Staff Development Equity Glossary


Acculturation: The process of learning and incorporating the language, values, beliefs, and behaviors that makes up a distinct culture.

Bias: A positive or negative inclination towards a person, group, or community; can lead to stereotyping.

Classism: Biased attitudes and beliefs that result in, and help to justify, unfair treatment of individuals or groups because of their socioeconomic grouping. Classism can also be expressed as public policies and institutional practices that prevent people from breaking out of poverty rather than ensuring equal economic, social, and educational opportunity

Cultural Assimilation: An individual, family, or group gives up certain aspects of its culture in order to adapt to the dominant culture.

Cultural Competence: Knowledge, awareness and interpersonal skills that allow individuals to increase their understanding, sensitivity, appreciation, and responsiveness to cultural differences and the interactions resulting from them. The particulars of acquiring cultural competency vary among different groups, and they involve ongoing relational process tending to inclusion and trust-building.

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

Denial: The refusal to acknowledge the societal privileges that are granted or denied based on an individual’s identity components. Those who are in a stage of denial tend to believe, “People are people. We are all alike regardless of the color of our skin.” In this way, the existence of a hierarchical system of privileges based on ethnicity or race are ignored.

Discrimination: Unfavorable or unfair treatment towards an individual or group based on their race, ethnicity, color, national origin or ancestry, religion, socioeconomic status, education, sex, marital status, parental status, veteran’s status, political affiliation, language, age, gender, physical or mental abilities, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Dominant Group/Culture: The dominant group within a society has greatest power, privileges, and social status. It may or may not be the majority of the population. In the United States, the dominant group has historically been White, Christian, affluent and male. A dominant group achieves its position by controlling economic and political institutions, communications/media, education and health institutions, the arts, and business. The dominant culture is the way of life defined by the dominant group as “normal” and right.

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

Equality: Evenly distributed access to resources and opportunity necessary for a safe and healthy life; uniform distribution of access to ensure fairness.

Equity: The guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. The principle of equity acknowledges that there are historically underserved and underrepresented populations and that fairness regarding these unbalanced conditions is needed to assist equality in the provision of effective opportunities to all groups.

Inclusion: The act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate. An inclusive and welcoming climate embraces differences and offers respect in words and actions for all people.

Intent vs. Impact: This distinction is an integral part of inclusive environments; intent is what a person meant to do and impact is the effect it had on someone else.  Regardless of intent, it is imperative to recognize how behaviors, language, actions, etc. affect or influence other people. An examination of what was said or done and how it was received is the focus, not necessarily what was intended.

Implicit Bias: Also known as implicit social cognition, implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control. Residing deep in the subconscious, these biases are different from known biases that individuals may choose to conceal for the purposes of social and/or political correctness. Rather, implicit biases are not accessible through introspection.

Marginalization: The process in which groups are excluded by 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 or group.

Norm: An ideal standard binding upon the members of a group and serving to guide, control, or regulate power and acceptable behavior.

Privilege: Power and advantages benefiting a group derived from the historical oppression and exploitation of other groups.

Racism: A system of advantage based on race. A system of oppression based on race. A way of organizing society based on dominance and subordination based on race. Penetrates every aspect of personal, cultural, and institutional life. Includes prejudice against people of color, as well as exclusion, discrimination against, suspicion of, and fear and hate of people of color. Racism = Prejudice + the POWER to implement that prejudice.

White Privilege: Refers to the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices bestowed on people solely because they are White. White people who experience such privilege may or may not be conscious of it.


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