Health researchers must be constantly conscious of the contribution that they may or may not make to the politics of race through language. In order to unpack concepts such as multiculturalism, race relations, ethnic minority citizenship and so forth at the local level, it is necessary to begin to understand concepts of race and racism in a global context, through the shifting ontological, epistemological and methodological frameworks as they relate to the study of race and racism. This paper unpacks these processes and suggests ways forward for better understanding of the language game and concepts of race in health research. To accomplish this, language, communication and knowledge transfer in a post-modern era are explored. The ‘cookbook’ approach to diversity is criticised. A relationship centred framework is suggested as an alternative, with an exploration of the meaning of the terms ethnicity and race constructed dialogically within communities. The concept of meaning itself is discussed as a social and political process constructed through language in health interfaces and power relationships.