Anti-Racism and DEI Terms
Diversity – The presence of different and multiple characteristics that make up individual and collective identities, including race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, national origin, socioeconomic status, language, and physical ability.
Equity – The process of identifying and removing the barriers that create disparities in access to resources and means, and the achievement of fair treatment and equal opportunities to thrive. See also equality.
Inclusion – Is creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported and valued to participate fully.
Ageism – Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on differences in age; usually that of younger persons against older.
Ally – Someone who makes the commitment and effort to recognize their privilege (based on gender, class, race, sexual identity, etc.) and works in solidarity with oppressed groups in the struggle for justice. An ally recognizes that though they are not a member of a marginalized group(s) they support, they make a concentrated effort to better understand the struggle of another’s circumstances. An ally may have more privilege and recognize that privilege in society.
Anti-Racism – Refers to the work of actively opposing discrimination based on race by advocating for changes in political, economic, and social life.
Assimilation – The process by which an individual of a minority group gradually adopts characteristics of the majority culture, thereby, becoming a member of that culture. This can include the adoption of language, culinary tastes, interpersonal communication, gender roles, and style of dress. Assimilation can be voluntary or forced.
Belonging – A sense of being secure, recognized, affirmed, and accepted equally such that full participation is possible.
Bias (Prejudice) – An inclination or preference, especially one that interferes with impartial judgment. A form of prejudice that results from the universal tendency and need of individuals to classify others into categories.
Bigotry – An unreasonable or irrational attachment to negative stereotypes and prejudices.
BIPoC – An acronym that stands for Black, Indigenous and People of Color. It is based on the recognition of collective experiences of systemic racism and meant to emphasize the hardships faced by Black and Indigenous people in the United States and Canada and is also meant to acknowledge that not all People of Color face the same levels of injustice. The use of this term is still evolving and contested by some activists.
Bystander – A person who is present at an event or incident but does not take part in, redirect, stop or otherwise affect the event or incident.
Chicano/a – A term adopted by some Mexican Americans to demonstrate pride in their heritage, born out of the national Chicano Movement that was politically aligned with the Civil Rights Movement to end racial oppression and social inequalities of Mexican Americans. Chicano pertains to the experience of Mexican‐descended individuals living in the United States. Not all Mexican Americans identify as Chicano.
Cisgender/cis – A term for people whose self-perceived gender identity aligns with their assigned sex at birth. The term cisgender can also be shortened to "cis."
Classism – The institutional, cultural and individual set of actions and beliefs that assign differential value to people according to their socioeconomic status.
Code-switching – The conscious or unconscious act of altering one's communication style and/or appearance depending on the specific situation of who one is speaking to, what is being discussed, and the relationship and power and/or community dynamics between those involved. Often, members of the non-dominant group code-switch to minimize the impact of bias from the dominant group.
Colonization – The action or process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area that can begin as geographical intrusion in the form of agricultural, urban or industrial encroachments. The result of such an incursion is the dispossession of vast amounts of lands from the original inhabitants. The dispossession of lands is often legalized after the fact, resulting in institutionalized inequality that becomes permanent fixtures of society.
Color-Blind Racial Ideology – The attitude that people should be treated as equally as possible, without regard to race or ethnicity. Though seemingly equitable, it tends to overlook the importance of people's cultures and the manifestations of racism in policy or institutions.
Colorism – The prejudice and or discrimination against an individual with darker skin color, tone, shade, pigmentation or complexion.
Critical Race Theory (CRT) – A school of thought that acknowledges that racism exists within U.S. social institutions, systems, laws, regulations and procedures and produces differential outcomes. CRT explores and critiques American history from this race-based perspective as a way to openly talk about how the country’s history has an effect on our society and institutions today.
Cultural Appropriation – The act of adopting or stealing cultural elements (e.g., icons, rituals, aesthetic standards or behavior) of one culture or subculture by another for personal use or profit. It is generally applied when the subject culture is a minority culture. It often occurs without any real understanding of why the original (or “appropriated”) culture took part in these activities.
Cultural Competence – The ability of an individual or organization to understand how inequity can be (and has been) perpetuated through socialized behaviors and using that knowledge to disrupt inequitable practices; the ability to function effectively and empathetically as an individual and/or as an organization within the context of cultural beliefs, behaviors, and needs presented by another’s culture.
Cultural Humility – An interpersonal stance that is open to individuals and different cultural communities and experiences in relation to aspects of one’s own cultural identity. Maintaining cultural humility requires learning and understanding the complexity of identities and how they evolve over time.
Cultural Identity – The identity or feeling of belonging to a group based on nationality, ethnicity, religion, social class, generation, locality or other types of social groups with their own distinct culture.
Culture – A social system of customs, behaviors and norms that a group of people develops to ensure its survival and adaptation. It is also a system of values, habits, skills, ideologies and beliefs.
Damage Imagery – Visual, text/narrative or data used to highlight inequities presented without appropriate historical and sociopolitical context. Damage imagery can be corrected by explaining systemic and historical barriers and focusing on solutions within the communities that are the subject of the visuals, text/narratives or data.
Deadnaming – Using a person’s birth name or name they used previously rather than their current chosen name.
Disability – The physical or mental condition, the perception of a physical or mental impairment or a history of having had a physical or mental impairment that can affect an individual’s life in one or more major life activities.
Discrimination – The unequal and unfair treatment of individuals or groups, unequal and unfair treatment based on race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion, national origin, age, intellectual or mental abilities and other categories that may result in differences. It also describes the act of making unjustified distinctions between certain social or racial groups or classes.
Distributional Equity – Programs, policies and practices that result in a fair distribution of benefits and burdens across all segments of a community, prioritizing those with the highest need.
Dominant Group – The group within a society with the power, privilege and social status that controls and defines societal resources and social, political and economic systems and norms.
Equality – In the context of diversity, equality is typically defined as treating everyone the same and giving everyone access to the same opportunities. It means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities. See also equity.
ESL – An acronym for English as a Second Language. ESL refers to individuals who do not speak English as their first or primary language but may still be proficient in speaking English.
Ethnicity – A common identity based on ancestry, language, culture, nation or region of origin. Ethnic groups can possess shared attributes, including religion, beliefs, customs and/or shared memories and experiences.
Feminism – The theory and practice that focuses on the advocacy of social, economic and political equality between men, women and all gender identities.
Gender Expression – The way in which a person embodies or demonstrates their gender outwardly through the ways they act, dress, behave, interact, or other perceived characteristics. Society identifies these cues as masculine or feminine, although what is considered masculine or feminine changes over time and varies by culture.See also gender identity.
Gender Identity – Simply put, gender identity refers to how a person sees themselves in terms of their gender. That is, it refers to a person's own internal sense of self and their gender, whether that is man, woman, neither or both. Unlike gender expression, gender identity is not outwardly visible to others.
(Personal) Gender Pronouns (PGPs) – The set of pronouns that an individual personally uses and would like others to use when referring to them. There are several types of personal pronouns used for different groups and identities, including: gendered, gender neutral and gender inclusive. Although the list of personal pronouns is continuously evolving, the intention of using a person’s pronouns correctly is to reduce the adverse societal effects of those with personal pronouns that don’t match their perceived gender identity.
Gentrification – A process of economic change in a historically disinvested neighborhood that happens through mechanisms such as real estate investment and increase in higher-income residents, resulting in the displacement of long-term residents and demographic changes in income, education, and racial make-up.
Harassment – Unwanted conduct with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment based on their race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, disability, and/or age, among other things.
HBCU – An acronym that stands for Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Hispanic – A term that describes people, descendants, and cultures of Spanish-speaking countries, including many Latin American countries and Spain. The term is not synonymous with Latino/Latina/Latinx. See also Latinx.
Homophobia – Fear, prejudice, discomfort or hatred of people attracted to members of the same gender. It occurs in a broad social context that systematically disadvantages LGBTQ+ people and promotes and rewards anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment.
Health Equity – Means that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. This requires removing obstacles to health such as poverty, discrimination, and their consequences, including powerlessness and lack of access to good jobs with fair pay, quality education and housing, safe environments, and health care.
HSI – An acronym that stands for Hispanic-Serving Institutions. These are eligible institutions of higher education with an enrollment rate of 25 percent or more of Hispanic undergraduate full-time equivalent students.
IFL – An acronym that stands for Identity First Language. Identity-first language positions disability as an identity category and central to a person’s sense of self. In identity-first language, the identifying word comes first in the sentence and highlights the person’s embrace of their identity. Examples could be “autistic person” or “Deaf individual.” See also PFL or Person First Language.
Implicit Bias (Hidden or Unconscious Bias) – The unconscious attitudes or stereotypes that affect a person's understanding, actions or decisions as they relate to people from different groups.
Imposter Syndrome – The fear that some high-achieving individuals have of being exposed as a fraud or inadequate, inhibiting their ability to recognize their own accomplishments, common in members of underrepresented groups.
Inclusive Language – Language that acknowledges diversity, conveys respect to all people, is sensitive to differences, and promotes equal opportunities.
Indigenous People – A term used to identify ethnic groups who are the earliest known inhabitants of an area (also known as First People), in contrast to groups that have settled, occupied, or colonized the area more recently. In the United States, this can refer to groups traditionally termed Native Americans (American Indians), Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. In Canada, it can refer to the groups typically termed First Nations.
Individual Racism – Individual or personal beliefs, assumptions, attitudes, and actions that perpetuate or support racism. Individual racism can occur at both a conscious and unconscious level and can be active or passive. Examples can include avoiding people of color, accepting or approving of racist acts or jokes. See also Racism and Interpersonal Racism.
Institutional Racism – Unfair or biased institutional or organizational practices and policies that create different (or inequitable) outcomes for different racial groups. These policies may not specifically target any racial group but may create advantages for some groups and oppression or disadvantages for others. Examples can include policies within the criminal justice system that punish People of Color more than their white counterparts, or within the workforce system in which hiring practices can significantly disadvantage workers of color. See also Individual Racism, Structural Racism and Systemic Racism.
Internalized Racism – The conscious or unconscious development of ideas, beliefs, social structures, actions and behaviors that confirm one's acceptance of the dominant society's racist tropes and stereotypes about their own race. It is the simultaneous hating of oneself and one's own race and valuing the dominant race. See also Individual Racism.
Intersectionality – The intertwining of social identities such as gender, race, ethnicity, social class, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity, which results in unique experiences, opportunities, barriers or social inequality.
Justice – The process of society moving from an unfair, unequal, or inequitable state to one that is fair, equal, or equitable. A transformative practice that relies on the entire community to acknowledge past and current harms to reform societal morals and subsequently the governing laws. Proactive enforcement of policies, practices, and attitudes that produce equitable access, opportunities, treatment, and outcomes for all regardless of the various identities that one holds.
Latinx – A gender-neutral or nonbinary term that refers to a person of Latin American origin or descent (gender-neutral version of Latino or Latina).
LGBT/LGBTQ/LGBTQIA+ – Acronyms that refer to communities of individuals who are not heterosexual and/or cisgender. Individually, the letters stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, pansexual. The plus (+) includes all other expressions of gender identity and sexual orientation and recognizes that definitions may grow and evolve overtime.
Marginalization – The process that occurs when members of a dominant group relegate a particular group (minority groups and cultures) to the edge of society by not allowing them an active voice, identity or place for the purpose of maintaining power. Marginalized groups have restricted access to resources like education and healthcare to achieve their aims.
Microaggression – Commonplace daily verbal, behavioral or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory slights toward culturally marginalized groups.
Misgender – Referring or relating to a person using language, whether a word or a pronoun that is not in line with another’s gender identity, whether intentionally or unintentionally. This behavior or action often occurs when people make assumptions about a person's gender identity.
Minority Group – Any group of people who, because of their physical, neurological, or cultural characteristics, are singled out from others in society through differential and unequal treatment, and who therefore regard themselves as objects of collective discrimination. The dominant group is that which holds the most power in society compared to minority groups. Being a numerical minority is not a characteristic of being in a minority group; it is the lack of power that is the predominant characteristic of a minority group.
Misogyny – Hatred, aversion or prejudice against women. Misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification of women.
Misogynoir – An extreme form of sexism rooted in racism. The term describes contempt for or ingrained prejudice toward Black women. The unique oppression experienced by Black women due to the intersectionality of gender, race, class and sexual orientation combined with discrimination. Misogynoir utilizes and reinforces stereotypes of Black women.
Multiculturalism – The practice of acknowledging, respecting and supporting the various cultures, religions, languages, social equity, races, ethnicities, attitudes, and opinions within an environment or involving a cultural or ethnic group. The theory and practice promote the peaceful coexistence of all identities and people.
NASNTI – An acronym that stands for Native American Indian Serving, Non-Tribal Institutions. These are institutions of higher learning in which 10 percent or more of the student demographics are Native American and the institution does qualify as a Tribal College and University (TCU).
Neurodiversity – The presence of neurological differences that are present in the way individuals act, think, hear and communicate. These differences in neurological conditions can include Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Dyscalculia, Autism Spectrum and more.
Non-Binary – A term describing a spectrum of gender identities that are not exclusively male or female. Non-binary people may identify outside the gender binary categories.
Oppression – A system of supremacy and discrimination for the benefit of a limited dominant group perpetuated through differential or unjust treatment, ideology and institutional control.
Othering – The perception or intentional/unintentional placement of a group in contrast to the societal norm. The identifying of a group as a threat to the favored dominant group.
Patriarchy – Actions and beliefs that prioritize men in systems and positions of power and social society and privilege. Patriarchy may be practiced systemically in the ways and methods through which power is distributed in society or it may simply influence how individuals interact with one another interpersonally.
PBI – An acronym that stands for Predominantly Black Institutions. These are institutions of higher learning in which 40 percent or more of the student demographics are Black.
People of Color – A collective term for individuals of Asian, African, Latinx and Native American backgrounds with the common experience of being targeted and oppressed by racism. While each oppressed group is affected by racism differently and maintains its own unique identity and culture, there is also the recognition that racism has the potential to unite oppressed people in a collective resistance. For this reason, many individuals who identify as members of racially oppressed groups also claim the identity of being People of Color. This in no way diminishes their specific cultural or racial identity; rather, it is an affirmation of the multiple layers of identity of every individual.
PFL – An acronym that stands for Person's First Language. Person-first language conveys respect by emphasizing that people with disabilities are first and foremost people. The most common example being “person with a disability.” See also IFL or Identify First Language.
Power – The ability to exercise one’s will over others. Power occurs when some individuals or groups wield a greater advantage over others, thereby allowing them greater access to and control over resources. Wealth, whiteness, citizenship, patriarchy, heterosexism, and education are a few key social mechanisms through which power operates.
Prejudice – An inclination or preference, especially one that interferes with impartial judgment and can be rooted in stereotypes that deny the right of individual members of certain groups to be recognized and treated as individuals with unique characteristics.
Privilege – An unearned, sustained advantage afforded to some over others based on group identities related to race, gender, sexuality, ability, socioeconomic status, age and/or other identities.
Procedural Equity – An examination of procedural rights that includes authentic engagement through inclusive and accessible development and implementation of fair programs or policies.
PWIs – An acronym that stands for Predominantly White Institutions. These are institutions of higher learning in which 50 percent or more of the student demographics are white.
Race – A social construct that divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance (particularly skin color), ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification and, often, are associated with the social, economic and political needs of a society at a given time.
Racial Anxiety – The concerns that often arise both before and during interracial interactions. People of color experience racial anxiety when they worry that they will be subject to discriminatory treatment. White people, on the other hand, experience it when they worry that they will be perceived as racist.
Racial Disparity – The imbalances and incongruities between the treatment of racial groups, including economic status, income, housing options, societal treatment, safety, and many other aspects of life and society. Contemporary and past discrimination in the United States, and globally, has profoundly impacted the inequalities seen in society today. Also, see racial equity and racial justice.
Racial Equity – Means race is no longer a predictor of outcomes, generally because of more equitable policies, practices, attitudes and cultural messages. That is, racial equity refers to what a genuinely non-racist society would look like. In a racially equitable society, the distribution of society’s benefits and burdens would not be skewed by race. Racial equity demands that we pay attention not just to individual-level discrimination, but to overall social outcomes. See also racial justice.
Racial Justice – The systematic fair treatment of people of all races, resulting in equitable opportunities and outcomes for all. Racial justice is not just the absence of discrimination and inequities, but also the presence of deliberate systems and support to achieve and sustain racial equity through proactive and preventative measures. See also racial equity.
Racism – The systematic subjugation of members of targeted racial groups, generally non-white groups, who hold less socio-political power. It involves actions correlated with or resulting from bigotry or the thinking that one’s racial differences produce an inherent inferiority of a particular race, mainly the dominant race. Racism differs from prejudice, hatred or discrimination because it requires one racial group to have systematic power and superiority over other groups in society.
Racially Coded Language – Language that is seemingly race-neutral but is a disguise for racial stereotypes without the stigma of explicit racism.
Safe Space – An environment where everyone feels comfortable expressing themselves and participating fully, without fear of attack, ridicule or denial of experience (i.e., a judgment-free zone).
Sexual Orientation – The sex(es) or gender(s) to whom a person is emotionally, physically, sexually, and/or romantically attracted. Examples of sexual orientation can include gay, lesbian, bisexual, heterosexual, asexual, pansexual, queer, etc.
Social Equity – In the context of public administration, social equity is defined as “the fair, just and equitable management of all institutions serving the public directly or by contract, and the fair and equitable distribution of public services, and implementation of public policy, and the commitment to promote fairness, justice and equity in the formation of public policy.
Social Justice – A form of activism based on principles of equity and inclusion that encompasses a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable, and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure.
Social Self-View – An individual's perception of which social identity group(s) they belong to.
SOGIE – An acronym that honors the fluidity of numerous and ever-expanding identities related to sexual orientation (SO), gender identity (GI) and (gender) expression (E). See also LGBTQ+,sexual orientation, gender identity and (gender) expression.
Stereotype – A form of generalization rooted in blanket beliefs and false assumptions, a product of categorization processes that can result in a prejudiced attitude, uncritical judgment and intentional or unintentional discrimination. Stereotypes are typically negative and based on little information that does not recognize individualism and personal agency.
Structural Equity – The Identification and removal of institutional barriers to fair and equal opportunities with recognition to historical, cultural and institutional dynamics and structures that routinely advantage privileged groups in society and result in chronic, cumulative disadvantage for subordinated groups.
Structural Inequality – Systemic disadvantage(s) of one social group compared to other groups, rooted and perpetuated through discriminatory practices (conscious or unconscious) and reinforced through institutions, ideologies, representations, policies/laws and practices. Structural inequality thus refers to the system of privilege and inequality created, designed and maintained by interlocking societal institutions.
Structural Racism – The overarching system of racial bias across institutions and society. It is a system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial inequities. It encompasses dimensions of our history and culture that have allowed privileges associated with “whiteness” and disadvantages associated with “color” to endure and adapt over time. Examples can include the racial gap in wealth, homeownership, education, historical redlining practices among other factors.See also Individual Racism, Institutional Racism and Systemic Racism.
Systemic Racism – An interlocking and reciprocal relationship between the individual, institutional and structural levels which function as a system of racism. These various levels of racism operate together in a lockstep model and function together as a whole system. These levels are: (1) Individual (within interactions between people), (2) Institutional (within institutions and systems of power) and (3) Structural or societal (among institutions and across society). In many ways, “systemic racism” and “structural racism” are synonymous. If there is a difference between the terms, it can be said to exist in the fact that structural racism analysis pays more attention to the historical, cultural, and social psychological aspects of our currently racialized society. See also Individual Racism, Institutional Racism and Structural Racism.
Targeted Universalism – An approach to equity work that sets universal goals followed by targeted processes to achieve said goals. Within a targeted universalism framework, universal goals are set for all individuals and groups. The strategies developed to achieve the goals are targeted based upon how different groups are situated within structures, culture and across geographies to obtain the universal goal.
TCU – An acronym that stands for Tribal Colleges and Universities. These are institutions of higher learning in which 50 percent or more of the student demographics are Native American, Inuit or Alaska Native.
Transgender – An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differ from their sex assigned at birth. Trans is sometimes used as shorthand for transgender. Transgender or “trans” does not imply any form of sexual orientation. Cisgender is a gender identity where an individual’s self-perception of their gender matches their sex. See also Cisgender, gender identity and gender expression.
Trans-Misogyny – The negative attitudes expressed through cultural hate, individual and state violence and discrimination directed toward trans women and transfeminine people. Additionally, trans-misogyny is the intersection of transphobia and misogyny. See also misogyny.
Transphobia – Fear or hatred of transgender people; transphobia is manifested in many ways, including violence, harassment and discrimination. This phobia can exist in LGBTQIA+ and straight communities.
Underrepresented Groups – Groups who traditionally (or historically) have not had equal access to economic opportunities because of discrimination or other societal barriers. This may vary by context and geography but can include race, gender, ethnicity, sexual-orientation, disability or low-income status. Examples of groups that may be considered underrepresented can include women or women of color in a traditionally male and/or white discipline, such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Veteran Status – Whether or not an individual has served in a nation's armed forces (or other uniformed services).
White Fragility – The state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves in white people. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium. Racial stress results from an interruption to what is racially familiar.
White Privilege – The inherent set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices bestowed on people solely because they are white; an exemption of social, political, and/or economic burdens placed on non-white people. Generally, white people who experience privilege, both at the collective and individual level, do so without being conscious of it and may not experience socioeconomic privilege, but are not hindered by the economic barriers associated with the color of one’s skin.
White Supremacy – The idea (or ideology) that white people and the ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions of white people are superior to People of Color and their ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions. White supremacy is ever present in our institutional and cultural assumptions that assign value, morality, goodness, and humanity to the white group while casting people and communities of color as worthless (worth less), immoral, bad, and inhuman and "undeserving." See also White Privilege.
Xenophobia – Any attitude, behavior, practice or policy which explicitly or implicitly reflects the belief that immigrants are inferior to the dominant group of people. Xenophobia is reflected in interpersonal, institutional, and systemic levels of oppression and white supremacy.
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