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Anti-Racism Glossary


Definition: Abolitionism, historically, refers to a social movement to end slavery during the 19th century and to emancipate enslaved peoples. Modern day abolitionism is dedicated to the protection and empowerment of trafficked people.

In North America, abolitionists acknowledge the many institutions and practices that have replaced slavery as ways to subjugate, control, disenfranchise, or punish racialized people, especially Black and Indigenous people. They point to the historical roots of modern-day policing in historical Slave Patrols, or compare the enslavement of Black people to the modern-day mass incarceration of Black and Indigenous people, as among the many examples. Abolitionists oppose the ways many laws or institutions uphold the racist hierarchies that slavery was founded on and to restrict the freedom of the descendants of enslaved people.

Generally speaking, abolitionists oppose punitive measures as a response to harm, and seek to abolish the prison-industrial complex, that is, a world without surveillance, policing, and imprisonment. Many abolitionists pursue modern-day versions of emancipation. Abolitionists generally pursue the advancement of social systems and services to combat inequity and promote social justice and community care over surveillance, policing, and imprisonment.

Modern-day abolitionists have emerged over the last several years, as awareness of slavery around the world has grown, with groups such as Anti-Slavery International, the American Anti-Slavery Group, International Justice Mission, and Free the Slaves working to rid the world of slavery.

Affirmative Action

Affirmative action is the active effort to improve the employment or educational opportunities of members of marginalized groups and women through explicit actions, policies or programs (CRRF). These explicit actions refer not only to inclusion in the hiring process, but are meant to improve how a place of work or learning functions, such as in decision making or communication.

One of the most pervasive and harmful myths around affirmative action is that hiring or selection procedures unfairly favour unqualified candidates over qualified candidates—that women and racialized people are ‘taking’ a White man’s job, or that companies and universities were ‘lowering the bar’ to admit women and BIPOC candidates.

While there is ample statistical and research evidence to refute this, present-day job postings may still emphasize that while the company welcomes applicants from ‘minority’ groups, only ‘qualified’ candidates will be considered, which harkens to the racist fear that ‘unqualified’ BIPOC candidates were ‘taking’ White jobs.


Anti-racism refers to taking proactive steps to fight racial inequity. It differs from other approaches that may focus on multiculturalism or diversity because it acknowledges that systemic racism exists, and it actively confronts the unequal power dynamic between groups and the structures that sustain it.

Anti-racism involves consistently assessing structures, policies and programs to ensure they are fair and equitable for everyone, including through the monitoring of outcomes. It actively examines the power imbalances between racialized people and non-racialized or white people. These imbalances play out in the form of privileges that white people benefit from, and racialized people do not.

Anti-Racism is the practice of actively identifying and opposing racism. Someone who is anti-racist works to change systems, policies, social practices, and attitudes to redistribute and share power equitably.

A person who practices anti-racism is someone who works to become aware of:

  • How racism affects the lived experience of people of colour and Indigenous people.
  • How racism is systemic, and has been part of many foundational aspects of society throughout history, and can be manifested in both individual attitudes and behaviours as well as formal (and “unspoken”) policies and practices within institutions.
  • How people participate, often unknowingly, in racism.

BIPOC is an acronym that stands for “Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour.” Some see the term as inclusive as it acknowledges that “POC” (People of Colour) alone does not accurately represent the disparate ongoing and historical experiences of both Black and Indigenous people. On the other hand, some argue that using an all-encompassing term like “BIPOC” is lazy, homogeneous and a product of colonialism.

Acronyms and other abbreviations can feel easy and convenient, and they do have a purpose. Acronyms can be helpful in social media posts when one might need to conserve space. Using the acronym BIPOC might also be appropriate if you are discussing issues that are relevant to groups of Black people, Indigenous people, and other People of Colour and it isn’t possible or necessary to be more specific. For example, you might say, “My goal this year is to read more BIPOC authors.”

But, blanket use of BIPOC can still become problematic. Putting all People of Colour into one category, even when attempting to emphasize certain voices, can still diminish individual experiences and cultural identities. When talking with (or about) individuals or smaller groups of people, avoid defaulting to umbrella terms such as “POC” and “BIPOC,” since these tend to be less accurate.

Black Joy

Black Joy is a term used to appreciate, support, and celebrate Black cultures. It is to highlight Black people’s happy moments and experiences in daily life. The expression of Black Joy counters deficit culture and deficit imagery of Black people, communities, and cultures. It counters an overrepresentation of Black pain and struggle.  Black Joy is a quiet and peaceful resistance against Black discrimination. In social media, it is often seen with the hashtag “#BlackJoy”.


BLM is an acronym for Black Lives Matter. BLM is a social movement to bring attention to the violence that Black people experience and the ways that inequity, bias, and anti-Black racism contribute to this violence. BLM gained more presence in the media and in social consciousness in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who killed a teenage Black boy, and again, after the murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin. People can participate in the movement with the hashtag “#BlackLivesMatter”. Its goal is to eradicate white supremacy and establish a strong Black bond to protect Black people from anti-black violence.

Some people argue that using the term Black Lives Matter demonstrates support for an organisation of the same name.  Among its main goals are stopping police brutality and fighting for courts to treat Black people equally. Its demands for equality also include mental health, the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, and voting rights.

Many people have explained they were opposing racism – not supporting the organisation – when they joined the millions using the #blacklivesmatter hashtag or were taking part in protests. For example, after criticism of the England team taking the knee, defender Tyrone Mings said: “It’s never been about supporting Black Lives Matter as an organisation. That was a cheap argument that people threw at the movement.”

Campbell, A. (2021, June 12). What is black lives matter and what are the aims?. BBC News. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/explainers-53337780

YouTube. (2021, March 22). Tyrone Mings speaks powerfully on why “taking the knee” has not lost its power. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ztXRaprVnY&t=162s

Colour Blindness

Colour blindness is when people of a majority, dominant social group say they do not ‘see’ race (or gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc.). Colour blindness is rooted in the belief that group membership and differences (like race-based differences) should not be considered when decisions are made, impressions are formed, and behaviours are enacted. Though this desire is aspirational and ideal, it is not realistic.

The intention of colour blindness is to prevent prejudice and discrimination. When people say “I don’t see colour”, they are trying to say, “I want everyone to be treated equally” or “I am not racist”. The intention of this statement is good, and idealized, but the impact of claiming to be ‘colour blind’ does more harm than good.

By claiming to not ‘see’ race, people deny or remain ignorant of practices that reproduce inequity, marginalization, and harm, including their own harmful practices.  Such people are also then unaware of and uncritical of the worldviews, attitudes, and biases that exist outside of conscious thought, and may reproduce racism and inequity despite their explicit, stated values and intentions.

Not ‘seeing’ race dismisses the lived experiences of people of colour and suggests that racism doesn’t exist. Not seeing race means a person is also choosing to ignore racial disparities, inequities, history of violence, and current trauma within society.

Ascribing to colour blindness also serves as a way for people in the majority to not participate in conversations about race and racism. Colour blindness, like meritocracy or bootstrap theory, blames individuals for any professional or personal barriers or difficulties they experience, including racism. It suggests that if someone can’t ‘overcome’ racism, it’s because they didn’t try hard enough, or that they personally deserved inequitable treatment.

Cultural Appreciation

Cultural appreciation is exploring another culture with a respectful and positive attitude to learn about it and find cross-cultural connections.

Examples of cultural appreciation may include:

  • going to Italy, taking a cooking class from Italian locals, and making homemade pasta;
  • buying and wearing a t shirt with traditional artwork from an Indigenous artist;
  • attending a showcase of African, Caribbean, and Indigenous cultures intended to both entertain and educate the audience hosted by the Caribbean African Students Association;
  • wearing a saree and having henna done for a Hindu wedding at your Hindu friend’s recommendation and guidance;
  • wishing your Muslim neighbours Ramadan Mubarak or attending the Eid feast with them when invited to do so;

It becomes easier to appreciate, not appropriate, culture by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do I understand the significance of what I am doing, or buying?
  • Is the context for what I am doing, or buying, appropriate?
  • Am I honouring the culture or imitating it?
  • Am I perpetuating a stereotype that might hurt those who belong to this culture?
  • Am I doing this for a social media post or because it’s trendy? Or, am I doing it because it’s an opportunity to learn more about another culture?
  • Is it sacred or spiritual within the culture I’m learning about?
  • Have I asked enough questions?
Cultural Appropriation

Appropriation is the illegal, unfair, or unjust taking of something that doesn’t belong to you. Cultural appropriation is taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.

It’s most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, like sacred objects.

Cultural appropriation exploits minority cultures for profit or personal benefit; the cultural aspect becomes a commodity that helps the dominant group profit but is likely to harm the group from which the culture is ‘borrowed’. Members of the dominant group copy or transform cultural items to suit their own tastes and to make a profit. In Canada, cultural appropriation almost always involves members of the dominant culture (or those who identify with it) ‘borrowing’ from the cultures of minority or marginalized groups.

For example, in recent years, some celebrities have faced controversy when appropriating other cultures. For example, amongst some of these celebrities, Kylie Jenner was under controversy for wearing cornrows, which comes from African and Caribbean cultures and has links to slavery.

Due to this, celebrities such as Amandla Sternberg were disappointed and even commented on the Instagram post, “When you appropriate Black features and culture but fail to use your position of power to help black Americans by directing attention towards your wigs instead of police brutality or racism” (Arterbery, 2016).

This is an example of cultural appropriation because it shows elements of arrogance and a lack of education. Many people are intrigued by aesthetics, and seek validation from the amount of likes their posts will get, without considering the impact of their decisions.

It becomes easier to appreciate, not appropriate, culture by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do I understand the significance of what I am doing, or buying?
  • Is the context for what I am doing, or buying, appropriate?
  • Am I honouring the culture or imitating it?
  • Am I perpetuating a stereotype that might hurt those who belong to this culture?
  • Am I doing this for a social media post or because it’s trendy? Or, am I doing it because it’s an opportunity to learn more about another culture?
  • Is it sacred or spiritual within the culture I’m learning about?
  • Have I asked enough questions?

Arterbery, A. (2016, August 11). This is why it’s still not okay for the kardashian-jenners to culturally appropriate hairstyles. Teen Vogue. https://www.teenvogue.com/story/kardashian-jenners-cultural-appropriation-hair#:~:text=However%2C%20it’s%20a%20statement%20Amandla,attention%20towards%20your%20wigs%20instead

Internalised Racism

Internalized racism happens when a person who belongs to a socially oppressed racial group internalizes and believes the racist values and stereotypes generated by the dominant society. A racial group or individual oppressed by racism behaves in ways or makes decisions in ways that supports the supremacy and dominance of the dominating group. Internalized racism is not the fault of the oppressed individual.

There are four interconnected elements of internalized racism:

  1. Decision making—BIPOC do not have decision-making power over the decisions that control their lives or resources. As a result, they may assume that White people know more about what needs to be done for them. BIPOC people may not support each other’s authority or power. There is a system in place that rewards BIPOC who support white supremacy or punishes those who do not.
  2. Resources, such as money or time, are unequally in the hands and under the control of White people. It makes it difficult for POC to get access to resources for their own communities. BIPOC learn to believe that using resources for themselves or their communities is not serving ‘everybody’.
  3. Standards—The standards for what is ‘appropriate’ or ‘normal’ that BIPOC accept are White people’s or Eurocentric standards.
  4. Naming the Problem—There is a system in place that misnames the problem of racism. BIPOC are blamed for racism and the effects of racism. For example, someone experiencing internalized racism may believe they are inherently more violent than white people and fail to consider the impact of state-sanctioned political violence or the hidden and privatized violence of white people and the systems they put in place and support (Racial Equity Resource Guide).
Institutional Oppression

Institutional oppression is a form and a source of oppression. Institutional oppression happens when the discrimination or harm of a group is supported and enforced by an institution, such as in a policy, law, or practice.

Institutional oppression creates a system of invisible barriers that limits people based on their membership in less privileged groups or advantages and empowers others based on their membership in dominant, privileged groups. The barriers and advantages are only invisible to those who are privileged by their society’s or institution’s laws, policies, and practices. Sometimes, we inherit systems of oppression. Many oppressive laws, systems, processes, and behaviours are taken for granted as ‘normal’ because they have been done that way for so long. Some people are harmed, and others are privileged regardless of whether the individuals maintaining laws, policies, and institutional practices have oppressive intentions.


Microaggression is one type of discrimination that happens at a subconscious level through disrespectful, insulting, and offensive behaviours or comments toward marginalized people. Microaggression happens in daily communication and behaviours both intentionally and unconsciously.

Many ‘well intentioned’ people are capable of committing microaggressions. Microaggressions are sometimes referred to as ‘death by a thousand paper cuts’ because of the various negative impacts they have on a person’s physical and psychological wellbeing, as well as the negative impact they may have on a person’s career and relationships.

There are different kinds of microaggression. Microinvalidations are a form of microaggression. They are behaviours or verbal comments that exclude, deny, or invalidate the thoughts, feelings, or experiences of minority or marginalized individuals. Microinvalidations are often unconscious.  Microassaults are a form of microaggression. Microassaults are usually conscious behaviours or verbal comments that are intended to hurt a person belonging to a minority or marginalized group. Microassaults are purposefully discriminatory. Microinsults are a form of microaggression. They are behaviours or verbal comments that communicate rudeness or demean a person based on their racial heritage, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, religion, etc.

Strategies to interrupt microaggression include microaffirmation and microintervention.


Misogynoir is discrimination towards Black women. The concept of misogynoir reflects the intersections of racism and sexism. It is the unique experience of racism and misogyny that a Black woman may face. A Black woman will experience misogyny and sexism differently than a White woman, and will experience racism differently than a Black man. For example, stereotypes and tropes of Black women are often used in the media—these stereotypes both reflect and promote anti-Blackness and misogyny.


Race is a socially constructed term. People are categorized into a group based on their cultural background and physical features such as skin color, face shape, and hair texture.

While race may be a construct, discrimination and racism are real. In the 18th and 19th centuries, ‘research’ on race created a hierarchy of race and justified what had already been established as unequal social groups. Such ‘research’ was used, for example, to justify the institution of slavery and dehumanizing practices of colonization. Public policies, customs, and worldview have been, and still are, influenced by the ideology that some races are ‘inferior’ or ‘less human’. For example, the false and racist claims made in this ‘research’ that Black people are ‘less innocent’, inherently more violent, or can endure more pain influences present day systems of justice, medical decisions, and health outcomes.

Fredrickson, G. M. (1987). The Black Image in the White Mind. Wesleyan University Press.

Smedley, A. (1999). Race in North America: Origin and Evolution of a Worldview. Westview Press.

Stepan, N. (1982). The Idea of Race in Science. Macmillan.


A basic definition of racism is, it is the combination of prejudice and power.  Racism occurs when a group with the ability to enforce its prejudices does so through laws, institutional policies or practices, social norms, social policies and practices, and cultural norms or expectations. One group’s view of the world is dominates. As a result, racism maintains the privileges of one group over another. Racism can occur consciously and unconsciously, actively and passively.

Reverse racism is a myth. It ignores the power/privilege dynamic of the people involved. The myth of reverse racism wrongly assumes that discrimination occurs on a ‘level’ playing field, which it does not.  It is possible that White people may be discriminated against on the basis of their skin colour, and while this is objectionable, this is not racism.

While assumptions and stereotypes about White people do exist, this is a form of prejudice or discrimination, but not racism. In Canada, White people hold cultural power due to pervasive Eurocentric ways of thinking which are rooted in colonialism. These ways of thinking and this cultural power continue to reproduce and privilege whiteness. The expression of racial prejudice directed at White people may hurt the person individually and should not be condoned. But, the prejudice does not have the power to affect the White person’s social, economic, or political status or privileges.

Anti Black Racism

“Anti-Black racism is prejudice, attitudes, beliefs, stereotyping and discrimination that is directed at people of African descent and is rooted in their unique history and experience of enslavement and its legacy. Anti-Black racism is deeply entrenched in Canadian institutions, policies and practices, to the extent that anti-Black racism is either functionally normalized or rendered invisible to the larger White society. Anti-Black racism is manifest in the current social, economic, and political marginalization of African Canadians, which includes unequal opportunities, lower socio-economic status, higher unemployment, significant poverty rates and overrepresentation in the criminal justice system” (Government of Ontario, “Glossary”.

Anti Indigenous Racism

“Anti-Indigenous racism is the ongoing race-based discrimination, negative stereotyping, and injustice experienced by Indigenous Peoples within Canada. It includes ideas and practices that establish, maintain and perpetuate power imbalances, systemic barriers, and inequitable outcomes that stem from the legacy of colonial policies and practices in Canada. Systemic anti-Indigenous racism is evident in discriminatory federal policies such as the Indian Act and the residential school system. It is also manifest in the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in provincial criminal justice and child welfare systems, as well as inequitable outcomes in education, well-being, and health. Individual lived-experiences of anti-Indigenous racism can be seen in the rise in acts of hostility and violence directed at Indigenous people” (Government of Ontario, “Glossary”)

White Supremacy

White supremacy refers to the belief that the White race is naturally superior to other races. The term is often connected to extremist hate groups like the KKK. The term is also used in social justice and anti-racist work to acknowledge “political, economic and cultural system in which Whites overwhelmingly control power and material resources, conscious and unconscious ideas of White superiority and entitlement are widespread, and relations of White dominance and non-White subordination are daily re-enacted across a broad array of institutions and social settings” (Ansley as cited in Gillborn, 2006, p. 320).

People who pursue anti-racism and challenge white supremacy may challenge myths of (White) neutrality, meritocracy and objectivity; and, explore and challenge the normalization of race and the permanence of racism in systems, laws, structures, society, and the state, making both race and racism largely invisible to White people (Delgado & Stefancic, 2001).

Those who wish to disrupt white supremacy in leadership may ask the following questions:

  • How do processes of racialization inform who is considered a good “fit” for leadership?
  • Intersectionality explains and explores how intersecting oppressions inform specific experiences and expressions of marginalization across multiple identities. What barriers do Black, Indigenous and racialized leaders face and how do these barriers intersect with other systems of power and oppression?
  • How do silence, denial, and compliance operate to protect white power and punish efforts at anti-racism, anti-Black racism and anti-Indigenous racism?
  • What wisdoms, experiences and perspectives are denied when anti-colonial and anti-racist leadership praxes are not centered?
  • How might centering the narratives and experiences of Indigenous, Black, and racialized people expose dominant narratives of colour blindness, meritocracy, and neutrality and challenge objective “truths”?
  • How might increase the representation of Indigenous, Black, and racialized leaders who lead for anti-racism?

Gillborn, D. (2006). Rethinking White supremacy: Who counts in ‘WhiteWorld.’ Ethnicities, 6(3), 318–340.

Delgado, R., & Stefancic, J. (2012). Critical race theory: an introduction (Second Edition). New York University Press.

York University. (n.d.). Unleading. https://www.yorku.ca/edu/unleading/systems-of-oppression/white-supremacy/

Learning Resources

In 2022, in a collaborative project with Career and Transition Services (CATS), the Office of EDI hired three Bishop’s University students to curate these learning resources.


Cole, D. (2022). The skin we’re in: A year of Black resistance and power. Anchor Canada. 

This is a chronicle of a single year, 2017, in Canada’s struggle against racism. Desmond Cole creates a clear portrait of entrenched systemic inequality in Canada. The stories of racism are concrete, contextualized, and Canadian. The hope of the author is to spark a national conversation, influence policy, and inspire activists.

Cullors, P. (2022). An abolitionist’s handbook: 12 steps to changing yourself and the world. St. Martin’s Press.

The author writes about what it means to be a modern-day abolitionist, complete with pedagogy and guidance on how to achieve personal and social transformation.

Fritzgerald, A., & Rice, S. (2020). Antiracism and Universal Design for Learning: Building expressways to success. Cast, Inc.

This book explores the way that Universal Design for Learning (UDL) can be an effective framework for pursuing anti-racism in the classroom. The author provides ideas and examples from their classroom experiences that can be readily transferred to post-secondary instruction.

Gebhard, A., Sheelah, M., & St. Denis, V. (Eds). (2022). White benevolence: Racism and colonial violence in the helping professions. Fernwood Publishing. 

This book explores the ways racism in Canada manifests, is sustained, and is perpetuated in our systems of power and in social, political and economic relations. What makes this collection different is that it focuses on the people who are in ‘helping professions’, revealing the ways that people who are in ‘helping’ professions or those who desire to help might be upholding racism instead of combating it, and offers pathways and actions to redirect the ‘helpers’ to real solidarity work.

Gilmore, R.W., & Murakawa, N. (2023). Change everything: Racial capitalism and the case for abolition. Haymarket Books.

This is a series of lectures wherein the authors describe how to create social change by changing the questions we ask and the campaigns we initiate.

Ibrahim, A., Kitossa, T., Smith, M.S., & Wright, H.K. (Eds.) 2022. Nuances of Blackness in the Canadian Academy: Teaching, learning, and researching while Black. University of Toronto Press.

This is a collection of essays about Black life in academia. The book explores several themes, focusing on the experiences of Black people in the Academy, anti-Black tropes, dehumanization of Blackness, deficit ideology, and the “tyranny of low expectations that permeate the dominant idea of Blackness in the white colonial imagination”. The authors reflect on what shapes Black academic pathways, spark difficult conversations, and imagine Black futures.

Kaba, M., Murakawa, N., & Nopper, T.K. (2021). We do this ‘til we free us: Abolitionist organizing and transforming justice. Haymarket Books.

This is a collection of essays and interviews that talks about how ordinary people can fundamentally change the world. The authors talk about the art and science of organizing so that you can move yourself, others, and society in the way that you want to. They envision a world where there is justice beyond the punishment system, where we have transformed how we deal with harm and accountability, and where we have found collective hope.

Kendi, I.X. (2022). The antiracist deck: 100 meaningful conversations on power, equity, and justice. One World.

Ibram X. Kendi is best known for having raised awareness of the importance of persistent, dedicated antiracist work. This is a deck of conversation starters to effect meaningful change at the micro-level; these anti-racist conversations starters will help you along the way. Kendi has also published a related guided journal entitled Be an Anti Racist for personal, inner growth and learning.

Saad, L.F. (2020). White supremacy and me: Combat racism, change the world, and become a good ancestor. Sourcebooks.

This book challenges you to do the work of unpacking your biases, and helps people take action and dismantle the privilege within themselves so that you can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on racialized people, and in turn, help other people do better, too. There is an accompanying guided journal, sold separately, that helps people begin their antiracism journey by exploring themselves within anti-racism work, including white privilege and fragility, tone policing, colour blindness, cultural appropriation, saviourism, optical allyship, friends and family, and making commitments. The book and the journal facilitate one’s ability to “change the world by creating change within yourself”.

Sue, D.W. (2016). Race talk and the conspiracy of silence: Understanding and facilitating difficult dialogues on race. Wiley. 

This book debunks myths about race and talks about race. It offers evidence, examples, and tools (all within a Canadian context) so that we are empowered to facilitate difficult and helpful conversations about race and racism.

Maynard, R., & Simpson, L.B. (2022). Rehearsals for living. Haymarket Books.

Robin Maynard is the renowned author of Policing Black Lives who focuses on abolition and Black liberation. Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is a Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar, writer and artist, who has been widely recognized as one of the most compelling Indigenous voices of her generation, known for many influential books, essays, and poems, including As We Have Always Done.   Rehearsals for Living is a “celebration of Black and Indigenous epistemologies”, a collection of letters between Maynard and Simson that imagines the possibility of a better world.


Upending the Angry Black Woman Myth

The History of People of African Descent in Canada with Dr. Isaac Saney

Sauvez Sa Peau : Esclave des Champes, Esclaves de Maison with Maboula Soumahoro

Understanding Anti-Black Racism and How to Be an Ally with a panel of subject matter experts

Intersectionality Matters! hosted by Kimberlé Crenshaw

The Skin We’re In with Desmond Cole

8th Fire with Wab Kinew

Momentum: A Race Forward with Chevon and Hiba

Seeing White with John Biewen

About Race with a series of co-discussants