“The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line.” (Douglass, 1881).
Race has been at the epicenter of everything and it propagated throughout centuries in several forms such as;: economics, geography, education, health and socio-politics.
This essay discusses and explains the shape of race within the international system/relations; its evolution and development.; the effects on the nations and its populations, and nonetheless the elements of race and colonialism in structures of power; followed by the formation of the successful and long-lasting Eurocentric modern capitalism, which is still present in society and acts as a pattern of global hegemon (LeMelle, 1972).
As a definition of a grouping of humans by analyzing their characteristics, either physical or ethnic (En.wikipedia.org, 2018), or a contribution to and a product of stratification (LeMelle, 1972), race has conditioned and influenced many people on the globe, including its governance and leadership.
From a socio-constructed conception (En.wikipedia.org, 2018) to a major and predominant constraint, in the global order and politics, the ‘race’ denotation itself evolved, building a hierarchy between civilians and nations across the world: White vs Black, Asian and other ethnic groups (BAME).
This division led to a different approach of how human beings perceived themselves, strengthening aspects such as levels of development, civilization values, history, religion, culture and traditions, physical features, garments and mainly, color (Jacques, 2003).
Race portrayed and still portrays a significant role in the world order; With its hierarchy status more than solidified - claiming whites as the dominant class and non-whites as the subordinates-, it easily breads racism, discrimination, inequality, and conflict too, perpetuating the ideology of a ‘White Man's World’ (LeMelle, 1972).
This expression was implemented and widely spread by Europeans with the intent to classify and divide populations according to their ethnicity and backgrounds. With voyages of discovery, colonialism, slavery, and imperialism perceived as great sources of income and prosperity (En.wikipedia.org, 2018), it became easier for Europeans to strive with their sense of white supremacy and go beyond borders to achieve these hateful and money-driven causes (LeMelle, 1972).
Even though, colonialism and slavery are over per se the disparity amongst people, in modern society, is overwhelmingly large (Nkrumah, 1965);
race is a structure that conditions and influences the power and actions of actors in the international realm and, in fact, remains beneficial for the Transatlantic couple, the EU and the US.
It is obvious then, that South American, Asian and African civilizations were reduced solely to their post-colonial and inferior identities and that the conception of a modern and civilized Europe still lingers powerful and wealthy, alienating others from their participation in historical, cultural and financial donations onto the international system (Vincent, 1982)(SHILLIAM, 2011).
So how can this term have a credible structure of correlation and such an effect on the international system as we know it?
The four sources of income, mentioned priorly, generated a meaningful advantage to the Transatlantic couple comparing with the rest of the globe - Big decision makers with IGOs such as UN, WTO, IMF, NATO, or World Bank; leaders of renown institutions such as banks, universities and hospitals; predominant winners of warfare in events like WWI, WII and Cold War (Hobsbawm, 1994); huge influencers in aspects of culture, law, democracy and sovereignty, science, technology, engineering, religion and immigration and responsible for the rise of capitalism and the role on globalization too.
The Transatlantic couple is then classified as the global hegemon and the face of the international system, without any accountability that their strength and mighty development was built on the back and discreditation of the BAME population (Eddo-Lodge, 2018).
Race has been marginalized and ostracized from the international system; take for instance, the fact that the first UN conference focused on tackling racism, also known as World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) was only held in 2001 - 56 years after its foundation - even though decolonisation and civil rights movements were achieved in between and highly commended.
This same conference was strongly opposed by none other but, the US, under the Clinton administration, and Israel, in the upsurge of Zionism and Hafrada (land division) (Appadorai, 1955)(BBC News, 2016)(LeMelle, 1972).
Yet, it’s also marked another instance of institutionalized racism with the Bandung Conference. The reunion has been historically known as the “non-white meeting” held in, 1955, which brought together Asian and African states and gave life to the first “Non-Aligned” steps.
They sponsored this conference and aimed to promote Afro-Asian economic and cultural cooperation, seeking to counter what at that time was perceived as a neo-colonial attitude of the two great powers, the United States and Soviet Union, as well as other influential nations that also exercised what they considered imperialism.
The Bandung Conference introduced unprecedented issues such as the negative influence of rich countries on the poor, making awareness of the bitter experience of colonization, the experience of economic, political and social domination, with local inhabitants being subjected to racial discrimination on their own land and the practice of racism as a crime (Sukarno, 1955)(Appadorai, 1955).
The idea was also proposed to create a Court of Decolonization, which would judge those responsible for the practice of this crime against humanity, also blaming the colonialist countries, meaning helping to reconstruct the damage done by the former settlers in the past and seeking reparations.
This idea, however, was smothered by the central countries, those with most influence on the international scene (Nirala, 2014).
Would it be a burden to be held accountable? Or would it be inconvenient for their international part?
When nations such as Portugal, for instance, publicly fund and support hatred, xenophobia, racism and discrimination towards the BAME community, what are the odds for a bright upbringing and prosper future? Very little ..
Despite of whites representing a small percentage of the world’s population, when it comes to race, they are the ones who barely experience racism, except as perpetrators, and commonly underestimate the ability of racial inequality too; which brings to light again the lack on acknowledgement of the racial issues by western institutions - by governments, by the media, by corporations (Jacques, 2003) - and perpetuates vividly the state of devaluation that the non-white nations currently find themselves in; from lack of international opportunity and mobility, poverty and debt crisis, uneven development rates with a rapid population growth to a awful wealth distribution, disproportionate citizenship status, high migration flow (LeMelle,1972), neo-colonialism and dependency on Western states, unbalanced life chances and success due to race or state/region, and a white privileged global society.
The same white privileged global society that works hard to depict “non-white” nations and their civilians as terrorists, criminals, poor, idle immigrants or refugees and finally, in great need of foreign aid and western dependency (Nkrumah, 1965)(Eddo-Lodge, 2018).
The media also pushes a constant and tearful coverage of the South and East by displaying stereotypes like Orientalism, hipersexualization - naked women in grass skirts and promiscuous concubines -, bent cities and countries, misery, wars, deadly diseases, illiterate population, huts and lions, and insane death tolls (Asmelash, Remmers and Vang, 2014)(Johnson, 2019).
This illusion of a “Third World” consumed by many has had more damage than expected and it seems almost impossible to eradicate.
Furthermore, this leads to a bigger question - After all these decades, how are the developing countries maintaining their posture and breaking through these racial chains and shackles held by the Western World for so long?
Well, even with the constant reminder that they were left behind, in the hegemonic race, developing countries have slowly been thriving and flourishing, regardless the odds (Owen, 2018); with development of investments such as the BRICS nations, the African Union, the New Development Bank (NDB), or the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) (Owen, 2018), small steps are being taken towards a prosper, abundant and sovereign future.
The defeat of great international monopolies, the demolishment of stereotypes and negative portraits, the ban of gloomy propaganda of the “Third World”, a push in education to increase the rates of skilled personnel and retention of population, excluding foreign aid and implementing accountable reparations, and the use and exploration of natural resources, leading also to an investment on infrastructures, commerce, economy and several other industries and institutions (Nkrumah, 1965)(Hobsbawm, 1994), are nonetheless the ultimate back up plans for an anti-racist and neo-colonialist wave.
A mental decolonization, of the once oppressed, is also required to grasp and overcome properly the structures of power (Jacques, 2003).
To summarise, it is clear that race has influenced and shaped the world and the international system, reaching affairs such as colonialism, governance, sovereignty and global hegemony.
Western nations and institutions made-up a sense of democracy and equality, ignoring completely and underestimating the great depth and disparity within the international realm, when it comes to racism and discrimination for the BAME community.
The international system is then directly placed in matters regarding imperialism and hegemony, due to their inter-racial linkage – even though these same backgrounds have been whitewashed by other notions as a call for necessary modernization, improvement and shared culture in developing countries, race is still meaningful in International Relations and deserves attention as any other subject. “Speaking like this doesn’t mean that we’re anti-white, but it does mean we’re anti-exploitation, we’re anti-degradation, we’re anti-oppression” (Hutyra and X, 2019).
● Appadorai, A. (1955). The Bandung Conference. India Quarterly: A Journal of International Affairs, 11(3), pp.207-235.
● Asmelash, S., Remmers, J. and Vang, T. (2014). Mass Media: The Construction of Ethnic Stereotypes by Sarah Asmelash, Jasmijn Remmers, Tiffany Vang | Humanity in Action. [online] Humanity In Action. Available at: https://www.humanityinaction.org/knowledgebase/557-mass-media-the-construction-of-ethnic-stereotypes [Accessed 18 Jan. 2019].
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● Douglass, F. (1881). Color Line. North American Review.
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● Jacques, M. (2003). Martin Jacques: The global hierarchy of race. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/sep/20/race.uk [Accessed 15 Jan. 2019].
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● Nirala, S. (2014). Bandung Conference | Asia-Africa . [online] Encyclopedia Britannica. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/event/Bandung-Conference [Accessed 18 Jan. 2019].
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● SHILLIAM, R. (2011). Keskidee Aroha: Translation on the Colonial Stage. Journal of Historical Sociology, 24(1), pp.80-99.
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