Tuesday May 17, 2016

Author Kamal Al-Solaylee on how cheap labour shapes brown racial identity

Author Kamal Al-Solaylee says brown people around the world share identity as source of cheap labour.

Author Kamal Al-Solaylee says brown people around the world share identity as source of cheap labour. (Gary Gould)

Listen 24:40

Read story transcript

For Kamal Al-Solaylee, being brown is a defining part of his identity.

But Al-Solaylee wanted to go beyond his own personal experience to understand what being brown in the world today means to everyone.

In his book, Brown, Al-Solaylee writes, "I propose that we think of brown as a continuum, a grouping — a metaphor, even - for millions of darker-skinned people who, in broad historical terms have missed out on the economic and political gains of the post-industrial world and are now clamouring for their fair share of the social mobility, equality, and freedom."

The author explores brown racial identity through the prism of how it has shaped his own identity.

Al-Solaylee writes, "If you're brown it's hard to deprogram yourself from thinking such seemingly superficial but nonetheless existential questions as:  Am I too dark?"

Al-Solaylee has travelled extensively to learn about the social and economic realities of being brown around the globe.

"My definition comes from two experiences basically — global migration and cheap labour," he tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

Spanning 10 countries, Brown: What being brown in the world today means to everyone, draws connections between seemingly disparate experiences of brown people — from migrant labourers on construction sites in Doha, to domestic Filipina workers in Hong Kong to Pakistani students suspected of belonging to an al-Qaeda sleeper cell in Canada.

Read an excerpt from Brown

This segment was produced by The Current's Josh Bloch.