Chris asks a deceptively simple question: "Given that you've spent so much of your life studying race and class, where do you side on the whole race-class debate? Race is reducible to class? Race is separate but interconnected to class. Race is separate. Etc."
I have written about this before, but it seems appropriate to return to the issue in the context of the current race between Sanders and Clinton for the Democratic nomination, just before the South Carolina primary.
Quite obviously, neither race nor class is "reducible" to the other, and equally obviously, they are interconnected in endlessly complex ways. Here, put as simply as I am able, is my view of their differences:
The struggles for gender equality, racial equality, and equality of sexual orientation are all, in my view, struggles for the perfection of capitalism, not its overthrow. I think Marx was right [and he was not at all alone in this view in the nineteenth century] that capitalism is a revolutionary force whose tendency it is to destroy social, economic, and political differences based on race, gender, religion, ethnicity, or [though Marx would never have said so] sexual orientation. That is to say, it is the tendency of capitalism to erode or destroy social and economic differences grounded in anything other than one's position in the social relations of production. Thus capitalism was, when it appeared, and is in its essence, politically progressive and liberal in its orientation. The ideal capitalist world is a world in which men, women, Blacks, Whites, Gays and Straights are all equally and with rigorous fairness exploited by capital, a world furthermore in which no religious beliefs interfere with the smooth accumulation of capital.
The evidence of the past century strongly suggests that Marx overestimated the power of capitalism to accomplish this transformation of the pre-capitalist world, but he was correct, I think, in its tendency.
The liberation struggles of women, African-Americans, and the LGBT community are desirable, admirable, essential, and worthy of support and commitment, but they are not, nor have they ever pretended to be, inimical to capitalism itself.
What makes the Sanders campaign extraordinary in American politics is that it is the first campaign in several generations that even hints that capitalism itself is the problem, not the deformations or imperfections of capitalism. I say "hints" because Bernie is really an FDR liberal, not a genuine socialist in the style of my grandfather [or Eugene V. Debs, to choose a rather more prominent example from the same period of American history.]
Does that help?