Derrick Bell’s thesis, that racism is a permanent feature of society, is frequently misrepresented by detractors as signalling a view of racism as monolithic; bold, obvious and unchanging. This paper argues that critical race theory reveals a very different understanding of racism, as relentless and yet fluid and quick to morph depending on current circumstances. In this way, CRT offers a new perspective on the view that the more things change, the more they stay the same (the central theme for this journal special issue). This paper focuses on two key issues where the last quarter century has seen considerable superficial change, that appears progressive, but masks a deeper reality of continued racial injustice. First, the changing contours of the Black/White achievement gap in England, and second, the continuing fascination (on both sides of the Atlantic) with notions of genetics and intelligence.