Why Race Matters in International Relations

  • Citation: Zvobgo, Kelebogile, and Meredith Loken. “Race Is Critical to the Field of International Relations.” Foreign Policy Magazine, June 19, 2020.
    • Topics:
    • Human Rights
    • Keywords:
    • race
    • white privilege
    • Western hegemony
    • white supremacy
    • foreign affairs

Race is not a perspective on international relations; it is a central organizing feature of world politics. Anti-Japanese racism guided and sustained U.S. engagement in World War II, and broader anti-Asian sentiment influenced the development and structure of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. During the Cold War, racism and anti-communism were inextricably linked in the containment strategy that defined Washington’s approach to Africa, Asia, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. And today race shapes threat perception and responses to violent extremism, inside and outside the “war on terror.” Yet mainstream international relations (IR) scholarship denies race as essential to understanding the world, to the cost of the field’s integrity.

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