The Colour of Labour

A road trip into the heart of brownness.

Kamal Al-Solaylee believes that there is a “collective experience that unites people of brown skin whatever their particular geographic, ethnic, national and cultural circumstances. We are united (and divided) by the fact that we’re not white. Or black,” he writes. In trying to understand and define that collective experience, Al-Solaylee travels to Trinidad, Philippines, Hong Kong, Sir Lanka, Qatar, the United Kingdom, France, the United States and Canada to ask friends, colleagues, farmhands and migrant oil workers what it means to be a brown-skinned person living right now in the 21st century.

Along the way, Al-Solaylee explains how he himself came to terms with his brown skin. He also explores the notion of a ladder of colourism and its direct effect on economic prospects for brown and black people around the globe.

Al-Solaylee grew up in Egypt, a brown-skinned boy in a country of many...