In this essay, I offer a critique of essentialist theories of race. I suggest that such theories have limited explanatory and predictive capacity with respect to the operation of race in education and in daily life. Further, I argue that one cannot understand race by looking at race alone. One must look at the dynamics of class, ethnicity, and gender. These dynamic variables operate in contradictory and discontinuous ways in the institutional setting. Dynamics of gender and class often cut at right angles to race. For example, workingclass black women and men have radically different experiences of race rela­ tions than their middle-class counterparts because of the ever-widening economic divide that separates different groups of black people in the United States. In addition to critiquing contemporary theories of race, I will look at a number of ethnographic examples of contradiction in the experi­ ence of racial inequality that underscore the heterogeneity associated with the operation of racial dynamics in schooling. Finally, I will draw some con­ clusions about curriculum and educational reform that take the complexity and the heterogeneity of race into account.