Document Type



Harvard Human Rights Journal




International human rights law seeks to eliminate racial discrimination in the world through treaties that bind and norms that transform. Yet law’s impact on eradicating racism has not matched its intent. Racism, in all of its forms, remains a massive cause of discrimination, indignity, and lack of equality for millions of people in the world today. This Article investigates why. Applying a critical race theory analysis of the legal history and doctrinal development of race and racism in international law, Professor Spain Bradley identifies law’s historical preference for framing legal protections around the concept of racial discrimination. She further exposes that international law has neither explicitly defined nor prohibited racism. In response, Professor Spain Bradley advances a long-overdue claim: racism should be affirmatively and explicitly recognized as a human rights violation under international law. She argues that addressing racism in the world today requires uderstanding how human rights are violated by racial ideologies in addition to discriminatory acts. Insights from neuroscience about racial bias deepen these understandings. By naming “human rights racism” as the central challenge, this Article calls upon the international community to affirmatively recognize racism’s extensive harm and to take more seriously its eradication.