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When I read that sentence, I get a feeling that this sentence is incorrect and must be in present simple tense, because it points to a "habit" in the US.

On the other hand, I thought a little about that, and I suppose that the writer knows what he is doing, and he used the present perfect to tell that race mattered up to now and it could be changed.

Is my second conclusion valid? and if it's not why using present perfect in that sentence?

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Race matters.
Race matters now.

Race always matters.
There has never been a time and there will never be a time when race does not matter. Race matters now, mattered in the past, and will matter in the future.

Race has always mattered.
There has never been a time, including the present, in which race did not matter. Race mattered in the past, and matters at this moment.

There is no implication in the present perfect that this situation could change in the future, or that it will persist in the future. The present perfect is silent about the future.

  • Interesting, I was thinking about exactly such implication. It's probably only usage, which makes it seem like there is such implication then. Could you add explanation for simple past? This would increase this answer's value I think. – Zelphir Kaltstahl Feb 27 '16 at 12:45
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    Simple past is so simple :) Race mattered. Race mattered in the past. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 27 '16 at 13:07
  • @TRomano It's worth noting that the simple past here really needs a time reference, in order to make sense. – Charlie Harding Feb 27 '16 at 14:20
  • Well, it makes minimal sense, certainly as much sense as "race matters". – Tᴚoɯɐuo Feb 27 '16 at 14:37

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