RACECRAFT, Sumptuary Rules, And Black Media Trust

While I totally disagree with her underlying reason for writing this book, there are many places throughout where her argument shines. As a defense for Barry Obeezy’s labeling as First US Black President in leiu of more accurate descriptions leads to many contradictions throughout this text. However, there was one bit of jewelry I was able to excavate from this writing.

In their book, “Racecraft: The Soul Of Inequality In American Life”, Karen E. Fields and Barbara J. Fields explore racial classification in historic and popular discussion. While this is most definitely a noble argument, their main motivation is defense of 44th President Barrack Obama’s lineage. As a collection of essays presenting race as a social construct primarily used to force people to live according to a pecking order, this work is brilliant. As a bullet proof vest for a guy that referred to his own Self as a mutt racially, and consistently demeaned US Blacks as “thugs” who needed to pull their pants up and take care of their children, it reeks of celebrity worship.

Their book’s first chapter, “A Tour Of Racecraft”, states:

Sumptuary codes enforce social classification. They consist of rules, written or unwritten, that establish unequal rank and make it immediately visible. When there is no phenotypic difference…sumptuary rules do what nature leaves undone…Sumptuary rules in slaveholding America reserved certain fabrics for slaves and might forbid certain colors. In that spirit, a group of Charlestonians demanded legislation to “prevent the slaves from wearing silks, satins, crapes, lace muslins, and such costly stuffs as are looked upon and considered the luxury of dress,” because “every distinction should be created between the whites and the negroes, calculated to make the latter feel the superiority of the former.”
“Racecraft: The Soul Of Inequality In American Life”, Karen E. Fields and Barbara J. Fields, pg 33

As discussion for class and social order along a trajectory handling US race, describing “sumptuary rules” works very accurately. One of those myriad of reasons I address a need for Black Media Trust is a use of media messages that suggest how US society is ordered. We refer to this in other terms as hegemony. What I disagree with these sisters on is their use of this discussion of “sumptuary rules” to protect a man whose entire body of politics is obedience and acquiescence to social orders. Ironically, in their own book, these brilliant women write:

Obedience usually concealed the intrinsic violence of the rule and kept black people visibly in their place.
“Racecraft: The Soul Of Inequality In American Life”, Karen E. Fields and Barbara J. Fields, pg 35

Despite their ingratiating to Daddy Obama, they really do make exquisitely insightful points regarding “sumptuary rules” that play very well with Black Media Trust. In their first chapter, they continue:

Sumptuary rules produce a regular supply of circumstantial evidence about what the world is made of and who belongs where within it. Not only can rules endowed with that power shape action in advance, they can also shape opinions of which the holders may be unaware until the moment they come into play.
“Racecraft: The Soul Of Inequality In American Life”, Karen E. Fields and Barbara J. Fields, pg 33

This particular line of thought that runs their first half of this chapter concludes with particular poignance:

Along that way, the sumptuary code shades into the peculiar American predicament of having multiple class resentments but no legitimate language for talking about class.
ibid., pg 39

Once again, despite their reasons for their reasoning, this is apt for today’s Black critical thinker. Their final thoughts throughout this chapter resonate mostly with my last quote from this chapter:

…”genetic” is not equivalent to “racial” or “ethnic”ibid., pg 41

Black blood exists only as metaphor.ibid., pg 57

I do believe that true adherents and loyal readers of OWL’s Asylum know just how much this sentiment echoes throughout our thinking.