In the scholarly literature focusing on peacemaking in the international arena, surprisingly little attention has been given to issues of race. Although "ethnic" conflict is recognized as a cause of war or internal armed conflict and as sometimes especially intractable, the treatment of racial conflicts as such in works on "peacemaking" has been limited mainly to those concerned with conflict resolution in the schools, in the criminal justice system, or in community relations. Yet the salience of race as a factor in international relations and peacemaking has been called to our attention repeatedly, from W. E. B. Du Bois's declaration that "the problem of the twentieth century is the color line" to a number of contemporary works that emphasize the international and transnational importance of race. These include, in particular, George W. Shepherd, Jr., Racial Influences on American Foreign Policy (1970); Hugh Tinker, Race, Conflict, and the International Order (1977); and Paul Gordon Lauren, Power and Prejudice: The Politics and Diplomacy of Racial Discrimination (1988).
As Shepherd argued in 1970, "all great powers must face the reality of racial attitudes in their policies." This includes recognition of the dominant group interests as well as attitudes of racial superiority that may drive foreign policy choices and decisions and may shape support or disaffection from those choices at home. It has been suggested, for example, that the failure of the United States and other powers to support preventive action in Rwanda, while intervening at much higher levels of commitment in the Middle East and the Balkans, reflected a racially biased choice. Another aspect of the influence of race in international politics is that of transnational communication and interaction. As in the case of indigenous peoples, the transnational force of race identity and solidarity may have a powerful influence on policies relating to conflicts both at home and abroad. At the same time Shepherd called upon us to engage "a more perceptive study of the special contribution of nonwhite and non-Western peoples within and among nations."
Lauren later expanded on these themes, recognizing the problematic nature of the very concept of "race" but arguing that it has nonetheless profoundly influenced global politics and diplomacy. As he sums it up, race issues have affected relations between and among states and have posed serious threats to international peace and security. They have "motivated domestic groups concerned with racial discrimination to exert noticeable pressure upon the foreign policy of their own governments and to seek the active support of other nations for their protection." Despite the silence on these issues in most of the "peacemaking" literature, they have held a very high place on the international agenda of matters relating to a broad conception of peace. The first global attempt to speak for equality focused upon race. The first human rights provisions in the United Nations Charter were placed there because of race. The first international challenge to a country's claim of domestic jurisdiction and exclusive treatment of its own citizens centered upon race. The first binding treaty of human rights concentrated upon race. The international conventions with the greatest number of signatories is that on race. Within the United Nations, more resolutions deal with race than with any other subject. It may be hoped that as work continues and grows in the peacemaking field, more direct attention will be accorded to the issues of race at the international level.