Transcript: Revisiting Racecraft with Barbara and Karen Fields

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With a Fox News-animated bigot in the White House and inequality at spectacular heights, discussion of American racism has returned to the center of US politics. The wealth of those categorized as black evaporated under the Obama administration, and today, the Trump administration restricts freedom of movement to scapegoat migrants for economic crisis, while casting white supremacists and those who fight them in the streets as morally equivalent, bestowing Oval Office-granted legitimacy to racist violence.

It’s a terrifying situation that that has led many to seek out explanations of its historical roots. A recent criticism of Ta-Nehisi Coates by Cornel West became a means to debate not only the origins of racism and class inequality, but also the most effective means of fighting both in the US and globally. In this moment, the US left can advance a deeper and broader conversation about how racism functions in neoliberal, imperial America, and how to build working-class organizations that fight for social justice for all.

But that opportunity requires overcoming a powerful ideological legacy. The dominance of neoliberalism frames inequality as deriving from personal responsibility or the lack thereof and replaces structural analysis with a focus on “race relations.”

This is possible because of the enshrinement of race as a natural category, the spread of the fiction that certain traits define members of one “race” and differentiate them from members of other races. No one has better diagnosed the problems with this categorization than Barbara and Karen Fields, authors of the 2012 book Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life. In an interview that aired on The Dig, Daniel Denvir interviews Barbara and Karen Fields about the police violence, the illusion of race, and how we can fight for working-class liberation.

Read the full transcript from Jacobin here.

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