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Race Equity Glossary of Terms


From: Center for the Study of Social Policy

Acculturation: A process in which members of one cultural group adopt the beliefs, patterns, and behaviors of another group.

Ally: 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.

Anti-Racist: A person who identifies and challenges the values, structures and behaviors that perpetuate systemic racism.

Bigotry: Intolerant prejudice that glorifies one’s own group and denigrates members of other groups.

Class: A group of people with similar levels of wealth, influence, and status.

Classism: Differential treatment based on social class or perceived social class. Classism is the systematic oppression of subordinated class groups to advantage and strengthen the dominant class groups. It’s the systematic assignment of characteristics of worth and ability based on social class.

Collusion: The perpetuation of oppression or prevention of others from working to eliminate oppression.

Color Blindness: The racial ideology that posits the best way to end discrimination is by treating individuals as equally as possible, without regard to race, culture, or ethnicity. It focuses on commonalities between people, such as their shared humanity.

Colorism: A practice of discrimination by which those with lighter skin are treated more favorably than those with darker skin.

Covert Racism: Expresses racist ideas, attitudes or beliefs in subtle, hidden or secret forms. Often unchallenged, this type of racism doesn’t appear to be racist because it is indirect behavior.

Cross-Cultural Communication: The ability to form, foster, and improve relationships with members of a culture different from one’s own. It is based on knowledge of many factors, such as the other culture’s values, perceptions, manners, social structure, and decision-making practices, and an understanding of how members of the group communicate– verbally, non-verbally, in person, in writing, and in various social contexts.

Cultural Assimilation: A process by which members of an ethnic minority group lose cultural characteristics that distinguish them from the dominant cultural group or take on the cultural characteristics of another group.

Cultural Competence: The integration and transformation of knowledge about individuals and groups of people into specific standards, policies, practices, and attitudes used in appropriate cultural settings to increase the quality of services; thereby producing better outcomes.

Cultural Deprivation: The absence of certain norms, values, skills and attitudes in the society which affects an individual’s ability to communicate and respond appropriately.

Cultural Diversity: The makeup of various social structures, belief systems and strategies that other cultures use to adapt to life situations in all parts of the world.

Cultural Humility: A lifelong process of self-reflection, self-critique and commitment to understanding and respecting different points of view, and engaging with others humbly, authentically and from a place of learning.

Cultural Imperialism: The practice of promoting a more powerful culture over a least known or desirable culture.

Cultural Pluralism: Recognition of the contribution of each group to a common civilization. It encourages the maintenance and development of different lifestyles, languages and convictions. It is a commitment to deal cooperatively with common concerns. It strives to create the conditions of harmony and respect within a culturally diverse society.

Cultural Racism: 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 Sensitivity: The awareness and sensitivity of other practices and cultures. Cultural sensitivity skills can include assessing different cultures, how they should be properly approached and how to communicate accordingly.

Culture/Cultural Group: 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.

Denial: Refusal to acknowledge the societal privileges that are granted or denied based on an individual’s ethnicity or other grouping.

Desegregation: To eliminate any law, provision, or practice requiring isolation of the members of a particular group.

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

Double Consciousness: An internal conflict when a member of an ethnic minority group feels caught between their membership in the dominate culture and their membership in their ethnic group.

Emerging Majority: Comprises of non-White ethic groups who are expected to make up the majority of the US population by 2042. Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and other non-Whites are all included in this description.

Empowerment: When target group members refuse to accept the dominant ideology and their subordinate status and take actions to redistribute social power more equitably.

Equality: Access or provision of equal opportunities, where individuals are protected from being discriminated against.

Equal Opportunity: Principle of non-discrimination which emphasizes that opportunities in education, employment, advancement, benefits and resource distribution, and other areas should be freely available to all citizens irrespective of their age, race, sex, religion, political association, ethnic origin, or any other individual or group characteristic unrelated to ability, performance, and qualification.

Equity: A state in which all people in a given society share equal rights and opportunities.

Ethnic Minority: Comprises of non-White ethic groups who historically made up a smaller percentage of the US population than Whites. Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and other non-Whites are all included in this description.

Ethnicity/Ethnic Group: 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.

Ethnocentrism: The tendency to believe that one’s ethnic or cultural group is centrally important and that all other groups are measured in relation to one’s own.

Exploitation: The act of using someone or something in an unjust or cruel manner.

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

Individual / Person 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.

Injustice: The practice of being unfair or unjust. The word injustice generally refers to abuse, misuse, neglect or malfeasance that is sanctioned by a legal system.

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.

Internalized Racism: 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.

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

Intersectionality: The idea that various biological, social, and cultural categories– including gender, race, class, and ethnicity– interact and contribute towards systematic social inequality.

Jim Crow: The systematic practice of discriminating against and segregating African Americans, especially as practiced in the American South from the end of Reconstruction to the mid-20th century.

Marginalization: The process in which groups of people are excluded by the wider society. Marginalization is often used in an economic or political sense to refer to the rendering of an individual, an ethnic or national group, or a nation-state powerless by a more powerful individual.

Multicultural: Consisting of several different cultural or ethnic groups.

Multiracial: This term pertains to people with heritage of two or more races. Multiracial people do not fit into a well-defined racial/ethnic category.

Oppression: The systemic and pervasive nature of social inequality woven throughout social institutions as well as embedded within individual consciousness. Oppression fuses institutional and systemic discrimination, personal bias, bigotry and social prejudice in a complex web of relationships and structures that saturate most aspects of life in our society.

Overt Racism: A public, conscious act intended to harm or damage a person or a group of people of another race, because of the race of the victimized person or group of people.

Person of Color: The phrase person of color refers to someone who belongs to a racial and ethnic minority group. Although historically the term has been used elsewhere, it is much more localized in contemporary popular, activist, and academic debates in the United States.

Post-Racial: A theoretical assertion that states that the United States is devoid of racial preference, discrimination, and prejudice.

Power: The ability to control others, events, or resources.

Prejudice: A prejudgment or unjustifiable, and usually negative, attitude of one type of individual or groups toward another group and its members.

Privilege: A special advantage, immunity, permission, right, or benefit granted to or enjoyed by an individual because of their class, caste, gender, or racial/ethnic group.

Race: A political construction created to concentrate power with white people and legitimize dominance over non-white people.

Racial Equality: Access or provision of equal opportunities for people from all racial and ethnic backgrounds. Racial equality refers to social equality for people of different races.

Racial Equity: The condition that would be achieved if one’s racial identity no longer predicted, in a statistical sense, how one fares.

Racial/Ethnic Identity: 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.

Racial Justice: A proactive reinforcement of policies, practices, attitudes and actions that produce equitable power, access, opportunities, treatment, impacts and outcomes for all.

Racialism: A belief in the existence and significance of racial differences, but not necessarily that any hierarchy between the races exists. Racialists typically reject claims of racial superiority.

Racial Profiling: The discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual’s race, ethnicity, religion or national origin.

Racism: A complex system of beliefs and behaviors, grounded in a presumed superiority of the white race. These beliefs and behaviors are conscious and unconscious; personal and institutional; and result in the oppression of people of color and benefit the dominant group, whites. A simpler definition is racial prejudice + power = racism.

Reverse Racism: Perceived discrimination against a dominant group or political majority.

Scientific Racism: The use of scientific techniques, theories, and hypotheses to sanction the belief of racial superiority, inferiority, or racism.

Segregation: A system that keeps different groups separate from each other through physical dividers, social pressures, or laws.

Self-Determination: A characteristic of a person that leads them to make choices and decisions based on their own preference and interests, to monitor and regulate their own actions and to be goal-oriented and self-directing.

Social Justice: Access to resources that enhance one’s chances of getting what one needs or influencing others in order to lead a safe, productive, fulfilling life.

Social Power: Access to resources that enhance one’s chances of getting what one needs or influencing others in order to lead a safe, productive, fulfilling life.

Socioeconomic Status (SES): Socioeconomic status (SES) is often measured as a combination of education, income, and occupation. It is commonly conceptualized as the social standing or class of an individual or group.

Stereotype: Characteristics ascribed to groups of people involving gender, race, national origin and other factors. These characteristics tend to be oversimplifications of the groups involved.

Stereotype Threat: The experience of anxiety in a situation in which a person has the potential to confirm a negative stereotype about his or her social group.

Structural Racism: The structural racism lens allows us to see that, as a society, we more or less take for granted a context of white leadership, dominance and privilege. This dominant consensus on race is the frame that shapes our attitudes and judgments about social issues. It has come about as a result of the way that historically accumulated white privilege, national values and contemporary culture have interacted so as to preserve the gaps between White Americans and Americans of color.

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.

White Supremacy : 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.

Xenophobia : A culturally based fear of outsiders. Xenophobia has often been associated with the hostile reception given to those who immigrate into societies and communities.


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