This glossary is not meant to be exhaustive, since language is continuously evolving. This glossary and its definitions provide a starting point for engaging in open and honest conversations, and it’s a tool meant to build a shared language of understanding.


Ableism: Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on differences in physical, mental, and/or emotional ability; usually that of able‐bodied / minded persons against people with illness, disabilities, or less developed skills / talents.

Access: The ability to approach, fully engage with an entity or person. 

Accommodation: The process of adapting or adjusting to someone or something. Accommodations can be religious, physical, or mental. A reasonable accommodation specifically is an alteration in process or environment that allows a qualified individual with a disability to enjoy equitable access within employment, public entities, or education.

Accomplice(s): The actions of an accomplice are meant to directly challenge institutionalized racism, colonization, and white supremacy by blocking or impeding racist people, policies and structures.

Acculturation: The general phenomenon of persons learning the nuances of or being initiated into a culture. It may also carry a negative connotation when referring to the attempt by dominant cultural groups to acculturate members of other cultural groups into the dominant culture in an assimilation fashion.

Adultism: Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions against young people, in favor of older people.

Advocate: Someone who speaks up for themselves and members of their identity group; e.g., a woman who lobbies for equal pay for women.

Agent: The perpetrator or perpetuator of oppression and/or discrimination; usually a member of the dominant, non‐target identity group.

Ageism: Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on differences in age; usually that of younger persons against older.

Ally: A person of one social identity group who stands up in support of members of another group; typically member of dominant group standing beside member(s) of targeted group; e.g., a man arguing for equal pay for women.

Anti-Racism: The active process of identifying, challenging, and confronting racism. This active process requires confronting systems, organizational structures, policies, practices, behaviors, and attitudes. This active process should seek to redistribute power in an effort to foster equitable outcomes.

Anti‐Semitism: Hatred of or prejudice against Jews or Judaism.

Appropriation: Adopting elements of a different culture without understanding, credit, or permission. This occurs when a dominant culture takes from a minority culture and involves a power imbalance.

Assimilation: The gradual process by which a person or group belonging to one culture adopts the practices of another, thereby, becoming a member of that culture. Assimilation can be voluntary or forced.


Bias: Prejudice; an inclination or preference, especially one that interferes with impartial judgment.

Bicultural: A person who functions effectively and appropriately and can select appropriate behaviors, values, and attitudes within either of two cultures; a person who identifies with two cultures.

Bigotry: An unreasonable or irrational attachment to negative stereotypes and prejudices about other groups of people.

Biracial: Belonging to two races, or having biological parents of two different races.


Categorization: The natural cognitive process of grouping and labeling people, things, etc. based on their similarities. Categorization becomes problematic when the groupings become oversimplified and rigid (e.g. stereotypes).

Classism: Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on difference in socio‐economic status, income, class; usually by upper classes against lower.

Code-switching: The conscious or unconscious act of altering one's communication style and/or appearance depending on the specific situation of who one is speaking to, what is being discussed, and the relationship and power and/or community dynamics between those involved. Often members of target groups code-switch to minimize the impact of bias from the dominant group.

Collusion: Willing participation in the discrimination against and/or oppression of one’s own group (e.g., a woman who enforces dominant body ideals through her comments and actions).

Colonialism: The exploitative historical, political, social, and economic system established when one group or force takes control over a colonized territory or group; the unequal relationship between colonizer and the colonized.

Colonization: The action or process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area. The action of appropriating a place or domain for one's own use.

Color Blindness: A sociological concept describing the ideal of a society where racial classifications do not limit a person's opportunities, as well as the kind of deliberately race-neutral governmental policies said to promote the goal of racial equality. The ideology is problematic, especially on a personal level (i.e., “I don’t see race, gender, etc.”), as it does not recognize the continued existence of racial privilege support by racialized structures and practices.

Contact Hypothesis: The original scientific motivation for integration of education and the armed forces, this theory posits that bringing peoples of different backgrounds together (on a college campus, for example) will lead to improved relations among them. Additional research has shown this to be true only under certain conditions including: sanction by authority, common goals, and equal status contact (both numerically and psychologically). (Allport, 1957).

Critical Race Theory: A framework or set of basic perspectives, methods, and pedagogy that seeks to identify, analyze, and transform those structural and cultural aspects of society that maintain the subordination and marginalization of People of Color. There are at least five themes that form the basic perspectives, research methods, and pedagogy of critical race theory in education:The centrality and intersectionality of race and racism. The challenge to dominant ideology. The commitment to social justice. The centrality of experiential knowledge. The interdisciplinary perspective.

Cultural Appropriation: The adoption or theft of icons, rituals, aesthetic standards, and behavior from one culture or subculture by another. It is generally applied when the subject culture is a minority culture or somehow subordinate in social, political, economic, or military status to appropriating culture. This “appropriation” often occurs without any real understanding of why the original culture took part in these activities, often converting culturally significant artifacts, practices, and beliefs into “meaningless” pop-culture or giving them a significance that is completely different/less nuanced than they would originally have had.

Cultural Humility: A process of reflection and lifelong inquiry involving self-awareness of personal and societal biases as well as awareness of aspects of identity that are most important to others we encounter leading to continuous learning in an accepting and thoughtful manner.


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.

Discrimination: Actions, based on conscious or unconscious prejudice, which favor one group over others in the provision of goods, services, or opportunities.

Diversity: The practice of including people from a range of social and ethnic backgrounds and different gender, ability, and sexual orientation. 

Dominant Culture: The cultural values, beliefs, and practices that are assumed to be the most common and influential within a given society.


Elitism: The belief that a select group of individuals with a certain ancestry, intrinsic quality, high intellect, wealth, special skill, or experience are more likely to be constructive to society, and therefore deserve influence or authority greater than that of others.

Empathy: A learned skill that allows one to recognize and deeply listen to another’s story or experiences, and connect them to common understandings and emotions; differs from sympathy.

Equality: A state of affairs in which all people within a specific society or isolated group have the same status in certain respects, including civil rights, freedom of speech, property rights and equal access to certain social goods and services.

Equity: The intentional practice of considering the needs of all constituents and providing the necessary, potentially differential, resources to different groups to enable success in completing a task, reaching a goal, or otherwise achieving progress.

Ethnicity: An ethnic group; a social group that shares a common and distinctive culture, religion, language, or the like.

Ethnocentrism: The emotional attitude that one's own race, nation, or culture is superior to all others.

Euro-Centric: The inclination to consider European culture as normative. While the term does not imply an attitude of superiority (since all cultural groups have the initial right to understand their own culture as normative), most use the term with a clear awareness of the historic oppressiveness of Eurocentric tendencies in U.S and European society.

Erasure: The invalidation of an identity, which includes exclusion and lack of representation. A form of silencing.


First Nation People: Individuals who identify as those who were the first people to live on the Western Hemisphere continent. People also identified as Native Americans. 

First Generation: An individual, neither of whose parents completed a baccalaureate degree.

Fundamental Attribution Error: A common cognitive action in which one attributes his/her own success and positive actions to his/her own innate characteristics (“I’m a good person”) and failure to external influences (“I lost it in the sun”), while attributing others success to external influences (“he had help, was lucky”) and failure to others’ innate characteristics (‘they’re bad people”). This operates on the group levels as well, with the ingroup giving itself favorable attributions, while giving the out-group unfavorable attributions, as a way of maintaining a feeling of superiority. A “double standard.”


Gender: A description of one’s internal state of being, which is not limited to the traditional gender binary. Gender is a spectrum that includes a huge variety of different identities.

Gender Roles: Binary societal norms that are expected to shape the behavior and experiences of men and women.

Genocide: The intentional attempt to completely erase or destroy a peoples through structural oppression and/or open acts of physical violence.


Harassment: Unwanted conduct with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating, or offensive environment based on their race, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, disability, and/or age, among other things.

Hate Crime: Hate crime legislation often defines a hate crime as a crime motivated by the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person.


Immigrant: A person who moves out of their country of birth, supposedly for permanent residence in a new country.

Implicit Bias: Also known as unconscious or hidden bias, implicit biases are negative associations that people unknowingly hold. They are expressed automatically, without conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing.

Inclusion: the state or act of being incorporated within an organization, structure, or other entity.

Inclusive Excellence: The recognition that a community or institution's success is dependent on how well it values, engages, and includes the rich diversity of students, staff, faculty, administrators, and alumni constituents.

Inclusive Language: Refers to non-sexist language or language that “includes” all persons in its references. For example, “a writer needs to proofread his work” excludes females due to the masculine reference of the pronoun. Likewise, “a nurse must disinfect her hands” is exclusive of males and stereotypes nurses as females.

Indigenous Peoples: Ethnic groups who are the original inhabitants of a given region, in contrast to groups that have settled, occupied or colonized the area more recently. In the United States, this can refer to groups traditionally termed Native Americans (American Indians), Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. In Canada, it can refer to the groups typically termed First Nations.

In‐group Bias: the tendency for groups to “favor” themselves by rewarding group members economically, socially, psychologically, and emotionally in order to uplift one group over another. Also known as favoritism.

Intersectionality: The interaction of a person or group’s social identities or roles that result in the specific way they experience the world. In other words, the way that someone’s identities interact result in an experience that isn’t just the sum of those identities, but is unique to that combination of identities. 

Invisible Minority: A group whose minority status is not always immediately visible, such as disabled people and LGBTQ+ people. This lack of visibility may make organizing for rights difficult.

Islamophobia: Hatred of or prejudice against Islams or Muslims, especially as a political force.

Ism: A social phenomenon and psychological state where prejudice is accompanied by the power to systemically enact an institutionalized form of discrimination.


Latinx: A person of Latin American origin or descent (gender-neutral version of Latino or Latina).


Marginalized: Excluded, ignored, or relegated to the outer edge of a group/society/community.

Microaggression: Brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial, gender, sexual orientation and religious slights and insults to the target person or group.These messages may be sent verbally, ("You speak good English"), non-verbally (clutching one's purse more tightly around people from certain race/ethnicity) or environmentally (symbols like the confederate flag or using Native American mascots). Such communications are usually outside the level of conscious awareness of perpetrators.

Minority / Minority Groups / Minorities: Refer to categories of people who are differentiated from a social majority due to having less social power. They can sometimes be underrepresented in particular majors, careers, or societies but can also be in majority numerically and yet lack social power or the ability to influence. Historically, minority is often associated with people of color (e.g., Asians, Latinos, and Blacks) but it actually can be applied to other identities like gender, sexuality, and religion.

Misogyny: Hatred of or prejudice against women.

Model Minority: a demographic group (whether based on ethnicity, race or religion) whose members are perceived to achieve a higher degree of socioeconomic success than the population average. This success is typically measured relatively by income, education, low criminality and high family/marital stability. A controversial concept that has historically been used to suggest that there is no need to adjust for socioeconomic disparities between certain groups, to pit non-dominant groups against one another, and to diminish the achievements of relevant groups.

Multiculturalism (n): is the co-existence of diverse cultures, where culture includes racial, religious, or cultural groups and is manifested in customary behaviors, cultural assumptions and values, patterns of thinking, and communicative styles.

Multiplicity: The quality of having multiple, simultaneous social identities (e.g., being male and Buddhist and working class).

Multiracial: An individual whose heritage encompasses more than two races.

Multiethnic: An individual that comes from more than one ethnicity. An individual whose parents are born from more than one ethnicity.


Naming: When we articulate a thought that traditionally has not been discussed.

National Origin: The political state from which an individual hails; may or may not be the same as that person's current location or citizenship.


Oppression: Results from the use of institutional power and privilege where one person or group benefits at the expense of another. Oppression is the use of power and the effects of domination.


People of Color: A collective term for people of Asian, African, Latin and Native American backgrounds; as opposed to the collective "White" for those of European ancestry.

Personal Identity: Our identities as individuals‐including our personal characteristics, history, personality, name, and other characteristics that make us unique and different from other individuals.

Pluralism: A situation in which people of different social classes, religions, races, etc., are together in a society but continue to have their different traditions and interests.

Prejudice: A preconceived judgment about a person or group of people; usually indicating negative bias.

Privilege: Benefits and opportunities that are available disproportionately for majority groups at the expense of minority groups and are usually taken for granted.

Protected Status: A characteristic that, in accordance with federal and state law, is protected from discrimination and harassment: age, color, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status.

PWI: Predominantly White Institution


Race:  A class or kind of people unified by shared interests, habits, or characteristics.  Race is often argued as being a social construct because race is not biological.  A person categorized as black in the USA could be categorized as white in Brazil and colored in South Africa.  If race were biological, racial categories would remain constant across boundaries.  However, racialized experiences, responses and reactions are a reality and cannot be ignored on the premise of biology alone.

Racial Profiling: The use of race or ethnicity as grounds for suspecting someone of having committed an offense.

Racism: Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on difference in race/ethnicity; usually by white/European descent groups against persons of color.

Refugee: A person that flees a country out of fear for their safety either for economic or political reasons, or due to a natural disaster, or because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution based on the person's race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.

Re‐fencing: A cognitive process for protecting stereotypes by explaining any evidence/example to the contrary as an isolated exception. Also known as exception‐making.

Religion: A system of beliefs, usually spiritual in nature, and often in terms of a formal, organized denomination.


Safe Space: Refers to an environment in which everyone feels comfortable in expressing themselves and participating fully, without fear of attack, ridicule or denial of experience.

Saliency: The quality of a group identity of which an individual is more conscious of in any given moment and which plays a larger role in that individual's day‐to‐day life; for example, a man's awareness of his "maleness" in an elevator with only women.

Sex: A socially constructed classification system based on a person’s sex characteristics. Sex is a spectrum that includes a variety of sexes much larger than just male or female, based on biological differences.

Sexism: Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions, typically against women, on the basis of sex.

Sexual Orientation: A description of how someone experiences sexual attraction.

Silencing: The conscious or unconscious processes by which the voice or participation of particular social identities is excluded or inhibited.

Social Identity: It involves the ways in which one characterizes oneself, the affinities one has with other people, the ways one has learned to behave in stereotyped social settings, the things one values in oneself and in the world, and the norms that one recognizes or accepts governing everyday behavior.

Social Identity Development: The stages or phases that a person's group identity follows as it matures or develops.

Social Justice: Can be defined as both a process and a goal. "The goal of social justice education is full and equal participation of all groups in a society that is mutually shaped to meet their needs. Social justice includes a vision of society that is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure."

Social Movement: A collective action by a group of people with a shared or collective identity based on a set of beliefs and opinions that intend to change or maintain some aspect of the social order.

Social Oppression: "Exist when one social group, whether knowingly or unconsciously, exploits another group for its own benefit" (Hardiman and Jackson, 1997).

Spotlighting: The practice of inequitably calling attention to particular social groups in language, while leaving others as the invisible, de facto norm. For example: "black male suspect"(versus "male suspect," presumed white); "WNBA" (as opposed to "NBA," presumed male).

Stereotype: Blanket beliefs and expectations about members of certain groups that present an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment. They go beyond necessary and useful categorizations and generalizations in that they are typically negative, are based on little information, and are highly generalized.

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.


Tolerance (n): Acceptance and open‐mindedness to different practices, attitudes, and cultures; does not necessarily mean agreement with the differences.


Underprivileged: Not having the same standard of living or rights as the majority of people in a society.

Underrepresented Communities: Consist of individuals holding identities broadly underrepresented or underserved within an institution or field.


Xenophobia: Hatred or fear of foreigners/strangers or of their politics or culture.

**There are many different terms and acronyms related to gender identity, sexuality and expression. Please see common words, acronyms and phrases, adapted from Portland State University here

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