Omi and Winant ask whether simply dispensing with the concept of race might be possible, and they answer by explaining the problem with doing so:
It is rather difficult to jettison widely held beliefs, beliefs which are moreover central to everyone's identity and understanding of the social world. . . . despite its uncertainties and contradictions, the concept of race continues to play a fundamental role in structuring and representing the social world. The task for theory is to explain the situation. . . . Thus we should think of race as an element of social structure rather than as an irregularity within it; we should see race as a dimension of human representation rather than an illusion. . . . [We] define racial formation as the sociohistorical process by which racial categories are created, inhabited, transformed, and destroyed (Omi & Winant, 1994, pp. 55-56).
The propensity to perceive other humans as belonging to racial groups may be a function of the way that the human perceptual and conceptual systems evolved. Perhaps the ability to recognize whether individuals were or were not members of one's local population once had survival value. On this point Omi and Winant comment, "One of the first things we notice about people when we meet them (along with their sex) is their race. We utilize race to provide clues about who a person is. This fact is made pa