Over the last few decades there has been some confusion in geographical education and research about the category of race, a category that was once so central to all the social sciences. If race often appears in quotes, does that mean it is not real? If race is a social construction, why is there still racism in institutions, feelings and economic distribution? Can physical differences between human bodies be considered without boxing them into the old colonial categories? This article provides a critical account of some of the mechanisms whereby differentiation happens along racial lines. It does so by carefully avoiding the reduction of race to genetic lines, while also taking the biological dimension of race seriously. A framework for approaching race and racism is suggested that will hopefully help to clear the confusion.