Blog post

The Academic & the Artist: Discussion Series with Karen Fields, co-author of Racecraft

Natasha Lewis26 February 2013

Next Thursday, Barbara Fields will discuss Racecraft: The Soul of Inequality in American Life with Atlantic senior editor Ta-Nehisi Coates at the CUNY Graduate Center. The book, which Fields co-wrote with her sister, Karen Fields, is dense with ideas and there will be lots to cover in the conversation.

In advance of the event, we recommend the Academic & the Artist podcast, which Karen Fields has appeared on three times now. The programs provide a great opportunity to explore some of the challenging debates circulating around the book's central themes of race, inequality and the mythical belief in a "post-racial" America.

In the first interview, which was released shortly after Racecraft was published in the fall of last year, Fields talked to the podcast hosts José F. Moreno and Sergio Muñoz about racial identity, the racializing of inequality, and the problems inherent in fighting inequality with social policy that has been constructed on racial terms. Music by Stevie Wonder—Fields is a fan—was played during musical interludes. Click here to listen to the first show. 

Muñoz, who invited Fields on the show, said he was compelled by the term “racecraft” because the word clarified a number of complex thoughts he had considered but had been unable to articulate. “It's like thousands of years of injustice wrapped into one word,” he said.

After the first interview, Muñoz became curious to hear from academics who engage in race-related research about the ideas he found in the book. In December, Muñoz invited Theodore Shaw, law professor and former head of the NAACP, to join Fields for a meeting of minds and their illuminating conversation, with songs by Jimi Hendrixcan be streamed here.

Last week, Fields spoke to Craig Steven Wilder, history professor at M.I.T. and author of In The Company of Black Men: The African Influence on African American Culture in New York City, with Taj Mahal as the soundtrack. This cloudcast is currently available to download on iTunes (search The Academic and the Artist) or you can click to listen here

Through 2013, there will be more conversations about Racecraft and Muñoz will release the audio on iTunes and on his website (where you can also find an archive of the whole series: click the link and scroll down to the Racecraft book cover).  Upcoming guests include Gilman Whiting, creator of the Scholar Identity Model, a program designed to encourage academic success for young black men; Natalie Byfield, Assistant Professor of Sociology at St. John’s University in Queens who reported on the Central Park Five Case during her former career as a journalist; and Joseph L. Graves, Associate Dean for Research at JSCC, who is known for his critique of biological determinism.

On March 28, a new show will be available to download on iTunes. Fields will talk to Tiffany Patterson, associate professor of African American and Diaspora Studies at Vanderbilt University, with music by Cassandra Wilson.

Make sure to check the Verso blog to stay up-to-date on what will no doubt be a fascinating series.