Racecraft Redefined

Although we did not spend much time discussing the book Racecraft in class, I like how Karen and Barbara Fields connected race to the idea of witchcraft and created “Racecraft”. The authors drawing a distinction between race, racism, and racecraft has made it easier for me to understand how each evolves from the other. Race, the idea that nature produced humankind in distinct groups, racism, a social practice that is an action towards someone based on ancestry and race, and Racecraft, which does not refer to groups or ideas about groups, and cannot be physically seen but is what sustains racism.


I’ve interpreted Racecraft in relation to witchcraft, as if a person fits the description and profile of a witch, and everything around them suggests that person is practicing witchcraft, even if it may not be so, then that person is a witch. If a person fits the description of a black person, and everything around them suggests black culture, then that person is in fact black. Racecraft has become the modern-day version of witchcraft, and used as an excuse to make assumptions about people based on race.

As I was looking further into the idea of racecraft, I came across an article that used Karen and Barbara Fields definition of racecraft in a different way. Instead of racecraft being defined as making a mental assumption about someone’s race based on ontology, this author defines racecraft as if you do or say something that would be viewed as a racist, you are automatically assumed racist, even if you’re not.

‘Racism’ now apparently meant anything that, in the view of black people, hurt their interests or offended them or, indeed, anything they did not approve of. “

What shocked me about the article is how the author redefined racecraft. Instead of witches being compared to people of color and being viewed as the prosecuted group, the author suggests that it should be witches compared to people assumed racist as the prosecuted group. The author is suggesting that black people and other minority groups are too quick to assume that someone is racist just because of their ontology. The author begins to mock the idea of being assumed a racist, and superficially states that being a racist can even affect your social standing.

“Once you’re branded with the Scarlet “R,” some people do not regard it as immoral to assault you…or worse.  Calling someone a racist is sufficient to brand them as outside the pale of civilized company. In academia, the accusation is a career-wrecker. Socially it is enough to get you dropped from the A-list of the best parties.”

Throughout the rest of the article the author argues that the idea of assuming someone is a racist has become absurd because unless there is physical and identifiable proof that someone is a racist, assuming someone is a racist has just become an excuse for African- Americans and other minority groups to explain their misfortune.

I think the author is ignoring the fact that African- Americans and minority groups are treated poorly in this country due to centuries of mistreatment and inequality. I think the author is trying to divert the attention away from taking responsibility for what could be his own experience as being viewed as a racist. The author seems to be uncomfortable with the thought that the privileged race has taken actions to undermine the advancement of African-Americans in society, and does not want to take responsibility so he says that unless there is identifiable proof of racism, then it is just his definition of racecraft.



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