Author(s): Karen E. Fields
Most people assume that racism grows from a perception of human difference: the fact of race gives rise to the practice of racism. In this myth-busting reflection, the sociologist Karen E. Fields and the historian Barbara J. Fields argue the opposite: the practice of racism produces the illusion of race, through what they call "racecraft". And racecraft is intimately entwined with other forms of inequality in American life. So pervasive are the devices of racecraft in American history, economic doctrine, politics and everyday thinking that the presence of racecraft itself goes unnoticed. That the promised post-racial age has not dawned, the Fieldses argue, reflects the failure of Americans to develop a legitimate language for thinking about and discussing inequality. That failure should worry all who care about democratic institutions.
"A most impressive work, tackling a demanding and important topic - the myth that we now live in a post-racial society - in a novel, urgent, and compelling way. The authors dispel this myth by squarely addressing the paradox that racism is scientifically discredited but, like witchcraft before it, retains a social rationale in societies that remain highly unequal and averse to sufficiently critical engagement with their own history and traditions." Robin Blackburn
BARBARA J. FIELDS is Professor of History at Columbia University. Her books include the prize-winning Slavery and Freedom on the Middle Ground and (co-authored with the Freedmen and Southern Society Project) The Destruction of Slavery and Free At Last: A Documentary History of Slavery, Freedom, and the Civil War. KAREN E. FIELDS is Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the Center for African and African American Research at Duke University. Her books include a translation of Emile Durkheim's The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. She is at work on Racism in the Academy: A Traveler's Guide and Bordeaux's Africa.