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Key Terms Defined

Read “An anti-racist's dictionary: 16 words on race, gender, and diversity you should know” to expand your vocabulary and understanding of important words related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. This is not an exhaustive list but a good starting point for those seeking to educate themselves.

Wondering how you can be part of establishing a cultural norm of honoring people’s pronouns? Here are “Six Pronoun Practices to Build Trans-Affirming Workplaces & Why They Matter.

Key Terms Defined
Term Definition
Ableism The belief that disabled individuals are inferior to non-disabled individuals, leading to discrimination toward and oppression of individuals with disabilities and physical differences.
Academic Efficacy Degree to which learners achieve articulated competencies or academic outcomes.
Access The ways in which institutions and policies ensure that all people, regardless of demographic, geographic, or socioeconomic background, have equal and equitable opportunities to lead full and healthy lives, with a full array of choices.
Accessibility Someone is not excluded from using or doing something on the basis of experiencing a disability.
Agent Group Members of dominant social groups by birth or acquisition who knowingly or unknowingly exploit and benefit from unfair advantage over members of target groups; refers to the thoughts and actions taken by people that express their individual power in social context.
Ally Someone who makes the commitment and effort to recognize their social advantage (based on gender, class, race, sexual identity, etc.) and work in solidarity with oppressed groups in the struggle for justice.
Anti-Racism The work of actively opposing racism by advocating for changes in political, economic, and social life. Anti-racism tends to be an individualized approach, and set up in opposition to individual racist behaviors and impacts.
Anti-Racist Someone who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing antiracist ideas. This includes the expression or ideas that racial groups are equals and do not need developing, and supporting policies that reduce racial inequity.
Bigot A person who is obstinately devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices and intolerant towards other diverse social groups.
BIPOC Black, Indigenous, People of Color.
Cognitive Diversity Differences in perspective or information processing styles, not predicted by factors such as gender, ethnicity, or age.
Colonialism The invasion, dispossession and subjugation of a people that results in long-term institutionalized inequality in which the colonizer benefits at the expense of the colonized.
Color Blind The belief that everyone should be treated “equally” without respect to societal, economic, historical, racial, or other differences. No differences are seen or acknowledged; everyone is the same.
Culture A social system of meaning and custom that is developed by a group of people to assure its adaptation and survival, distinguished by a set of unspoken rules that shape values, beliefs, habits, patterns of thinking, behaviors, and styles of communication.
Cultural Appropriation The non-consensual/misappropriation use of cultural elements for commodification or profit purposes – including symbols, art, language, customs, etc. — often without understanding, acknowledgment, or respect for its value in the original culture.
DEI Diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Demographic The statistical characteristics of human populations (such as age or income).
Disability Physical or mental impairment that affects a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
Discrimination The unequal treatment of members of various groups, based on conscious or unconscious prejudice, which favor one group over others on differences of race, gender, economic class, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion, language, age, national identity, religion, and other categories.
Diversity Individual and group differences and similarities that can be visible or invisible and occur in cognitive and demographic manifestations, including socioeconomic class, race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical and cognitive ability, religion, language, national origin, family type, generation, and more.
DREAMers/DACA Recipients Participants in Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a federal program that protects eligible applicants from deportation and gives them work authorization for a renewal period of two years if they were brought to the U.S. as children and attended school in the U.S.
DREAM Act Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act (“DREAM Act”), a federal legislative proposal for a multi-phase process for qualifying alien minors in the U.S. that would grant conditional residency.
Equity Fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all and the elimination of barriers that prevent the full participation of some groups. It is an acknowledgment that historically underserved and underrepresented populations deserve fairness and justice to remedy systemic conditions that limit their opportunity and access.
Ethnicity A socially constructed grouping of people who share a common cultural heritage derived from values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interests, history, geographical base, and ancestry. Examples include: Haitian, African American (Black); Chinese, Korean (Asian); Cherokee, Navajo (Native American); Cuban, Mexican (Latino); Irish, Swedish (White European).
Feminism The advocacy of women's rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.
Gender Expression External appearance of one’s gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, haircut, or voice—which may or may not conform to socially defined behaviors—and are typically associated with being either masculine or feminine.
Gender Identity One’s innermost concept of self as male, female, a blend of both, or neither—how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves, sometimes different from their sex assigned at birth.
Implicit Bias Negative associations expressed automatically that people unknowingly hold and that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions; also known as unconscious or hidden bias.
Inclusion Active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with and agency of diverse people and communities with the goal of deepening a culture of belonging, empowerment, and welcome, as well as policies, programs, and practices that mitigate against exclusion and inspire work for a common mission and vision.
Internalized Racism When people from targeted racial groups internalize racist beliefs about themselves or members of their racial group. Examples include using creams to lighten one's skin, believing that white leaders are inherently more competent,  or asserting that people of color are not as intelligent as white people.
Intersectionality A lens through which to view social issues and see where power and oppression intersect, providing a more holistic view of how individuals are impacted.
LGBTQIA Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual.
Marginalized Excluded, ignored, or relegated to the outer edge of a group/society/community.
Microaggressions The verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, insults, or belittlement, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon discriminatory belief systems.
Multicultural Competency A process of embracing diversity and learning about people from other cultural backgrounds. The key element to becoming more culturally competent is respect for the ways that others live in and organize the world, and an openness to learn from them.
Opportunity Index Composite measure at the state and country levels of economic, educational, and civic factors that foster opportunity.
Oppression Systemic devaluing, undermining, marginalizing, and disadvantaging of certain social identities in contrast to the advantaged norm, either intentionally or unintentionally.
People of Color A collective term for men and women of Asian, African, Latin, and Native American backgrounds; as opposed to the collective “White”.
Power Access to resources that enhance one’s chances of getting what one needs in order to lead a safe, comfortable, and productive life.
Privilege Unearned social power accorded by the formal and informal institutions of society to all members of a dominant group.
Queer An umbrella term that can refer to anyone who transgresses society’s view of gender or sexuality.
Race Race is a socially constructed concept that places individuals into categories based on appearances that are ascribed with cultural characteristics.
Racism Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on a difference in race/ethnicity; usually by white/European descent groups against persons of color. Racism is racial prejudice plus power. It is the intentional or unintentional use of power to isolate, separate, and exploit others. The use of power is based on a belief in superior origin, the identity of supposed racial characteristics. Racism confers certain privileges on and defends the dominant group, which in turn, sustains and perpetuates racism.
Scarcity Index Measurement of availability of resources impacting mindset.
Sexism Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on a difference in sex/gender; usually by men against women.
Sexual Orientation An inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic, or sexual attraction to other people.
Social Justice Concept in which equity or justice is achieved in every aspect of society rather than in only some aspects or for some people and affords individuals and groups fair treatment.
Social Mobility Movement through a system of social hierarchy or stratification by leveraging opportunity.
Socioeconomic Status The social standing or class of an individual or group, often measured as a combination of education, income, and occupation.
Stereotype A form of generalization rooted in blanket beliefs and false assumptions, a product of processes of categorization that can result in a prejudiced attitude, uncritical judgment, and intentional or unintentional discrimination. Stereotypes are typically negative, based on little information that does not recognize individualism and personal agency.
Systemic Racism Also called Institutional Racism. The practices that perpetuate racial disparities, uphold White supremacy, and serve to the detriment and harm of persons of color and keep them in negative cycles. Institutional/systemic racism also refers to policies that generate different outcomes for persons of a different race. These laws, policies, and practices are not necessarily explicit in mentioning any racial group, but work to create advantages for White persons and disadvantages for people of color.
Target Group Members of a social identity group that is disenfranchised and exploited in a variety of ways, including being subject to containment, having restricted movement and choices, being treated as expendable and replaceable, and lacking individual identities apart from the group.
Tokenism Presence without meaningful participation. For example, a superficial invitation for the participation of members of a certain socially oppressed group, who are expected to speak for the whole group without giving this person a real opportunity to speak for her/himself.
Transgender An umbrella term for people whose gender identity and/or expression is different from cultural expectations based on the sex they were assigned at birth.
White Fragility Discomfort and defensiveness on the part of a white person when confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice.
White Privilege Refers to the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits, and choices bestowed on people solely because they are white. Generally, white people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it. Privilege does not mean all white people are rich or have an easy life.
White Supremacy A power system structured and maintained by persons who classify themselves as white, whether consciously or subconsciously determined; and who feel superior to those of other racial/ethnic identities.