Terms Related to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

When engaging in conversation about terms related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, our reference points may be shaped by a variety of scholars, theories, and our elders. Here is an incomplete list of terms we may use in conversations that may help. This is a fluid document that may be edited with some regularity. In most cases, sources are noted. Suggestions welcome.

Navigate: Top A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z




Ableism is the system of oppression that disadvantages people with disabilities and advantages people who do not currently have disabilities.  Like other forms of oppression, it functions on individual, cultural, institutional and structural levels.  Ableism is not solely about the experiences of people wiht disabilities as targets of discrimination, but rather about the interaction of institutional structures, cultural norms, and individual beliefs and behaviors that together function to maintain the status quo and exclude people with disabilities from many areas of society.

Adapted from: Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, Third Edition


From: Accountability and White Anti- Racist Organizing: Stories from Our Work, Bonnie Berman Cushing with Lila Cabbil, Margery Freeman, Jeff Hitchcock and Kimberly Richards

In the context of racial equity work, accountability refers to the ways in which individuals and communities hold themselves to their goals and actions and acknowledge the values and groups to which they are responsible.

To be accountable, one must be visible, with a transparent agenda and process. Invisibility defies examination; it is, in fact, employed in order to avoid detection and examination. Accountability demands commitment. It might be defined as “what kicks in when convenience runs out.” Accountability requires some sense of urgency and becoming a true stakeholder in the outcome. Accountability can be externally imposed (legal or organizational requirements), or internally applied (moral, relational, faith-based, or recognized as some combination of the two) on a continuum from the institutional and organizational level to the individual level. From a relational point of view, accountability is not always doing it right. Sometimes it’s really about what happens after it’s done wrong.

back to the top


The systematic mistreatment of young people on the basis of their youth, including stereotyping, discrimination, negative attitudes or behaviors toward young people, and withholding respect, power, privilege, and rights of partici- pation on the basis of age. It includes “the assumption that adults are better than young people, and entitled to act upon young people without their agree- ment” (Bell, 2000). This mistreatment is supported and reinforced by the laws, policies, norms, mores, social customs, and everyday practices of society 

From Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, Second Edition, Routledge, 2007

back to the top


The systematic mistreatment of older persons on the basis of presumed age, including stereotyping, discrimination, negative attitudes or behaviors toward a person on the basis of their age, and loss of respect, power, privilege, and rights of participation. This mistreatment is supported and reinforced by the laws, policies, norms, mores, social customs, and everyday practices of society. 

From Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, Second Edition, Routledge, 2007

back to the top


From: “The Dynamic System of Power, Privilege and Oppressions, OpenSource Leadership Strategies.”

Someone who makes the commitment and effort to recognize their privilege (based on gender, class, race, sexual identity, etc.) and work in solidarity with oppressed groups in the struggle for justice. Allies understand that it is in their own interest to end all forms of oppression, even those from which they may benefit in concrete ways.

From: Center for Assessment and Policy Development

Allies commit to reducing their own complicity or collusion in oppression of those groups and invest in strengthening their own knowledge and awareness of oppression.

back to the top


From the Movement for Black Lives:

The Council for Democratizing Education defines anti-Blackness as being a two-part formation that both voids Blackness of value, while systematically marginalizing Black people and their issues. The first form of anti-Blackness is overt racism. Beneath this anti-Black racism is the covert structural and systemic racism which categorically predetermines the socioeconomic status of Blacks in this country. The structure is held in place by anti-Black policies, institutions, and ideologies.

The second form of anti-Blackness is the unethical disregard for anti-Black institutions and policies. This disregard is the product of class, race, and/or gender privilege certain individuals experience due to anti-Black institutions and policies. This form of anti-Blackness is protected by the first form of overt racism.

back to the top


From Race Forward [pdf]:

Anti-Racism is defined as 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.

back to the top


From: Ibram X Kendi, How to be an Antiracist, Random House, 2019

An anti-racist is 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 none needs developing, and is supporting policy that reduces racial inequity

back to the top

Anti-racist ideas

From: Ibram X Kendi, How to be an Antiracist, Random House, 2019

An antiracist idea is any idea that suggests the racial groups are equals in all of their apparent difference and that there is nothing wrong with any racial group. Antiracists argue that that racist policies are the cause of racial injustices.

back to the top


From: Ibram X Kendi, How to be an Antiracist, Random House, 2019

One who is expressing the racist idea that a racial group is culturally or behaviorally inferior and is supporting cultural or behavioral enrichment programs to develop that racial group.

back to the top





From: National Conference for Community and Justice - St. Louis Region. unpublished handout used in the Dismantling Racism Institute program

Intolerant prejudice that glorifies one's own group and denigrates members of other groups.

back to the top

Binary gender system

From: Shlasko, D. (2017). Trans allyship workbook: Building skills to support Trans people in our lives. Madison, WI: Think Again Training

The set of ideas and structures that assume and reinforce a two-category system of gender (men/women).

back to the top


A term referring to “Black and/or Indigenous People of Color.” While “POC” or People of Color is often used as well, BIPOC explicitly leads with Black and Indigenous identities, which helps to counter anti-Black racism and invisibilization of Native communities.

SOURCE:  Creating Cultures and Practices for Racial Equity: A Toolbox for Advancing Racial Equity for Arts and Cultural Organizations, Nayantara Sen & Terry Keleher, Race Forward (2021).

back to the top

Black Lives Matter

A political movement to address systemic and state violence against African Americans. Per the Black Lives Matter organizers:

In 2013, three radical Black organizers—Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi—created a Black- centered political will and movement building project called #BlackLivesMatter. It was in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman. The project is now a member-led global network of more than 40 chapters. [Black Lives Matter] members organize and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.

back to the top




Caucus (Affinity Groups)

From: Racial Equity Tools

White people and people of color each have work to do separately and together. Caucuses provide spaces for people to work within their own racial/ethnic groups. For white people, a caucus provides time and space to work explicitly and intentionally on understanding white culture and white privilege, and to increase one’s critical analysis around these concepts. A white caucus also puts the onus on white people to teach each other about these ideas, rather than relying on people of color to teach them (as often occurs in integrated spaces). For people of color, a caucus is a place to work with their peers on their experiences of internalized racism, for healing and to work on liberation.

back to the top


The institutional, cultural, and individual set of practices and beliefs that assign differential value to people according to their socioeconomic class; and an economic system that creates excessive inequality and causes basic human needs to go unmet. 

From Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, Second Edition, Routledge, 2007

back to the top


From: Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook. Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, and Pat Griffin, editors. Routledge, 1997.

When people act to perpetuate oppression or prevent others from working to eliminate oppression.

Example: Able-bodied people who object to strategies for making buildings accessible because of the expense.

back to the top


From: Racism and Colonialism, ed. Robert Ross

Colonization can be defined as some form of invasion, dispossession and subjugation of a people. The invasion need not be military; it can begin—or continue—as geographical intrusion in the form of agricultural, urban or industrial encroachments. The result of such incursion is the dispossession of vast amounts of lands from the original inhabitants. This is often legalized after the fact. The long-term result of such massive dispossession is institutionalized inequality. The colonizer/colonized relationship is by nature an unequal one that benefits the colonizer at the expense of the colonized. Ongoing and legacy Colonialism impact power relations in most of the world today. For example, white supremacy as a philosophy was developed largely to justify European colonial exploitation of the Global South (including enslaving African peoples, extracting resources from much of Asia and Latin America, and enshrining cultural norms of whiteness as desirable both in colonizing and colonizer nations).

back to the top

Critical Race Theory

From: Critical Race Theory: An Introduction By Richard Delgado, Jean Stefancic. NYU Press, 2001

The Critical Race Theory movement considers many of the same issues that conventional civil rights and ethnic studies take up but places them in a broader perspective that includes economics, history, and even feelings and the unconscious. Unlike traditional civil rights, which embraces incrementalism and step by step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism and principles of constitutional law.

back to the top

Cultural appropriation

From: Colors of Resistance

Theft of cultural elements for one’s own use, commodification, or profit — including symbols, art, language, customs, etc. — often without understanding, acknowledgement, or respect for its value in the original culture. Results from the assumption of a dominant (i.e. white) culture’s right to take other cultural elements.

back to the top

Cultural misappropriation

From: Devyn Springer

Cultural misappropriation distinguishes itself from the neutrality of cultural exchange, appreciation, and appropriation because of the instance of colonialism and capitalism; cultural misappropriation occurs when a cultural fixture of a marginalized culture/community is copied, mimicked, or recreated by the dominant culture against the will of the original community and, above all else, commodified.

One can understand the use of “misappropriation” as a distinguishing tool because it assumes that there are instances of neutral appropriation, the specifically referenced instance is non-neutral and problematic, even if benevolent in intention, some act of theft or dishonest attribution has taken place, and moral judgement of the act of appropriation is subjective to the specific culture from which is being engaged.

back to the top

Cultural racism

From: Racial Equity Tools

Cultural racism refers to representations, messages and stories conveying the idea that behaviors and values associated with white people or “whiteness” are automatically “better” or more “normal” than those associated with other racially defined groups. Cultural racism shows up in advertising, movies, history books, definitions of patriotism, and in policies and laws. Cultural racism is also a powerful force in maintaining systems of internalized supremacy and internalized racism. It does that by influencing collective beliefs about what constitutes appropriate behavior, what is seen as beautiful, and the value placed on various forms of expression. All of these cultural norms and values in the U.S. have explicitly or implicitly racialized ideals and assumptions (for example, what “nude” means as a color, which facial features and body types are considered beautiful, which child-rearing practices are considered appropriate.)

back to the top


From: A Community Builder's Tool Kit. Institute for Democratic Renewal and Project Change Anti-Racism Initiative.

A social system of meaning and custom that is developed by a group of people to assure its adaptation and survival. These groups are distinguished by a set of unspoken rules that shape values, beliefs, habits, patterns of thinking, behaviors and styles of communication.

back to the top




From: The Movement for Black Lives

Decolonization may be defined as the active resistance against colonial powers, shifting of power towards political, economic, educational, cultural, psychic independence and power that originate from a colonized nations’ own indigenous culture. This process occurs politically and also applies to personal and societal psychic, cultural, political, agricultural, and educational deconstruction of colonial oppression.

From: What Is Decolonization and Why Does It Matter? Eric Ritskes

Per Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang: “Decolonization doesn’t have a synonym”; it is not a substitute for ‘human rights’ or ‘social justice’, though undoubtedly, they are connected in various ways. Decolonization demands an Indigenous framework and a centering of Indigenous land, Indigenous sovereignty, and Indigenous ways of thinking.

back to the top


From: “The Culture of Diasporas in the Postcolonial Web” Leong Yew

Diaspora is "the voluntary or forcible movement of peoples from their homelands into new regions...a common element in all forms of diaspora; these are people who live outside their natal (or imagined natal) territories and recognize that their traditional homelands are reflected deeply in the languages they speak, religions they adopt, and the cultures they produce.

back to the top


From: A Community Builder's Tool Kit. Institute for Democratic Renewal and Project Change Anti-Racism Initiative

The unequal treatment of members of various groups based on race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion and other categories.

From: "Laws Enforced by EEOC” U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Accessed June 28 2013

[In the United States] the law makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. The law also makes it illegal to retaliate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. The law also requires that employers reasonably accommodate applicants' and employees' sincerely held religious practices, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer's business.

back to the top


From: Glossary of Terms UC Berkeley Center for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity

Diversity includes all the ways in which people differ, and it encompasses all the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another. It is all-inclusive and recognizes everyone and every group as part of the diversity that should be valued. A broad definition includes not only race, ethnicity, and gender — the groups that most often come to mind when the term "diversity" is used — but also age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, and physical appearance. It also involves different ideas, perspectives, and values.

It is important to note that many activists and thinkers critique diversity alone as a strategy. For instance, Baltimore Racial Justice Action states:

“Diversity is silent on the subject of equity. In an anti-oppression context, therefore, the issue is not diversity, but rather equity. Often when people talk about diversity, they are thinking only of the 'non-dominant' groups.”

back to the top



Economic Class

Relative social rank in terms of income, wealth, education, occupational status, and/or power. See Classism

back to the top


See Racial Equity

back to the top



From: Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook. Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, and Pat Griffin, editors. Routledge, 1997.

A social construct that divides people into smaller social groups based on characteristics such as shared sense of group membership, values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interests, history and ancestral geographical base.

Examples of different ethnic groups are: Cape Verdean, Haitian, African American; Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese; Cherokee, Mohawk, Navaho; Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican; Polish, Irish, and Swedish.

back to the top






Asocialidentityusuallyconflatedwithbiologicalsexinabinarysystemthat presumes one has either male and masculine characteristics and behavior, or female and feminine characteristics and behavior. In addition to being a major social status experienced by individuals, this is also “a social institution” that helps humans organize their lives. 

From: Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, Second Edition, 2007

back to the top


Gender expression

From: Shlasko, D. (2017). Trans allyship workbook: Building skills to support Trans people in our lives. Madison, WI: Think Again Training

Behavior that communicates something about gender, including clothes, mannerisms, etc.

back to the top


From: Shlasko, D. (2017). Trans allyship workbook: Building skills to support Trans people in our lives. Madison, WI: Think Again Training

Describes someone whos gender identity (not only expression) might change from day to day.

back to the top

Gender identity

From: Shlasko, D. (2017). Trans allyship workbook: Building skills to support Trans people in our lives. Madison, WI: Think Again Training

Refers to someone's internal sense of self in terms of the gender categories they have access to, like man, woman, boy, girl, and many others.

back to the top

Gender non-conforming

From: Shlasko, D. (2017). Trans allyship workbook: Building skills to support Trans people in our lives. Madison, WI: Think Again Training

Describes people whose gender expression differs from what is usually expected for people of their gender.

back to the top






Implicit bias

From: State of the Science Implicit Bias Review 2013, Cheryl Staats, Kirwan Institute, The Ohio State University.

Also known as unconscious or hidden bias, implicit biases are negative associations that people unknowingly hold. They are expressed automatically, without conscious awareness. Many studies have indicated that implicit biases affect individuals’ attitudes and actions, thus creating real-world implications, even though individuals may not even be aware that those biases exist within themselves. Notably, implicit biases have been shown to trump individuals’ stated commitments to equality and fairness, thereby producing behavior that diverges from the explicit attitudes that many people profess. The Implicit Association Test (IAT) is often used to measure implicit biases with regard to race, gender, sexual orientation, age, religion, and other topics.

back to the top


From: Some Working Definitions, OpenSource Leadership Strategies

Authentically bringing traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into processes, activities, and decision/policy making in a way that shares power.

back to the top


From: United Nations Working Group for Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous populations are composed of the existing descendants of the peoples who inhabited the present territory of a country wholly or partially at the time when persons of a different culture or ethnic origin arrived there from other parts of the world, overcame them, by conquest, settlement or other means and reduced them to a non-dominant or colonial condition; who today live more in conformity with their particular social, economic and cultural customs and traditions than with the institutions of the country of which they now form part, under a state structure which incorporates mainly national, social and cultural characteristics of other segments of the population which are predominant. (Example: Maori in territory now defined as New Zealand; Texas, California, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada and parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Kansas, and Oklahoma; Native American tribes in territory now defined as the United States).

back to the top

Individual racism

From: Flipping the Script: White Privilege and Community Building [pdf]. Maggie Potapchuk, Sally Leiderman, Donna Bivens and Barbara Major. 2005

Individual racism refers to the beliefs, attitudes, and actions of individuals that support or perpetuate racism. Individual racism can be deliberate, or the individual may act to perpetuate or support racism without knowing that is what he or she is doing.


Telling a racist joke, using a racial epithet, or believing in the inherent superiority of whites over other groups;

Avoiding people of color whom you do not know personally, but not whites whom you do not know personally (e.g., white people crossing the street to avoid a group of Latino/a young people;

Locking their doors when they see African American families sitting on their doorsteps in a city neighborhood;

Not hiring a person of color because “something doesn’t feel right”);

or accepting things as they are (a form of collusion).

back to the top

Institutional racism

From: Flipping the Script: White Privilege and Community Building [pdf]. Maggie Potapchuk, Sally Leiderman, Donna Bivens and Barbara Major. 2005

Institutional racism refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes for different racial groups. The institutional policies may never mention any racial group, but their effect is to create advantages for whites and oppression and disadvantage for people from groups classified as people of color.


Government policies that explicitly restricted the ability of people to get loans to buy or improve their homes in neighborhoods with high concentrations of African Americans (also known as "red-lining").

City sanitation department policies that concentrate trash transfer stations and other environmental hazards disproportionately in communities of color.

back to the top

Internalized racism

From: Internalized Racism: A Definition [pdf], Donna Bivens, Women's Theological Center. 1995

Internalized racism is the situation that occurs in a racist system when a racial group oppressed by racism supports the supremacy and dominance of the dominating group by maintaining or participating in the set of attitudes, behaviors, social structures and ideologies that undergird the dominating group's power. It involves four essential and interconnected elements:

Decision-making - Due to racism, people of color do not have the ultimate decision-making power over the decisions that control our lives and resources. As a result, on a personal level, we may think white people know more about what needs to be done for us than we do. On an interpersonal level, we may not support each other's authority and power - especially if it is in opposition to the dominating racial group. Structurally, there is a system in place that rewards people of color who support white supremacy and power and coerces or punishes those who do not.

Resources - Resources, broadly defined (e.g. money, time, etc.), are unequally in the hands and under the control of white people. Internalized racism is the system in place that makes it difficult for people of color to get access to resources for our own communities and to control the resources of our community. We learn to believe that serving and using resources for ourselves and our particular community is not serving "everybody."

Standards - With internalized racism, the standards for what is appropriate or "normal" that people of color accept are white people's or Eurocentric standards. We have difficulty naming, communicating and living up to our deepest standards and values, and holding ourselves and each other accountable to them.

Naming the problem - There is a system in place that misnames the problem of racism as a problem of or caused by people of color and blames the disease - emotional, economic, political, etc. - on people of color. With internalized racism, people of color might, for example, believe we are more violent than white people and not consider state-sanctioned political violence or the hidden or privatized violence of white people and the systems they put in place and support.

back to the top

Interpersonal racism

From: Tools and Concepts for Strengthening Racial Equity, Presentation to School District U- 46, Terry Keleher, Applied Research Center, 2011

Interpersonal racism occurs between individuals. Once we bring our private beliefs into our interaction with others, racism is now in the interpersonal realm.

Examples: public expressions of racial prejudice, hate, bias and bigotry between individuals

back to the top


From: Intergroup Resources, 2012

Exposing [one’s] multiple identities can help clarify they ways in which a person can simultaneously experience privilege and oppression. For example, a Black woman in America does not experience gender inequalities in exactly the same way as a white woman, nor racial oppression identical to that experienced by a Black man. Each race and gender intersection produce a qualitatively distinct life.

From: Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw

Intersectionality is simply a prism to see the interactive effects of various forms of discrimination and disempowerment. It looks at the way that racism, many times, interacts with patriarchy, heterosexism, classism, xenophobia — seeing that the overlapping vulnerabilities created by these systems actually create specific kinds of challenges. “Intersectionality 102,” then, is to say that these distinct problems create challenges for movements that are only organized around these problems as separate and individual. So when racial justice doesn’t have a critique of patriarchy and homophobia, the particular way that racism is experienced and exacerbated by heterosexism, classism etc., falls outside of our political organizing. It means that significant numbers of people in our communities aren’t being served by social justice frames because they don’t address the particular ways that they’re experiencing discrimination.

back to the top


From: Shlasko, D. (2017). Trans allyship workbook: Building skills to support Trans people in our lives. Madison, WI: Think Again Training.

Describes people whos bodies are not easily categorized as simply male or female.

back to the top











From: “Microaggressions: More than Just Race,” Derald Wing Sue, Psychology Today, November 17, 2010

The everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.

back to the top

Model minority

From: Asian American Activism: The Continuing Struggle

A term created by sociologist William Peterson to describe the Japanese community, whom he saw as being able to overcome oppression because of their cultural values.

While individuals employing the Model Minority trope may think they are being complimentary, in fact the term is related to colorism and its root, anti-Blackness. The model minority myth creates an understanding of ethnic groups, including Asian Americans, as a monolith, or as a mass whose parts cannot be distinguished from each other. The model minority myth can be understood as a tool that white supremacy uses to pit people of color against each other in order to protect its status.

back to the top

Movement building

From: Roots: Building the Power of Communities of Color to Challenge Structural Racism [pdf]. Akonadi Foundation, 2010. (Definition from the Movement Strategy Center.)

Movement building is the effort of social change agents to engage power holders and the broader society in addressing a systemic problem or injustice while promoting an alternative vision or solution. Movement building requires a range of intersecting approaches through a set of distinct stages over a long-term period of time. Through movement building, organizers can:

Propose solutions to the root causes of social problems;

Enable people to exercise their collective power;

Humanize groups that have been denied basic human rights and improve conditions for the groups affected;

Create structural change by building something larger than a particular organization or campaign;

and promote visions and values for society based on fairness, justice and democracy

back to the top

Multicultural competency

From: Multicultural Competence, Paul Kivel, 2007

A process of learning about and becoming allies with people from other cultures, thereby broadening our own understanding and ability to participate in a multicultural process. 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.

back to the top







From: Hardiman, R., & Jackson, B. W. (1997). Conceptual foundations for social justice courses. In M. Adams, L. A. Bell, & P. Griffin (Eds.), Teaching for diversity and social justice: A sourcebook (pp. 16-29). New York, NY: Routledge.

The systematic subjugation of one social group by a more powerful social group for the social, economic, and political benefit of the more powerful social group. Rita Hardiman and Bailey Jackson state that oppression exists when the following 4 conditions are found:

the oppressor group has the power to define reality for themselves and others,

the target groups take in and internalize the negative messages about them and end up cooperating with the oppressors (thinking and acting like them),

genocide, harassment, and discrimination are systematic and institutionalized, so that individuals are not necessary to keep it going,

and, members of both the oppressor and target groups are socialized to play their roles as normal and correct.

Oppression = Power + Prejudice

back to the top




People of color

From: Race Forward "Race Reporting Guide"

Often the preferred collective term for referring to non-White racial groups. Racial justice advocates have been using the term “people of color” (not to be confused with the pejorative “colored people”) since the late 1970s as an inclusive and unifying frame across different racial groups that are not White, to address racial inequities. While “people of color” can be a politically useful term, and describes people with their own attributes (as opposed to what they are not, e.g., “non- White”), it is also important whenever possible to identify people through their own racial/ethnic group, as each has its own distinct experience and meaning and may be more appropriate.

back to the top


From: Alberta Civil Liberties Research Center

Power is unequally distributed globally and in U.S. society; some individuals or groups wield greater power than others, thereby allowing them greater access and control over resources. Wealth, whiteness, citizenship, patriarchy, heterosexism, and education are a few key social mechanisms through which power operates. Although power is often conceptualized as power over other individuals or groups, other variations are power with (used in the context of building collective strength) and power within (which references an individual’s internal strength). Learning to “see” and understand relations of power is vital to organizing for progressive social change.

Power may also be understood as the ability to influence others and impose one’s beliefs. All power is relational, and the different relationships either reinforce or disrupt one another. The importance of the concept of power to anti-racism is clear: racism cannot be understood without understanding that power is not only an individual relationship but a cultural one, and that power relationships are shifting constantly. Power can be used malignantly and intentionally, but need not be, and individuals within a culture may benefit from power of which they are unaware.

back to the top


From: A Community Builder's Tool Kit. Institute for Democratic Renewal and Project Change Anti-Racism Initiative.

A pre-judgment or unjustifiable, and usually negative, attitude of one type of individual or groups toward another group and its members. Such negative attitudes are typically based on unsupported generalizations (or stereotypes) that deny the right of individual members of certain groups to be recognized and treated as individuals with individual characteristics.

back to the top


From: Colors of Resistance Archive

Unearned social power accorded by the formal and informal institutions of society to ALL members of a dominant group (e.g. white privilege, male privilege, etc.). Privilege is usually invisible to those who have it because we’re taught not to see it, but nevertheless it puts them at an advantage over those who do not have it.

back to the top





From: Shlasko, D. (2017). Trans allyship workbook: Building skills to support Trans people in our lives. Madison, WI: Think Again Training.

An umbrella term describing a wide range of people who do not conform to heterosexual and/or gender norms; and, a reclaimed derogatory slur taken as a political term to unite people who are marginalized because of their nonconformance to dominant gender identities and/or heterosexuality.

back to the top





For many people, it comes as a suprise that racial categorization schemes were invented by scientists to support worldviews that labeled some groups of people as superior and some as inferior. Three important concepts linked to this:

Race is a made-up social construct, and not an actual biological fact

Race designations have changed over time. Some groups that are considered "white" in the United States today were considered "non-white" in previous eras, in the U.S. Census data and in mass media and popular culture (for example: Irish, Itallian and Jewish people)

The way in which racial categorizatiosn are enforced (the shape of racism) has change over time. For example, the racial designation of Asian American and Pacific Islanders, as designated groups, have been used by whites at different times in history to compete with African American labor.


  1. Race: The Power of an Illusion, PBS
  2. Kivel, P. (2002). Uprooting racism: How White people can work for racial justice (Rev. ed.). Gabriola Island, BC: New Society.

back to the top

Racial and ethnic identity

From: Adams, M., Bell, L. A., & Griffin, P. (Eds.). (1997). Teaching for diversity and social justice: A sourcebook (1st ed.). New York: Routledge

An individual's awareness and experience of being a member of a racial and ethnic group; the racial and ethnic categories that an individual chooses to describe him or herself based on such factors as biological heritage, physical appearance, cultural affiliation, early socialization, and personal experience.

back to the top

Racial Battle Fatigue

Racial Battle Fatigue is a term coined by Critical Race Theorist William Smith. It was originally used in reference to the experiences of African American men in America but is now expanded to describe the negative and racially charged experiences of all People of Color in the United States. Smith defines it as a cumulative result of a natural race-related stress response to distressing mental and emotional conditions. These conditions emerged from constantly facing racially dismissive, demeaning, insensitive and/or hostile racial environments and individuals. Both the anticipation and experiences of racial animus contribute to Racial Battle Fatigue.

See: Smith, W. A., Hung, M., & Franklin, J. D. (2011). Racial Battle Fatigue and the MisEducation of Black Men: Racial Microaggressions, Societal Problems, and Environmental Stress. The Journal of Negro Education, 80(1), 63–82. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41341106

back to the top

Racial equity

From: Center for Assessment and Policy Development

Racial equity is the condition that would be achieved if one's racial identity no longer predicted, in a statistical sense, how one fares. When we use the term, we are thinking about racial equity as one part of racial justice, and thus we also include work to address root causes of inequities not just their manifestation. This includes elimination of policies, practices, attitudes and cultural messages that reinforce differential outcomes by race or fail to eliminate them.

back to the top

Racial healing

From: Racial Equity Resource Guide, W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Michael R. Wenger, 2012

To restore to health or soundness; to repair or set right; to restore to spiritual wholeness.

back to the top

Racial Identity Development Theory

From: Wijeyesinghe, C. L., & Jackson III, B. W. (Eds.). (2001). New perspectives on racial identity development: A theoretical and practical anthology. New York, NY: New York University Press.

Racial Identity Development Theory discusses how people in various racial groups and with multiracial identities form their particular self-concept. It also describes some typical phases in remaking that identity based on learning and awareness of systems of privilege and structural racism, cultural and historical meanings attached to racial categories, and factors operating in the larger socio-historical level (e.g. globalization, technology, immigration, and increasing multiracial population).

back to the top


Racial inequity

From: Ibram X Kendi, How to be an Antiracist, Random House, 2019

Racial inequity is when two or more racial grops are not standing on approximately equal footing, such as percentages of each ethnic group in terms of dropout rates, single family home ownership, access to healthcare, etc.

back to the top


Racialization is the very complex and contradictory process through which groups come to be designated as being of a particular "race" and on that basis subjected to differential and/or unequal treatment. Put simply, “racialization [is] the process of manufacturing and utilizing the notion of race in any capacity” (Dalal, 2002, p. 27). While white people are also racialized, this process is often rendered invisible or normative to those designated as white. As a result, white people may not see themselves as part of a race but still maintain the authority to name and racialize "others."

back to the top

Racial justice

From: Catalytic Change: Lessons Learned from the Racial Justice Grantmaking Assessment Report, Philanthropic Initiative for Racial Equity and Applied Research Center, 2009.

  1. The systematic fair treatment of people of all races, resulting in equitable opportunities and outcomes for all. Racial justice—or racial equity—goes beyond “anti-racism.” It is not just the absence of discrimination and inequities, but also the presence of deliberate systems and supports to achieve and sustain racial equity through proactive and preventative measures.
  2. Racial Justice [is defined] as the proactive reinforcement of policies, practices, attitudes and actions that produce equitable power, access, opportunities, treatment, impacts and outcomes for all.

back to the top

Racial reconciliation

From: Position Statement on Reconciliation, The William Winters Institute for Racial Reconciliation, 2007

Reconciliation involves three ideas. First, it recognizes that racism in America is both systemic and institutionalized, with far–reaching effects on both political engagement and economic opportunities for minorities. Second, reconciliation is engendered by empowering local communities through relationship- building and truth–telling. Lastly, justice is the essential component of the conciliatory process—justice that is best termed as restorative rather than retributive, while still maintaining its vital punitive character.

back to the top


From: Dismantling Racism Works Web Workbook

Racism is different from racial prejudice, hatred, or discrimination. Racism involves one group having the power to carry out systematic discrimination through the institutional policies and practices of the society and by shaping the cultural beliefs and values that support those racist policies and practices.

  • Racism = race prejudice + social and institutional power

  • Racism = a system of advantage based on race

  • Racism = a system of oppression based on race

  • Racism = a white supremacy system

back to the top


From: Ibram X Kendi, How to be an Antiracist, Random House, 2019

One who is supporting a racist policy through their actions or interaction or expressing a racist idea.

back to the top

Racist idea

From: Ibram X Kendi, How to be an Antiracist, Random House, 2019

A racist idea is any idea that suggests one racial group is inferior or superior to another racial group in any way.

back to the top

Racist policy

From: Ibram X Kendi, How to be an Antiracist, Random House, 2019

A racist policy is any measure that produces or sustains racial inequity between or among racial groups. Policies are written and unwritten laws, rules, procedures, a nonracist or race-neutral policy. Every policy in every institution in every community in every nation is producing or sustaining either racial inequity or equity between racial groups. Racist policies are also express through other terms such as “structural racism” or “systemic racism”. Racism itself is institutional, structural, and systemic

back to the top

Religious Oppression:

refers to the systematic subordination of minority religions (in the United States) such as Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Native American spiritualities, and Sikhs, by the dominant Christian majority. This subordi- nation is a product of the historical tradition of Christian hegemony and the unequal power relationships of minority religious groups with the Christian majority. In the United States, religious oppression is supported by the actions of individuals (religious prejudice), social institutions (religious discrimination), and cultural and societal norms and values associated with Christian hegemony. Through religious oppression, Christianity and its cultural mani- festations function to marginalize, exclude, and deny the practices and insti- tutions of religious minority groups the rights, privileges and access held out for all U.S. citizens. 

From: Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, Second Edition, 2007

back to the top


From: International Center for Transitional Justice

States have a legal duty to acknowledge and address widespread or systematic human rights violations, in cases where the state caused the violations or did not seriously try to prevent them. Reparations initiatives seek to address the harms caused by these violations. They can take the form of compensating for the losses suffered, which helps overcome some of the consequences of abuse. They can also be future oriented—providing rehabilitation and a better life to victims—and help to change the underlying causes of abuse. Reparations publicly affirm that victims are rights-holders entitled to redress.

back to the top

Restorative Justice

From: The Movement for Black Lives

Restorative Justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by crime and conflict. It places decisions in the hands of those who have been most affected by a wrongdoing, and gives equal concern to the victim, the offender, and the surrounding community. Restorative responses are meant to repair harm, heal broken relationships, and address the underlying reasons for the offense. Restorative Justice emphasizes individual and collective accountability. Crime and conflict generate opportunities to build community and increase grassroots power when restorative practices are employed.

back to the top




Settler colonialism 

From: Settler Fragility: Why Settler Privilege Is So Hard to Talk About, Dina Gilio-Whitaker

Settler colonialism refers to colonization in which colonizing powers create permanent or long-term settlement on land owned and/or occupied by other peoples, often by force. This contrasts with colonialism where colonizer’s focus only on extracting resources back to their countries of origin, for example. Settler Colonialism typically includes oppressive governance, dismantling of indigenous cultural forms, and enforcement of codes of superiority (such as white supremacy). Examples include white European occupations of land in what is now the United States, Spain’s settlements throughout Latin America, and the Apartheid government established by White Europeans in South Africa.

Per Dino Gillio-Whitaker, “Settler Colonialism may be said to be a structure, not an historic event, whose endgame is always the elimination of the Natives in order to acquire their land, which it does in countless seen and unseen ways. These techniques are woven throughout the US’s national discourse at all levels of society. Manifest Destiny—that is, the US’s divinely sanctioned inevitability—is like a computer program always operating unnoticeably in the background. In this program, genocide and land dispossession are continually both justified and denied.”

back to the top

Sex assigned at birth

From: Shlasko, D. (2017). Trans allyship workbook: Building skills to support Trans people in our lives. Madison, WI: Think Again Training.

The legal/administrative category - almost always male or female - to which babies are assigned at birth based on the appearance of the external genitals.

back to the top

Sexual orientation

From: Shlasko, D. (2017). Trans allyship workbook: Building skills to support Trans people in our lives. Madison, WI: Think Again Training.

Someone's pattern of romantic and/or sexual attraction, in terms of the gender(s) of people they're attracted to.

back to the top

Social Justice

From: Adams, M., Bell, L. A., & Griffin, P. (2007). Teaching for diversity and social justice (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

Full adn equal participation of all groups in a society that is mutually shaped to meet their needs. Social justice includes a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. (Bell, p. 1)

back to the top

Socioeconomic class

From: Adams, M., Bell, L. A., & Griffin, P. (2007). Teaching for diversity and social justice (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

Relative social rank in terms of income, wealth, education, occupational status, and/or power.

back to the top


From: Missens, R. (2008). Sovereignty, Good Governance and First Nations Human Resources: Capacity Challenges. [pdf]

The authority of a state to govern itself or another state. This term is more complicated from indigenous/First Nations people point of view in regards to colonialism and self-governance.

"While there is no set definition of sovereignty the concept is often described as a series of claims about the nature and scope of state authority – tending to focus on its legal content. Traditionally, as stated by the World Court, the doctrine of state sovereignty has meant that the state “is subject to no other state, and has full and exclusive powers within its jurisdiction.” However, over time the concept has evolved from the divine right of kings to the limited form of sovereignty that we see today.

"It is important to emphasize that the First Nations’ view of sovereignty is far different from that that has evolved from European kings in that in the First Nations’ view sovereignty is not “man-made”. First Nations have always maintained that their sovereignty - to use a foreign concept – comes from the laws and responsibilities that have been set out for them by the Creator. Their relationship to the land, to the animals and to each other has been clearly defined and is taught to this day by the elders of these communities. In this context the rebuilding of First Nations governance will probably focus on compliance to the sovereign standards and laws as set out by the Creator."

back to the top

Structural racialization

From: Systems Thinking and Race Workshop Summary [pdf]. john a. powell, Connie Cagampang Heller, and Fayza Bundalli. The California Endowment, 2011 [pdf]

Structural racialization connotes the dynamic process that creates cumulative and durable inequalities based on race. Interactions between individuals are shaped by and reflect underlying and often hidden structures that shape biases and create disparate outcomes even in the absence of racist actors or racist intentions. The presence of structural racialization is evidenced by consistent differences in outcomes in education attainment, family wealth and even life span.

back to the top

Structural racism

From: Racial Justice Action Education Manual. Applied Research Center, 2003.

The normalization and legitimization of an array of dynamics – historical, cultural, institutional and interpersonal – that routinely advantage Whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color. Structural racism encompasses the entire system of White domination, diffused and infused in all aspects of society including its history, culture, politics, economics and entire social fabric. Structural racism is more difficult to locate in a particular institution because it involves the reinforcing effects of multiple institutions and cultural norms, past and present, continually reproducing old and producing new forms of racism. Structural racism is the most profound and pervasive form of racism – all other forms of racism emerge from structural racism.

From: Flipping the Script: White Privilege and Community Building. Maggie Potapchuk, Sally Leiderman, Donna Bivens and Barbara Major. 2005.

For example, we can see structural racism in the many institutional, cultural and structural factors that contribute to lower life expectancy for African American and Native American men, compared to white men. These include higher exposure to environmental toxins, dangerous jobs and unhealthy housing stock, higher exposure to and more lethal consequences for reacting to violence, stress and racism, lower rates of health care coverage, access and quality of care and systematic refusal by the nation to fix these things.

back to the top




Targeted universalism

From: Targeted Universalism: Policy & Practice A Primer, john a. powell, Stephen Menendian, Wendy Ake

Targeted universalism means setting universal goals pursued by targeted processes to achieve those goals. Within a targeted universalism framework, universal goals are established for all groups concerned. The strategies developed to achieve those goals are targeted, based upon how different groups are situated within structures, culture, and across geographies to obtain the universal goal. Targeted universalism is goal oriented, and the processes are directed in service of the explicit, universal goal.

back to the top

Transgender (or trans)

From: Shlasko, D. (2017). Trans allyship workbook: Building skills to support Trans people in our lives. Madison, WI: Think Again Training.

Describes people whose gender identity differes from what is expected of them based on their sex assigned at birth.

back to the top


From: Shlasko, D. (2017). Trans allyship workbook: Building skills to support Trans people in our lives. Madison, WI: Think Again Training.

Any and all of the personal, social, legal, physical, and sometimes spiritual processes that a person goes through in order to live their life as a gender that works for them.

back to the top








White fragility

From: DiAngelo, R. (2011). White Fragility. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3(3), 54-70.

“A state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable [for white people], triggering a range of defensive moves. 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”

back to the top

White privilege

From: White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women Studies. Peggy McIntosh. 1988.

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.

From: Transforming White Privilege: A 21st Century Leadership Capacity, CAPD, MP Associates, World Trust Educational Services, 2012.

Structural White Privilege: A system of white domination that creates and maintains belief systems that make current racial advantages and disadvantages seem normal. The system includes powerful incentives for maintaining white privilege and its consequences, and powerful negative consequences for trying to interrupt white privilege or reduce its consequences in meaningful ways. The system includes internal and external manifestations at the individual, interpersonal, cultural and institutional levels.

The accumulated and interrelated advantages and disadvantages of white privilege that are reflected in racial/ethnic inequities in life-expectancy and other health outcomes, income and wealth and other outcomes, in part through different access to opportunities and resources. These differences are maintained in part by denying that these advantages and disadvantages exist at the structural, institutional, cultural, interpersonal and individual levels and by refusing to redress them or eliminate the systems, policies, practices, cultural norms and other behaviors and assumptions that maintain them.

Interpersonal White Privilege: Behavior between people that consciously or unconsciously reflects white superiority or entitlement.

Cultural White Privilege: A set of dominant cultural assumptions about what is good, normal or appropriate that reflects Western European white world views and dismisses or demonizes other world views.

Institutional White Privilege: Policies, practices and behaviors of institutions -- such as schools, banks, non-profits or the Supreme Court -- that have the effect of maintaining or increasing accumulated advantages for those groups currently defined as white, and maintaining or increasing disadvantages for those racial or ethnic groups not defined as white. The ability of institutions to survive and thrive even when their policies, practices and behaviors maintain, expand or fail to redress accumulated disadvantages and/or inequitable outcomes for people of color.

back to the top

White supremacy

From: Challenging White Supremacy Workshop, Sharon Martinas Fourth Revision. 1995

White supremacy is a historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent; for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power and privilege.

back to the top

White supremacy culture

From: Paying Attention to White Culture and Privilege: A Missing Link to Advancing Racial Equity, by Gita Gulati- Partee and Maggie Potapchuk, The Foundation Review, Vol. 6: Issue 1 (2014) [pdf]

White supremacy culture refers to the dominant, unquestioned standards of behavior and ways of functioning embodied by the vast majority of institutions in the United States. These standards may be seen as mainstream, dominant cultural practices; they have evolved from the United States’ history of white supremacy. Because it is so normalized it can be hard to see, which only adds to its powerful hold. In many ways, it is indistinguishable from what we might call U.S. culture or norms – a focus on individuals over groups, for example, or an emphasis on the written word as a form of professional communication. But it operates in even more subtle ways, by actually defining what “normal” is – and likewise, what “professional,” “effective,” or even “good” is. In turn, white culture also defines what is not good, “at risk,” or “unsustainable.” White culture values some ways – ways that are more familiar and come more naturally to those from a white, western tradition – of thinking, behaving, deciding, and knowing, while devaluing or rendering invisible other ways. And it does this without ever having to explicitly say so...

From: Challenging White Supremacy Workshop, Sharon Martinas Fourth Revision. 1995.

White supremacy culture is an artificial, historically constructed culture which expresses, justifies and binds together the United States white supremacy system. It is the glue that binds together white-controlled institutions into systems and white-controlled systems into the global white supremacy system.

back to the top



From: Race: The Power of an Illusion, PBS and DiAngelo, R. (2011). White Fragility. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3(3), 54-70

The term white, referring to people, was created by Virginia slave owners and colonial rules in the 17th century. It replaced terms like Christian and Englishman to distinguish European colonists from Africans and indigenous peoples. European colonial powers established whiteness as a legal concept after Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, during which indentured servants of European and African descent had united against the colonial elite. The legal distinction of white separated the servant class on the basis of skin color and continental origin. The creation of ‘whiteness’ meant giving privileges to some, while denying them to others with the justification of biological and social inferiority.

Whiteness itself refers to the specific dimensions of racism that serve to elevate white people over people of color. This definition counters the dominant representation of racism in mainstream education as isolated in discrete behaviors that some individuals may or may not demonstrate, and goes beyond naming specific privileges (McIntosh, 1988). Whites are theorized as actively shaped, affected, defined, and elevated through their racialization and the individual and collective consciousness’ formed with it (Whiteness is thus conceptualized as a constellation of processes and practices rather than as a discrete entity (i.e. skin color alone). Whiteness is dynamic, relational, and operating at all times and my myriad levels. These processes and practices include basic rights, values, beliefs, perspectives and experiences purported to be commonly shared by all, but which are actually only consistently afforded to white people.

back to the top









An initial design and content of this page is modeled after one at Racial Equity Tools in June of 2020.