topics related to racism right here:

  • Can we ever get rid of racism?
  • Hate speech in North Korea
  • Racist remarks by Donald Trump
  • A world built on racism
  • Discuss racism in international corporations
  • Racism at Apple: a case study
  • Racism against Black activists
  • Racial bias in the US justice system
  • Capitalist forces and racism

Fight Against Racism Topics

Would you like to write about the fight against racism? If you don’t know where to start or what to write about, all you have to do is take a look at some of these interesting ideas:

  • The life and works of Charlene A. Carruthers
  • Talk about defunding the police
  • Talk about the concept of racial justice
  • The evolution of the Black Lives Matter movement
  • The life and works of D’atra Jackson
  • Controversies related to the BLM movement
  • Lee Merritt: fighting racism with words
  • Demilitarizing the police in the US
  • Discuss the role of racism in the history of the US

Racism Topics for College Students

Our writers and editors selected some of the best racism topics for college students, so that you don’t have to waste your time scouring the Internet for them. Check them out below:

  • Talk about racism in Israel
  • Define and discuss structural racism
  • An in-depth look at race-motivated crime in Europe
  • An in-depth look at the 3 most prominent cases of racism of 2023
  • Talk about hate crimes in North America
  • The psychology behind racism
  • What is race-based hate crime?
  • Ways to fight against racism in 2023
  • The impact of racism on our society
  • Analyze the book Mainstream Black Power (Tom Adam Davies)
  • Talk about a racism incident in your area
  • Notable civil rights movements in your area

Race Relations Essay Topics

Finally, we have an entire list of race relations essay topics for students of all ages – everywhere in the world. Choose one of these topics and write an A+ essay right now:

  • Race relations in Ukraine (Russian and Ukrainian citizens)
  • A closer look at civil rights in Palestine
  • Race relations in modern America
  • Discuss race relations in Israel
  • Analyze race relations in China
  • Talk about race relations in India
  • Discuss racial injustice in African countries
  • Research the apartheid in South Africa
  • Compare 3 views on race relations
  • Civil rights movements in Eastern Europe
  • Racial injustice in the Middle East
  • An in-depth look at the ethnic background in North Korea

Custom Efficient Essay Writing Help

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150+ Top Race and Ethnicity Essay Topics for Students

Table of Contents

Would you have to prepare an academic paper on race and ethnicity? Are you looking for interesting race and ethnicity essay topics? Well, in this blog post, we have suggested a list of compelling race and ethnicity essay topic ideas to consider for your assignments. Also, to guide you with the essay writing process, here, we have shared a few significant tips on how to choose a perfect topic and craft an outstanding race and ethnicity essay. Continue reading this blog post to get ideas more ideas about race and ethnicity essay writing.

Race and Ethnicity Essay Topics

An Overview of Race and Ethnicity

From ancient times till now, racism has been one of the serious issues that prevail in society. In particular, many fields of science such as psychology, culture, sociology, neuroscience, etc., treat racism as an important subject of investigation and are searching for effective ways to solve race and ethnicity problems. Unfortunately, no proper methods were formulated to eliminate racism in the modern digital world.

As racism is a critical social issue, various research activities, debates, and discussions are being conducted frequently on this subject. For your academic paper, you can also choose race and ethnicity topics and present your opinions on them. But when writing an essay or research paper on racism and ethnicity, be cautious with the topic you choose and the points you raise, because it is a controversial subject that may hurt the feeling of a particular group or community.

Are you in the process of writing an academic paper on racism and ethnicity? If yes, then first have a clear understanding of what race and ethnicity mean. In general, race is observed as a biological concept that refers to a person’s physical characteristics, and ethnicity is seen as a social concept that explains a person’s cultural identity. After you are clear with the basic idea, proceed with choosing a perfect race and ethnicity topic and write the essay.

Race and Ethnicity Essay Topic Selection

In the academic paper writing task, topic selection is the first and most important step that is extremely challenging to handle. Particularly, when it comes to choosing a topic on a controversial subject like racism, it will become even more tedious. So, in order to identify the right race and ethnicity essay topic, invest more time and effort during the topic selection phase.

If you are in the process of selecting a race and ethnicity essay topic, keep the following tips in mind to identify the right topic.

  • Select a topic that is familiar for you to share your opinions or arguments.
  • Pick a topic that is relatable to your target audience.
  • Never pick a topic that is too controversial.
  • Choose a topic that is flexible to conduct a discussion.
  • Give preference to the topic that contains relevant examples and references to prove your opinions or arguments.
  • Avoid choosing a topic that is opinion-based.
  • Don’t pick a topic that is too broad or too specific.
  • Finalize the topic that matches your instructor’s guidelines, if they have shared any.

Race and Ethnicity Essay Writing

After you have selected a great essay topic by following the tips mentioned above, go ahead and begin writing your race and ethnicity essay. Always remember that a good essay topic alone will not yield you good scores. You need to craft an excellent essay with relevant evidence and persuade the readers to boost your academic scores.

Tips for Writing a Race and Ethnicity Essay

Here are a few important tips you should follow when writing a race and ethnicity essay.

  • Before you begin writing the essay, first, do in-depth research on the selected essay topic and collect the important points and evidence for discussion.
  • To gather information, use authentic sources relevant to your essay topic. The scientific methods and data that you present in your academic paper should be valid and support your main points of discussion. Never manipulate your readers with your content.
  • Some people consider racism as a personal issue. So, when writing the essay, avoid sharing your personal opinions on the topic. Also, don’t be biased when you raise your arguments. In your essay, just focus only on the facts and scientific methods.
  • To avoid misconceptions related to racism and ethnicity issues, give a context for the current event by explaining the history of racial and ethnic relationships.
  • To illustrate your opinion on race and ethnicity, mention a personal experience of someone. Using anecdotal examples is not widely accepted, but it helps the audience to connect empathetically with the issue and humanize your work.

Essential Components of a Race and Ethnicity Essay

The essay you prepare should be well-structured and it should contain the essential elements such as introduction, body, and conclusion. In the introduction section, introduce the essay question to your readers, and in the body paragraphs, explain your perspectives and justify the problem with sub-conclusions. Your arguments can include scientists’ opinions, facts, or different real-life events as evidence. Finally, in the conclusion section, summarize all the major points discussed in the essay and wrap up your essay by giving a lead to your readers to find a logical resolution based on your arguments.

List of Compelling Race and Ethnicity Essay Topics

Need unique race and ethnicity essay topics for your assignments? To help you make your topic selection easier, here, we have listed some best essay topic ideas on race and ethnicity. Without any hesitation, just explore the entire list mentioned below and pick a topic that is convenient for you to express your opinions.

Unique Race and Ethnicity Essay Topics

  • Explain the concepts of ethnos, people, and nationality.
  • Describe the modernization of Middle Eastern-type societies.
  • Talk about ethnopolitical conflicts.
  • Explain the role of race and ethnicity in higher education.
  • Discuss the sociological aspects of interethnic relations.
  • How do public authorities preserve and develop national cultures?
  • Is ethnology a science?
  • Discuss race and ethnicity issues in healthcare.
  • Describe ethnic identity and its structure.
  • Explain the structure, causes, and dynamics of interethnic conflicts.
  • What are the methods of ethnology?
  • Is a single-word ethnos possible?
  • Discuss the role of media in race and ethnicity issues.
  • Explain rural and urban ethnicity.
  • Investigate interethnic relations from a psychological perspective.
  • Describe the signs and theories of ethnicity.
  • Explain ethnogenesis and its main factors.
  • What is the racial and anthropological classification of ethnic groups?
  • Explain the problem of the representation of races and ethnicities.
  • Describe functionalism and structuralism in ethnology.
  • Activities of public authorities for the preservation and development of national cultures.
  • Ethnicity – signs, and theories.
  • The problem of representation of races and ethnicities
  • The role of race and ethnicity in higher education
  • Two root causes for the underdevelopment of the Philippines as a Nation
  • Sustainability in relation to the sense of place
  • Equality and Empowerment: Understanding the Chicano Movement
  • The relation between mass incarceration and racial discrimination
  • The role of social control for social classes in Britain

Intriguing Race and Ethnicity Essay Topics

  • What is the role of race in incarceration rates and parole decisions?
  • Discuss the political aspects of interethnic relations.
  • Gender issues in different races and ethnicities.
  • Talk about interethnic conflicts in the world.
  • Describe the features of demographic behavior.
  • Explain ethnopolitology concept and its features.
  • Race and ethnicity in sports media.
  • Discuss the evolutionary trend in ethnology .
  • Explain the geographic classification of ethnic groups.
  • Diffusionism, its features, and founders.
  • What are the latest concepts in ethnology?
  • Social media trends in racial and ethnic issues.
  • Linguistic classification of ethnic groups.
  • Race and ethnicity in historical literature.
  • Talk about Interethnic marriages.
  • Black Power Movement: History, Background, and Leaders
  • Discuss the representation of race and ethnicity in modern art.
  • Is globalization a friend or foe of ethnic groups?
  • Explain the theory of multiculturalism.
  • The issues of ethnicity in education.
  • The role of media in issues of race and ethnicity

American Racism and Ethnicity Essay Topics

  • Explain the interethnic conflicts in America.
  • Talk about racism in the streets of the USA.
  • Explain the history of racism in the USA.
  • Discuss the growth of xenophobia and nationalism in America.
  • Talk about Structural racism in America.
  • How to resolve ethno-political African-American conflicts?
  • Religion, Celebration, and Identity in Contemporary Latin America.
  • Traditionalism in modern society of Latin America.
  • The national African American politics in modern America.
  • The place of racism among hate crimes in the USA.
  • Problems of musical ethnography in Latin America.
  • What are the endangered Native American languages?
  • The postcolonial psychology of Native American people.
  • How do corporations in the USA fight racism?
  • Explain the legacy of Mesoamerican civilizations.
  • The influence of ethnicity on an individual’s position in society.
  • What are the causes of racial prejudices?
  • Compare and contrast discrimination in the US and other European countries.
  • How can we use social media to sensitize people to the effects of racism?

Read more: Captivating College Essay Topics for Students

Excellent Race and Ethnicity Essay Ideas

  • How do young Australians experience racism?
  • Adolf Hitler: From patriotism to racism.
  • Ethnicity: Oppression and Racism.
  • ‘Animal Rights’ activist and racism.
  • Racism and Sexism are ethical problems.
  • Why is a movement like Black Lives Matter important in to fight against racism?
  • How does ethnicity affect normal and abnormal behavior?
  • Can we call the ancient Greeks racists?
  • Racism in the Criminal Justice System.
  • Describe the representation of Race and Ethnicity in Cartoons.
  • Describe the racial discrimination against property rights and reconstruction.
  • What are the laws that guard against racially offensive material on the internet?
  • Why is Western civilization causing a lack of appeal for the black race?
  • Does the color of your skin matter in any circumstance?
  • Explain the importance of learning other cultures and languages.
  • Racism and Segregation.
  • Analyze religion, racism, and family conflicts.
  • Democratic Racism in Canada.
  • What is the contribution of the Holocaust to racism?
  • Racism is not all about individual attitudes.
  • The contribution of the Holocaust to racism.
  • Racial discrimination against property rights and reconstruction
  • The importance of learning other cultures and languages

Race and Ethnicity Essay Topics

Best Race and Ethnicity Essay Topics

  • Multiculturalism and the status of women in the world.
  • How to protect cultural diversity and international cooperation?
  • Describe the connection between racism and block poverty in the 20th century.
  • How to revive mutual interest in culture between countries?
  • How do mass media frame ethnicity issues?
  • The influence of ethnicity on the individual’s position in society.
  • How to manage ethnicity at work?
  • Discuss the future of race and ethnicity in the modern world.
  • Discuss the representation of race and ethnicity in Films.
  • Explain the significance of Ethnicity in the Post-World War conflicts.
  • Explain the Chicago race riot of 1919.
  • Discuss the representation of race in Disney films.
  • Explain the concept of race and ethnicity in the immigration history of the US.
  • Discuss social media issues related to race and religion.
  • Understanding of Race and Ethnicity and components of discrimination
  • Sociological problems about social class and poverty
  • Ethnicity and Substance Abuse
  • Caste, Ethnicity, and Poverty in Rural India
  • Hispanic Ethnicity, Gender, and the Change in the Lep-Earnings Penalty in the United States During the 1990s

Argumentative Essay Topics on Racism

  • Can Confucianism solve the problem of racism?
  • Is racism rooted in fear?
  • Why is racism irrational?
  • Is the differentiation of cultural identities always racist?
  • Can racism be justified?
  • Will racism ever disappear?
  • Why is racism an artificial concept?
  • Why is racism immoral?
  • Can an individual fight against racism in everyday life?
  • Do religions cause racism?
  • Do racial movements contribute to combating racism?
  • Is the work of Charles Darwin filled with racial ideas?
  • Are associations and the mind forming silent fuels for discrimination?
  • Should the United States put sanctions against racial protests?
  • Do violent racial protests justify the problem at hand?
  • Do we have an appropriate education curriculum addressing racism?
  • Is race a factor in the crimes experienced in the US?
  • Is racism the result of people’s direct experience with other backgrounds?
  • Should we attribute racism to ignorance in the world?
  • Is the ego the leading cause of racism?

Psychology and Social Studies Essay Topics on Racism

  • How does the experience of racism influence the human brain?
  • What is the importance of racial and ethnic socialization?
  • How to prevent the increase of racism in modern society?
  • How does race-related stress influence social life?
  • Explain the levels of racism in different social groups.
  • Can racism be recognized as a sign of poor mental health?
  • Why does racial discrimination disfigure society?
  • What are the social processes that maintain racism?
  • How does ignoring racism influence society?
  • Explain the psychological background of racism.

Outstanding Research Topics on Racism

  • How can educators dispel myths about ethnic groups?
  • Describe the use of anti-racist ideas in commercials.
  • How does racism affect the sports industry?
  • Explain the effect of institutional racism on the health care system.
  • What is the connection between racial discrimination and police brutality?
  • Did Barack Obama’s legacy improve the situation with racism in the USA?
  • How can managers deal with racism in the workplace?
  • George Floyd’s death was a trigger for society.
  • Describe the portrayal of racism in American pop culture.
  • How to reduce racial discrimination in the educational system?

Trending Race and Ethnicity Essay Ideas

  • What Kind of Representation of Your Race and Ethnicity Do You See in Your Educational Setting?
  • How Does Ethnic Conflict Affect Society, and What Can Be Done?
  • What Global Influences Does Our Ethnicity Have?
  • Which Ethnicity Factors Can Explicate How Ethnic Conflict Became a Civil War?
  • Does the level of parental involvement in schools depend on ethnicity and language?
  • Does Television Impact How We View Ethnicity?
  • Which factor—gender, social class, or ethnicity—has the most impact on education?
  • Why Do Race and Ethnicity Impact the Political Environment?
  • What Can Be Done to Address the Racial and Ethnic Stratification That Exists in Our Country?
  • Identity and Ethnicity in Sandra Cisneros’ “The House on Mango Street”
  • Why it is important to increase racial sensitivity to establish equity and equality for all in society?
  • Analyze the segregation and discrimination of Mexican Americans in the United States
  • Why it is important to build a community and an understanding of Asian American identity?
  • Lessons of manifest destiny and American frontier for outsiders about America
  • The racial identity of African American women of the Harlem Renaissance in Nella Larsen’s works
  • Impact of Cultural Globalization and Mexicanization
  • Cultural Variations Related to Death, Dying, and Terminal Illness in the Asian American Community
  • What should be the best strategies to prevent Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders from heart disease
  • Discuss the impact of cultural diversity and immigration on the local politics of Los Angeles
  • Analysis of the challenges to ensure a balance between multiculturalism and national identity in Australia
  • History, origin, and evolution of the Hispanic/Latino Ethnic Group
  • Discuss the importance of race in understanding fascism
  • Assess the claims that ethnic-based awareness organizations are obsolete in modern society

Captivating Race and Ethnicity Essay Ideas

  • What is the difference between scientific racism and scientific integrity?
  • Explain why it is difficult for members of different ethnic groups to get along with one another.
  • What Is the Problem With Diverse Aging and Health Inequality by Race?
  • What Are the Characteristics of Ethnicity?
  • Write about the Black Poverty phenomenon and the origins of the Black Culture across the globe.
  • How can one report racial comments on social media?
  • Analyze interracial marriage through the lens of Biology.
  • Write about the role of racism and ethnicity in sports.
  • How can we explain the metaphysics of race?
  • Analyze the negative aspects of the portrayal of racial issues by Hollywood.

From the different race and ethnicity essay topics suggested above, choose any topic that is comfortable for you to write about. But when writing an essay on racism subject, make sure not to focus on any controversial points. Be unbiased and explain your opinions or arguments with proper facts or evidence.

essay topics about race relations

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25 Questions to Begin a Conversation About Racism

Talking about racism is difficult. these questions may help..

Posted March 16, 2021 | Reviewed by Jessica Schrader

Racial relations have been fraught since 1619 with the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in America. In recent years, a heightened awareness around racial justice has led to discussions around matters such as inequities in nearly every aspect of society, from income and wealth to schools and health. Recently Georgetown University, which once kept itself solvent by selling slaves, has pledged to raise millions of dollars in the form of restitution to be distributed to organizations dedicated to racial justice.

Black Lives Matter brought home the outrage of Black people’s relation to law enforcement, encounters which frequently lead to everyday humiliations and can and often do turn dangerous and deadly.

The entertainment and business communities have acknowledged the ways in which people of color have been systematically excluded from positions of influence and power, while educational institutions try to deal with the lack of diversity and the inadequate and often inaccurate portrayal of racial history in the nation.

With the ongoing injustices and inequities of racial matters in mind, I’ve created a series of questions to facilitate a dialogue around numerous difficult and often ambiguous situations. Although these vignettes are presented in a binary fashion, they are meant to open the doors to discussion, insight, education , personal growth, and action. They were written as rhetorical or leading. I don’t have right answers in mind.

Most illustrations are taken from real-life situations where all that is known publicly is what has been reported by the media.

The questions are best approached with an open mind and probably work best in small, diverse groups.

The questions weren’t created to convince anyone of a correct position but rather to explore the ways in which everyone continues to be hobbled by a vicious past.

Even broaching the questions I’ve posed potentially opens me up to the charge of being a white racist. If that’s the case, I welcome a discussion where all parties are respectful of one another and where each person acknowledges that no one has all the answers and that everyone has something to learn.

There are many paths to change. This may be one of them.

1. A white person lives in a community that is more than 50% African American. Is this non-racist if the average cost of a house is $1 million-plus?

2. A white student attends an elite HBCU where tuition is about $50,000 per year. Is the student anti-racist?

3. A white student attends a college with very few Black students but joins the Black Student Union. Is he being anti-racist?

4. A person donates 10 percent of her income to charitable causes, for example, National Public Radio, Green Peace, the local food pantry, her church, Amnesty International and the Human Rights Campaign. Should she divert some of her contributions to an organization devoted exclusively to a Black cause?

5. If a white person volunteers for Latino justice, does this qualify as anti-racist?

6. If a person patronizes Chinese, Mexican, and Mediterranean restaurants, where there is rarely a Black customer, should she consider eating elsewhere?

7. A person is committed to buying locally but none of the shops are Black-owned. Should she consider traveling elsewhere to shop?

8. Is it anti-racist to read books that examine racism if the books are written by white people?

9. If a white person attends folk music concerts but not concerts by Black performers, is she being racist?

10. Is a white person who acknowledges systemic racism but believes that racism is best addressed by changing individuals’ attitudes and behavior racist?

essay topics about race relations

11. If a white person’s hair is naturally curly, is it racist to wear it as an Afro or in dreads?

12. If a Black and a white candidate are running against each other and the Black candidate admires Clarence Thomas and other Black conservatives while the white candidate is a liberal (and there are no other choices), what should a white person do in this election?

13. If a white person chooses to move to a Black neighborhood knowing that this could be the beginning of gentrification, is this racist?

14. Is it racist if a white person seeks out a Black person to befriend?

15. A physician rarely sees a person of color or has professional affiliations with persons of color because she specializes in Tay-Sachs disease, which affects mainly people of Jewish ancestry. Is her practice racist?

16. In the classroom of a white teacher who supports BLM and also believes in open discussions, two white students get into a debate about Black Lives Matter vs. all lives matter. Is she racist if she doesn’t state her opinion?

17. A white student rejects her local high school, which has many Black students, to attend a public school that is dedicated to his interest in science that has very few Blacks but many Asians. Is he racist?

18. If a wealthy Black person makes indisputably demeaning and disparaging remarks to a white delivery man who responds in kind, is it racist for a white person to sympathize with the worker?

19. Is it racist or anti-racist for a lawyer to quote verbatim before the jury and public the racist language used by a defendant?

20. A woman walking alone on a deserted street sees a group of young Black men on the sidewalk and continues after crossing to the other side of the street. Does her race determine whether the action is racist?

21. Is it racist for a white returned Peace Corps Volunteer, who lived three years in Africa, to wear Kente cloth dress?

22. A podcast series is dropped because the white host once opposed the formation of a union that was widely supported by Black workers. Several of the writers and directors of the podcast are people of color who have also lost their jobs as ‘collateral damage.’ Were those who canceled the podcast anti-racist or racist?

23. After hearing Mavis Staples and other Black singers’ rendition of Stephen Foster’s "Hard Times," a white entertainer covered the song. Was she racist for doing so because much of Foster’s 19th music was written for and performed in minstrel shows, although this particular song was not?

24. Is it racist for a white person to laugh at the jokes of a Black comedian whose performance, which is before a Black audience, centers around poking fun at the foibles of Black people?

25. A series of meetings “intended to give white people a space to learn about and process their awareness of and complicity in unjust systems without harming their friends of color” is for white people only. Is the program racist?

Arthur Dobrin D.S.W.

Arthur Dobrin, DSW, is Professor Emeritus of University Studies, Hofstra University and Leader Emeritus, Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island. He is the author of more than 25 books, including The Lost Art of Happiness and Teaching Right from Wrong .

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Home Essay Samples Sociology

Essay Samples on Race and Ethnicity

How does race affect social class.

How does race affect social class? Race and social class are intricate aspects of identity that intersect and influence one another in complex ways. While social class refers to the economic and societal position an individual holds, race encompasses a person's racial or ethnic background....

  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Social Class

How Does Race Affect Everyday Life

How does race affect everyday life? Race is an integral yet often invisible aspect of our identities, influencing the dynamics of our everyday experiences. The impact of race reaches beyond individual interactions, touching various aspects of life, including relationships, opportunities, perceptions, and systemic structures. This...

Race and Ethnicity's Impact on US Employment and Criminal Justice

Since the beginning of colonialism, raced based hindrances have soiled the satisfaction of the shared and common principles in society. While racial and ethnic prejudice has diminished over the past half-century, it is still prevalent in society today. In my opinion, racial and ethnic inequity...

  • American Criminal Justice System
  • Criminal Justice

Why Race and Ethnicity Matter in the Social World

Not everyone is interested in educating themselves about their own roots. There are people who lack the curiosity to know the huge background that encompasses their ancestry. But if you are one of those who would like to know the diverse colors of your race...

  • Ethnic Identity

The Correlation Between Race and Ethnicity and Education in the US

In-between the years 1997 and 2017, the population of the United States of America has changed a lot; especially in terms of ethnic and educational background. It grew by over 50 million people, most of which were persons of colour. Although white European Americans still make...

  • Inequality in Education

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Damaging Effects of Social World on People of Color

Even though many are unsure or aware of what it really means to have a culture, we make claims about it everyday. The fact that culture is learned through daily experience and also learned through interactions with others, people never seem to think about it,...

  • Racial Profiling
  • Racial Segregation

An Eternal Conflict of Race and Ethnicity: a History of Mankind

Ethnicity is a modern concept. However, its roots go back to a long time ago. This concept took on a political aspect from the early modern period with the Peace of Westphalia law and the growth of the Protestant movement in Western Europe and the...

  • Social Conflicts

Complicated Connection Between Identity, Race and Ethnicity

Different groups of people are classified based on their race and ethnicity. Race is concerned with physical characteristics, whereas ethnicity is concerned with cultural recognition. Race, on the other hand, is something you inherit, whereas ethnicity is something you learn. The connection of race, ethnicity,...

  • Cultural Identity

Best topics on Race and Ethnicity

1. How Does Race Affect Social Class

2. How Does Race Affect Everyday Life

3. Race and Ethnicity’s Impact on US Employment and Criminal Justice

4. Why Race and Ethnicity Matter in the Social World

5. The Correlation Between Race and Ethnicity and Education in the US

6. Damaging Effects of Social World on People of Color

7. An Eternal Conflict of Race and Ethnicity: a History of Mankind

8. Complicated Connection Between Identity, Race and Ethnicity

  • Gender Stereotypes
  • Social Media
  • National Honor Society
  • Gender Roles
  • Body Language
  • Collaboration
  • Rhetorical Strategies

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Hot Topics: Race Relations

  • Racism & Civil Rights
  • Asian Americans
  • Black Americans
  • Latinx Americans
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  • Native Americans
  • Extending Your Research

Starting points

  • AAA Statement on Race American Anthropological Association's statement on race
  • Exposing Bias: Race and Racism in America Harvard Extension School interview between journalist and anthropologists, 2016. Updated in 2021.
  • A History of Race and Racism in America, in 24 Chapters New York Times, 2/22/17
  • How Racism Invented Race in America Part 1 of a 4 part series for The Atlantic, 6/23/14
  • RACE - The Power of an Illusion Interactive exploration of the concept and history of race from PBS
  • UMaine Racial Justice Challenge Learn about ways to take action.
  • Racism in the Era of Trump: An Oral History From PBS.
  • The 1619 Project A PDF of the original 1619 Project from New York Times Magazine.

In the News

  • BBC News: U.S. Race Relations
  • The Economist: Race Relations
  • FiveThirtyEight.com: Race
  • FiveThirtyEight.com: Race Relations
  • The Guardian: Race Issues
  • NPR: Code Switch: Race & Identity, Mixed

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Statistics & Analysis

Distribution of the race and ethnicity of the United States population in 2018, by generation

  • Gallup: Race Relations
  • Pew Research Center: Race and Ethnicity
  • Race and Economic Opportunity in the United States Report by the Equality of Opportunity Project, March 2018
  • Racial and ethnic health disparities in the U.S. Statista dossier, 2021

Helpful Websites & Organizations

  • Center for American Progress: Race and Ethnicity Section on race and ethnicity from the Center for American Progress, an independent nonpartisan policy institute that is dedicated to improving the lives of all Americans
  • Institute of Race Relations An independent educational organization based in the UK
  • RACE RACE is a project of the American Anthropological Association devoted to understanding the reality and unreality of race
  • Teaching Tolerance: Race & Ethnicity Educational resources developed by Teaching Tolerance, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center
  • Game over: gender, race & violence in video games Documentary.
  • The Great White Hoax: Donald Trump and the Politics of Race and Class in America Documentary.
  • I Learn America Documentary.
  • NPR: Code Switch Podcast.
  • Race, Power, and American Sports Documentary.
  • Representation & the media Documentary.
  • TED Talks: Race Collection of TED Talks on the topic of race.
  • The Talk - Race in America Documentary.
  • PBS American Portrait : I Rise Documentary

Books on Race & Ethnicity

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Books on Race & Politics

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  • Last Updated: May 7, 2024 1:12 PM
  • URL: https://libguides.library.umaine.edu/racism

5729 Fogler Library · University of Maine · Orono, ME 04469-5729 | (207) 581-1673

Race and racism in international relations: retrieving a scholarly inheritance

  • Review Article
  • Published: 28 November 2020
  • Volume 8 , pages 152–195, ( 2020 )

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essay topics about race relations

  • Robbie Shilliam 1  

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This conversation draws out the personal, social, political and intellectual contexts in which a generation of IR scholars came to re-engage the field with the study of race and racism.

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essay topics about race relations

Introduction: The Languages of Discrimination and Racism in Italy in the Twentieth Century: Mobilities, Migrations, Racisms

essay topics about race relations

Race and Racism: Some Salient Issues

Avoid common mistakes on your manuscript.

Editor’s introduction

The summer of 2020 was rocked by Black Lives Matter protests and uprisings, and not only in the US. According to Hakim Adi, an influential historian of Pan-Africanism, the scale and longevity of this, the latest iteration of the movement for black lives, was historically unprecedented (Mohdin and Swann 2020 ). Academia has not been insulated from the BLM phenomenon; neither has the field of International Relations. For instance, the British International Studies Association (BISA 2020 ) provided a thoughtful statement in June, acknowledging that IR has “often [been] deeply implicated in the kind of race work which upholds racist structures and relations”. The International Studies Association (ISA 2020 ) released a rather lukewarm acknowledgment of generic “racism” rather than black lives, and spoke in the language of diversity and inclusion rather than structural injustices. Still, respond it did. A number of other organizations related to the IR world by policy, research or teaching also took stock-take, publicly or privately.

IR magazines and journals similarly felt the need to respond. Foreign Policy magazine solicited a number of interventions on race and racism in IR, starting with a wonderful state-of-play article by Zvobgo and Loken ( 2020 ), comprehensively covering research and teaching. The magazine followed this up with various interventions by other scholars of race and racism in the field (Shilliam 2020 ; Bhambra et al. 2020 ). Subsequently, Foreign Affairs published a think-piece by historian Keisha Blain ( 2020 ) on the international dimensions of the US Black freedom struggle.

It is easy to forget now, but just prior to the eruption of BLM protests and uprisings the field had witnessed an academic controversy over race, when Wæver and Buzan ( 2020 ) responded emotively and at length to an article published by Howell and Richter-Montpetit ( 2020 ) asking if securitization theory was racist and answering in the affirmative. However, this academic controversy did not erupt out of thin air, but arrived as part of a deep and long-term swell in the critical study of race in IR. In fact, the 2010s were marked by an intensification of monographs, conferences, panels and workshops focusing on race and racism which, at least in part, tracked the rise of BLM as well as other movements such as Rhodes Must Fall, Idle No More etc.

Of course, one might ask how far back does this tradition of critical inquiry go. And the answer, we now know, is all the way to the field’s inception at (late 19th century) fin de siècle. Still, between then and the last decade, there exists a fair span of time. Scholars are still alive and active in the field, most of whom undertook graduate school in the 1980s, and who were publishing on race and racism in IR in the 1990s and 2000s. In many ways, this generation of scholars retrieved and relaunched the critique of race and racism in IR that, as a tradition, had largely moved out of IR or otherwise held in abeyance. What are the living histories—personal, familial, intellectual, political—of these senior scholars, and how might they inform the present debate?

The aim of bringing this diverse cohort of scholars together in collective reflection is to interrupt the well-meaning yet ultimately disabling rush to account for race and racism as if it has never been accounted for before in IR. This interruption has all-at-once intellectual and political implications which might be apprehended by way of the idea of inheritance. Power is efficacious when it is institutionalized. Institutionalization requires structures that exceed the energies, reach, lifetimes and memories of individuals. Power is inherited and disposed of inter-generationally. Subjection requires the cutting of lines of inheritance and the consistent resetting of energies, ideas, memories and strategies to year zero.

The retrieval of inheritances as living multifaceted resources—or counter-archives—allows us to deepen and widen our conceptual, theoretical and empirical inquiries into race and racism in IR. If all collective projects are able to proffer an inheritance, then instead of a singular canon, students and scholars might benefit from a democratized and expansive constellation of knowledge. A critical appraisal of the present could therefore become more incisive, edifying, efficacious. True, the stakes at play in academia are immediately less than those at play with organizers on the front lines in the struggle over global justice; but the academic stakes do not necessarily exist separately from this wider world.

There are many incredible and influential scholars who during the 1990s and 2000s made key contributions to the study of imperialism and/or the postcolonial condition in IR. Such contributions have not always engaged directly with the issue of race. This is not an indictment; it is merely to say that from such scholars I invited to the table those who had undertaken more directive engagements with race and racism in that time period—whether or not they consider themselves to be “race scholars”. Furthermore, I not only invited scholars who had published to this effect, but also those who made important contributions in infrastructural ways. A notable collective project, in this respect, was the special issue entitled “Apertura: Race in International Relations” (Persaud and Walker 2001 ), published in Alternatives in 2001 featuring many of the contributors to this conversation. Additionally, a number of contributors also published individual pieces of work on race before this special issue (Doty 1993b ; Krishna 1993 ; Errol Anthony Henderson 1995 ; Grovogui 1996 ; Persaud 1997 ; Vitalis 2000 ).

I was not able to canvas all scholars who made contributions according to these broad criteria. And, to be honest, I am not even sure how tenable—or useful—those criteria ultimately are, especially the artificial distinction between discourses of race, postcoloniality and imperialism. Nonetheless, fifteen contributors yielded 22,000 words, and that is with at least a third of the conversation cut out. It was not my intention to launch a book but to facilitate a solid, timely and initial response to the summer of 2020. Without doubt, more research needs to be done to tell the whole story and build up the counter-archive. And towards this aim we should always keep in mind the intersectional politics of citations. For instance (and I thank Errol Henderson for this awareness) a number of Black women political scientists such as Annette Palmer (see 1983), Mae King (see 1985) and Karin Stanford (see 1997) wrote treatises on race and/or postcolonialism and foreign/military policy in the 1980s and 1990s yet do not seem to have been integrated into the field of IR specifically, even by critical scholars.

Ultimately, the list of contributors comprised: Anna M. Agathangelou, Shampa Biswas, Neta Crawford, Roxanne Doty, Locksely Edmondson, Siba N. Grovogui, Errol Henderson, Audie Klotz, Sankaran Krishna, Sheila Nair, Mustapha Kamal Pasha, Randolph B. Persaud, Shirin M. Rai, Robert Vitalis, and Rob Walker. Of this list, two scholars—Edmondson and Walker—might be said to belong to an earlier intellectual generation to the rest, and who in different ways demonstrate a living connection between intellectual/political debates over race, anti-colonialism and international relations in the 1960s and 1970s and those that re-started in the 1990s. Our conversation proceeded via two zoom conferences and was followed up by separate zoom and email correspondences which also brought in three more people (Crawford, Edmondson and Henderson) who were not present for the original conversations. From these conversations I drew out a set of themes and rearranged the transcribed texts to fit those themes. (My thanks to Shahab ud Din Ahmad, Liz Alexander, Ruoyu Li and Aila Traski for their transcribing labors.) I then gave the resultant text back to the interlocutors for them to expand, delete and amend as they saw fit.

The main purpose in undertaking this editorial process was to afford early career scholars studying race and racism in IR (and anyone interested in the issue) a finer orientation towards the living histories of this study, and to draw out the ways in which the braided legacies of racism, colonialism and empire are intimately integral to the field of IR. To this end, I thematized the conversation as follows: points of departure, movements, graduate school, formative experiences of the field, intersectionality, and the contemporary field.

In sum, these conversations demonstrate that the eruption of race and racism into IR is not a new phenomenon. It is a regular recurrence. That is the beauty and the dread of the thing. We have an inheritance to critically and creatively work with.

(In what follows, comments in [] parentheses, as well as all citations, were added by the editor).

Points of departure

Locksley edmondson.

I was born in Jamaica (then a British colony) where I completed my primary and secondary school education before leaving in 1957 to pursue an undergraduate degree in England, at the University of Birmingham.

My father, a primary school teacher, rose through the ranks to become a Jamaica Principal Education Officer. My mother too rose through the ranks to become a Primary School Principal. I grew up in colonial Jamaica with books around me at home. My father constantly sought to nurture a sense of Jamaican nationalism by often re-interpreting the names of British-published book entries for a better understanding by Jamaican school children. For example, I still remember him reading Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and teasing out the colonialist/colonialized dynamics. He constantly sought to “Jamaican-ize” the primary school curriculum.

Shortly after my high school graduation, I left Jamaica in 1957 to pursue undergraduate studies in England at the University of Birmingham where in 1960, I completed a Bachelor of Social Sciences Honors degree, majoring in Economics, Politics and Sociology. The most unforgettable experiences I encountered in Britain were race-related. For example, I was stunned when on turning up for my first summer job as a gardener in a large English factory, I was greeted by the head gardener as follows: “I know that they call people like you ‘Negro’ but I prefer to call you ‘Darkie’.” This was a period when British newspaper ads about home/apartment rentals would routinely include “No Blacks need apply” or even “No Jamaicans need apply.”

But the most rewarding and beneficial experiences of my British sojourn derived from my living among and learning about the colonial experiences of several African, Asian and other Caribbean students with whom I shared living quarters during these years of decolonization.

A significant intellectual turning point occurred in my final year undergraduate experience at Birmingham. In a class on “Political Sociology” our young Professor 1 day distributed a list of research/essay topics, asking each student to choose any one topic for their final research paper. I instantly chose, “The American Negro”. From then on, I was “hooked” on the study of race relations. This was the starting point of my research on race relations which eventually culminated in my far-future PHD thesis topic: “Race, Politics and the International System: Aspects of Research and Behaviour” (Edmondson 1973 ).

I have to say that I cannot claim any special expertise about race from an academic point of view. Moreover, I’m a white boy who grew up in the English provincial town of Reading, just west of London. Still, even though I would say that I am personally marked much more by the politics of class, being an early beneficiary of the welfare state, I have had quite a lot of contact with colonial and racist practices. For various family reasons, I was especially aware of the cultural diversity at play even in such a bland town as Reading, and of the internal colonialism of the UK itself. Even while still at school I became intensely aware of the cultures and politics of music and came into contact with musicians from the US, the Caribbean and South Africa who were dramatically reshaping the cultural life of Little England. It was impossible to ignore racism in that context, although I was simultaneously following debates on the left about relations between race, class and gender, and worrying about the nuclear bomb designers working just down the road.

I then escaped to the very different world of Canada in 1968. From there I travelled a lot through much of the USA, most of which I experienced as a volatile and threatening place. New York and Detroit especially reshaped my understanding of race. I was probably more shocked by the visceral character of white racism that I saw in so many places as well as by the still pervasive presence of both the Civil War and puritanisms of many kinds.

So, existentially, I have some sort of sense of how race plays out in the UK and the US, as well as of some of the complex contextualization necessary to understand both. I am also aware of the history of racism in Canada, but given the specific places in which I have lived, experiences of indigeneity and many other forms of colonialism have been more pressing for me, especially when linked to threats to local and planetary ecologies.

All this is to say that I engage with race as part of a broader intellectual and political agenda, one that is ultimately grounded in questions about what it means to speak about humanity in general and in particular. For me, this is what “international relations” is about, and explains much of how the discipline systematically excludes most “social” understandings of what it means to be human. Consequently, I have seen no alternative but to try to understand what it means to think about “relations,” not only between race, class and gender but about the multitude of human relations that are so powerfully but inadequately captured in the notion of an international as well as by the discipline that claims some privileged expertise about it.

Much of how I try to do this I learnt from the music of my youth: from a radical black avant-garde, on the one hand, and from an also radical European avant-garde on the other hand. I also learnt early on that every experience is easily captured—commodified, reified, abstracted—in ways that reproduce prevailing forms of power. As with music, so in politics, as Plato once said. This is why I have tried very hard to make some spaces in which many excluded experiences might be expressed, as well as to understand the mutating ways in which they are suppressed. Many people—many good friends—have tried to put race onto the disciplinary agenda, but that agenda is heavily overdetermined by other accounts of what it means to be both human and to be politically qualified. Race is a crucial aspect of a broader pattern in this respect.

Randolph Persaud

My entry into international relations where race is concerned probably started very early, because British Guiana, when and where I was born, was still a colony. We had the Queen in our classroom exercise books, and once in a while the Governor General would go by and we would stand there and they would raise the flag. And that was a very confusing thing because I grew up on a sugarcane plantation which bore no resemblance to the Queen. Contradiction is lived experience.

Here’s how the plantation was set up. You had the sugarcane field starting less than a mile from the Atlantic Ocean, stretching all the way as far as you could see into the back-dam, going south. Immediately before the cane-fields there was the factory. There was a senior staff compound where the management, almost all of them white from Britain lived, fenced-off and guarded. And you had the junior staff compound where people who worked at the administrative office did not live but socialized. The junior staff clubs were for staff and children and whatever family or friends you could ‘smuggle in’ on movie nights. Then you had the sugarcane workers. Almost everybody worked in the fields if they were not working in the city with the government.

And so that’s how the space was actually organized, and there was hardly any contact between groups. Before I left Guyana, I think I only spoke with two white people—and I left at 18 years old. And we did not have televisions. The only way you might encounter race would be through movies, but they were heavily edited. So I actually came to race in IR through anti-imperialism. We had political parties that were Marxist [the People’s National Congress and the People’s Progressive Party]. The Pentagon, the CIA, and American intervention regularly got trashed in their speeches. When political parties rallied in villages, the entire family would go—sometimes a few hundred people, children and all. The meetings went on for two or three hours late into the night. And it would basically be non-stop criticisms of imperialism. Once in a while, they would throw in colonialism, but we hardly ever heard any criticisms of colonialism, or of the Queen, or of British intelligence or anybody else. By the time I read Fanon in my second year at York University, I already had a sense of space and what today we call the coloniality of power.

Roxanne Doty

Well, my way back beginnings are probably a bit more U.S. parochial. When I was 10 years old, which was a real formative period as a child, I lived in the South—in Nashville, Tennessee with my grandmother. This was in the 1960s. My first awareness of race came when the Birmingham Church was blown up. [In 1963, the Ku Klux Klan bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, killing four girls and injuring dozens of others].

There was a lot of conflict in my grandmother’s neighborhood. I discovered that my relatives there were racist, and my grandmother, who I really loved, was also a racist. I had a little African American friend. We had to meet at the edges of our yard. It’s just a minor childhood experience, yet whenever I think back, it was one of the most formative childhood experiences. Anyway, that thought of “wow, what is going on here?” just stayed with me. This was a personal kind of awareness.

Audie Klotz

I grew up in Chicago. And if you know anything about the U.S., you’ll know that there is the north and south side of the city. To my mind, you cannot grow up in Chicago without at least with some superficial awareness of race and racism. That said, there are a lot more complexities growing up in Chicago and I understood layers and layers of that through other subsequent experiences as an adult when I left the city and then returned.

Errol Henderson

I was raised in the Brewster projects in Detroit and my first memories are of the 1967 revolt. I was just 4 years old but I remember tanks and armored personnel carriers coming down our streets. And the lights were out and they polluted our water. Anyway, one of my sisters was in the Black Panther Party, and a brother was in Vietnam. So, I had politics in my house. In the projects, when I was coming up, some of the main options were that you sell dope, work in the [car manufacturing] plant or go to jail—college was rare. I went into the US Army at seventeen and 2 years later, I began college. I used to walk from the projects to Wayne State University. I was angry for a lot of reasons. But Wayne State University had traditions going back to the League of Revolutionary Black Workers [formed in Detroit in 1969] and before. So, I put that anger into organizing—we revived the Association of Black Students. I graduated in 3 years, magna cum laude.

Shirin M. Rai

I grew up in Delhi. Colonialism as “ever present but never present” might be a good way of putting it. I went to school in the 1970s, and my year was the first to get the most wonderful education in the history of India by good old Indian Marxists such as Bipin Chandra and Sumit Sarkar who were now writing school and college textbooks. Unlike Randolph's upbringing in Guyana, we did a lot of learning on empire, colonialism, independence struggles and India’s place in world history. It was also a very hopeful time, politically speaking. My parents were involved in the anti-Vietnam War movement, and they supported pro-Palestinian groups and anti-apartheid groups. My father went to Cuba in 1962 and became enchanted with this new way of thinking about socialism, and my mother was a leader of the National Federation of Indian Women. However, the downside of growing up in in a very Marxist family was that, of course, class trumps everything. Class trumps gender, class trumps caste.

Our relationship with Empire was one of hate and love. My parents were part of the communist and nationalist student movement against the British, but they also loved all the cultural trappings of western literature and music. I remember Chinese diplomats coming to our house once; they had just seen the Bollywood film called Junoon (1978). One of them said—“I can’t understand you guys: why do you [Indians] love the British so much? You just don’t hate them! We hate them! We hate our colonial masters! What’s wrong with you?!” So that was the first time I remember feeling: “oh my god, there’s a new perspective!”

But, as I intimated, I also look back on this time in terms of a total denial of caste politics, which of course, similar to Black Lives Matter nowadays, became really prominent in Indian politics after I had left the country. Although we were upper caste in background (just as we were Hindus culturally) we saw ourselves as non-caste people. So, the kind of slavery issues and the kind of marginalization and oppression issues in the Indian context was simply erased due to the politics of caste. But it was there, obviously it was there, and caste has now become something that we all have to engage with just like race is something we all have to engage with.

Siba N. Grovogui

My dad was a labor organizer, and he was the head of the third largest labor confederation in the country. He was fourth-grade educated, and taught himself to read with the books of Karl Marx. In Guinea, my country, after Aimé Césaire [a co-founder of the négritude movement and, later, deputy to the French National Assembly for Martinique] had left the French Communist Party (1956), a group of labor organizations created UGTAN (Union Generale des Travailleurs d’Afrique Noire). They added “AN”, for Afrique Noir. So the French had UGT (Union Generale des Travailleurs) and the Africans, in Guinea in particular, we had UGTAN, which was very, very radical.

And my father had his own reading about why they created UGTAN, why they decided not to be just communist but to be communist and black. Growing up, my father told me about Toussaint L’ouverture. He explained to me: “you are black, you are Indian, you are everybody, because the world belongs to you”; and he said, “if you go to India and someone were to call you Indian, that should be perfectly normal, because that’s them extending their humanity to you”. My father was very clear that everybody should call him whatever they are. If you are Indian, call him Indian. But my father also added that if I was going to India and somebody called me Indian they should also call me untouchable. And that has cost me relationships. Because in India I would be what is called untouchable.

My father told me that Makarios III [a clergyman and the first president of Cyprus] was African and Tito [president of Yugoslavia and a leader of the Non-Aligned Movement] was African. If you don’t believe me just google the Syli [the Guinean currency between 1971 and 1985]. It had pictures of all the freedom fighters of Africa on it, and the figure on the largest note, the 500 Syli, was Tito. To us, Tito was an African and we called everybody African because their humanity was equal to ours. My father was very clear about that.

My father also told me that they rejected the communist project because communists didn’t seem to know that plantations and colonialism existed and that plantation workers were as numerous as factory workers. And so, to say “the workers are going to save the world” would be to misunderstand how the world was made, basically. And that’s how my father introduced me to race. It wasn’t in an exclusive fashion, but it was to own up to the fact that I am black. As Toussaint Louverture, would say, “nous sommes tous Haïtiennes”—we are all Haitians (Grovogui 2008 ).

The first time I called Rob Walker “cousin” he was probably baffled, but that’s because in my anti-colonial mind the Irish and the Welsh were never white. And I often remember that Cromwell started with them: everything that we experienced then started with them. And that’s why the Irish were never actually white. And I want to say all of this because I had a very strange upbringing by a man who was very invested in questions of race and class, who was really not terribly educated: 4th grade, right? And he taught himself how to read about the world.

Anna M. Agathangelou

I am going to start with a couple of things. For me, and as Siba has just mentioned, race in IR does not begin with the discipline or any of the intellectuals that we are all familiar with. It begins with my own history, family, and positionality in a very small island [Cyprus] in the Mediterranean. I want to recall a few words from my grandfather, who used to say “remember fourteen generations, and involve yourself like a lion in the struggle.” So, I just want to begin with that recollection, which is part of what informs my own engagement with race and IR. But also, I want to acknowledge being a substantive witness of racism in my own life, which began before coming to the USA.

One of the things that is central to me has been the stories and struggles around the question of violence (conflicts, war) and imperialism, but with far broader trajectories than just the Western kind. The reason I am saying this is because I was brought up with stories of the material effects of power distribution that ran longer than the British imperialism that Cyprus experienced.

Both of my parents have been involved in communist and socialist struggles (my mother was a communist and my father was a socialist), which probably reveals a lot about who I am. Involved in organizing, they struggled daily to articulate and put forward a vision of the world otherwise, where racial subjugation could not be explained away as an aid to class exploitation. Their vision was never solely about class; it was always at the same time about issues of enslavement, colonization, and imperialism. They remembered a lot of histories and material experiences that started in Cyprus with the first plantation.

The Italian city-states began the first experiments on plantations with sugar. Cyprus was very central, in addition to some small African islands. [In the 15th century, Cyprus was the prime sugar producer in the Mediterranean; in the mid-16th century, São Tomé and Príncipe were the prime sugar producers in the African continent]. My grandfather used to show us different living sites of sugar production, like Kolossi, Potamia and Kouklia. As some Cypriots expended most of their time and energy to grow their own food and did not want to work in sugar production, slave labor was brought in from the Black Sea area. In Cyprus, water is abundant in the winter but less available in the heat of summer. Yet the cane grows fastest in the summer. Securing a reliable source of water for irrigation and motive power required the construction of costly water transportation and irrigation systems, which also dramatically changed the epidemiology and environment of the island. After the first generation, a net natural decrease in plantation populations would not be expected. The place of Cyprus in global history was not simply as Europe’s leading medieval producer of sugar but also as part of the creation of the plantation complex.

These materialities, life conditions and questions pertaining to the island informed and shaped my own intellectual development as well as my own substantive experiencing and witnessing of racism. In a way, these generational issues inform and shape how I think about race because it was part and parcel of my formative conversations. For instance, I was brought up with stories of how the sugar plantation complex shaped the island, and of how people talked about monuments and bridges not as ancient artifacts but as living sites by pointing out that “this is where the plantation was set up,” and this is “where your ancestors” made your life possible.

That’s one part of the story. Another part of the story that I was brought up with related to copper. Cyprus was central to mining and of course not just the British but the Swedish, the Norwegians all played a huge role in the political economy of mining in Cyprus. For me, these stories point to the fact that the struggles of my family and of Cyprus were connected to the non-aligned movement. You might know of Makarios III.

Makarios? The African.

Yes, the African! He was our leader and a very central figure in the Non-Aligned Movement. My father would take me to all his political speeches. My mother used to take me to the brick factory where she used to work. Ever since I can remember, I was politicized. Politics was not an afterthought—it was not something that was out there. And of course, the mere factor that you had a leader that was so centrally involved in the anti-colonial struggle really informed and shaped how we thought of the island as well as the colonial, imperial and racial divisions within the island, which were from the beginning all comprised of global raciality. The ordering of people, their politics—socialist, communists, liberals—mapped onto the division of the three worlds in a way, and also the division of different empires. Cyprus was part of the Ottoman Empire, and before that, the Venetians, so that really brings a much longer trajectory into view when we think about race and IR.

In 1974 Turkey invaded Cyprus and the island became divided. This was a very personal issue for me. Because we were living together in mixed villages and then suddenly the “fascists” and “liberals” (as we know them in the USA) wanted to take over the island through Greece and overthrow the president—they basically wanted to kill him. Such material struggles informed and shaped how I thought about race. One of those conversations over the war in Cyprus concerned “ethnicized” groups. And I always used to say: It cannot be possible that it is only ethnicity that makes people who were living peacefully together suddenly start to kill each other. That was a question I took to graduate school but that had been with me from a very young age because I lived through the war.

Additionally, one of my uncles would bring me lots of books, including Aris Velouchiotis (one of the major communist leaders in Greece), Frantz Fanon, and Kahlil Gibran. I was always reading these different kinds of texts that highlight Siba’s [Grovogui] point: we were already part of the world in struggle; we were not a small part of the world; we were not just fighting the Cyprus struggles or the nationalist war in Cyprus. For me that living life-education and directed-engagement informed and shaped how to ask questions (see Agathangelou and Killian 2017 ).

I was granted a scholarship to study in the USA which allowed certain people in Cyprus to develop as intellectuals and then to bring back the knowledge. This also happened vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. And so, the money was divided by the island: some go and study communism, some go and study liberalism. Some of us tried both. But in a sense, even that decision was racially-based.

Shampa Biswas

Like most people who grew up in the Third World I came to race as a critique of developmentalism in terms of an ideology and practice. I was raised in the Indian middle class, in a lower-middle class neighborhood, densely packed with refugees from mostly west Pakistan. My family were refugees from east Pakistan. That’s where I grew up, but I think that everyone who grows up now—in urban and even rural India—grows up worldly, in the sense that you always have a sense of your place in the world. So, Fidel Castro, Tito etc. were very much a part of my world.

The perception of growing up in urban India was also worldly in a different sense, which pertained to a sense of inadequacy, to be honest. I grew up with the sense that we had somewhere to go and that somewhere was someplace else; the aspiration was to do better, where better was someplace else. In Global Shadows , James Ferguson talks about a man in Lesotho who aspires to a “rectangular house”, which Ferguson describes as an aspiration to a European-style house which is not necessarily well-suited to his living conditions. I recognize that desire and aspiration to be modern on someone else’s terms.

Sheila Nair

I was born and raised in Malaysia, which is home to many ethnic groups, and whose ethnic divisions manifest in the economy, culture, society and politics. It is a country that has had to confront not only the history of colonization but its legacies of inter-ethnic difference and division. British colonialism was largely responsible for these ethnic—which typically translates as “race”—divisions that hardened after independence. So, the question of race (and its connection with ethnicity) has been with me ever since I was an “Indian” child whose schoolmates and friends included those who identified as Chinese, Malay, or some other ethnic group. [For a symposium discussing the fraught conceptual relationship between “ethnicity” and “race” see Murji and Solomos 2016 ]. What’s unusual, especially in comparison with other similarly ethnically divided societies in Asia and elsewhere, is that in Malaysia ethnically based parties dominate the political landscape and social and economic divisions continue to reflect the ambiguities of the post-independence “social contract” in the Malay peninsula that presumably struck an uneasy balance between political power (of the Malays) and economic power (of the Chinese). Identified as a descendant of “Indians”—although this is problematic given the different regional origins of people who emigrated from the sub-continent in late colonial rule to what was then British Malaya—my ascribed ethnic identity shaped my consciousness to some degree. Notably, on identity cards issued to all Malaysians, as well as on passports, we were identified by race, not by ethnicity.

So, I grew up with the awareness of my race in a “multi-racial” society and country. But that became a powerful motivating force for me to investigate the ways in which “race” gets constructed. It was only with more critical work in Malaysia's social sciences that “ethnicity” came to have greater sway over race in describing these social understandings and arrangements (see Nair 1999 ). After all, the British had tried to erase the differences within the so-called “Indian,” “Chinese” and “Malay” communities in their census classifications. I was further exposed to ethnic (or racial depending on who you talk to) politics and ethnicization of the workplace when I worked for a brief period of time—about 3 and a half years—as a journalist in Kuala Lumpur.

Robbie Shilliam

[The following comments demonstrate the importance of the Anti-Apartheid movement in these various points of departure. I wanted to pay special attention to this influence because, as Paul Lauren noted some time ago, the struggle over Apartheid in the United Nations generated a set of organizational innovations. In fact, the global importance of this struggle was directly addressed by Audie Klotz and Neta Crawford in some of their work in the 1990s decade (Klotz 1995 ; Crawford and Klotz 1999 ). In contrast, many conventional histories of international organization from a Western/First World perspective presume that the UN was moribund until after the end of the Cold War.]

One unforgettable experience while studying and living in Britain was my participation in several anti-apartheid demonstrations against all-white segregated cricket teams visiting from South Africa which laid the foundations of my subsequent involvement in several other anti-apartheid activities in East Africa and especially in the United States.

Back home in the Caribbean, the anti-Apartheid movement was a huge deal. We knew a lot about Rhodesia and South Africa and we grew up with that issue—it was so internalized.

Mustapha Kamal Pasha

I don’t think I experienced race until 9/11. But as a concept and an abstraction, it goes back to the graduate years [at the University of Denver] when I was part of the international committee against racism—it was mostly about South Africa and the anti-apartheid movement. As graduate students, we had an organization pushing for divestment from South Africa. Nonetheless, race at this point was very abstract to me: it was a “long-distance” kind of category.

I was involved in the anti-apartheid struggles in high school [in India], although I think most of that was still abstract for me also. I went on some marches. I can still sing the South African national anthem that I learned then. I admired Nelson Mandela and Steve Biko. But it was not what I would call a clear and concrete political commitment.

I still remember when, in a secondary school English literature class [in Malaysia], I was introduced to a whole lot of different writings: Shakespeare, yes, and the usual classics like James Joyce and so on, but also Alan Paton and many other writers. Paton’s book– Cry the Beloved Country– came out in 1948, yet it resonated with me as a teenager. I remember feeling like my life had changed reading that book because I had now been exposed to something I only understood in the abstract. I must have been about 14 when I started reading and thinking about apartheid. It was not unusual for a middle-class kid like me going to one of the best public schools in the city to be debating with classmates the problem of apartheid. I think for many young Malaysians, “race” and racial oppression in that context meant something very different than the experience of racial difference in Malaysia.

I think many of us might have come to a consciousness of race through travel. That’s certainly the case for me. I grew up very much with a sense of being dark and of not being upper-caste. And at some point, those two things connected in some sense. There has been some contestation in my family about how far down the caste hierarchy we really are, or how much we are trying not to be as lower-caste as we really are. But that sense of being sort-of-dark has always stayed with me. It became politicized in a very different way when I travelled to the USA.

So, it’s important to consider how color itself travels across spaces. Certainly, many within the Indian diaspora who move to spaces like the UK or US come to see themselves as racialized. But that moment is often politicized by marking oneself as different from and better than certain other racialized groups. There are many examples of Indians in the southwest of the US especially, who take on an Indian identity—wear a saree, put on a bindi—to mark themselves as different from Hispanics or Latinx immigrants. In this respect, being racialized doesn’t necessarily lead to a critical consciousness of race as positionality, or to relations of solidarity with other racialized groups. I want us to think about how these two moments connect, how they remain separate, and why they go in different directions.

I came to the USA from Malaysia to undertake my undergraduate and subsequently, my Masters degrees at the University of South Carolina in the mid-1980s. Living in the south meant that overt and covert forms of racism were inescapable. I arrived in South Carolina as a transfer student from a small college in North Carolina where I had spent a summer, and was assigned to a dorm that at the time housed mostly African-American students. Being very much a part of that community was informative for me in terms of navigating race politics in the South. That was also something that influenced my own consciousness and awareness of what Black Americans had endured and continued to endure. It was an eye opener for someone like me who had no context to place this American experience to see how that kind of segregation functioned and how even in—what at first glance appeared to be—a de-segregated campus community, race and residency were unquestioningly linked.

My first encounter with actual racism was when I came to Britain in 1979, two years before the Brixton uprisings, and I made friends with Americans and people from the Caribbean. I had one friend who wanted to go and fight with the racists. That was the first encounter of the racialized formation that was Britain.

However, in the USA, because of the colonial background that I came from, I never saw racism until 9/11. [Commonwealth immigration to Britain in the 1950s and 1960s featured a predominance of both Caribbean and South Asian peoples, such that visceral racism was directed (albeit for slightly different reasons) to both sets of Commonwealth British citizens]. And I think Shampa’s example demonstrates why people coming to the USA from India for instance, or from South Asia in general, choose to project a certain kind of identity. This is a lot to do with the kind of negotiations they have, first with the dominant population, but also with others who are not dominant. So, I want to problematize the binary between white and black. There is a sense in which color is the important marker.

When I came to Cambridge in the mid-1980s I engaged with all these internationalist groups—Brazilians, Colombians, Australians and South Africans, Pisco Sours [a Peruvian cocktail] in hand and a lot of political conversations and arguments. For me it was a wonderful phase in my life. One thing that did, of course, worry me in the UK was the hinterland of migration. Most of the Indian diaspora here came in the late 1940s and early 1950s as laborers—many from the villages of Punjab—and experienced terrible racism, which was absent from view (although no doubt present) in the halls in Cambridge. Class matters.

But so did location—I never thought of myself as an “ethnic minority” and of course I was not British then. Becoming Black [in the sense of “political blackness”], and then becoming BAME [Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic - an administrative term consonant with “people of color”] has been a long and complex journey, which I have still not finished. A little while ago I was chatting with a colleague at Warwick University. I said “I used to call myself black but I supposed I should now call myself BAME”; and she replied “you are not! You are not going to call yourself BAME”. I asked why not, and she said “well, you didn’t grow up here; you have no experience of racism on the playground or on the street”.

Shortly after earning my Bachelor of Social Sciences, Honours Degree (Economics, Politics, Sociology) at the University of Birmingham (1960), I moved to Canada for my graduate studies financed by a Fellowship Award at Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, where I first earned a Masters degree in Political Studies (1965) by completing a thesis about the United Nations Trusteeship System which enhanced my knowledge of colonialism. I postponed completing my PhD dissertation at Queen’s University until 1973 after serving the following appointments: Assistant Professor in Political Science, University of Waterloo, Canada (1963-1967); Visiting Lecturer, Department of Political Science, Makerere University, Uganda (1967-1970); Assistant Professor in the Department of Government, Cornell University (1970-1973); Visiting Associate Professor, Graduate School of International Studies and Acting Director, Center on International Race Relations, University of Denver (September 1972–January 1973), on leave from Cornell University.

Of the above appointments, my 1967–1970 stint as Visiting Lecturer at Makerere University located in Uganda (as part of the University of East Africa) was the most instrumental in my pioneering work in the field of international race relations [see for example “The Internationalization of Black Power” (Edmondson 1968 ), first published in Makerere’s journal Mazawo ]. Here is how it began.

While employed at the University of Waterloo in Canada, I travelled to the United States to attend the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in the early-mid 1960s. On walking into the hotel dining room for breakfast, I saw three Black men seated at one table and decided to join them. One of them introduced himself as Ali A. Mazrui, then an academic star among African political scientists. He invited me to join him for dinner later that evening. He began asking about my academic interests, and if I had ever visited Africa, I replied that I had never visited Africa and then queried why he asked. Mazrui replied that he was Chair of Political Studies Department at Makerere University and was searching for someone to fill a teaching position to replace a colleague who had recently left the university and that “I think that you are the person I would like to fill that vacant position.” I replied that I was very interested and within less than 6 months I was on my way to Uganda along with my family, with my visit being funded by the Ford Foundation which Mazrui had orchestrated. I spent the next 2 years teaching and researching at Makerere.

The late 1960s was a period of heightened and heightening Black racial consciousness, best articulated under the slogan of “Black Power” (see Edmondson 1969 ). This too was the period in which the apartheid system (which was thriving with the support of other countries, very much including the United States) was also being increasingly challenged.

I went to Canada in 1977. At that time, there was an enormous amount of racism against people of color, but especially against South Asians. It was called “Paki-bashing”. It was often violent. This is partly why, when people talk about violence without its physicality—for instance, “epistemological violence”—I tend to silently protest. I know there might be a lot of quarrels with that judgment. But at that time in Canada, for South Asian looking people and Black folks from the Caribbean, especially Jamaicans, racial discrimination, often armed, was too traumatic to use violence lightly. So, racism in that sense is very real to me. Sometimes I write about racism in a very expressive way because that’s how I came to encounter it—not so much from reading books etc.

Graduate school

It is now difficult to imagine how, back in the mid-1970s, analyses of international relations were shaped by categories of North, South, East and West: by Cold War and Development. In my view, North–South was and remains primary. Theories of international relations express a philosophy of developmental history, of temporality, that is then played out in geopolitical space. At least, this is how I have tried to make sense of IR as a discipline, one that I don’t really inhabit. I work as a political theorist, with considerable background in early-modern European conceptions of science and their expression in thinkers like Hobbes and Kant. This gives me many advantages for thinking about the contemporary politics of knowledge. For me, IR is an object of analysis, an expression of how one is now encouraged to think about the world and the kind of politics that is possible and impossible within it.

But sometimes I have been sucked into that discipline. The crucial time was when I turned up at Princeton, primarily because of Richard Falk. Many very smart people, nice people too; but a pervasive culture of racism was tangible to me, along with the presence of enormous state power. I learnt a lot from the experience.

More importantly, Richard brought me into the World Order Models Project (WOMP), the great forgotten site of interesting thinking in IR in the 1970s and 1980s. Quite apart from the extraordinary intellectual range and cultural diversity of many of the people involved, it was especially interesting for me as an expression of the contrast between people preoccupied by questions about East and West, and thus peace, and those more concerned with North and South, and thus development, colonialism and so on (see Walker 1984 ). I am not averse to peace, but tended to have more in common with figures like Rajni Kothari, Ashis Nandy, Dhirubhai Sheth, Mohammed Sid Ahmed, Ali Mazrui, Yoshi Sakamoto, Vandana Shiva, Lester Ruiz and many others in many countries. As a travelling seminar, WOMP was a model for transversal conversations that could usefully be replicated now that we seem to have retreated into our little boxes, both politically and intellectually.

In any case, it was out of this background that I began to start editing the journal Alternatives , which took up most of my time for three decades and gave me privileged access into how people were thinking politically beyond the secured enclaves of American social science.

Instructively, I think, many of our discussions in WOMP hinged on questions about “culture,” understood as an acceptable category encompassing many other less acceptable things, from race to religion. Yet while culture was in some ways the acceptable discourse of the Cold War era, it was also easily reduced to nationalism, the claim to identity that could trump all other claims to identity, including humanity. I think that this remains a problem in many contexts. WOMP was certainly not alone in challenging many of the conventions of the discipline as it then was, and questions about race were raised in various contexts with some frequency. Whether they were or even could be raised frequently enough, or sharply enough, is another matter. But the problem was not limited to any specific discipline. Even the concept of a society is difficult to disentangle from what statist nationalisms say a society must be, and any attempt to differentiate the various peoples to be found in any society will be subject to nationalizing practices of homogenization and hegemony and/or domination. As usual, the discipline is largely an effect of something much bigger and much more difficult to deal with.

The biggest culture shock I experienced upon coming to the USA was the confidence about the country’s place in the world. Even in progressive circles, the desire is almost always to be a better version of yourself, not an aspiration to be someone else as it is for those in the Third World. And that self-referentiality sort of mimics some of the MAGA [Make America Great Again] narratives. In contrast, I grew up with the aspiration to enter another world. That took me to economics—neoclassical economics no less. I wanted to become a development economist. I very much bought into modernization theory, or even if I wasn’t consciously buying into it, it was the background condition of my desires and aspirations. It was very much economics as a technique, what Ferguson calls an anti-politics machine.

And it took 4 years—I got two masters degrees [at the Delhi School of Economics, and Syracuse University] in the process—to be able to see economics as a racist discipline, to see its representation of me and my people as always hungry, empty, takers and not givers, to not be able to see the world that I lived represented in the discipline. It took years. I actually credit Naeem [Inayatullah] who was my teacher [at Syracuse], with helping me get there. But once I got there, and that was to an understanding of economics and developmentalism as a racialized discourse, I was not able to un-see it.

People ask me if I regret spending all that time in economics, trying to be what I no longer wanted to be. I don’t. I learnt a lot from it, and it gave me respect for the fight ahead, for how much is at stake in keeping that discourse alive. And it led me to interdisciplinarity as common-sense. So, for instance, I find what I want to study because I am interested in problems in the world and not because it has anything to do with IR. In fact, I don’t even go and read IR scholars to see what others have said before on that topic—that’s not my impulse at all. And it really doesn’t matter what I pick as a topic of study, race is the background structure and the material condition that helps me understand that topic as a problematic.

Sankaran Krishna

My undergraduate degree was in chemistry, with math and physics as my minors. Then I went into the History program at Jawaharlal Nehru University, which at that time and for a long time afterwards was probably one of the greatest places to study in the world. This was a Center that could hold its own against anything that you could put it up against, and I just stumbled into it with a chemistry degree. Through sheer luck I got into the program, and it just completely transformed me. Above all, it brought out the utter centrality of colonialism, imperialism, and racism in the creation of the modern world. It was really all about that post-1492 moment, the Atlantic slave trade, the conquest of the world, Eurocentrism, etc.

So, with that background I arrive at Syracuse University in the USA. And for the first time ever I am in a Political Science program with the intention of doing a dissertation in this field called IR. I have to tell you that the combined total of books that I had read in IR up until that point was zero, and in Political Science, maybe two.

And I just want to talk very briefly at a social level—an ethnography of my first few weeks in the USA. Political Science was full of these guys who were very macho because they were supposedly very good in methods. Methodology was incredibly fetishized and these guys were literally strutting around because they were very good at doing regression analysis etc. Some of them would go for a run in the afternoon; they would play basketball with the rule—no blood, no foul. A very macho culture: and it was all about method. I had always thought of method as a means to an end, but here clearly method was the end. And anyone who dabbled in history, who was interested in qualitative approaches, well you were deemed to be an inferior being.

Now I had one advantage, which is I actually knew my math—I had taken math and physics as minors—and I could hold my own against anybody. So, these guys were faced with a problem: “here is this brown-skinned guy who is very much into colonialism, imperialism, racism, soft, qualitative methods and all the rest of it, but who can ace the math and the stats and the method course as well as anybody, if not more”. I began to harass my professors by saying: “before we start measuring the extent to which two things depart from a linear relationship to each other, can we please stop and ask why the **** do we think they might have a linear relationship with each other?”. And, “why do you think that the world is organized along some orderly set of premises? Where do you get this illusion? And might that illusion itself be a violent interpretation of the world?” The response would always be: “you know, maybe you should do some course in the philosophy department, because we don’t do that here. We start on the premises that they do have this relationship and now we want to see how much they depart from that”.

When I arrived at Syracuse University I wanted to learn why people killed each other. Some of my interlocutors took that to mean “those ethnic wars out there”. Immediately, then, Cyprus became an ethnic conflict—as if it wasn’t a global war, as if it wasn’t part of a contestation of global powers. Yet when it came to IR specifically, the approach was “let’s divide the knowledge” i.e. focus on case studies. Meanwhile, the abstract theorists told us how to apply their knowledge to really explain those conflicts and wars without ever accounting for how those sites themselves were implicated in the global production of knowledge and in the global color line.

One of my big struggles during the PhD occurred during my dissertation. I worked with Mark Rupert who was, of course, an expert on Gramsci. I wanted to use Gramsci but I also wanted to use feminist postcolonial analyses of the conflicts and the war. And around that time, many of us in the department agreed that we needed more than was being provided if we were to understand what was going on elsewhere in the world. So, the Political Science department sent us to explore different departments—English, Women Studies etc. But some of us got together on our own and started reading texts such as WEB Du Bois, Malcolm X, and Frantz Fanon. Still, our department in Political Science and IR did not think that these texts were central and pivotal to a politics and IR curriculum.

Politically and academically, my main concern was colonialism—rich country, poor country relations. My dissertation was focused on inequality and hierarchy, and who has power over whom. I started investigating various specific cases of colonialism and of course, in doing so you are going to run into race. So that was my first academic experience. Like most of mainstream IR, race was never a thing that was brought up. Well, I wanted to investigate how race worked in a very disguised and coded way into IR scholarship and current policy issues. That was all back in the old days of my dissertation.

After I finished the dissertation, I was left outraged by the discourses of colonial power even in early IR scholarship, as well as what was contemporary at that time (in the late 1980s and early 1990s). And then I wanted to know, “has race disappeared now? Where is it lurking?” That’s when I got interested in borders and immigration. You can’t talk about borders and immigration—especially if you are talking about unauthorized immigration—without race immediately smacking you right in the face. So, I became interested in those issues.

I was at the University of Minnesota around the time that Roxanne [Doty] was finishing her PhD there. Her dissertation work on racial representation and imperialism made an impact on me. Additionally, Bud Duvall created a space for us to engage with issues of race and colonialism. I recall that when I took his International Hierarchies course (it might have been in my 2nd year) he told us something along the lines of: “I don’t really have a syllabus; I have a few things on it right now, but feel free to contribute to this.” I suggested we include Spivak’s essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?”. I was struggling with this piece and trying to figure out what she was trying to say. Spivak writes in a way such that sometimes you think you have arrived at comprehension but you soon realize that you haven’t got a clue. I struggled a lot with it and I wanted to bring it to the seminar so that I could understand it better. I think she forced us to question race, gender, class and the subaltern in ways that generated a productive intellectual tension. For me that was a really important work in terms of coming to grips with where I saw my own work going (or not going). I would say that this is when I began thinking more about race, its intersections, and postcolonial theory.

The first thing I did in September 1986, when I started graduate studies at the University of Michigan, was to join the Black Student Union. There was already a buzz on campus—free South Africa groups etc. But when racists put a flyer under the door where some sisters were meeting, saying that it was open season on “porch monkeys” and “n****s”, and when racists got on the radio and told racist “jokes” we started the United Coalition Against Racism—a multi-racial coalition, but Black led. However, the Black fraternities, sororities, and student unions were also organizing and ended up coming together as the Black Action Movement III. [There were two prior moments of Black student protest at Michigan in 1970 and 1975.] The first statement of BAM III was to support all the demands made by UCAR. But BAM III had other demands—and quite simply, BAM III were more oriented to specific black demands and organization. I worked with both UCAR and BAM. By spring 1987, we brought in Jesse Jackson to mediate our demands with the University of Michigan. Following UCAR/BAM III, through the Black Student Union, we started organizing Black student unions in local high schools and projects.

My focus was on black nationalism—unrepentantly. Post-structuralism and similar bodies of thought will take issue with the universalizing tendencies of white supremacism—and rightly so—but then they’ll replicate that tendency when it comes to judging nationalism—in whatever historical context—to be unprogressive. Well it depends. The nationalism against colonialism can be quite progressive and even revolutionary. African American nationalism is not a derivative of American or any other nationalism—Wilson Moses’ research demonstrates that. Let me say this: some people might be more likely to push “black” when it’s more fashionable to do so; some of us, who work with diverse folks as well, still focus on “black” even when it’s not fashionable to do so. Much of the “conflict” over black nationalism among black academics is really about class. I’m from a housing project and I’ve been in a union since I was 19, and my perspectives born of that, as well as my organizing and study, challenges some black folks positioning themselves in academia as “grassroots”–at least that’s what it was like during my graduate studies at Michigan. They can only imagine the black poor whose interests they presumably “represent” because for so many of them it’s never been their reality or the basis of their activism.

Anyway, whilst all this was going on I was studying with Ali Mazrui and David Singer and his Correlates of War (COW) project. I went to Singer because this notion of doing quantitative work intrigued me. But some people told me that Singer didn’t support Black Studies. So, I walked over to his office and asked him. He responded: “well Henderson, I didn’t support Black Studies because I thought it would be ghettoized”. It seemed a rational response to me—especially since it was ghettoized when I got to Michigan. We then discussed the intellectual and strategic reasons for scholars like him to support Black Studies; and it was a serious engagement between us. When it ended, Singer said: “I made a mistake”. By the end of that first semester in 1986, he invited me to the COW project, and I’ve been a member ever since.

Singer would also talk to me about the anti-Semitism he dealt with growing up in Brooklyn and working as a haberdasher in North Carolina. You can’t reduce people to their writing, you know. He’s got a critical sensibility that he would associate with his Brooklyn background to me. I asked Singer what made him get into the quantitative work, and he said to me that following WWII (Singer was in the US Navy but not in combat), and what he thought was the tragic and racist atomic bombing of Japan, he realized that scholars couldn’t leave foreign policy decisionmakers to diplomats, philosophers and historians. Instead we needed to draw on more reliable and systematic evidence to provide reasoned diplomacy to prevent a future World War, which he was convinced would be a nuclear holocaust for humanity. He turned to broad and depthful analysis of history as a starting point, and then drew on computer technology to evaluate common notions about the correlates of war—in order to prevent them. Singer lost his security clearance because he spoke out against the Vietnam War in the early 1960s. Tom Hayden was one of Singer’s student and Singer supported the early teach-ins against US involvement at Michigan in the early 1960s.

And that’s why I say to people: your methodology is not your freaking identity! You mean to say that you’re upset because Singer wants to do something quantitative (see for example Henderson and Tucker 2001 )? That’s why I also always bring up WEB Du Bois and his quantitative analysis in the pathbreaking Philadelphia Negro . The basic question in grad school for me was: who can you grow with intellectually and who can encourage you in your chosen academic (and activist) directions? They are not mutually exclusive. Singer was one of those people—so was Ali Mazrui, Ken Organski, Harold Cruse, Clementine Barfield and Hanes Walton. When a black administrator took my fellowship in order to force me to leave grad school and hopefully end my activism on campus, Singer, at my request, called him: my fellowship was restored the same day.

Neta Crawford

I was part of a very loose cohort of people doing critical IR at a time when the most important debate was responding to Kenneth Waltz’s Theory of International Politics . To me, that was a relatively closed and sterile debate, and much more interesting things were happening in scholarship and in the actual world. The metatheoretical debates were about agent and structure, but they were not about processes. I was interested in change, and the ways in which big sweeps of history could help you to better understand processes. I wanted to be part of a different conversation about colonialization, decolonization and militarization.

All my life I’ve been interested in African politics—my undergraduate honors thesis was on military rule in Ghana and the era from Kwame Nkrumah to Jerry Rawlings. But actually, I started to work on Native American international relations a couple of years before I started my work on decolonization and humanitarian intervention (see Crawford 2002 ). And I have also always been interested in Native American politics, perhaps because I grew up in Wisconsin, perhaps because some of my distant ancestors are native, perhaps because being in the Northeast of the US [initially pursuing graduate degrees at MIT] I became aware of the Iroquois League [the Haudenosaunee confederacy].

It all came together for me when I read that the concert of Europe was a very long-lasting security regime—125 years. Well, the Iroquois League ensured 450 years of peace. It began before European occupation of the Americas, it lasted hundreds of years through colonialism, and it was only disrupted by the American revolution. And, by the way, growing up in the Midwest I knew of other such leagues like the Ohio Confederacy. To be clear: these were leagues of peace, not alliances against someone else.

This is what I was learning about in the early/mid 1980s and all through my graduate education I continued an interest in this. I took a class with Stanley Hoffman & Robert Keohane at Harvard on theories of international relations. It was excellent in its own way, but I felt that it was ahistorical and lacking a comparative perspective—as if there was no other perspective but the Eurocentric one. I wrote a paper for them on the Iroquois League as a security regime; they didn’t like it. So I decided to write a longer paper that was eventually published in International Organization entitled “A security regime among democracies: cooperation among Iroquois nations” ( 1994 ).

Formative experiences of the field

Robert vitalis.

My reasons for writing White World Order, Black Power Politics (2015) were 90% instrumental and opportunist; except that, like most academics, I am not very good at being instrumental or opportunist. And it was maybe 10% intellectual curiosity.

But the book is an accident of Clark University, and the intellectual curiosity was a question that Cynthia Enloe has taken on: the Curious Feminist etc. Cynthia had hired me to teach IR. I was a scholar of the Middle East and I worked on the comparative political economy of development. I wrote my first book on Egypt, and I was interested in “false” debates of the notion of a national capitalist class. That’s what I worked on in Egypt.

The instrumental part comes from the fact that after writing the book on Egypt, I had started to write a book on Saudi Arabia. I was teaching at Texas at the time along with my wife. I loved Texas, my wife hated it. She got hired at Princeton. It was time for me to move based on her preference, and the closest I could come was Clark University in Western Massachusetts. I got there in 1990, thinking I was writing this book about Saudi Arabia, and trying to find a job so that I could be closer to my wife. This is the irony: there were no jobs in the field of Middle East studies in the early 1990s, though it might be difficult to imagine in hindsight. The Ivy Leagues were getting rid of their senior Middle East scholars and area studies was irrelevant.

At Clark, I did what I describe in my book. I was in the library stacks one day and I happened to look at the history of Clark University. I saw this claim that the Journal of Race Development was the first journal in IR and I said “no no no, that’s crazy”. I had taken one IR class in my life as a graduate student with Hayward Alker. I got a B, but I do remember the disciplinary story claiming that the first journal of IR was Foreign Affairs. So, this historian at Clark was clearly wrong—because we knew the truth, right?

The curiosity part was following that through and also trying to figure out who WEB Du Bois was, because Du Bois was on the editorial board. Meanwhile, Clark didn’t care about disciplinary labels, in fact they told me “you can’t teach any Middle East politics, just teach IR”. I taught a course with a historian on Du Bois, to try to know more about him. And then I had this crazy idea: being that there were no jobs in the Middle East, clearly it would have been smarter to try to get hired working on race in IR. I applied for a two-year retraining grant in IR, critical IR and security so as to work on this project. God bless Rob Walker, because if it wasn’t for him, and two other people, the book would have never been written. I was given the one-year consolation award. Half the people thought it was the stupidest project in the world; a few people thought I deserved some money, and god bless you.

I started to work on the book when I was called to the University of Pennsylvania to run their Middle East Center. So, I had to put aside all the research I had been doing on race in IR and disciplinary history, and give a job talk about Saudi Arabia. But the funny thing is that if you look at that book, America’s Kingdom (2007), you will see that DuBois is all over it, and racism is all over it, because I had learned a lot and deployed that learning in the writing about United States on the oil frontiers. In any case, now I was at the University of Pennsylvania, were I was told I could not teach IR because being a Middle East person I apparently had no connection to IR. And when I would talk to IR colleagues about race in IR their only response would be, over and over again: “are you calling us racists?!”.

This was their reaction to the research, and that was in the early 2000s. When I presented White World Order to my colleagues around 2015, they raised the question: “this is all well and good, the history… but what are the testable hypotheses? You tell us that, and then we have a book that we can talk about”. And that’s what explains the very last lines in my book that sort of say: “some smart person is going to ask, what are the implications for theory?” And that’s why in the book I say that that’s not the question that is important. The important question is: what does it tell us about the classroom and the professional associations in the discipline?”

I teach race in IR, every now and again, and the empirical fact that emerged the first time I taught it, and remains the case, is that it is the only class I teach as a seminar that draws 50% or more people of color, which barely happens in Political Science departments when you teach race in American Politics. So, I am still not a part of the IR group. But here’s the funny thing: nor are any of you, at least on the syllabi. Literally last night I had to have a conversation with graduate students about decolonizing the discipline, and “what about race in the discipline” etc. But from their perspective, it’s still realism and idealism, etc. So the struggle continues.

In the very first article I published in Millennium, “The Graceful and Generous Liberal Gesture: Making Racism Invisible in American International Relations” (Vitalis 2000 ), the only person in this conversation that we are now having and which I thanked is Audie Klotz, because I talked to her about the paper and she gave me comments. Obviously, in the years since 2000, I’ve gotten to know all of you and I try to celebrate the many paths that you, men and women, had forged in the field.

In a way, I would say all of you—although you might not have known it—were following in the footsteps of folks like Locksley [Edmondson], folks that Roxanne [Doty] notices. Roxanne writes her piece “The Bounds of ‘Race’ in International Relations” (Doty 1993b ) and sort of says: “hey look at this thing going on in Denver, right?”. Karl Deutsch was there [at the Center of International Race Relations at the University of Denver], and Locksley Edmondson was there [see above], and George Shepard was there. They themselves were effectively saying: “we’re doing this for the first time; finally we are going to talk about race systematically in IR, because guys like Stanley Hoffman have failed to do it.” That’s their reference at the time. In a way, you have all been following through on that project. (Others, such as Tilden LeMelle got moved into other directions.)

I think it is not accidental that gender becomes more visible in IR as more women enter the field and raise those questions. But in the same time period, race is not as visible and the question is not raised as much because there are not a lot of people of color joining the field—and that is still the case in some sense. In any case, I wonder if folks knew what Locksley Edmondson and George Shephard were doing in the 1970s, effectively declaring that “hey, you know, racism has not disappeared from international relations, we need to explore it.” The folks in this conversation now also started doing exactly that.

Well, thanks Bob [Vitalis] for mentioning George Shephard, who was my professor while I was a graduate student in Denver. I think he was one of the pioneers in International Relations when it comes to talking about race and Africa. But I did not take a class on race with him; I took a class on Africa. In fact, for me, race came via Africa—it came via Apartheid. For some of us, our introduction to race was through transnational consciousness. It was from outside in, not inside out. It came from these connectivities with the anti-Apartheid movement.

In IR itself, I think the most important influences in the more recent past are Randolph Persaud and Sankaran Krishna. Krishna ( 1993 ) wrote one of the first significant articles on taking to task the field for its treatment of race. And then of course, the special issue in Alternatives that Randolph edited was quite important too (Persaud and Walker 2001 ). Randolph was one of the first persons to bring the idea of race to American University which was ultimately the liberal university. [Ron Walters, a prominent Political Scientist and co-founder of TransAfrica had in fact earned his PhD in International Studies at American in 1971 but left thereafter.] And I would also consider him one of the pioneers in re-starting this conversation within international political economy (see Persaud 2001 ). Working with the scholarship of Robert Cox, Randolph would very politely unpack those categories and make them look pretty mechanistic and static.

Moving forward, other influences come to bear. Siba Grovogui, of course, has been crucial in bringing Africa to IR, but in a way that affirms confidence in thinking of another place from a position of parity. That has been the most important part: not to feel in anyway diminished in talking about these “Third World” places.

Well, I went to the ISA annual conference in April of 1995 where I presented a paper under the title “Frantz Fanon, race, and world order” (Persaud 1997 ). After the paper was finished, Mustapha [Kamal Pasha] informed me of a job at American University. I joined the School of International Service later that year in the fall semester. When the ISA was held at Minneapolis in the Spring of 1998, I met Sheila [Nair], Shampa [Biswas] and others. Somebody pointed Rob Walker out to me. I approached him and told him that there was no special issue on race in IR in any of the journals, and asked him to consider taking a look at a proposal. I had also just met [Sankaran] Krishna and Siba [Grovogui]. Siba and I had gone to a previous ISA meeting in New York.

And that’s how the Alternatives special issue on race in IR came together, involving all of these scholars. The only person not here from the special issue is Hilbourne Watson (Bucknell University) who contributed a fine paper on race and the historical political economy of the Caribbean. Crucially, all this means that I didn’t discover race in IR on my own. The collaboration, encouragement, and working together: that really made an indelible imprint in terms of the questions that I began to pose analytically and the way that I thought things through theoretically.

If Political Science was deeply conservative and obsessed with methodology, IR was the most concentrated form of that. Still, when I went to the ISA annual conference, at least I felt like a resident alien; but when I went to the APSA [American Political Science Association] conference, I felt like an extraterrestrial—I wasn’t even a life form from this planet. Weirdly enough, the ISA at least gave you some kind of hope, whereas American Political Science with this mixture of machismo, methods—and there should be a third M there, but I don’t know what it is!—left you in despair.

I also realized that this all hung together because Political Science departments thought of themselves as liberal. Most of the faculty voted Democratic. So that’s how this thing played itself out: “we must be good on race, we must be good on liberal values, because we vote Democrat; the real conservatives are those guys out there who vote Republican, whom we don’t have any of”. It took me a while to realize that all the codewords about theory building—conceptual rigor, abstraction, a distaste for history, particularity and context—all of these were coded words for not dealing with race. That’s how IR constructs itself: it’s not about what it says but about what it doesn’t say. Race is the absence that coheres the discipline, and it takes you a while to put your finger on it.

So, I decided fairly early on that mainstream IR and Political Science for the most part, at least the American idea of it, were completely lost causes. The only fringe of IR that I was interested in were the “posties”: guys like Rob Walker, Rick Ashley, Bill Connolly, Mike Shapiro, David Campbell—that whole crowd. I began to hang out with them. Weirdly enough, my first critique of the absence of race in IR was on the absence of race in postie-IR—in the only scholarly group that was worth talking to at all.

Soon after I joined Manoa [University of Hawai’i], I took a course with Rob Walker at the International Semiotics Institute. Rob said: “hey listen, there are these four books that have just come out—Bill Chaloupka’s Knowing Nukes, James Der Derian’s On Diplomacy , David Campbell’s Writing Security and Mike Shapiro’s Reading the Postmodern Polity ”. Rob suggested I write a review essay on them, which instead became a 13,000-word piece about how critical IR has this serious racial amnesia, how it’s a sort of transatlantic dialogue wherein the North American crowd seems to think that if you bring in more of Foucault, Derrida, or whoever, you have something going on. But race was still marginal even to the “posties”, in my view.

After writing “The Importance of Being Ironic” (1993), I went back to my disinterest in IR until about 8–9 years later Randolph [Persaud] asked me to write a piece for the special issue on race and IR. I wrote mine on race amnesia and the education of IR (Krishna 2001 ). But for all the claims in both my essays about the absence of race in IR—well, that wasn’t an empirically sustainable claim but more a reflection of my ignorance of the history of IR. Because, as Locksley’s [Edmondson] work testifies to, and as the recent works of people like Bob Vitalis, John Hobson, Robbie Shilliam and a whole bunch of others show, race has always been written about in IR. It’s just that anytime anybody used the word race, they were excluded from the club. WEB Du Bois was of course the classic example of that. Two years before Lenin’s Imperialism the Highest Stage of Capitalism Du Bois had already argued that inter-imperial rivalry was the stream that flowed into making the Great War. Yet Du Bois is never thought of as “doing” IR. The Howard school is, again, excluded from the canonical discipline simply by an act of fiat.

I don’t like to say I’m a scholar of race, and I have sort of positioned myself on the periphery. In my very first published article in ISQ , “Foreign Policy as Social Construction: A Post-positivist Analysis of US Counterinsurgency Policy in the Philippines” (Doty 1993a ), I bent over backwards to explain and justify and speak and please the mainstream. That’s probably the article that gets cited more than anything, and honestly, I came to feel uncomfortable about it. There’s a section on research design, there are tables, and everything is wrapped up neatly. I would be invited to discourse analysis panels—I’m not putting this down at all, I don’t mean it to be critical of what anybody does—and I’d have graduate students asking “how did you do this? I want to use your method”. I came to feel very uncomfortable and never wanted to write like that again. In any case, I got tenure and I didn’t have to communicate with the mainstream anymore.

I went to my first ISA annual conference very late because I had kids and I didn’t want to travel. The first time I attended was in 1997, less than 10 years after I started, and that’s when I saw race scholarship in action. I then got involved with the International Feminist Journal of Politics (IFJP)—I am remembering Lily Ling and Geeta Chowdhry here (see especially Chowdhry and Ling 2018 ). We raised issues of difference and of diversity on IFJP board meetings. And some of them were actually painful—personally painful—because you had to raise issues which were seen to be disruptive and not really central to what was being discussed. It was always the same three women who were raising these issues. But we had fun as well.

At ISA we all engaged in the struggles against structural racism. Yet ISA held sadness for me as well. Because I would go to gender stream panels—I research the political economy of development and gender (for example Rai 2002 )—and there would not be enough race, and then I would go to postcolonial race panels and there would not be enough gender. What the hell! Why are these literatures, people—my colleagues—not working together? That has bothered me quite a bit and I think it was out of that that Geeta and I wrote “The Geographies of Exclusion and the Politics of Inclusion: Race-based Exclusions in the Teaching of International Relations” (Chowdhry and Rai 2009 ). And that was really good for me, because even though I am not a race scholar, it allowed me to think through some of those issues.

Shirin [Rai] has brought this very important issue up. Mustapha [Kamal Pasha] was actually the first person who suggested that I go to the Feminist Theory and Gender Studies (FTGS) section, which was a really important space. Lily [Ling] and I started to do a lot of work around race because she had her own struggles around the tenure situation, which was already based on racial questions and gender issues. We also grappled with FTGS. Not that ISA is the panacea of everything. But ISA remains a site of struggle for thinking race, gender, sexuality, ability, etc. It is a site that I think a lot of our students, especially those from marginalized communities, can see others grappling with similar issues, and building intellectual frameworks that might help to think through some of those issues in IR and in their own lives.

Thanks to Mustapha for his suggestion. Thanks to Lily and Geeta [Chowdhry] also. Around 2006, the four of us—Lily, Geeta, Sheila [Nair] and myself—toured Asia, talking about the feminist postcolonial, moving those knowledges rather than always bringing everything to the West, to the ISA, which is a very Western institution.


On this note, I would really like us to talk about what we think the “back-stop” of race is. I think one of the unfortunate things that’s happened, with the rise especially of some aspects of discourse analysis, is that the body gets suppressed. And for me, racism is a very optical kind of thing: what kind of body do you see—what kind of hair, lips, color etc.? There’s enormous variation in that. So, the body can save you the farther you move away from certain configurations of the Other, and the body can endanger you the closer to get to that Other.

That’s something I really want to talk about. And I think color gets pushed aside a lot in racism, because even among, say, the black community it’s like literally: how black? I do know that the body is ultimately a discursive outcome. The physical body might not have any inherent meaning in it, but the body does have a history to it as well. I struggle with that: the body you carry around with you, and the way in which meaning might be imbued in the body or derived from it.

That’s why race, to me, is about the ontology of the body. In a conversation such as we are having, I have several options of how to construct what I want to say. But I have no absolute self-governance over this body. While the body is a floating signifier, it does have a history to which it has been subjected. That is a huge difference. For instance, and Siba mentioned this, presenting the Irish as “racialized” as white is a construction that I have some problems with. At least, I am wary of the way it can be coopted by liberal discourse so as to not really talk about racism because everything is racialized. Which means that practically anything could be, so to speak, subsumed under a broad category called racism—which I have my doubts about.

So, in this particular respect, I have a methodological problem and a political problem with intersectionality. Let me just go with the second one first. Intersectionality began as a conceptual tool to begin to understand particular configurations of exploitation and domination. It has been coopted by liberal cosmopolitanism and big-tent politics. I take the problem from a different angle, mostly from Laclau, and Laclau and Mouffe. If you construct a signifying chain, based on multiple instances of the signifying chain inter-sectionally, every time you do that, you have to compromise on the specificity of each element of the chain. For there to be lateral expansion of the signifying chain, each instance must be relaxed somewhat.

And this is what has been happening with big-tent democratic politics, which is actually in my view, forcing academics to incorporate more and more elements into the intersectional configuration. The brutalities of race and also of gender (see Persaud 2015 ) keep getting pushed back and back and back, to accommodate more and more things that the liberal cosmopolitan context is supposed to be/wants. That does not mean we should ignore the amalgam of other social injuries out there, but intersectionality is becoming too much of a matter of habit, a kind of obligation of the left, almost a ritual.

Conceptually, I would prefer over-determination rather than intersectionality; at the very least, the current use of intersectionality is far removed from what was originally intended by Kimberlé Crenshaw. Over-determination gives us an idea of the condensation of different sort of instances that begin to congeal around particular bodies. But these are not separate instances—race is not over here, and class over here and gender over here—right? Rather, they are all configured and condensed into a particular moment of historical structure.

I’m going back to the autobiographical beginnings of this conversation to respond to Randolph [Persaud]. I take your points on the physicality, but I don’t see the connection to rejecting intersectionality. As a woman, I would associate a lot of the things that you mentioned with perceptions of women, based on many of those same physical characteristics. So, I think it’s actually an argument for further unpacking or understanding the relationships between race and gender.

And on the question of racialization, especially the Irish becoming white and what-not, I respond to that both as the grandchild of immigrants, and also a scholar of immigration. My mother was a second-generation Greek immigrant to the United States and her skin was darker than many so-called “black” people. So, this idea that the physicality can somehow be disconnected from some of the other categories, to me is just completely implausible. Siba might be the only one to know that my own child is not white. She was only four or five when she came home from kindergarten and asked “well what am I? I’m not white, and I’m not black.” This is the dichotomous nature of race in the United States.

But I do think that ambiguous—or what I call liminal—categories are useful, precisely in that they push people to rethink that simplistic dichotomy. The kind of transformation of Irish into white people is actually really helpful to think about. All countries around the world, where there were immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa, had often very contentious legal as well as political battles as to whether these peoples were white or not. These are really important conversations to have. And if we just say, “well, it’s about physicality, but you know, racialization is taking us in an unhelpful direction” then we might miss out on a lot of really important dynamics.

I think this is such an important question that Randolph has raised. I would also underline what Audie has just said. I’ve got three little vignettes to string together. Firstly, my husband is Irish—white Church of Ireland Irish family from Cork (the Republic) that migrated to Belfast (Northern Ireland)—and the first argument I ever had with him was about whether race applies to the Irish in the UK or not. Secondly, it’s a similar issue to your child, Audie. My son’s name is Arjun, which is an Indian name, and he looks more Indian than my younger son. He had a problem with the fact that I called him Arjun. His middle name is Adair, which is my husband’s father’s name. And so, I had to say to him that if you want to change your name you can do that. This happened about that same time as your child started asking questions, Audie: he had just started primary school.

And the next vignette is really meant to underscore the intersectionality of gender and race—how culture, masculinities and nationalities intersect. I came to the UK on a scholarship, with twelve other “scientists”. Out of the twelve, there were three or four women; only two of us were social scientists from New Delhi and the rest were hardcore science people from small towns in in India. On the plane from New Delhi to London I heard for the first time Hindu narratives about Muslims. I’d never come across that before. At university, these young men saw us as a group of Indians at Cambridge sharing a cultural heritage. They would try and police my behavior to conform to their understanding of what it means to be Indian. You would be disciplined if you were seen with a white guy, or having a bottle of wine in your hand. Cultural authenticity plays out through gender troubles.

One more element to all this. Intersectionality is involved with border crossings, which always implicates the state. My understanding of this arose when I visited Luna House [the headquarters of UK Visas and Immigration]. At that time, I had an Indian passport. And I was so struck at the way in which we (my husband and I) were treated by state officials in comparison to another couple. The woman standing in the next booth to me was white; from her accent it was clear that she was absolutely working-class. She was with a black man, whom I learned later on was from Ethiopia. They were married and they wanted a visa. I was so distracted by the hostility with which the official was talking to this woman as opposed to the politeness of the official who was talking to me—“oh, you went to Cambridge”, “oh, that’s great” etc. This incident happened over thirty years ago, and I’ve never forgotten that. The state polices borders—national, class and racial.

So, I take your point Randolph: you can’t just say that everything is equal. And at the same time, these intersections are really important to unpack.

Randolph, I think the point you made about intersectionality was a very interesting one. I agree with Audie and Shirin on this: you can’t really navigate spaces in a neutral way, in a gender-neutral way, regardless of whether you challenge the binary, or where you fall on the spectrum and so forth (see Nair 2014 ). We might want to clarify what we all mean when we say we do intersectional analysis. But leaving that aside, I just really appreciate hearing all of the personal stories, which I think is so evocative of what we’re trying to get at in this forum.

But we need to also think about how we are situated in the academy, which is itself a racialized space. I am reminded of how Chimamanda Adichie, in her novel Americanah, comes to a recognition of her blackness in America in a way she did not experience it while in Nigeria. (Well, at least the central character, Ifemelu, does and I’m assuming that this is what Adichie herself experienced.) And I was thinking about a parallel in terms of the study of race and IR. Despite all of the interventions, despite how far we have come over the decades, how do we describe this racialized space of IR as scholars of race? Put another way, how can (or should?) we address racial difference and its experience in the academy? In some ways, feminist theory—at least, some types of feminist theory—have become mainstreamed. But race remains relatively more marginal in the debates. I’m teaching two IR classes right now and have used [Ann] Tickner’s “What Is Your Research Program?” where she challenges mainstream IR on gender neutrality. We might ask too whether IR, as a discipline, avoids acknowledging its race neutrality.

But putting those two—race and gender—together I think is really important. And I don’t think enough of that is being done in the discipline. That’s my concern in bringing up the question of intersectionality. Kimberlé Crenshaw has had a tremendous impact on the way some of us think about questions of intersectionality. Which is not to say that intersectionality doesn’t have to be interrogated as well—what we mean by that and how we do it. I’ve seen very few works in IR that do this very well. In other words, it is not like everything is equally significant in any given exploration; nevertheless, the challenge is how to address that intersectionality in a meaningful way in the kinds of questions we ask.

Randolph brought up the physical body. And I have to say, as somebody who has a physical body, but not being a person of color, I have always been aware of how easily my physical body moves, and with relative ease and relative safety. My awareness of this grew the more interested I became in borders.

I remember going to some conference in Copenhagen. I brought my daughter with me—she was seven or eight—and we had just finished a fourteen-hour plane journey. There’s a huge, long line for checking people’s passports, and the guard sees us and calls “come on up here!”. And I’m like “whew, thank god!” So, we show him our passport and he declares “we love American tourists!” Of course, I took advantage of that. But I did have a long talk with my daughter afterwards about why that happened to us. Almost all the rest of the line were people of color—from Asia and Africa, dressed in traditional clothes. It was very obvious, and I was almost embarrassed. I like to think that if I had been alone, I would have just waited in line. But I used my daughter as an excuse.

The contemporary field

Recently, watching what has been happening since George Floyd was murdered, I have been thinking about borders and race. I watched what has been happening in Portland, and I am thinking: “this is the border patrol that’s on the street of Portland trying to control Black Lives Matter and saying that they are terrorists.” So, where are borders? I think race has always been sort of a borderland issue and I think there are huge connections conceptually and politically in terms of how we react to borders and race in our internal cities. Everybody has been appalled by what happened in Portland and some other cities, but if you have paid attention to Homeland Security and ICE and the borderland areas in the past god-knows-how-many-years, what happened in Portland would be zero surprise to you (see Doty 2009 ). So, I thought that maybe I would do one last project along these lines as my final academic gig.

My sister lives in Minneapolis. Her son is bi-racial. He could be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It just becomes personal and very disturbing. I feel powerless, and honestly, as an Anglo-white woman, I think it’s time for white people to shut up and listen. To listen to what African American leaderships are saying about Black lives matter. I want to try and say something about all this without trying to dominate the conversation.

In my university today, there are about twelve black and BAME [black, Asian and minority ethnic] women professors. But actually, there are quite a few non-white professors at Warwick, the majority of whom are international scholars; people like myself, Mustapha, and Krishna, who came to do a PhD and settled in for whatever reasons and didn’t go back. And it always bothers me, because as I’ve been at Warwick for 30 years now: my students have become more diverse in the color of their skins and less diverse in terms of the depth of their pockets. So, class and race: when you don’t get the two together, it really bothers me.

And that filters into some of the things that I am now working on: gender and work, especially, racialized care work, which is presently under real scrutiny. Even mainstream newspapers are writing about this issue in terms of Covid-19. Care work is now being disproportionately placed on those communities that are most vulnerable to COVID, namely, BAME communities.

I’m tired of these people who have “discovered” race. I wrote my dissertation on Afrocentrism and World Politics, which ended up becoming my first book (Henderson 1995 ). Originally, I was going to conduct a quantitative analysis of propositions from Afrocentric theory, but when I looked I just kept coming across vulgar Afrocentrism. Harold Cruise [the founding Director of the Black Studies Center at University of Michigan] would challenge me during my graduate studies: “What does an Afrocentric state look like? How would it operate in practice?” He was a materialist, he didn’t like all the romantic stuff. So, mine was a critical empirical Afrocentrism. I had to go back to Cheikh Anta Diop, St Clair Drake, Anna Julia Cooper, WEB Du Bois, Walter Rodney. And in the book published out of my dissertation, just look among those whose work I cite: Imari Obadele, former political prisoner from the Republic of New Africa, and Chokwe Lumumba. I wanted to show that this too is our scholarship. That’s not even to mention mentors like Professor Ron Walters [see above]. But IR scholarship hardly deals with the Afrocentric scholarship of the 1980s and 1990s. Ron Walters called this “footnote apartheid”. I call it “bibliocide”.

Most professors in the US have never been activists, and activists are rarely professors. When people write as if we—activists/professors—don’t exist, then I have a problem. I didn’t attend my graduation from Michigan. That day I was at the gang summit in Kansas City. We brought together over 200 sets (i.e. gangs) from 22 different cities to organize a national peace treaty. So, when it comes to white supremacism, the reason I privilege so much the empirical work is that I want a theory that allows us to develop strategy to actually change the concrete reality that folks exist in (see for example Henderson and Leng 1999 ); as an activist I don’t care about changing folks’ mind but rather their behavior, specifically, their white racist behavior and their institutions that perpetuate it/them.

There’s a recent cottage industry of scholars talking about race in IR, but are they talking about white supremacism? I don’t do “race”—I do white supremacism. And I’m not talking about Pan-Africanism because I’m black. But in a white supremacist system, a Pan-Africanist transformation will transform the whole system because black is the lowest of the low. That’s what I want to challenge; that’s my project. And I don’t believe that oppression anywhere is oppression everywhere. I don’t do my politics by bromide or aphorism. Remember the story about one person from the tribe of Levi, one from the tribe of Judah, and a Samaritan. And one “good Samaritan” could teach the whole world a lesson. Now, why can’t 40 million African-Americans teach a universal lesson? I’m not trying to prove anything more than I can demonstrate. I’m taking up the obligation that I was taught by black folks who made a way for me; and that which they left to me and others.

Some people find my work a little too tame because I don’t gravitate to some of the more post-structuralist/critical theory perspectives. I find myself in this limbo land, where, for instance, a lot of people in this conversation don’t really engage in my work– no offense taken! At the same time, the power structure also doesn’t systematically engage with my work. My scholarship was picked up primarily by people who work on human rights and that eviscerated its critical edge. People often read the synthesized version of my work while the original version had much more of a southern African edge to it with a much more bottom-up argument (see for example Klotz 1993 ). I was also pegged as someone who provides case studies and so I am oftentimes shoved into a literature review as an interesting case of apartheid. I am not, therefore, an IR theorist. This is part of the problem of getting race to be taken seriously: you get shoved into the case studies thing.

I spent a lot of my career, over the last 20 years certainly, working on migration. That’s a parallel that I’ve noticed before between me and Roxanne [Doty]. We both started out in one way and we both segue to being concerned about migration at the same time that we’ve been thinking about race. We do it from different theoretical lenses which is fine. The point is that people who work on migration talk about race all the time. For me, it’s like hanging out with the Africanists. It’s the part of the water that you swim in. If you are a migration scholar, that’s just taken as a given. So, you don’t have to spend a lot of time telling people to talk about race because it’s already there.

But I want to finish by talking about institutional structures of power. There continues to be the need for a lot of people to have sponsors rather than mentors, and they tend to be white men. In fact, white men are still, most of the time, the gatekeepers and the controllers of access to the academy and those highly visible avenues through which work gets noticed and debated. Over the years I have watched people who are supposedly advancing issues of Global South agency kowtowing to powerful white guys even when other scholars, including people in our present conversation, are actually doing the substantive work. By the way, I was lucky to have Locksley [Edmondson] mentoring me. So, as we older folks move up through the system, I think we have made some progress in opening doors in a variety of institutions. But we are nowhere near where we would really need to be to have these issues addressed from the center.

I will give one example. I was asked to contribute to a book that came out a few years ago on the state of the constructivist debate. We had a conference, as you often do with these things. In the conference itself, nobody was even willing to engage in that question. We talked quite a bit about gender because Ann Tickner happened to wander into the workshop. In my paper I combined conversations about gender and race, because constructivism is pretty bad on both of those. So, we had all these hidden conversations. When I saw the final edited volume, I realized the editors had not asked a single person to address the critique that I had raised in the workshop. Nothing in the volume addressed anything concerning what I called the race gap. One or two people mentioned issues of race because they have already been thinking about these things albeit not extensively. So, I figure that we still need those editors to push people to actually be accountable for some of these arguments. We are still getting shoved to the side. I have been able to put some of these issues on the table precisely because I am a white woman and some people didn’t find that presence quite as threatening.

Race, for me, has become more interesting in the course of studying critical theology. I began to see the theological formation of race, and how religion has been critical in the formation of racial categories (Pasha 2017 ). There are multiple pathways; I cannot draw a straight line or a linear pathway.

But to finish with, I want to say that we have a very rich theoretical and conceptual apparatus of visibility and invisibility. We cannot treat race as an exogenous category, bringing it in and bringing it out, zooming in and zooming out conveniently. Instead, we need to use that apparatus to treat race as an integral part of understanding critical theory, of understanding our enterprise of IR. We really need to work as a collective, as a team, to come at this issue and make it more legible and visible (see Pasha 2016 ).

Many of us were working on this issue in the early 1990s. Of course, Robert [Vitalis] has demonstrated race’s congenital presence to IR: his book has completely demolished the mainstream narrative. Rob [Walker], of course, has been supporting these efforts for a long time, and his role as an editor of the journal Alternatives cannot be minimized in any sense. He has been pivotal in his own way, supporting these efforts and collective projects. So, I am thankful for all these people coming together.

So, have things changed? The short answer to that is yes. And I want to make a distinction between the discipline and reality that it studies. As a discipline, absolutely. A very crude indicator: just the level of social comfort that I, Shampa, Mustapha, or Randolph etc. feel at the ISA today is incomparable with our first trips there 20 years ago. And there now exists journals where I could conceive of sending a piece like my first writings and having a shot at being published there. The editorial boards are different: they are younger and more diverse in terms of race. There’s also a corpus of publications that you can now draw upon and reference. All of those things build a kind of momentum. But I am always skeptical about what that means as far as reality is concerned. We know that racial hierarchies, patriarchy etc. are perhaps embedded deeper than before, because let’s not forget we have now had four full decades of the neoliberal project working itself out.

Aside from that, what has really struck me between the eyes over the last 10 years is the extraordinary degree to which we Indians and South Asians are racist. Everything that I had been observing about IR in terms of strategies of abstraction and amnesia when it came to race, well, the upper caste middle-class India was doing vis-à-vis our own social formation. So rather than decolonize IR, which is, I think, a thankless venture—forms of representation are always going to follow material distributions of power and so there is a contradiction built into that business of decolonizing IR without decolonizing the world—I am more interested now in understanding how a figure like Gandhi helped Indian middle class secure itself as decolonial, as progressive etc. (Krishna 2015 ).

How did our narratives of the Indian national movement—Shirin, you and I grew up reading in those new textbooks—how did they make the middle class in India so oblivious to its own racism? I think we are seeing the wages of that occlusion today, as a Hindu fundamentalist party not only has India by the jugular, but looks like it has transformed the Indian experiment in ways that there may be no coming back from. So for me, the study of race and the study of the absence of race in IR has now come full circle home. I am less interested in decolonizing the North American discipline and more invested in thinking about the enormous similarity between how white IR has produced and reproduced itself and how upper caste Brahmin Hindu India has produced and reproduced itself… with probably very fatal consequences in both places.

I want to finish by recalling the day I decided that I was going to study IR. Some idiotic French man comes to class and tells me: “Kaiser Canal belongs to the Germans”, “Panama Canal belongs to Americans because Americans dug it”, and that the Suez Canal was international until Nasser changed it. I raised my hand and said “what makes Kaiser Canal German?” and he said “well, because it’s in Germany and the Germans dug it”; and I said: “Is Suez French territory?”. The idea that Nasser was mistaken because he changed the international order: seriously? The conceit that Nasser could not change the international order, but the French could? I still have the copy of my class notes! The idea that we can’t see in other people who we are, and we can’t imagine other people doing what we do, desire what we desire, and act upon them in the way that we do: why not? That’s how I came into race and IR.

And then in America race became about identity, and I have been struggling with that. I don’t want someone to see me as black. I want them to let me tell them I am black and what that means to me and to them. Because I am black, but it is not for you to tell me that; I know that, and I tell you what that means, because that’s what tells me about my humanity and yours (Grovogui 2001 ). But this idea that everywhere I go it is about identity—I fill out a form which asks if I am black or whatever descent—even today it bothers me profoundly. In Africana studies we are trying to talk about the post-Freud moment, and we forget that people who fought for civil rights in this country actually were not the identity that we are today.

When Martin Luther King went to India, he was invited by the premier of Kerala, who was a communist, to a school and the school teacher introduced him as a Dalit. That is a fact. If we forget that then we lose something about what race has done to us and how we can actually use it productively, in many ways. Yes: MLK went to India, he went to Kerala, and he was called a Dalit. So, for me, talking about race is always to talk about humanism and humanity. One more story. When Joe Slovo [a South African politician from a Jewish-Lithuanian family, a leader of the South African Communist Party, as well as a commander in the ANC’s military arm during apartheid] died, a 14-year-old black South African nearly punched another black 14-year-old in his face when the latter said “you are going to the funeral of that white man?” The other 14-year-old said, “that is not a white man, that is Joe Slovo”. Today you could not say that in South Africa.

One of the worlds I inhabit right now is with a group of activists who draw attention to the dangers of radioactive contamination around nuclear sites globally. It’s a real motley crew of downwinders, public health experts, scholars, artists, etc. We know that radiation itself is invisible, right? It has no sound or color or smell—it’s inaudible, it’s invisible, it’s impervious to the senses. But it’s all around us—the background condition of our lives. In fact, we have decided as a society that there is a certain acceptable level of background radiation, an elevated level since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as atomic tests around the world. We take it for granted and that’s ok.

I feel like that’s also the case for racism in IR. It sometimes feels like even most of the antiracist work in IR accepts a certain level of racism as given. People in my community of activists working on radioactive exposure say: “even if you can’t see radiation, once you see it, you cannot unsee it. You always see it as present around you and inside of you—it’s always there”. And I feel like that’s the case with race: once you see it, you can’t unsee it. There’s a lot of psychic labor that goes into unseeing it and I think that’s true of a lot of our colleagues in the discipline. They see race, they have seen race, they have been led to see race, but they work at not seeing race. It feels to me that some of the shock that came after the George Floyd murder—with all these liberal woke people wanting to have all kinds of forums on race—I feel like it comes out of a sense of release that people feel from having to acknowledge something that they have seen all along but have been working not to see.

But in my world of nuclear activists who see radiation everywhere, they don’t always see race everywhere, and of course, the nuclear world is thoroughly racialized (Biswas 2014 ). From Uranium mining to nuclear testing sites to the treatment of nuclear workers, including at Hanford near where I live now, it’s a thoroughly racialized world. I love those activists, I think they are wonderful people. But learning to see race everywhere and all the time in the same way that you see radiation everywhere takes practice.

Once I saw race—race as lived condition, race as a structuring principle of the world—there was for me no way to unsee it, even though, like Shirin, I don’t identify as a scholar of race. When people ask me what my expertise is, I will usually say nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, global nationalism as a form of racism, global developmentalism as a form of racism, I’d even say postcolonial theory, but I rarely identify myself as a scholar of race. And I think there’s a question here for us as a community to think about: what authorizes us as scholars of race? What makes us experts in race?

Even if I don’t identify as a scholar of race, race informs everything I write and how I write, how I teach, how I parent, the ways I inhabit my institution, my workplace. And I also want to say in that context, that it is not just depressing; all the anti-racist work and pedagogy that I do is joyful and inspiring. And I think we need to hold onto that, too. And it’s one of the reasons why being in this community of scholars feels joyful. It’s important to remember how the ISA went from being a very unjoyful to a joyful place once I found a community of scholars who work on race, who engage with race as a problematic.

I have one final comment, which several people have already picked up on. Learning to see race does not automatically make it easy to learn how to navigate different worlds. I find all of us have lived these worlds in somewhat schizophrenic ways, depending on where we find ourselves. For me, this came to a head in 1998 when India became a nuclear power, which I found to be an absolutely indefensible decision. And yet I found myself defending it in some circles in the US because of the racist backlash, or the ways that people in the US represented that decision. So, for me, seeing race and learning to live with a racialized consciousness is to learn to speak in multiple registers simultaneously (see Biswas 2001 ). For me, that also means trying to make sense of living as a settler colonialist where I live right now. Krishna talked about the racism in Indian communities, both in India as well as in the Indian diaspora, and that’s always a negotiation. There is no easy resolution there.

It seems to me that bringing in intersectionality could be a really critical intervention in addressing not only race but intersecting oppressions in our work and in our everyday lives. My edited volume with Geeta Chowdhry back in the early 2000s, Power, Postcolonialism and International Relations (Chowdhry and Nair 2002 ), which many of you here contributed to, grew out of our conversations about what we felt was missing in this regard. These were conversations that we had over lunches and dinners, brown bags, colloquia, and ISA meetings. It was clear to me back then and now that many of us feel very similarly about these questions even if we come at them informed by our own experiences. Keeping some of these criticisms in mind, we still need to acknowledge the ways in which race, gender, and class, but clearly also sexuality, ableism, and caste (among other things) intersect, oppress and transform social relations and political discourse.

Like Shampa and others here, I don’t consider myself a scholar of race per se. My work on Southeast Asia has been really formative though in terms of how I think about racial and ethnic constructs and their intersection with class and gender. I was struck by what Krishna said about moving away from studying race in North America towards studying caste in India. I think he raises some fascinating points about the futility of decolonizing white or racialized IR. I am not ready to give up on that, but I do agree that there might be other more productive and potentially less futile ways to engage questions of race in IR in our teaching and scholarship.

I have been recently working on a paper on two Southeast Asian writers: Pramoedya Ananta Toer (Indonesia) and Vu Trong Phung (Viet Nam) in the hope that I can show how these authors grappled with and navigated in their work the break with Eurocentrism and its postcolonial afterlives. For instance, I am very interested in Pramoedya’s work on the Chinese in Indonesia. The ethnic and class stratified Dutch colonial society in which the Chinese were inserted in the “privileged” middle but were later seized upon as an opportunistic, immigrant economic elite with communist aspirations, had “fatal consequences” as well, to use Krishna’s phrase. What this illustrates is of course how race and racialization (a juxtaposition of ethnic Chinese and native Indonesian identities, for example, by the colonial and postcolonial state) have different meanings and implications in the Indonesian context than it might in the US, but at the same time allows us to make connections that might otherwise not be made between the here and there.

Shifting course a bit, I wonder, as junior scholars anticipate where and how they can make their mark, whether there is any more openness and interest for critical studies on race in IR than when I first started in the field. Journals also play a gatekeeping role in terms of what gets counted as credible scholarship. While some of us are content to stay in our non-mainstream areas and to disidentify with IR, we might be contributing to a sort of disengagement that leaves us with little power to assist in creating a more expansive embrace of critical intersectional work in IR or serve as a resource for young scholars. It’s very hard to get a critical paper on race published, for example, in International Organization. I’m not saying that’s the only objective; and we should be happy publishing in other spaces. Besides, mainstream journals are themselves reproducing forms of racialized power and instituting relations in the academy that are policing and oppressive. But for junior scholars, as for us all, the challenge remains as to how to make race and its intersections become a much more focal and critical engagement in the discipline and not banished to IR’s periphery.

Well, I want to approach race and racism in the current moment by thinking about militarization. I’ve been looking at the way that native people were treated in US warfare and that has helped me to provide a different explanation of American political development and its institutions. Basically, it’s about how we got to be this continental imperial settler state. The idea that Europeans came to North America—an empty continent—and then just closed the frontier at some point is so enraging and erasing. No. Something else was going on. The US was constantly at war. And wars make states, right? So the story of American political development must be told, hand in hand, with how the continent was settled. Force is the American way of politics and all the way along we’re waist deep in the blood. There is a thread of American diplomatic history that stresses the U.S. as an isolated and essentially peaceful country until it is dragged into the World Wars. But if we take the long view, from the colonial era forward, there was no period of isolation.

Focusing on the “Indian Wars”—that’s what they were called, I’m not saying it’s the appropriate nomenclature—is a way of telling the story of American foreign policy and domestic politics all at the same time. It exemplifies the persistent way in which the US fights by focusing on civilians: either destroying their food, or trying to coerce them directly by annihilation or encirclement or dispossession or through reservations. It’s about controlling citizens, even when it’s about trying to win hearts and minds. The US wars of the 21st century have their roots in the American way of war of the 1600s, 1700s and 1800s. And that’s where you get to racism.

In fact, this form of warfare originally comes from the Greeks and Romans. (So I might be telling a Eurocentric story here, but it’s a different kind of Eurocentric story.) It’s used by the British against the Irish [beginning in the late 1500 s with the wars to establish English “plantations”]. And that’s a war definitely pursued in racialized terms. There’s always an othering of the people you want to harm, and the rationale is that these people were supposedly savages. [Gaelic Irish peoples were compared to native Americans by English colonizers]. The starvation and the beheading, the sort of sheer terrorism of the Irish occupation by the English: the same people go and do that in North America! It’s a way of war.

And so I think racism is an essential part of the story. But let me be clear, it’s not the only thing going on. I’m trying to get at an ideology about the utility of force when applied to civilians. Think about World War Two. The starvation blockade of Germany was not about different races, but it certainly targeted civilians; so too strategic bombardment in both Germany and Italy. It’s interesting to think about all this in terms of 2020.

I want to finish by going back to the native American peace confederacies. One of the things I’ve been saying for a while is not simply that another world is possible; in fact, we’ve always had another world. The world has been otherwise, and it could still be so. We can of course go into bloody detail about the physical, ideological and economic mechanisms of domination. But we also need to think about what native peoples were doing—what were their institutions? There’s an agency there that doesn’t have to be just framed in terms of what the dominant actor ends up being and doing. We have to talk about different forms of relating, for instance, different systems of justice.

In my recent work I have become interested in the way in which race is always thought of as a thing of the past and as something that is not sexually and gender informed and shaped (Agathangelou and Killian 2017 ). In a temporal sense, all empires and centers of global power tend to think of race as something of the past—e.g. enslavement or colonization—and even going so far as to set it up against sexuality and gender, while as a counterpoint they conceive of themselves as authoring a new modern world. Thinking race through temporality is crucial. Time itself structures race and writes most global raciality projects.

But I also wanted to finish by responding to Bob [Vitalis]. You were talking about how we tell this story of race and IR: who were the first? Etc. But in this conversation, we’ve also talked about our own stories. Have they only been about race? We have talked about identity, colonial and enslaving structures that modernity depends upon and then abstracts away from. The point I am making is one that addresses Sheila’s question about how we live, relate and work with junior scholars. I do not think they should do “what we do”. We need to think about what conversations we can have with junior scholars and our students in terms of their own existential anxieties, concerns, questions.

This is also part of the problematic that we are trying to grapple with: there is always this idea of the “mentor” training the “apprentice”. I am not entirely against that, but I think it nonetheless goes against a peripatetic and poetic way of understanding our present conditions. It goes against education and learning as an organic relation that is not independent of the society in which we exist, as I said in the beginning of our conversation. Are we, as academics and members of the world, willing to create the conditions and work with our junior faculty and students and others to cultivate an eco-system suitable for all peoples to grow up in the best possible and most thriving manner?

And there is another issue connected to this question of “training”. Recalling what [Sankaran] Krishna said, I think we do feel that there is a bit more space in ISA nowadays, partially because lot more of us are there. But then I wonder whether there is a way for us to be exerting more pressure in the way we imagine, articulate and organize the field. Because there is hardly ever an accounting of the people that brought race to the table of IR. For me, race was always there: it was anti-colonial movements—people from the Second and Third World—who brought race to the table. And they were always bringing gender too; these were never separated, ever! If I am black man from Africa or a Cypriot woman from Cyprus I am already bringing those things to the table. And as I said previously, white supremacy, racial capitalism and patriarchy are not separated from each other. They are interlinked.

But the problem—as Krishna was saying—is that disciplinary forms of organizing, whether it be through journals or panels etc. are not conducive to asking such questions and taking account of them. Instead, it always has to begin and end with the academic field such that our material and political collective conditions are deemed not important to and in conversation with scholarship. So, the field becomes a prioritizing mechanism through which we write anything except our life conditions, our form and shape, and how we relate and speak to the field. This is another way to think about what the ‘next generation” means: how we engage with each other (senior, junior etc.) but also how the field is articulated and how we claim the field itself. Academic IR cannot dictate to us what we must prioritize. This field is us; the field is not a universal, a formal static entity; it is a materiality, a configuration, which includes mechanisms of violence and possibility that do facilitate expropriation and exploitation but also can create the intellectual tools that can rupture “this” world for a planetary otherwise.

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In conversation with Anna M. Agathangelou, Shampa Biswas, Neta Crawford, Roxanne Doty, Locksley Edmondson, Siba N. Grovogui, Errol Henderson, Audie Klotz, Sankaran Krishna, Sheila Nair, Mustapha Kamal Pasha, Randolph B. Persaud, Shirin M. Rai, Robert Vitalis, and Rob Walker.

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Shilliam, R. Race and racism in international relations: retrieving a scholarly inheritance. Int Polit Rev 8 , 152–195 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41312-020-00084-9

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Leaving Cert Notes and Sample Answers

US race relations, 1945-1968 for Leaving Cert History #625Lab

What were the main developments in race relations in the US, 1945-1968?

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In 1776, the Declaration of Independence stated that all US citizens were born equal, but this certainly was not the case for African-Americans in the US. Up until the 1960s, the black community were treated like second class citizens in all aspects of American life and society, and the Jim Crow laws implemented in the South further segregated US society. In 1896, the Supreme Court even ruled segregation constitutional in the case of Plessy vs Ferguson. However, with the growth of the mass media following World War II amd ( amid ) increased influence among the black community, African Americans began to demand their rights. In what would be a slow process, the Civil Rights movement succeeded in winning equal rights for all by 1965.

United States race relations, 1945-1968 for Leaving Cert History

The first main development in race relations was the desgregation ( desegregation ) of the US army. Before World War II, African Americans were not permitted to join the Air Corps or Marines. Throughout the war, the army was segregated by race, but white officers were placed in charge of black contingents. In 1946, President Harry Truman established a Committee on Civil Rights, which recommended integrating the armed forces. In 1947, Truman began to undertake their suggestions and started the process of integration. This was a major development in race relations, as it was the first official step towards equality and represented presidential support for the Civil Rights Movement.

Another major development in race relations was the gradual integration of the education system. In 1954, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which was established in 1909 to fight for the constitutional rights of African-Americans, took the case of Brown vs Topeka to the Supreme Court. A young girl, Linda Brown, was not permitted to attend a local white school and therefore had to travel miles to school each day. The NAACP argued that this was unconstituional ( unconstitutional ) under the 14th Ammendment ( Amendment ) and won the case. Segreation ( Segregation ) is ( in ) all schools was then ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. However, the process of integration was not an easy one. In 1957, President Eisenhower was forced to send federal forces into Little Rock High School in Arkansas to protect nine black students from violence. Similarly, in 1962, President Kennedy sent forces into the University of Mississippi to protect African-American student James Meredith from protestors. Although the process of integration caused violent outbursts and riots amongst some members of the public, it was clearly successful as in 1969, 20% of black children attended previously white schools, compared to 1% in 1959.

The next major development in US race relations was undoubtedly the integration of public facilities. The fight for equality in this area was sparked in December 1955 when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery and was subsequently arrest. Montgomery had a 40% black population and some of the most restrictive segregation laws in the US. The Montgomery Bus Boycott was them launched by Jo-Ann Robinson and the NAACP in December 1955. It lasted 381 days in total and cost the bus companies $250,000. Overall, the boycott proved to be a huge success for the Civil Rights Movement, as segregation on public transport was ruled illegal in November 1956.

Similarly, the process of peaceful protests known as “sit-ins” became popular amongst students and members of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). It was sparked in 1960 in North Carolina, when four black students sat down in a segregated restaurant and asked to be served. Hundreds of thousands of other students followed suit, and soon all public facilities in the south were integrated. During the Freedom Rides of 1961, activists rode around the southern cities on buses, ensuring that the equality laws were being enforced.

Perhaps one of the biggest developments in race relations in the US was the progressive leadership of Martin Luther King Jnr. A charismatic, energetic and well-educated pastor, King became the face of the Civil Rights Movement. King promoted peaceful protests and resistance and called for interracial cooperation. A pacifist, King was a believer in using peaceful means to gain equal voting rights for African-Americans. Previously, African-Americans were impeded from voting by unfair poll tax and literacy tests. King’s motto was “free by ‘63” and he led his followers in numerous peaceful marches of resistance, such as his march to Selma.

King’s most influential march was that of August 196, where he led 200,000 of his followers to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. and delivered his “I have a dream” speech. This directly resulted in one of the biggest developments in US race relations at the time: the passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 and the Voting Rights Act in 1965. Passed by President Johnson, these acts gave, legally, equality to all and banned discrimination on grounds of race. It also gave equal voting rights to all African-Americans in the south and was a major achievement for both King and all organisations involved in the Civil Rights Movement.

However, a militant side of the Civil Rights Movement also developed, with the leader of SNCC, Stokely Carmichael, openly denouncing interracial cooperation by 1964. In 1966, the paramilitary group, the Black Panthers, were set up under Huey Newton. Tired of what they viewed as King’s ‘useless rhetoric’, the black nationalist group called on African-Americans to stockpile weapons to use against the police. As a result of these organisations and the growing racial conflict, hundreds of riots broke out during the summers of 1966 and 1967 in Chicago, Detroit and New Jersey. In 1967 alone, 83 people died as a result of over 160 riots. Elsewhere, the Ku Klux Klan were openly terrorising members of the black community, sending them violent threats and warnings. Due to this growth in violence, a huge gap developed between members of the black and white communities and tension and violence grew as a result.

Another development in race relations at this time was how the black Civil Rights Movement inspired other minorities to fight for their rights. The ‘Brown Power’ movement of the Mexican-Americans were one such group that emerged. In 1967, the ‘Red Power’ movement of the native American-Indians began fighting for their rights too, and staged a massive protest in this year.

Therefore, I believe it is clear that there was some major developments in race relations in the US from 1945-1968. Although not always easy, the new middle-class black community that emerged in the decades after World War II used their new-found affluence and education to campaign for their rights. Slowly but surely, every aspect of American life was integrated, as a result of the hard work and dedication of many organisations and individuals. Although the movement later took a violent turn, it was the peaceful tactics used that led to the passing of laws which are still relevant in the US today and help to make America a more tolerant and equal society.

Feedback: This is a good essay that answers the question in a comprehensive and well-written way. It’s great that you included a paragraph about other minorities as it shows that you know the topic really well. It’s a good length for an essay, and all the information you include is relevant and accurate, and you mention plenty of key personalities. To improve, try to include a few quotations from historians or historical figures. Be careful of small spelling errors like the ones I’ve highlighted in bold, as examiners will be watching out for things like this. Don’t use personal phrases like “I believe” in a history essay as you ought to be objective. Instead of “therefore” in your conclusion, it might be better to simply say “in conclusion”, in order to highlight the fact that the essay is ending.

Cumulative Mark: This essay could definitely achieve 60/60 for its cumulative mark.

Overall Evaluation Mark: I would give this about 27 out of 40 for its overall evaluation mark. Total Mark: 87/100

Another essay for the same title. Credit: Caoimhe Flynn

Race relations in America from 1945 to 1968 were a hugely topical issue and significant change was brought about during this time. After the emancipation of slavery in the 1800’s, black people were living in slavery in all but name. This is because of the Jim Crowe laws, mainly enforced in the South of the country which were put in place to ensure that black people would always remain inferior to the white community. The 1896 case of Plessey vs Ferguson ruled that segregation was legal once the facilities remained equal, a condition that we know was not adhered to. The civil rights movement began when black people realised that they deserved better and used the method of peaceful protest to achieve desegregation in education, transport and public spaces, which all concluded with the signing of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights act in 1964 and 1965 respectively. This time was hugely significant for the black community in American and brought about great change for a country that was deeply racist.

Truman began to desegregate the army to try and improve race relations. Truman was the first American President to address the problem of segregation facing his country. After fighting for their country and seeing many fellow African Americans die whilst fighting they felt that they deserve equal rights due to the sacrifice which they had made for America. African Americans fought in separate units, and after seeing how integrated England was and experiencing an integrated society the Black soldiers wanted that in their own country. It was also difficult for the United States to reprimand other countries for human rights violations whilst treating its black citizens so poorly. It was ironic that the American troops were fighting against the segregation in Nazi Germany whilst there was segregation occurring in their own backyard. Segregation brought international shame to the US and Truman decided to desegregate the army in an attempt to reduce this shame. This was a positive step in the right direction however was not enough to drastically change race relations in America.

The segregation of schools could no longer be justified by Plessey vs Ferguson and were challenged by the Civil Rights movement. Linda Brown was the first civil rights case to be brought to the Supreme Court. Linda Brown was a 3rd Grade African American Girl who had to walk 20 blocks past the local white school in order to attend the Black school. Her father supported by the NAACP reinforced a message that segregate schools were separate and therefore unequal challenging the Plessey vs Ferguson case. The Board of Education argued that segregated schools were preparing the children for what they would face in later life however it was decided that ‘ separate ( separate ) educational facilities are naturally unequal’ and it was decided that schools across America should be desegregated. This was a positive move however there was no deadline for this ruling and want Southern States remained segregated. One school in Little Rock, Arkansas, attempted to become integrated, however when 9 Black students tried to enroll ( enroll ) they were met by state troops and a mob of protesters. Paratroopers were sent by the President to protect these students for 1 year. These students faced horrendous punishment, through abuse, both physical and verbal, along with expulsion over minute offenses such as standing up for themselves. The events at Little Rock were deemed unconstitutional and brought about great support for the civil rights movement due to the media coverage. Ernest Green became the first African American to graduate from Little Rock Central High School in 1958. The improvements in integrating the education system were a major leap forward for the movement and showed them the value of using the Supreme Court to make real changes.

Protests in Montgomery led to the desegregation of buses and the emergence of strong leaders for the Civil Rights movement. Montgomery was a hugely segregated city even though there was a large minority of 40% African American. This group were the main users of the bus service, however this along with most other public services was segregated, with black people suffering abuse from drivers and being forced to stand in order to give a white person a seat. Rosa Parks was the first high profile case to be taken after she defied this segregation and refused to give up her seat to a white person. On the day of her trial, the 5th of December 1955, a boycott of the bus service was planned by the Women’s Council to protest segregation on buses. It was well organised, with carpools being arranged and taxis offering cheaper fares so that boycotters could get to work. The boycott faced a lot of resistance during its 11 month duration, with carpool stations being targeted by the KKK and people being arrested for loitering whilst waiting for taxis. MLK emerged as a strong leader as he urged the black community in his city and church to commit to the boycott and remain peaceful. He met with bus company managers, whom eventually agreed to their demands of desegregated buses, black drivers and fair treatment to all passengers. MLK and other leaders rode on the first desegregated bus. This was a step forward for the movement however the ruling did not spread to all cities across America.

The events such as the lunch counter sit ins and the freedom rides highlighted the persistence of the black protesters and desegregated towns and buses across America. The student sit ins began on February 1st 1960, when 4 African-American students sat at a white lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina and philately asked to be served. They were refused and day by day, respectably dressed black students joined the movement at lunch counters across America. As the protest grew so did opposition, with students being harassed verbally and physically; one protesters coat was even set on fire. By the end of 1960, economic pressure grew for the company and they eventually desegregated lunch counters across America, with the movement spreading to libraries and churches, towns began desegregated. Even though towns were becoming desegregated and buses had previously been desegregated, bus stations and buses in some states, mainly the deep south like Birmingham, Alabama remained extremely racist and segregated. The SNCC took up freedom riders who would ride through the towns to protest segregation on buses. They faced great resistance with buses being set on fire and over 200 riders were arrested. The governor did little ti protect the protesters until he was put under pressure by President JFK. Black Americans had achieved great success in desegregating towns across America, but also showed that they were no longer willing to be intimidated.

MLK and the SCLC turned their efforts to desegregating Birmingham, Alabama. According to MLK Birmingham was the most segregated city in America. Employment and public facilities including bathrooms, benches and water fountains were all segregated. Fair grounds and to hold ‘coloured days’ and in 1962, the city council closed off all public facilities to black people. In April 1963 MLK and other leaders continued their tactic of peaceful protest, and although protected by the constitution, a circuit court judged ruled their protest illegal, leading to the arrest of 500 people including MLK’s. To continue the campaign a ‘children’s crusade’, including thousands of school children, were trained in peaceful protest and they marched through the city. Bull O’Conner, the deeply racist Commissioner of Public Safety ruled for the use of water canons, dogs and batons to break up the children. Photos and videos of the events became widespread and caused uproar. The mayor agreed to meet leaders and they came to agreement to desegregate business in Birmingham. The events in Birmingham brought further need for a civil rights bill and led to President JFK saying that America ‘will not be fully free until all of it’s ( its ) citizens are free’, showing the governments support for equal rights and commitment to the Civil Rights Bill.

The March of Washington showed the support for the civil rights movement and brought about the end of leal ( legal ) segregation in America. On August 28th 1963 the March on Washington riveted the nation. An attendance of 100,000 was expected but 200,00 people black and white showed up to call on the President and Congress to provide ‘Jobs and Freedom’ for black people in America. The group marched to Lincoln Memorial where Martin Luther King delivered his iconic ‘I had a dream’ speech. He made the movement personal which drew support. MLK was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. In 1964, President Johnson followed on in the late JFK’s honour and signed the Civil Rights Bill into the constitution. It brought about the end of legal segregation in America and became known as the ‘second emacipation ( emancipation )’ . This was a huge victory for the civil rights movement and brought about great ( great ) change in America however voting was still extremal unequal leading to a lack of representation in government.

Even though the Civil Rights act had been passed, Voting inequality remained a problem for African American people in America. Black people were prevented from voting by literacy tests, poll taxes and intimidation, all which were aimed at maintaining white dominance in government. The SNCC and SCNL decided to protest this and targeted their efforts at one of the worst effected ( affected ) areas, Selma, Alabama, where only 2% of eligible African Americans were registered to vote. Segregationist governor, George Wallace was a strong opposer of the movement and his violent reaction would bring publicity and support for the movement. After prominent Civil rights campaigner was killed whilst protesting Voting discrimination, a march was planned from Selma to Montgomery, 54miles between two of the most segregated cities in the country. The first march was cut short after 1/2 mile when marchers were charged by the police with batons and teargas. The second march was stopped by Martin Luther King, who turned back when he saw the flashing police lights ahead so to not endanger the marchers. The third march was successful as President Johnson sent paratroopers to protect the marchers. It took them 5 days to get to Montgomery and over 30000 people joined the march. The Voting rights Bill was eventually passed in 1964 and gave Black people better representation at all levels of government.

The civil rights movement in America achieved significant gains in the years 1945-1968. Through peaceful protest the movement highlights the deep segregation in society and the imminent need for change. Peaceful demonstrations were generally attacked by segregationists often forcing the judicial system to step in and help. Using these tactics American buses, schools and public places were desegregated. Monumental legislation such at the Civil Rights Bill and the Voting Rights Act enshrined in law the protection of the rights of African Americans and ended legal segregation. However despot ( despite ) all this black people living in America still face racism and inequality on a daily basis, with recent Black Lives Matter movements and poverty remaining high among the African American community. We are still left dreaming, like MLK in 1963 of an America where ‘children are judged on the content of their character and not the colour of their skin’.

Feedback : This is a good essay that answers the question well with lots of relevant and accurate factual information. You also make good use of quotation, so keep this up. Your introduction gives good context and lays out the essay well, and your conclusion is good as it sums up the essay but also adds something more by tying it into the present day. All of your paragraphs are good, but it might be good to highlight how each of these events are a new development, and to comment on whether this was a positive or negative development. Watch out for small spelling errors, and always spell out numbers under 101. 

Cumulative Mark : As this essay only has 9 paragraphs, each paragraph would need to achieve 6 or 7 marks for you to reach the maximum 60 cumulative marks – as it stands, this would achieve around 55 marks out of 60. You can bring this up by adding extra paragraphs, or by splitting some of your current paragraphs to make more short paragraphs.

Overall Evaluation : For Overall Evaluation, this essay would achieve around 25 out of 40. To bring this up, you can improve the commentary that you make in each paragraph.

Total : 80/100

  • Post author: Martina
  • Post published: January 8, 2019
  • Post category: #625Lab History / History

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  • On Views of Race and Inequality, Blacks and Whites Are Worlds Apart
  • 2. Views of race relations

Table of Contents

  • 1. Demographic trends and economic well-being
  • 3. Discrimination and racial inequality
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Black and white Americans differ widely in views on race and race relations

There’s no consensus among American adults about the state of race relations in the U.S.: 48% say race relations are generally bad, and 44% say they are generally good. Similarly, when asked about the amount of attention paid to race and racial issues in the country these days, about as many say there is too much (36%) as say there is too little (35%) attention, while 26% say there is about the right amount of attention paid to these issues.

Overall, relatively few Americans think race relations are headed in a positive direction. Only 19% say race relations are improving, while about four-in-ten say they are getting worse (38%), and a similar share say things are staying about the same (41%). Those who already think race relations are bad are particularly likely to say things are getting even worse.

And there is no widespread agreement on how to make things better. When asked about the best approach to improving race relations, 55% of Americans say it’s more important for people to focus on what different racial and ethnic groups have in common, while fewer (31%) say the focus should be on what makes each group unique.

Opinions on these fundamental questions about race relations– where we are, how they can be improved, and how much attention the issue warrants – are sharply divided along racial lines. Blacks and whites are also divided in their views of Obama’s handling of race relations. Among whites, about as many say the president has made progress toward improving race relations (28%) as say he has made things worse (32%). In contrast, 51% of blacks say Obama has made progress on this issue; just 5% believe he has made race relations worse.

Blacks and Hispanics more likely to say race relations are bad

Whites divided over the state of race relations; blacks and Hispanics offer negative views

Views about the current state of race relations vary considerably across racial and ethnic lines. While whites are about equally likely to say race relations are good (46%) as to say they are bad (45%), the assessments of blacks and Hispanics are decidedly negative. About six-in-ten (61%) blacks say race relations in this country are bad, while 34% say they are good. Similarly, far more Hispanics say race relations are bad (58%) than say they are good (37%).

Roughly half or more of black adults across demographic groups express negative views about the current state of race relations. Among whites, views are also fairly consistent across gender, age, education and income groups, but opinions divide along political lines. About six-in-ten (59%) white Democrats say race relations in the U.S. are generally bad, while about a third (34%) say they’re good. In contrast, white Republicans are about evenly divided between those who say race relations are bad (46%) and those who say they’re good (48%). Among white independents, 49% offer positive assessments, while 39% say race relations are bad.

Overall, views of race relations are more positive now than they were a year ago. In May 2015, following unrest in Baltimore over the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who died while in police custody, far more Americans said race relations were bad (61%) than said they were good (34%), according to a CBS News/New York Times poll. At that time, whites (62%) were about as likely as blacks (65%) to say race relations were generally bad.

Even so, the public’s views of race relations are more negative now than they have been for much of the 2000s. Between February 2000 and May 2014, by double-digit margins, more said race relations were good than said they were bad. By August 2014, after the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old shot and killed by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, opinions had changed significantly: 47% described race relations in the U.S. as generally good and44% as generally bad.

Views of the state of race relations were particularly negative after the Los Angeles riots in 1992. In May 1992, about seven-in-ten (68%) Americans, including 67% of whites and 75% of blacks, said race relations were generally bad.

Views of race relations are more negative now than they have been for much of the 2000s

Few say race relations are improving

Most who say race relations are bad see no sign of improvement

About one-in-five (19%) Americans say race relations in the U.S. are getting better, while about four-in-ten (38%) say they are getting worse and about as many (41%) say they are staying about the same.

Those who say race relations are currently bad are particularly pessimistic: 54% say race relations are getting even worse, and 35% don’t see much change. Only one-in-ten of those who say race relations are bad believe they are improving. These views are shared about equally by whites, blacks and Hispanics who offer negative assessments of the current state of race relations.

Among those who say race relations are good, three-in-ten say they are getting better and roughly half (48%) say they are staying about the same; 21% say race relations are getting worse. Whites who say race relations are currently good offer a somewhat more negative assessment of where the country is headed on this issue than do blacks and Hispanics who say race relations are good. About a quarter (24%) of whites who say race relations are good believe they are getting worse, compared with 15% of blacks and Hispanics who feel that way.

More say focus should be on what different groups have in common

To improve race relations, more say focus should be on what racial and ethnic groups have in common

Far more Americans say that when it comes to improving race relations, it’s more important for people to focus on what different racial and ethnic groups have in common (55%) than say it’s more important to focus on the unique experiences of different racial and ethnic groups (31%).

This is particularly the case among whites, who are about twice as likely to say the focus should be on what different groups have in common (57%) rather than what makes different groups unique (26%). Hispanics also share this view by a margin of 54% to 37%.

Blacks are more evenly divided: 44% say it’s more important for people to focus on what makes different racial and ethnic groups unique, while roughly the same share (45%) say the focus should be on what different groups have in common.

For the most part, the views of blacks and whites about the best approach to improving race relations do not vary considerably across demographic groups. For example, across educational groups – from those with a high school diploma or less to those with a bachelor’s degree – blacks divide in roughly the same way on this question, and the same is true across educational groupings for whites.

Younger adults more likely to say that, to improve race relations, focus should be on what makes racial and ethnic groups unique

There are significant age gaps, however, when it comes to opinions about focusing on differences vs. similarities. Among white adults, those younger than 30 are more likely than older whites to say that, when it comes to improving race relations, it’s more important for people to focus on the unique characteristics of each group; about four-in-ten (41%) whites ages 18 to 29 say this, compared with 27% of whites ages 30 to 49 and about one-in-five of those ages 50 and older (21%).

Age is also linked to black adults’ views about the best approach to improving race relations, although, among this group, the divide is between those younger than 50 and those who are 50 or older. Among blacks ages 18 to 49, more say the focus should be on what makes each racial and ethnic group unique (54% among those ages 18 to 29 and 50% among those ages 30 to 49). Among older blacks, particularly those ages 65 and older, more say the focus should be on what different racial and ethnic groups have in common.

Blacks and whites differ over the amount of attention paid to race and racial issues

For whites, too much attention paid to race; for blacks and Hispanics, not enough

When asked if they think the amount of attention paid to race and racial issues in our country today is too much, too little or about right, Americans are divided: 36% say there is too much and about as many (35%) say there is too little. Roughly a quarter (26%) say the amount of attention paid to these issues is about right.

Blacks’ and whites’ views on this issue are in sharp contrast. Blacks are about twice as likely as whites to say too little attention is paid to race and racial issues (58% vs. 27%). And while only 22% of blacks say there is too much focus on race, 41% of whites say this is the case. Among Hispanics, half think too little attention is paid to race and racial issues, while 25% say too much attention is paid to those issues and 23% say it is about the right amount.

Roughly six-in-ten white Republicans say there’s too much focus on race

For whites, views about the amount of attention given to race and racial issues are strongly linked to partisanship. About six-in-ten (59%) white Republicans say too much attention is paid to these issues these days; just 11% say there is too little attention, and 26% say the amount of attention is about right. In contrast, about half of white Democrats (49%) say not enough attention is being paid to race and racial issues, while 21% say the amount is too much and 28% say it is about right. Still, white Democrats are far less likely than black Democrats (62%) to say too little attention is being paid to these issues.

Whites’ opinions about how much focus there is on race and racial issues in the country today are also linked to age. Whites who are younger than 30 are far less likely than older whites to say there is too much focus on race; about a quarter (23%) of whites ages 18 to 29 say this, compared with at least four-in-ten whites ages 30 to 49 (42%), 50 to 64 (44%) and 65 or older (48%). There are no significant demographic differences among blacks on this question.

Most say Obama at least tried to improve race relations

Blacks more likely than whites to give Obama credit for addressing race relations

In the days following Barack Obama’s election in 2008, voters were somewhat optimistic that the election of the nation’s first black president would lead to better race relations. Today, as Obama finishes his second term, about a third (34%) of Americans say Obama has made progress toward improving race relations, and about three-in-ten (28%) say the president has tried but failed to make progress in this area. A sizable share (25%) say he has made race relations worse, while 8% say Obama has not addressed race relations.

Assessments of Obama’s performance on race relations vary considerably along racial and ethnic lines. About half (51%) of black Americans think the president has made progress toward improving race relations; 34% say he tried but failed to make progress. Very few blacks say Obama made race relations worse (5%) or that he didn’t address the issue (9%).

Among whites, however, about a third (32%) say the president has made things worse when it comes to race relations; 28% say Obama has made progress toward improving race relations and 24% say he tried but failed. Hispanics’ assessments of Obama’s performance on race relations are not as negative as those of whites, but are also not as positive as those offered by blacks. Roughly four-in-ten (38%) Hispanics say the president made progress toward improving race relations, and about as many (36%) say he has tried but failed to make progress; 13% of Hispanics say he has made things worse. About one-in-ten (9%) blacks and 7% of Hispanics say Obama has not addressed race relations.

Among blacks, opinions about Obama’s handling of race relations vary primarily along educational lines. While about half of black Americans with some college (52%) or with a high school education or less (54%) say the president has made progress toward improving race relations, fewer among those with a bachelor’s degree (40%) say Obama has had success in this area. Still, at least eight-in-ten black Americans across educational attainment say the president has at least tried to make progress toward improving race relations, even if he hasn’t necessarily succeeded.

About seven-in-ten conservative white Republicans say Obama has made race relations worse

Assessments of Obama among whites are strongly linked to partisanship and ideology. About six-in-ten (63%) white Republicans say the president has made race relations worse, a view that is shared far more widely by white Republicans who describe their political views as conservative (71%) than among Republicans who say they are politically moderate or liberal (44%). In contrast, about half (52%) of white – and black (55%) – Democrats, including somewhat similar shares of those who are liberal and moderate or conservative, say the president has made progress toward improving race relations.

Far more blacks than whites say they talk about race-related topics with family, friends

About four-in-ten blacks say race relations and racial inequality often come up in their conversations

For blacks, far more than for whites, conversations about race are fairly commonplace. Overall, about a quarter of Americans say they often talk about race relations or racial inequality with friends and family, far less than the share saying they talk about the presidential election campaign (59%) or the economy (45%) with the same frequency. 16 About a quarter (27%) say immigration is often a topic of conversation with friends and family.

Blacks are about twice as likely as whites to say the topics of racial inequality and race relations often come up in conversations with friends and family. About four-in-ten black adults say racial inequality (41%) and race relations (38%) are frequent topics of conversation, compared with about one-in-five whites. Among Hispanics, about three-in-ten (31%) say they often talk about racial inequality and about a quarter (26%) say they often talk about race relations.

In contrast, about the same shares of whites (46%), blacks (46%) and Hispanics (42%) say they often talk to friends and family about the economy, while Hispanics are more likely than the other two groups to say immigration is a frequent topic of conversation for them (37% vs. 27% of whites and 16% of blacks).

Blacks and whites offer different assessments of their interactions with people of the other race

Seven-in-ten whites who have contact with blacks say interactions are very friendly; fewer blacks agree

Most whites who have some daily contact with people who are black describe their interactions as mainly positive. Blacks give a somewhat less positive assessment of their contact with whites. Fully 70% of whites who have a least a little bit of contact with blacks characterize their interactions as very friendly. Black adults are 20 percentage points less likely to describe interactions with whites that way: half of those who have at least a little contact with whites in their daily life describe these interactions as very friendly, while about four-in-ten (41%) would call them “somewhat friendly.” Relatively few in either group would go so far as to call their interactions “unfriendly” (2% among whites and 7% among blacks).

The survey also asked Hispanics about their interactions with people who are black. Among the 86% of Hispanics who have any amount of contact with blacks, 60% say these interactions are generally very friendly; 27% say they are somewhat friendly, and 9% describe their interactions with blacks as unfriendly. About one-in-eight (13%) Hispanics say they have no contact with people who are black. Hispanics who have a lot of contact with blacks are far more likely than those who have some or only a little contact to say these interactions are very friendly; about three-quarters (73%) of Hispanics who have a lot of contact with blacks say this is the case, compared with 58% of those who have some contact and 45% of those who have only a little contact with people who are black.

Overall, 66% of blacks say they have a lot of contact with whites, while 20% have some contact, and 12% have a little contact; just 2% of blacks say they have no contact at all with people who are white. Not surprising, since blacks are a far smaller share of the population, far fewer whites (38%) say they have a lot of contact with people who are black, while 35% say they have some contact and 20% say they have only a little contact; 6% of whites say they have no contact with blacks. Southern whites (50%) are far more likely than whites in the Northeast (36%), Midwest (33%) and West (29%) to say they have a lot of contact with people who are black.

Roughly a third of blacks say they feel very connected to a broader black community

Most blacks feel at least somewhat connected to a broader black community in the U.S.

About eight-in-ten (81%) black adults say they feel at least somewhat connected to a broader black community in the U.S., including 36% who feel very connected. About one-in-five say they don’t feel too (12%) or at all (6%) connected to a broader black community in the U.S.

Blacks across demographic groups, including men and women, young and old, and across education and income levels, are about equally likely to say they feel very connected to a broader black community. However, those with less education and lower incomes are more likely than those with a bachelor’s degree and annual family incomes of at least $30,000 to say they don’t feel too or at all connected. About one-in-five blacks with only some college (18%) or with a high school education or less (20%) feel disconnected from a broader black community, compared with 11% of black college graduates. And while 22% of blacks with family incomes below $30,000 say they don’t feel too or at all connected to a broader black community, fewer among those with incomes between $30,000 and $74,999 (13%) or higher (12%) say the same.

About six-in-ten black worshipers attend services where all or most congregants are black

Blacks who say they regularly attend predominantly black churches are among the most likely to feel connected to a broader black community. Among those who attend religious services at least once a month and who say all or most of the congregants are black, 48% say they feel very connected. By comparison, 35% of black churchgoers who say some or only a few of the people with whom they attend services are black feel the same sense of connectedness.

Overall, 58% of black adults say they attend religious services at least monthly, including 39% who do so at least once a week and 19% who attend once or twice a month; an additional 17% of black adults say they attend a few times a year, while about a quarter say they do so only seldom (13%) or never (11%). By this measure, blacks are significantly more likely than whites to attend religious services regularly; 44% of whites say they attend at least monthly, while 17% say they do so a few times a year and 39% say they seldom or never attend religious services. 17

About six-in-ten (58%) black adults who say they attend church at least monthly report that all or most of the other people attending are black. Three-in-ten say some are black and 11% say only a few or none are black.

About half of blacks have made a financial contribution, attended an event, or volunteered their time to an organization working to improve the lives of black Americans

About half of black adults have been involved with an organization that helps blacks

Blacks who have a strong sense of connection to a broader black community are more likely than those who don’t feel strongly connected to say they are actively involved with groups or organizations that specifically work to improve the lives of black Americans. Overall, about three-in-ten blacks say they have made a financial contribution to (32%), attended an event sponsored by (29%), or volunteered their time to (27%) such a group in the past 12 months. Roughly half (48%) of black Americans say they have done at least one of these activities.

Among blacks who say they feel very connected to a broader black community, about six-in-ten (58%) say they have done at least one of these activities, compared with 45% of those who say they feel somewhat connected and 35% of those who say they feel not too connected or not at all connected to a broader black community.

Blacks with some college experience are more involved in organizations that work to help black Americans

Looking at each activity, roughly four-in-ten (43%) blacks who feel very connected to a broader black community report having made a financial contribution to a group or organization that works to improve the lives of black Americans in the past 12 months, compared with 28% of those who feel somewhat connected and 22% who don’t feel too or at all connected to a broader black community. Similarly, those who feel very connected are more likely than those who feel somewhat or even less connected to say they have attended an event sponsored by this type of group (38% vs. 27% and 16%, respectively) or have volunteered their time (33% vs. 25% and 19%).

For the most part, involvement with organizations that specifically work to improve the life of black Americans doesn’t vary significantly across demographic groups. But blacks with at least some college experience are more likely than those with a high school diploma or less to say they have made a financial contribution (38% vs. 25%), attended an event (37% vs. 19%) or volunteered their time (36% vs. 16%) to this type of organization in the past 12 months.

  • The survey was conducted during the presidential primary election. ↩
  • For more on religious beliefs, practices and experiences in the U.S., see “ U.S. Public Becoming Less Religious .” ↩

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Opinion Take it from conservative national security experts: Trump is unfit

Bolton and Gates deliver a warning on global security to America.

essay topics about race relations

Four-times-indicted former president Donald Trump’s terrifying plans to assume dictatorial powers (and try for a third term ), deploy the military against civil protesters, create a massive police state to carry out mass deportations and use federal power to exact revenge on his opponents should be enough to convince voters that his election would be a disaster for the United States domestically. However, returning him to the position of commander in chief and “leader of the free world” is just as scary on a global front. Don’t take it from me; just listen to two former senior Republican national security experts.

Former national security adviser John Bolton recently told Jordan Klepper of “The Daily Show” that his former boss “doesn’t understand alliances.” Bolton opined that Ronald Reagan would be “appalled” by the MAGA Republican Party, and added that Trump has a “fascination with authoritarian leaders.” Bolton also concurred with former secretary of state Rex Tillerson’s description of Trump as a “f---ing moron,” though Bolton refrained from using the expletive. (Klepper taunted Bolton for, after all that, saying he would vote for neither President Biden or Trump. “Great. So, in the race between a current president and a former president, it looks like the winner will be the Russian president.”)

Bolton has previously said of Trump: “He’s fundamentally ignorant, and he really doesn’t care about the facts. He thinks international relations are about personal relations, which is a line and approach that I can tell you, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping are eagerly looking forward to.” Trump’s ignorance and overweening narcissism make him easy pickings for manipulative dictators. (Trump came to regard North Korea’s Kim Jong Un as a friend because he sent “love letters.” He turned over foreign signals intelligence to Russians in the Oval Office.) He is, in other words, a patsy for strongmen whose object is to weaken the United States.

Trump declared that he would invite Putin to invade NATO countries that didn’t contribute sufficiently to the alliance’s collective defense. (He continues to misunderstand how NATO forces are funded.) His well-known hostility toward European allies and threats to ditch NATO should indicate to any voter concerned about national security that Trump’s return to office would spell disaster for international peace and stability.

essay topics about race relations

Bolton is not the only conservative foreign policy veteran sounding the alarm about Trump’s strange brew of isolationism and dictator-worship. Former chief of staff and retired Marine general John F. Kelly has warned about Trump’s unfitness and fond thoughts about Adolf Hitler. Most recently, Republican Robert M. Gates, former CIA director and defense secretary who served in the administrations of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, had this exchange with Margaret Brennan on CBS’s “Face the Nation”:

Brennan: You did write an essay in Foreign Affairs a few months ago ... “[Trump’s] disdain for allies, fondness for authoritarian leaders, erratic behavior undermined his credibility.” You were also critical of President Biden, and his withdrawal from Afghanistan, which you said “further damaged the world’s confidence in America.” Do you think Mr. Biden has been able to repair that damage? Gates: I think that he gained a lot of credibility with the speed with which he assembled the coalition of partner countries, allies and friends before, during, and after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Gates went on to praise Biden for “putting together that three dozen countries willing to help Ukraine with money, with military assistance” and “being able to warn the allies before the Russians actually invaded so that when they did, we had enormous credibility with others, that we knew what we were talking about, and we knew the nature of Putin’s threat.”

But if Republicans share Gates’s measured criticisms of the Biden team’s delays in sending arms to Ukraine, they should find the notion that we would hand over an ally to Putin utterly disgraceful. One cannot care about Ukraine, the Western alliance and the United States’ standing in the world and then turn around to vote for the candidate certain to undermine all three.

Biden has had to walk a fine line between supporting Israel and deterring the Netanyahu government’s excessive and counterproductive prosecution of the war. Gates suggested the president has gotten the balance just about right. He weighed in on Biden’s handling of the Middle East, specifically his decision to withhold one shipment of arms, saying, “I think it sends an important message that we, like them, want to see Hamas weakened, if not destroyed. But we don’t think the way to do that is to flatten two-thirds of the buildings in Gaza.”

Gates also shared the Biden administration’s frustration with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s obstinate refusal to consider how this ends and what comes next: “The United States government has been asking Prime Minister Netanyahu for months, what’s your plan?” He continued, “What happens after the shooting stops? Where are you going with this? What’s the solution politically? ... And [the Biden team is] not getting any answers.”

Compare that with Trump’s Middle East track record, including his reckless decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal with no viable alternative, his contempt for any legitimate Palestinian aspirations and his desire to expand his Muslim travel ban to Gaza residents.

“Everything we know about the former president, from his extensive policy record on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to his top advisers’ statements on the war, suggests he would have no qualms about aligning himself completely with Israel’s far-right government,” Zack Beauchamp writes for Vox. “While Biden has pushed Israel behind the scenes on issues like food and medical aid to civilians — with some limited success — it’s hard to imagine Trump even lifting a finger in defense of Gazan civilians whom he wants to ban from entering the United States.” As Beauchamp points out, this is why right-wing National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir “pines” for Trump.

The bottom line from two Republican voices with decades of experience in national security: One might have legitimate complaints with aspects of Biden’s foreign policy, but anyone who cares about democracy, NATO, Middle East peace and the United States’ role as the “indispensable” nation should consider the prospect of a second (and third!) Trump term an unmitigated disaster.

Voters should dispense with the notion they can only vote for a perfect candidate. You think Biden has been insufficiently attentive to Palestinians’ aspirations? Trump has supported the most extreme aspects of the Netanyahu government’s policies. You think Biden pulled out precipitously from Afghanistan? He never considered inviting the Taliban to Camp David or set the date for withdrawal of U.S. troops.

Biden likes to say, “Don’t compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the alternative.” In the case of foreign policy, according to hawkish Republican foreign policy gurus , the alternative to Biden is the candidate who wants to hobble NATO, sacrifice European allies to Putin, betray Ukraine, encourage the worst aspects of both the Saudi and Israeli governments, and do PR for North Korea, Hungary and every tinpot dictator who can flatter Trump. If you find these outcomes abhorrent, you cannot be indifferent to the outcome of the election.

An earlier version of this column misspelled Zack Beauchamp's name. This version has been updated.

essay topics about race relations

A shipping container port loaded with colorful shipping containers.

How China Pulled So Far Ahead on Industrial Policy

The United States and Europe are trying to catch up to a rival skilled in using all the levers of government and banking to dominate global manufacturing.

Ningbo Zhongshan port in China, one of the busiest ports in the world. Credit... Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

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Patricia Cohen

By Patricia Cohen ,  Keith Bradsher and Jim Tankersley

Patricia Cohen reported from London, Keith Bradsher from Beijing and Jim Tankersley from Washington.

  • May 27, 2024

For more than half a century, concerns about oil shortages or a damaged climate have spurred governments to invest in alternative energy sources.

In the 1970s, President Jimmy Carter placed solar panels on the roof of the White House as a symbol of his commitment to developing energy from the sun. In the 1990s, Japan offered homeowners groundbreaking subsidies to install photovoltaic panels. And in the 2000s, Germany developed an innovative program that guaranteed consumers who adopted a solar energy system that they would sell their electricity at a profit.

But no country has come close to matching the scale and tenacity of China’s support. The proof is in the production: In 2022, Beijing accounted for 85 percent of all clean-energy manufacturing investment in the world, according to the International Energy Agency.

Now the United States, Europe and other wealthy nations are trying frantically to catch up. Hoping to correct past missteps on industrial policy and learn from China’s successes, they are spending huge amounts on subsidizing homegrown companies while also seeking to block competing Chinese products. They have made modest inroads: Last year, the energy agency said, China’s share of new clean-energy factory investment fell to 75 percent.

The problem for the West, though, is that China’s industrial dominance is underpinned by decades of experience using the power of a one-party state to pull all the levers of government and banking, while encouraging frenetic competition among private companies.

China’s unrivaled production of solar panels and electric vehicles is built on an earlier cultivation of the chemical, steel, battery and electronics industries, as well as large investments in rail lines, ports and highways.

From 2017 to 2019, it spent an extraordinary 1.7 percent of its gross domestic product on industrial support, more than twice the percentage of any other country, according to an analysis from the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

That spending included low-cost loans from state-controlled banks and cheap land from provincial governments, with little expectation that the companies they were aiding would turn immediate profits.

And it was accompanied by what the United States and other countries have charged was China’s willingness to skirt international trade agreements, engage in intellectual property theft and use forced labor.

Rows of dark blue solar panels extending as far as the eye can see.

It all combined to help put China in the position today to flood rival countries with low-cost electric cars, solar cells and lithium batteries, as consumers across the wealthy world are increasingly turning to green tech.

China now controls over 80 percent of worldwide production of every step of solar panel manufacturing, for example.

“There’s enormous economies of scale by going big as China did,” Gregory Nemet, a professor of public policy at the University of Wisconsin who has studied the global solar industry. When the investments resulted in overcapacity, suppressing the profitability of China’s companies, Beijing was willing to ride out the losses.

President Biden and European leaders are determined to develop their countries’ manufacturing capacity in advanced technologies like semiconductors, electric vehicles and batteries, in part by adopting some of China’s tactics to nurture industries.

China’s rise to dominate key global manufacturing sectors showed the potential and power of national industrial policy, said Jennifer Harris, a former Biden aide who now leads the Economy and Society Initiative at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

“Was it wasteful? Absolutely,” she said. “Was it successful? Absolutely.”

Mr. Biden and the heads of European governments are more willing to call out Beijing for what they say are illegal practices like purposefully subsidizing excess production and then dumping underpriced goods on other countries.

Beijing denies that it has violated trade rules, contending that its enormous industrial capacity is a sign of success. Xi Jinping, China’s top leader, said this month that China had increased the global supply of goods and alleviated international inflation pressures, while helping the world fight climate change.

Mr. Biden said this month that he would impose tariffs of up to 100 percent on imports of Chinese green technologies including electric vehicles. The aim is to deny China any more of an opening in America.

European officials are expected to impose their own tariffs soon — despite warnings from some economists and environmentalists that the measures will slow progress on meeting clean energy goals. Europe has become more worried about security issues as China has tilted its geopolitical stance toward Russia and Iran.

The West’s embrace of industrial policy is a departure from the ideology of open markets and minimal government intervention that the United States and its allies previously championed.

Policies prompted by the 1970s energy crises were largely reversed when Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980. Even the solar panels installed at the White House during the Carter administration were removed.

Except for certain security-related industries, the United States adopted the view that an unfettered market always knows best.

“If the end result was that you had to rely on other countries for key parts, that was OK,” said Brad Setser, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

Joseph Stiglitz, an economist at Columbia University, said the United States had long lacked a broader industrial policy and a coordinated strategy.

“Even the Democrats were afraid to take a more aggressive government role,” he said, “and I think that was obviously a big mistake with long-run consequences.”

From the perspective of some Chinese economists, complaints about unfairness from the United States and Europe are a sign of their own governments’ failures.

“The West’s decision to pursue neoliberal economic policies was a strategic mistake, which led to the de-industrialisation of their economies and provided China with an opportunity,” Zheng Yongnian, a professor at Chinese University of Hong Kong, said.

Whatever mistakes were made, political leaders in the United States say they are determined not to repeat them.

Last year, the United States and European Union made “significant inroads” in clean energy technology, according to the International Energy Agency .

And the Biden administration’s multibillion-dollar program is one of the most extensive uses of industrial policy in American history.

Mr. Biden’s tariffs are a targeted escalation of an American trade offensive against China that began under former President Donald J. Trump. Mr. Trump imposed tariffs on imported goods from China valued at more than $350 billion a year, drawing retaliatory tariffs from Beijing. Mr. Biden has kept those tariffs, has added or increased them for clean energy and has raised new barriers to trade with Beijing, including denying China access to advanced semiconductors from the United States.

Mr. Biden’s trade agenda is “very, very aggressive,” said David Autor, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist who has extensively documented the effects of trade with China on the American economy, including factory job losses.

In his view, there are critical distinctions between Mr. Biden’s trade strategy and Beijing’s as both nations seek to lead the clean-energy race.

China was more focused on sending low-cost exports to global markets, Mr. Autor said, and preventing foreign firms from dominating China’s domestic markets.

Mr. Biden, he said, is more focused on keeping out imports from China and denying China access to some key American technologies, like advanced semiconductors.

At a meeting last week in Italy of the Group of 7 finance ministers, leaders from both sides of the Atlantic warned that the United States and Europe must coordinate their protectionism and their subsidies if they hope to catch Beijing in the race to dominate key industries.

“Overcapacity threatens the viability of firms around the world, including in emerging markets,” Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said on Thursday.

“It’s critical,” she added, “that we and the growing numbers of countries who have identified this as a concern present a clear and united front.”

Patricia Cohen writes about global economics and is based in London. More about Patricia Cohen

Keith Bradsher is the Beijing bureau chief for The Times. He previously served as bureau chief in Shanghai, Hong Kong and Detroit and as a Washington correspondent. He has lived and reported in mainland China through the pandemic. More about Keith Bradsher

Jim Tankersley writes about economic policy at the White House and how it affects the country and the world. He has covered the topic for more than a dozen years in Washington, with a focus on the middle class. More about Jim Tankersley



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