once we understand that race overflows the boundaries of skin color, super-exploitation, social stratification, discrimination and prejudice, cultural domination and cultural resistance, state policy (or of any other particular social relationship we list), once we recognize the racial dimension present to some degree in every identity, institution and social practice in the United States—once we have done this, it becomes possible to speak of racial formation. This recognition is hard-won; there is a continuous temptation to think of race as an essence, as something fixed, concrete and objective, as (for example) one of the categories just enumerated. And there is also an opposite temptation: to see it as a mere illusion, which an ideal social order would eliminate. In our view it is crucial to break with these habits of thought. The effort must be made to understand race as an unstable and ‘decentered’ complex of social meanings constantly being transformed by political struggle (13).