Navigating conversations when you don’t understand the other person’s perspective is difficult. When discussing race, gender, sexual orientation, and other under represented groups it’s good to all be on the same page when it comes to terms we use in these conversations. As such, the following is a list of terms that may help folks understand others, and even themselves.
The Diversity Best Practices Organization has put together a Glossary of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Terms as a PDF that may also be helpful to you.
Affinity groups: A group of people who choose to meet to explore a shared identity such as race, gender, age, religion, and sexual orientation.
Ally: Someone who supports a group other than one’s own (in terms of multiple identities such as race, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, etc.). An ally acknowledges oppression and actively commits to reducing their own complicity, investing in strengthening their own knowledge and awareness of oppression.
Bias: A form of prejudice that results from our need to quickly classify individuals into categories.
Bigot: A person who is obstinately devoted to their own opinions and prejudices and is intolerant towards other diverse social groups.
BIPoC: An acronym used to refer to black, Indigenous and people of color. It is based on the recognition of collective experiences of systemic racism. As with any other identity term, it is up to individuals to use this term as an identifier.
Cisgender: A term for people whose gender identity, expression or behavior aligns with those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth.
Code-switching: The practice of altering behavior, appearance, and language to fit in. Codeswitching happens for many reasons, but in the DEI context, code-switching typically refers to the practice by people with marginalized identities of changing their behavior, appearance, and language to assimilate to the dominant culture and gain access to advantages experienced by people with dominant identities.
Color Blind: The belief that everyone should be treated “equally” without respect to societal, economic, historical, racial or other difference. No differences are seen or acknowledged; everyone is the same.
Cultural Appropriation: The non-consensual/misappropriate 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 context of its original culture.
Decolonize: The active and intentional process of unlearning values, beliefs and conceptions that have caused physical, emotional or mental harm to people through colonization. It requires a recognition of systems of oppression.
Disability: Physical or mental impairment that affects a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
Diversity: Diversity encompasses an array of experiences including, but not limited to, age, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, disabilities, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, and national origin. An appreciative awareness of diversity provides the foundation for the understanding that individuals are shaped by this array of experiences.
Discrimination: The unequal treatment of members of various groups, based on conscious or unconscious prejudice, which favors one group over others on differences of race, gender, economic class, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion, language, age, national identity, religion and other categories.
Equity: Equity refers to the intentional practice of identifying the unique needs within our diverse student and employee populations, and in turn providing the support necessary for each individual to succeed in their academic and career goals.
Gender Identity: Distinct from the term “sexual orientation,” refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female or something else. Since gender identity is internal, one’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others. See Genderbread Person v4.0 for further information.
Gender Non-conforming: An individual whose gender expression is different from societal expectations related to gender.
Harassment: The use of comments or actions that can be perceived as offensive, embarrassing, humiliating, demeaning and unwelcome.
Implicit Bias: Negative associations expressed automatically that people unknowingly hold and that that affect our understanding, actions and decisions; also known as unconscious or hidden bias.
Inclusion: Inclusion is the degree to which all individuals in a community are welcomed, valued, respected, heard, and able to participate. Creating inclusive college communities requires intentional action to address historical under- representation and exclusion with respect to academic and career success, hiring, promotion and leadership, campus climate, curriculum, and access to resources.
Institutional Racism: Institutional racism refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes and opportunities for different groups based on racial discrimination.
Intersectionality: A social construct that recognizes the fluid diversity of identities that a person can hold such as gender, race, class, religion, professional status, marital status, socioeconomic status, etc.
“Isms”: A way of describing any attitude, action or institutional structure that oppresses a person or group because of their target group. For example, race (racism), gender (sexism), economic status (classism), older age (ageism), religion (e.g., anti-Semitism), sexual orientation (heterosexism), language/immigrant status (xenophobism), etc.
Latinx: A gender neutral term often used in lieu of the gendered “Latino” or “Latina” when referring to individuals with cultural ties to Latin America and individuals of Latin descent.
LGBTQIA: An inclusive term for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, and asexual.
Microaggression: The verbal, nonverbal and environmental slights, snubs, insults or actions, 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.
Neurodiversity: The idea that neurological differences such as autism and ADHD are the result of normal, natural variation in the human genome.
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.
Patriarchy: Actions and beliefs that prioritizes masculinity. Patriarchy is practiced systemically in the ways and methods through which power is distributed in society (jobs and positions of power given to men in government, policy, criminal justice, etc.) while also influencing how we interact with one another interpersonally (gender expectations, sexual dynamics, space-taking, etc.).
People of Color (POC): A collective term for men and women of Asian, African, Latinx and Native American backgrounds, as opposed to the collective “White”.
Prejudice: A preconceived judgement or preference, especially one that interferes with impartial judgment and can be rooted in stereotypes, that denies the right of individual members of certain groups to be recognized.
Privilege: Exclusive access or access to material and immaterial resources based on the membership to a dominant social group.
Pronouns: A preferred gender pronoun is a consciously chosen set of pronouns that allow a person to accurately represent their gender identity. A trans person may begin using a gender-neutral pronoun prior to transitioning, or a non-binary person may choose to use a neutral pronoun.
Queer: An umbrella term that can refer to anyone who transgresses society’s view of gender or sexuality. The definitional indeterminacy of the word Queer, its elasticity, is one of its characteristics: “A zone of possibilities.”
Race: A social construct that artificially divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance (particularly race), ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification, and the social, economic and political needs of a society at a given period of time.
Safe Space: Refers to an environment in which everyone feels comfortable expressing themselves and participating fully, without fear of attack, ridicule or denial of experience.
Sexual Orientation: An individual’s enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to another person. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same. Transgender people may be straight, lesbian, gay or bisexual.
Social Justice: Social justice constitutes a form of activism, based on principles of equity and inclusion that encompasses a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. Social justice involves social actors who have a sense of their own agency as well as a sense of social responsibility toward and with others.
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, critical judgment and intentional or unintentional discrimination. Stereotypes are typically negative, based on little information and does not recognize individualism and personal agency.
Structural inequality: Systemic disadvantage(s) of one social group compared to other groups, rooted and perpetuated through discriminatory practices (conscious or unconscious) that are reinforced through institutions, ideologies, representations, policies/laws and practices. When this kind of inequality is related to racial/ethnic discrimination, it is referred to as systemic or structural racism.
System of Oppression: Conscious and unconscious, non-random and organized harassment, discrimination, exploitation, discrimination, prejudice and other forms of unequal treatment that impact different groups. Sometimes is used to refer to systemic racism.
Tokenism: Performative 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.
Tone policing: Tone policing is a silencing tactic used in arguments or discussions that focuses on the emotion behind a message rather than the message itself. (for example, telling someone who is discussing an issue that makes them upset to “calm down” instead of responding to their concerns).
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.
The terms contained in this glossary have been reproduced from the following resources:
- Anti-Violence Project. Glossary. University of Victoria.
- Buffer. (2028). An Incomplete guide to inclusive language for startups and techs.
- Center for Diversity & Inclusion. Glossary of Bias Terms. Washington University in St. Louis.
- Colors of Resistance. Definitions for the Revolution.
- Cram, R. H. (2002). Teaching for diversity and social justice: A sourcebook.
- Equity and Inclusion. Glossary. UC Davis.
- Ontario Human Rights Commission. Glossary of human rights terms.
- Potapchuk, M., Leiderman, S., et al. (2009). Glossary. Center for Assessment and Policy Development.
- The Avarna Group. Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) Vocab.
- Wisconsin Technical College System. (2018). System-wide Equity Report.