Like many sociological concepts, racism has an everyday use and many everyday meanings. During the last fifty years or so, it has become a key idea in daily discourse as well as in sociological theory. Like other elements of ‘common sense’ discourse (Gramsci 1971: 323-33), much of the everyday language is uncritical, taken-for-granted. The concept of racism is also heavily negatively loaded, morally and politically. Thus, to claim that someone has expressed a racist opinion is to denounce them as immoral and unworthy. In sum, racism has become a term of political abuse. This presents special difficulties for the social scientist who defends the use of the concept. Whatever definition is offered has significance for not only academic work, but also political and moral debate.