Introduction: From Ferguson to Geneva and Back Again


For decades, social and physical scientists have asserted that “race” is a social construct rather than a biological reality. Conversely, skin color is objectively identifiable. Yet, the law has focused largely upon racial categories to remedy discrimination against individuals based upon their skin color or “racial” identification. While some authors continue to argue that race is “real” either from a biological or sociological perspective, and others continue to challenge its biological and legal salience, this debate has proven largely unsatisfactory to policy makers and others interested in understanding both the social construction of race and skin color and its impact on the lives of individuals. This debate is not only taking place in the United States, but all over the world.

Picking up on this global trend and frustrated with the failure of academic and public discourse—particularly in the United States—to recognize this shift of rhetoric and the continuing harm of skin tone bias either as a proxy for “racial discrimination” or as a harm in its own right, in 2014, Washington University Law Professor Kimberly Jade Norward published an edited volume entitled “Color Matters: Skin Tone Bias and the Myth of a Post-racial America.” To explore Professor Norwood’s hypothesis the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute at Washington University School of Law convened a conference on Global Perspectives on Colorism. Believed to be the first global conference ever convened on the legal and sociological effects of color, the conference brought together speakers from all over the world—Latin America, Europe, Israel, India and the United States—as well as individuals hailing from different academic and professional disciplines. The Articles in this Issue represent but a sampling of the discussions and presentations that occurred last April, but they are fine ones.


colorism, race, human rights, international



Leila Nadya Sadat (Washington University in St. Louis, School of Law)



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