Access:The elimination of discrimination and other barriers that contribute to inequitable opportunities to join and be a part of a work group, organization, or community.
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.
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. Caution: As with any other identity term, it is up to individuals to use this term as an identifier and quantifier. Everyone does not agree with the term/qualifier. The term BIPOC is still considered by many to indicate a hierarchy among communities of color. Instead of BIPOC, the preferred term(s) to use are “people/persons of color” and “communities of color. By using the term to be more inclusive, you may be selectively exclusive by using the term.
Cisgender: A term for people whose gender identity, expression or behavior aligns with those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth.
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.
Disability: Physical or mental impairment that affects a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
Diversity: Socially, it refers to the wide range of identities. It broadly includes race, ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, veteran status, physical appearance, etc. It also involves different ideas, perspectives, and values.
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: The fair treatment, access, opportunity and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that prevent 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 necessary to provide equal opportunities to all groups.
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.
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: The act of creating an environment in which any individual or group will be welcomed, respected, supported and valued as a fully participating member. An inclusive and welcoming climate embraces and respects differences.
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.
Latin(x): Used as a gender-neutral or non-binary alternative to Latino or Latina to describe a person of Latin American origin or descent. Caution: As with any other identity term, it is up to individuals to use this term as an identifier and quantifier. Everyone does not agree with the term/qualifier. By using the term to be more inclusive, you may be selectively exclusive by using the term.
LGBTQIA: An inclusive term for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual. USC standard acronym usage is LGBTQ. Caution: While we understand and sometimes utilize other inclusive practices of other identifiers, we also understand that there is still a great deal of learning around identity groups and attempt to reach a broader audience.
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.
Minority: A minority group is a population subgroup (e.g., ethnic, racial, social, religious, or other group) with differential power than those deemed to hold the majority power in the population. Caution: The relevance of this term is outdated and has changed as the demographics of the population change.
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: When neurological differences are recognized and respected as are any other kind of human differences or variations. These differences can include Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Dyscalculia, Autistic Spectrum, and Tourette Syndrome.
Oppression: 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.
Patriarchy: An historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression in which those assigned male, or those exhibiting characteristics that have been assigned male, hold ultimate authority and privilege central to social organization, occupying roles of political leadership, moral authority, and control of property. It implies and entails female subordination. Can result in gendered outcomes even without specific gendered animus articulated between individuals.
People of Color: 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.
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: Words to refer to a person after initially using their name. Gendered pronouns include she and he, her and him, hers and his, and herself and himself. "Preferred gender pronouns" (or PGPs) are the pronouns that people ask others to use in reference to themselves.
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.
Racism: A belief that racial differences produce or are associated with inherent superiority or inferiority. Racially based prejudice, discrimination, hostility or hatred. Institutionalized racism, also known as systemic racism, refers to forms of racism that are engrained in society or organizations. It is when entire racial groups are discriminated against, or consistently disadvantaged, by larger social systems, practices, choices or policies.
Restorative Justice: 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.
Sex: Binary biological classification of male or female (based on genetic or physiological features); as opposed to gender, which is social in nature (frequently used interchangeably with “gender” despite this difference).
Sexism: Refers to the range of attitudes, beliefs, policies, laws and behaviors that discriminate on the basis of sex or gender.
Silencing: The conscious or unconscious processes by which the voice or participation of particular social identities is exclude or inhibited.
Sizeism: The mistreatment of or discrimination against people based upon their perceived (or self-perceived) body size or shape.
Sexual Orientation: An individual’s enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to another person. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same.
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.
Transgender: A term used to describe folx whose gender identity and/or expression differs from their sex assigned at birth (SAAB). The SAAB is a person’s first association with gender, typically based on physical sex characteristics.
Veteran Status: Whether or not an individual has served in a nation's armed forces (or other uniformed service).
White Privilege: Refers to the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices bestowed on people solely because they are white; an exemption of social, political, and/or economic burdens placed on non-white people; benefitting from societal structuring that prioritizes white people and whiteness.
Xenophobia: A culturally based fear of outsiders. It has often been associated with the hostile reception given to those who immigrate into societies and communities. It could result from genuine fear of strangers or it could be based on things such as competition for jobs, or ethnic, racial, or religious prejudice.
The terms contained in this glossary have been reproduced from the following resources:
- Anti-Violence Project. Glossary. University of Victoria.
- 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.
- Potapchuk, M., Leiderman, S., et al. (2009). Glossary. Center for Assessment and Policy Development.
- Center for Diversity & Inclusion. Glossary of Bias Terms. Washington University in St. Louis.
- Ontario Human Rights Commission. Glossary of human rights terms.
- Race Equity Tools. Glossary (2022)
- APA Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion INCLUSIVE LANGUAGE GUIDELINES