What Is Race?


Debunking the competition metaphor.

Monica sent all the bloggers involved in the Race 2012 Blogging Project an email asking if any of us had an answer to commenter, Gregory Bagget’s, question:

What is race, generally, and what is the meaning of race in the title of this blog?

I’ll take a stab at it, Monica!

What is Race?

Race (n.) means both “people of common descent” and “an act of running” if you look it up in the dictionary. In this blog project, we are talking about both meanings. Plus all of the connotational meanings in which “race” is marinated.

What is Race?Race makes me think of the prevalence of the competition metaphor  in our American culture, so connected  is it to self worth in both its literal meanings. Race defines people by the color of their skins, rather than what is inside their hearts and minds. We may have come far in 50 years, but we have long to go to eliminated it. Racism is still prevalent and dangerous, mostly we just disguise it differently. (For example, using blame.) The impact on one’s self identity and worth is beyond awful. To quote Totsy’s comment on my last post. “We’ve got a lotta work to do.”

In Western culture, we have been raised in dual thinking. Everything is black and white, good or bad, right or wrong. There is a objective “good enough” and if you don’t meet it, you have failed. Sometimes we are so preoccupied racing to be “good enough,” that we forget to have compassion for ourselves and others. We forget to see what makes us alike. We forget collaboration is a better way. If we are in the privileged group, we often fail to see the injustices we benefit from (maybe since we benefit from them.)

We put down others to feel better about ourselves. We are entirely too focused on who is better smarter, more qualified, prettier, richer, thinner, stronger, more popular, whiter, more qualified than who. No wonder we can’t get along with other countries, we can’t get along within our country. We are “us versus them” inside our own communities.

Comparison is the thief of Joy

These ridiculous social standards create the linear win-lose scale that invites competition. Competition is a leftover biological survival skill; in prehistoric times we needed to be faster and stronger. Having the competitive edge meant survival. In modernity, we no longer need this skill. We don’t need to be better than our neighbor to live. We may feel like we do, but we don’t. Instead “race” oppresses our spirits.

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” When we compare ourselves to others, we can only win or lose.  Everything is linear. There is only one line to stand on and you have your place, before or after enough. We race through life, constantly trying to win. 

There are millions of people in the world who feel depressed, anxious, and angry due to being on the losing side of “enough.” This calamity has dire–sometimes fatal–personal, familial, community, and global consequences. As they internalize this experience–allowing it to define them–they conclude that their inherent worthlessness is the culprit.

Couched in an infinite number of contexts, not feeling enough is by far the biggest problem people suffer from. Some might say it is our only problem. (Ok, I might say that. But, think about it, feeling unworthy –or that someone else is treating you as if you are not worthy–is behind almost everything you’ve been upset about lately, right?) Imagine if institutionally, socially, culturally, economically, you are stripped of your worth.

The consequences are felt on every corner of this earth.

Race issues are infiltrated into everything we do, and we model competition in the highest office of our nation.

What kind of legacy are we leaving our children about race and race? 

Please share.

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Kelly Hashway

Race is not something I really think about because I don’t see people by what race they are. People are people in my mind. And the funny thing is when I read your post title, I thought of a running race because I used to do those all the time. My favorite thing about road races is that everyone cheers for everyone, from first place to last. It’s a very supportive community. We’re all just proud of each other for getting out there.
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Jodi Lobozzo Aman

I am glad people are people in your mind. I wish we were all like that, but we mustn’t forget that so many others see skin color and make assumptions. We have to think about it until everyone is like you! Everyone is part of the same team.

Harleena [email protected] Writer

Yes indeed Jodi!

I really don’t relate to people based on what race or culture they are from, though I know some people have heir own opinions about it. For me, a person is whole and a complete individual , irrespective of the race.

While on the other hand, yes, we all are running a race – a wile race against time where each one is so busy in their daily chores that there’s hardly any time to sit and think, which I wish they would realize. I hope we can make out kids better than us and teach them both these aspects about race.

Thanks for sharing. 🙂

Jodi Lobozzo Aman

I wish more people thought like you, Harleena. People are people and we need to see and speak from our hearts instead of our fears.


Good post, Jodi. Love Roosevelt’s quote and it’s so true. We’re a material society and the race to get ahead and always be better sorta sets us up to make those comparisons that steal joy. I found that I was more competitive at later stages in life. Late bloomer, I guess. But it’s stressful. Now, I’m just aiming for being gracious as I strive to be my creative self.
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Jodi Lobozzo Aman

Your creative self rocks, and I love every word you write and painting you paint. It inspires, entertains, teaches, provokes. Keep inviting us to see.

What is “race?” on Heal Now - Center for Narrative Practice

[…] Read More on Heal Now… […]

Beverly Diehl

I think we are always seeking ways to connect with one another, and race (and gender) is a fast way to “think” we are connected. It’s much easier to look at someone or listen to him/her for a few minutes and make a snap judgment, than it is to really examine the whole body of someone’s work and positions, especially in politics.

On the surface, I have much in common with Michele Bachman – until she opens her mouth. Race is (or should be) only one factor when evaluating a candidate.

We do have to make these judgments, in politics, in business, in friendships – who can I trust? Or, at least, who can I trust when it comes to X?
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Jodi Lobozzo Aman

We need to put the snap judgments to rest. Take our time, get to now people and see their hearts and souls before we make a decision about who they are.

Laura Zera

Putting snap judgments to rest is hard! I still do it all the time even though I know it’s not fair and it doesn’t serve me or the other person well. So when I find myself doing it, I try to pivot. If I look at someone and think something disparaging about them, then I say to myself, ” you don’t know that. You have no evidence to back that.”
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Jodi, I don’t think you “took a stab” on this subject, I think you nailed it! Beautifully delivered, my friend. Race. The minute one says the word, the connotation of competition rears its ugly head. Not that being competitive is a bad thing, but it can be if all we do is tear others down to get ahead. Whenever I think of racial discrimination, I always think of Martin Luther King Jr. and his amazing speech, “I have a dream.” No truer words have been spoken. If we could all get past the color of our skin, the material aspect of life, the need to feel superior to others, I think we would have a better chance of experiencing joy. I think that more than comparison being the thief of joy, it’s thinking that the human race has to be divided into colors. Black, white, yellow, or red, we are all the same. We breathe, we feel, we love. Great post, lady! 🙂
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Jodi Lobozzo Aman

Thanks, Bella,

“If we could all get past the color of our skin, the material aspect of life, the need to feel superior to others, I think we would have a better chance of experiencing joy.”

Yup, every word, yup.

Lisa W. Rosenberg

I think this is so well said, such a challenging topic. I also think it is a piece of human nature to need to classify others, making distinctions between “like me” and “not like me.” It is a false kind of safety that can breed such negativity. Beautifully “stabbed,” Jodi!
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Jodi Lobozzo Aman

Thanks, Lisa, all a part of separateness. So painful. So wrong in so many ways. Thanks!


I think people who say they don’t see race or don’t think about people on the basis of their race are not being honest. I think it is ok to see race, it is usually a big part of who people are based on their culture. Instead of trying to ignore race we should embrace it, understand and appreciate the differences.

Jodi Lobozzo Aman

Oh, that needed to be said. If you don’t see it, you are part of the problem.


Jodi, I love this line: “No wonder we can’t get along with other countries, we can’t get along within our country.” Brilliant! Great post, indeed.
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Jodi Lobozzo Aman

Why can’t we all just get along, Monica???

Louise G

You’ve touched on some very profound and important ideas Jodi — we are not our skin colour, depth of our pockets, speed of our car, size of our house — but, we are so often judged on these things — and yes, it is the ‘not good enough’ that creates such yearning and anxiety in our society.

thanks for provoking my thinking! 🙂
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Jodi Lobozzo Aman

And worse, we judge ourselves. If our judgments didn’t matter, than no one else’s would.


I don’t think about the differences in people, although, I have been called out for my differences. I’m Latin, or something. When I was in the banking sector, the big banks loved me.. I filled three boxes for them: Woman, ethnic, and a senior manager. Claudine(from Carry Us Off Books) said in response to a similar question that we are all the same underneath – blood and bones. There is not one difference between us other than prejudices that are taught to kids, and sadly passed on..
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Jodi Lobozzo Aman

I wish everyone felt that way. Saw connection rather than disconnection!


Race is what everybody does at some stage to beat somebody else who more often that not is not worth beating anyway.

In regards to a person race is what you see when you just want to see the outside of a person and not what’s inside.

If in the upcoming American Election if people vote for either candidate because of their colour then they are in my opinion very narrow minded, it’s what people say and do not what they look like that’s important.

Our Prime Minister summed it up nicely this week he said:-

He spoke about his disabled son Ivan, who died in 2009, saying his best moment of the summer was putting a gold medal around the neck of Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds.

“When I used to push my son Ivan around in his wheelchair, I always thought that some people saw the wheelchair, not the boy,hopefully the Paralympic Games will change this view”.
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Jodi Lobozzo Aman

We need to see the person, what is inside that counts, same as anybody else. A heart, love, a longing, breath, life. Thanks Robert!

Greg at Tiny Bit Better

I grew up in a part of the US where racism (in both general meanings) is passed on generationally, almost as if it’s part of a precious family legacy. Daily, I was inundated with “____ are lazy and dishonest” or “I wish those _____ would learn to talk right” or “Stand up straight, you’re not a ____ .” I think I was blessed with some sort of racial stupidity (ethnically speaking now) because I got to school and noticed that ALL the kids were goofy, or talked funny, or got lazy at times, regardless of their color. I also noticed that ALL the kids smiled at each other, shared parts of lunch, shared pencils, had each others backs when a kid from a different class posed a threat on the playground. We weren’t black kids or white kids or brown kids or yellow kids or red kids…we were just kids. And because we almost all grew up together going to the same schools and being kept in the same classes, we were all pretty tight-knit and managed to avoid the other racism (competition) that was rampant around us. We worked with kids who had a problem with a subject. We rallied around kids who were having a family problem. We competed in high school sports, but every one of us somehow managed to compete against ourselves instead of each other. And every one of us cheered for each other, no matter how big or small the accomplishment. As soon as I left the safe little bubble of my group of comrades, I realized just how lucky we were to have avoided all the traps of both kinds of racism. To this day, it drives me crazy when I hear a racist remark (ethnically speaking) and I will not let it go unchallenged…not because I’m such a wonderful person…but because I am simply a person. Thanks again for another new perspective on things, Jodi.
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