In this essay we examine three competing causal interpretations of racial disparities in health. The first approach views race as a biologically meaningful category and racial disparities in health as reflecting inherited susceptibility to disease. The second approach treats race as a proxy for class and views socioeconomic stratification as the real culprit behind racial disparities. The third approach treats race as neither a biological category nor a proxy for class, but as a distinct construct, akin to caste. We point to historical, political, and ideological obstacles that have hindered the analysis of race and class as codeterminants of disparities in health.