Transnational Dimensions of Race in America

29 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2010 Last revised: 17 Feb 2013

See all articles by Hope Lewis

Hope Lewis

Northeastern University, School of Law (deceased)

Date Written: April 14, 2010


Race, a key concept in international human rights law from the beginning, should still be high on today's global priority list. However, to remain a useful concept in our increasingly complex world, race must be defined and explored as a transnational and multidimensional social construct. I reflect here on the complex nature of "Blackness."

I suggest that international human rights law should engage intra-racial diversity among Blacks along cultural, gender, political, economic, and ethnic lines. Because "Blackness" itself is a product of popular social consciousness, I draw here on popular accounts of U.S Black migration and stories about the Presidential candidacy of Barack Obama. Such stories reveal in stark relief how problematic an oversimplified approach to defining Blackness can be. Evocative stories can help make previously marginalized experiences and perceptions more visible.

Underlying the discussion is the background belief that intra-racial political and cultural strategies and analyses that are cross-cultural and multidimensional remain relevant and helpful in the contemporary global economy. Such approaches, however, need not be inappropriately exclusionary or essentialist. Rather, they can contribute to cross-cultural engagement and enrich our ability to protect and fulfill human rights.

Keywords: Barack Obama, race, human rights, transnational, African-Americans, Black, migration, Jamaica

Suggested Citation

Lewis, Hope, Transnational Dimensions of Race in America (April 14, 2010). Albany Law Review, Vol. 72, No. 4, p. 999, 2009; Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper No. 45-2010. Available at SSRN:

Hope Lewis (Contact Author)

Northeastern University, School of Law (deceased)

United States

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