the way i think about race is that it's a series of generalizations based on a bad taxonomy. that is, there is no basis in reality for distinguishing people into races. but then once you have it's not precisely that the generalizations you make are necessarily false: for example you detect real voting patterns among the races, real income levels, educational levels, incarceration rates. not only that, but a lot of actual stereotyopes are true. that is what race really is: race is a series of technologies designed to make the antecedent taxonomy real.
this happens again and again: so the stereotype is ignorant, godless savage. then you actually pass laws making it illegal to teach black people to read. right? black women are oversexed or whatever, not like your wife; then they are free game for rape. see? racism tries to manufacture a world that matches its conceptuality, with mixed success. the stereotype is violent, criminal, so then you start filling up prisons with millions of black men. you are just enforcing the law; no, you are enforcing the law in reflection of a problematic taxonomy that the result of that enforcement confirms. now we see that there are astonishing rates of crime among young black men, precisely because it is enforced on them, and it is enforced precisely because of the antecedent set of categories. one makes the structure of categories or the typology true and then finds it to be true in experience. one helps create what one then detects, as though quite intentionally.
and we are so so stuck in the taxonomy, cannot even conceive ourselves without it: just listen to the ways every pundit starts by breaking us down into racial groups in order to understand us politically, and simultaneously how racial groups polarize toward certain parties or positions. race becomes ever truer as it mutates. but it does matter that it's actually false.
or, race is and is not false: it's the sort of social construction that is massively enforced and hence becomes a massive fact; it's not merely imaginary, sadly. start by thinking about the way it articulates the way bodies are distributed in space. it is always being enforced and naturalized. but then precisely because it is actually false it is always falling apart and always being enforced anew. the fact that it is enforced - in large razor-wire enclosures or on the streets - shows that it's not true; if it were not enforced it would cease to exist; it has to be held in reality by force. in some sense if we stopped thinking about each other this way it would disappear, but that's not under anyone's power because of the centuries-long history of the concept's enforcement on people's bodies; it's impossible to the extent that it is a reality external to each of us. race shows the power of our social constructions and also the lurid flimsiness of our self-serving fictions.