In 1986, sociologists Michael Omi and Howard Winant released Racial Formation in the United States.
Now in its third edition, the book has since become the go-to primer for a concept known as “critical race theory” — an argument that societies draw arbitrary differences between people and categorize them in terms of race.
In their book, Omi and Winant argue that race has served as the standard method of social, cultural, and economic categorization and separation — that race in the United States is far from an objective, biological, or cultural reality. Religion, language, economic policy, and geography often determine race as much as physical features do, the book says.
Far from proposing a “colorblind” society, Omi and Winant argue that social justice can only be achieved by understanding how arbitrary racial separation really is and working backwards.
Howard Winant, who’s also a professor of sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, joins us to discuss how critical race theory can be applied to our era of heightened racial awareness.