The Big Guide to DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) Terms

Discussions about diversity, equity, and inclusion are crucial — and growing. Here’s a glossary of DEI-related terms.

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Does it seem like a new acronym is developed every time you turn around, and it’s really hard to keep up?

Hang in there! We have you covered with our guide to all terms that are Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)-related.

Keep this guide close by, and you will be ready to help guide your company forward in your DEI efforts.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion

DEI is an important topic that needs to be understood.

Depending on your audience, it can be wrought with tension, but it doesn’t have to be. The reality is that everyone needs to have a place where they can be:

  • Appreciated
  • Heard
  • Valued

So let’s look at the terms that are common to DEI conversations.

Click on any of the letters below to jump to words that start with that letter.



AANAPISI (Asian American and Native American Pacific Island Serving Institutions)

Colleges or universities that have a student population comprised of at least 10 percent Asian-American or Native-American Pacific-Islander descent.

AAPI (Asian-American and Pacific-Islander)

A diverse group of Americans that encompass about 50 ethnic groups with origins from at least 40 countries. This term includes all people with an ancestry traced to the Asian, Asian-American, or Pacific-Islander peoples.

AAVE (African American Vernacular English)

A specific dialect of American English unique to the African-American communities through pronunciations and vocabulary originating from a combination of African, British English, and Caribbean Creole dialects.


Discriminatory or oppressive actions or beliefs against individuals with emotional, intellectual, mental, or physical disabilities, psychiatric disorders, or who have lessor developed skills


The intentional design or redesign of entity products, physical spaces, policies, services, systems, and technology (amongst other categories), making them easy to use for those who need an accommodation to navigate said systems.


The process by which an individual will adopt practices of learning the beliefs, behaviors, language, and values that exemplify a new culture while still retaining their distinct culture. Note: This is not the same as assimilation.

Affirmative Action (AA)

Proactive policies and procedures enacted in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy and administered by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) to address covert and overt discriminatory practices and uphold equal employment and educational opportunities as they related to disciplines including recruiting, hiring, training, and promoting minorities, people with disabilities, veterans, and women.


Displaying discriminatory actions and biases based on age differences. This is typically practiced by younger people against those who are older but can also apply to the reverse situation.

Anglo or Anglo-Saxon

Refers to the descendants of European/Germanic peoples (Angles, Saxons, and Jutes). Most often refers to white English-speaking persons in England or North America who are not of Hispanic origin.

ANNHSI (Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions)

These are higher learning institutions wherein at least 20 percent of the students are Native Alaskans, and at least 10 percent are Native Hawaiians.


Opposing discrimination that is based on race by actively advocating and working toward changes in economic, political, and social constructs.


Someone who challenges and identifies the behaviors, structures, and values that create, encourage, and/or perpetuate systemic racism.


Discrimination, hatred, hostility, or oppression of or against Jewish people as a group or as individuals.


Relating to the cultures or people with origins in the following Arabic-speaking areas: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. It is critical to note that “Arab” is not the same as “Muslim” as Muslim is a religious practice. Like many other cultures, Arabs practice a variety of religions, including Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and others.

It’s also important to note that there are many non-Arab communities that originate on the lands of the areas above, including but not limited to: Assyrians, Kurds, Arameans, Copts, Samaritans, Shawiya, Tuareg, and Kabyles.


Someone who is not ever sexually attracted to another. These individuals have emotional needs, and they can feel emotional or romantic attraction that doesn’t lead to a need for sexual fulfillment. Asexuality is considered to be a specific identity.

Asian American

The U.S. Census Bureau defines “Asian” as “people having origins in any of the original peoples of Asia or the Indian subcontinent. It includes people who indicated their race or races as Asian, Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, or Other Asian.”


When a person, usually of a minority group, chooses to take on characteristics of their new majority culture, abandoning their culture of heritage, thereby becoming a member of that new culture. Assimilation can be a voluntary or forced process.


Bias (also Prejudice)

An individual’s behavior, inclination, or preference, that impedes their ability to exercise impartial judgment. Often results in the need of individuals to group or “classify” others into labels.


An individual who possesses the beliefs, behaviors, languages, and values of two distinct racial or ethnic groups.


An attachment to prejudices and/or stereotypes.

BIPoC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color)

A term based on recognizing a group’s collective experiences of systemic racism. This term is intended to emphasize hardships faced by impacted people groups in North America (usually Black and indigenous people). It is also designed to acknowledge that not all People of Color face the same levels of injustice. It is important to note that the use of this term is still evolving and is contested by some activists.


Someone who identifies as being the genetic result of two races or whose biological parents represent two different racial groups.

Birth Assigned Sex

The term explicitly refers to a person’s biological, genetic, hormonal, and morphological makeup at birth. One’s sex is typically designated as either male or female.


A term relating to identity for people who are attracted to people of two genders, typically to both men and women. Also referred to as Bi*.


People having ethnic origins, specifically from Africa. In the United States, “Black” is often used interchangeably with “African American.” Some people inaccurately use the term to represent all people who are not of white European descent.



A politically-aligned term predominantly associated with the Civil Rights Movement. It was adopted by some Mexican-Americans to show overt pride in their heritage. The movement’s goal was to end racial oppression and social inequalities against Mexican-Americans. It’s important to note that not necessarily all Mexican-Americans identify as Chicano/a.


The antonym of transgender. This is a term that has been created and assigned to those who identify with the gender to which they were assigned sex at birth. The term Cisgender is also shortened and known as “Cis,” “Cis-female,” or “Cis-male.”


The cultural, individual, and institutional actions and beliefs that erroneously assign different values to people according to their social class.


The conscious or unconscious act of the non-dominant group changing their communication style and/or appearance to minimize the impact of bias from the dominant group.


The act of sending people to live in and govern another country without regard for the indigenous people.

Color Blind(ness)

A misguided school of thought that suggests ignoring culture, ethnicity, or race will end racial discrimination because it will result in treating people as equally as possible. The term “colorblind” seems to disregard (or seeks to ignore) the areas which are a large part of a person’s identity.


Behavior that demonstrates prejudice or discrimination, especially within a racial or ethnic group, that favors people with lighter skin over those with darker skin. This behavior typically occurs within a subgroup or culture involving only people of color.

Communities of Color

A term used primarily in parts of the United States to describe communities of people who do not identify as White.

Covert Racism 

This is when racism is expressed in subtle or quiet forms of ideas, attitudes, or beliefs. Because this is not overt, it is often left unchallenged because this type of racism doesn’t seem to be racist because it is indirect behavior.

Critical Race Theory (CRT)

According to the Political Dictionary, “CRT is intended to be a way of analyzing systems, institutions, and power through a lens of race and racism.” It goes on to suggest that “the central tenant of CRT is the idea that many institutions are built on and enforce systemic racism and oppression of people of color. This racism and oppression have a long history in the US and the world (including slavery and its legacy). They are ongoing and driven by white supremacy.”

Cultural Appropriation

When someone, or another culture, takes cultural elements (e.g., aesthetic standards – e.g., fabric types and designs, behaviors, icons, or rituals) of another group’s culture or subculture for selfish reasons or, more commonly, profit. It typically occurs without those who mimic the cultural elements having any desire to gain an accurate understanding or trying to learn why the culture valued these activities.

Cultural Competence

The ability of an individual or organization to understand how inequity can be (or has been) perpetuated through accepted behaviors. These individuals or organizations then use that knowledge to break the cycle of inequitable practices.

Cultural Humility

Taking a position that is open to individuals, cultural communities, and experiences that are different relating to aspects of one’s own cultural identity. This skill requires learning and understanding the complexity of how cultural identities evolve over time.

Cultural Identity

The identity or feeling of belonging to a group based on ethnicity, generation, locality, nationality, religion, social class, or other social groups with their own distinct culture.


A social system of behaviors, beliefs, customs, habits, ideologies, norms, skills, and values that a group of people develops.


Damage Imagery

Information in the form of data, text/narrative, or visual imagery that is used to highlight inequities. However, it is presented out of context and doesn’t provide appropriate or relevant cultural, historical, and sociopolitical context.


Having an emotional, mental, physical, or psychological impairment resulting in a significant and long-term undesirable, in some cases even harmful, effect on a person’s ability to carry out their routine daily activities.


The disparate and unfair treatment, provision of goods, opportunities, or services of individuals or groups based on age, gender, intellectual or mental abilities, national origin, physical ability, race, religion, sexual orientation, social class, and other categories.

Distributional Equity

Programs, policies, and practices that result in an equitable distribution of benefits and burdens across all segments of a community who are in need, giving priority to those with the highest need.


An all-inclusive term used to describe the innumerable ways people are unique, including the psychological, physical, and social differences that occur among all individuals. These are historically discussed in terms of age, gender, economic class, education, ethnicity, gender, learning styles, marital status, mental and physical ability, nationality, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status. Diversity is intended to support the approach that everyone and each group should be valued. It is about understanding all of these differences, moving beyond basic tolerance, and embracing and celebrating the vast attributes of our differences.

Dominant Group

The group within a society that holds the majority of the power, privilege, and social status used to control and define the accessible societal, political, and economic systems and norms.



When everyone is granted the same rights and responsibilities and is treated the same way regardless of individual differences. Also, see equity.


Identifying and removing barriers, so individuals have viable access to the resources and means they need to have the same opportunities as the majority population. It’s important to note that equity represents impartiality, e.g., opportunities are distributed in such a way to even access for all people. On the other hand, equality indicates uniformity, where everything is evenly distributed among people. Also, see equality.


Often socially defined based on a shared identity of ancestry, culture, language, nation, or region of origin. Ethnic groups may share attributes, including ancestral base, behavioral patterns, beliefs, cultural heritage, customs, experiences, geography, religion, and/or shared history, memories, political interests, and values.


First Nations People

Those who legally identify as those who were the first people to live on the Western Hemisphere continent. Also, see Native Americans.



A term used to describe a person who identifies as male and is emotionally, romantically, and/or sexually attracted to others who similarly identify as male. This may also be a broad term to refer to people who experience same-sex or same-gender attraction.


A term that relates to the activities, attributes, behaviors, and roles that a society considers “appropriate” for men and women. It is not the same as ‘sex,’ more commonly known as the female or male biological classification determined by biological and physiological features. Someone’s gender may not directly relate to their assigned birth sex. It also may not be limited to the gender binary (man/woman).

Gender Expression

How a person embodies or demonstrates their gender outwardly through their actions, behaviors, dress, interactions, or other perceived characteristics. Traditionally, society uses these exterior cues as feminine or masculine. However, what some consider to be feminine or masculine changes over time and varies by culture. See also gender identity.

Gender Identity

The way someone feels internally. It relates to whether they strongly feel they are a man, woman, both, between, or outside the gender binary. This may or may not align with their assigned birth sex. Because gender identity is internally and personally defined, it is not visible to others externally. This makes it different from the definition of gender expression. Also, see gender expression.

Gender Pronouns (GPs) also Personal Gender Pronouns (PGPs)

The pronouns that an individual chooses to use and would like others to use when referring to them. There are several types of personal pronouns used for different groups and identities. Some of these include gendered, gender-inclusive, and gender-neutral. The list of personal pronouns is continuously evolving. However, using a person’s pronouns correctly is intended to encourage inclusivity and reduce the adverse societal effects felt by those with personal pronouns that don’t match their perceived gender identity.


A process of economic change in an historically disadvantaged neighborhood that happens through instruments such as real estate investment and an increase in higher-income residents. The process typically results in the displacement of long-term residents and the area’s demographic changes in income, education, and racial makeup.



Unwanted conduct intent on violating an individual’s dignity and creating or fostering a degrading, hostile, humiliating, intimidating, or offensive atmosphere or environment based on the person’s age, color, disability, national origin, race, religion, sex, and/or sexual orientation, among other things.


An acronym directly associated with Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

Health Equity

Everyone has a fair and just opportunity to attain the best possible level of health and healthcare so all can live healthy lives. This requires removing obstacles, and their associated consequences, to health, such as discrimination, lack of access to jobs that provide fair pay, thereby raising people out of poverty, removing feelings of powerlessness, making quality education and housing accessible, and encouraging safe environments.


The cultural, individual, institutional, and societal beliefs and practices that favor heterosexuality. This includes the assumption that heterosexuality is the only natural, normal, or acceptable sexual orientation. This practice can create an imbalance in power, leading to institutional, pervasive, routine, and systemic mistreatment of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals.


A term for female-identified people who are sexually attracted to male-identified people and vice-versa.


A term describing cultures, descendants, and people of Spanish-speaking countries. This includes Spain and many Latin American countries (Mexican, Mexican-American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, or Cuban). Some find this term offensive because they do not feel it honors the indigenous groups of people but rather the colonizers. Therefore, this term is not the same as Latina/Latino/Latinx. See also Latinx.


Irrational discomfort, fear, hatred, or prejudice directed toward those who are attracted to others who have the same birth-assigned sex/gender. It puts those who identify as LGBTQ+ at a systemic disadvantage. In some cases, goes as far as to promote and reward anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment.


A person who is attracted to people who are what they identify as their own sex or gender. Historically, the term homosexual denoted mental illness and abnormality. Therefore, it is often rejected – the preferred terms are Gay or Lesbian. Also, see Gay, Lesbian.


An acronym specific to Hispanic-Serving Institutions. To be eligible, these institutions of higher education must have a student enrollment rate of at least 25 percent of Hispanic full-time equivalent undergraduates.


Implicit Bias (Hidden or Unconscious Bias)

The unconscious negative attitudes or stereotypes that affect someone’s actions, decisions, or understanding as they interact with or relate to people from different groups. This may result in behavior that is different from one’s stated beliefs about equality and fairness.

Imposter Syndrome

The fear of being exposed as a fraud or inadequate. Often experienced by high-achievers, and inhibits their ability to appreciate their own accomplishments. This is more frequently observed in members of underrepresented groups but is not limited to them.


Creates environments where any person or group can fully participate and feel authentically welcomed, respected, supported, and valued.

Inclusive Language

Language that conveys respect to all people. It acknowledges diversity, promotes equal opportunities, and is sensitive to differences.

Indigenous People

Identifies groups of people known to be the geographic area’s earliest ethnic inhabitants (also known as First Nations People). This differentiates these people from any groups that later decided to colonize, occupy, or settle the same are In the United States, this is most often used to refer to those who have historically been referred to as Native Americans (American Indians), Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians. In Canada, it can refer to the groups typically termed First Nations. Also, see Native Americans and First Nations People.

Individual Racism

Actions, assumptions, attitudes, and/or beliefs held by an individual that perpetuate or support racism at a personal level. Whether it occurs at a conscious or unconscious level, it can show up as either active or passive. Some examples could be observed in instances such as avoiding people of color or participating in, accepting, or approving of acts or jokes that are racist in nature. Also, see Implicit Bias, Interpersonal Racism, Internalized Racism, and Racism.

Institutional Racism

The adoption of existing or creation of biased or unfair practices and policies at the organizational level that are intended (implicitly or explicitly) to result in different or inequitable outcomes for non-majority racial groups than what the majority group experiences. The policies may result in negative outcomes, disadvantages, or even oppression for some while creating advantages for others even though they may not explicitly target any particular racial group. Also, see Individual Racism, Structural Racism, and Systemic Racism.

Internalized Racism

The conscious or unconscious internalization of actions, behaviors, beliefs, ideas, and social structures that accepts and even adopts the dominant society’s racist stereotypes and statements about one’s own race. It is the simultaneous hating of oneself and one’s own culture or race while placing a premium value on the dominant culture. See also Individual Racism.

Interpersonal Racism

This occurs when one’s personal, racial perceptions and beliefs impact their interactions with other individuals. For example, public expressions of race-based bias, bigotry, hate, or prejudice between individuals


The intertwining of biological, cultural, and/or social identities such as ethnicity, gender, gender identity, race, religion, sexual orientation, or social class, which result in unique barriers, experiences, opportunities, and social inequalities. The concept acknowledges that individuals may experience multiple categories and, as a result, experience different levels of oppression or privilege.


Refers to a naturally occurring biological variation in humans wherein atypical internal and/or external anatomical sexual characteristics usually regarded as male or female may be present and combined or mixed to some degree. This is not a result of medical intervention, is not a medical condition, and is not related to transsexuality.

Inuit Eskimo

A group of people, considered to be a distinct culture of American Indians. They are typically more closely related to peoples of East Asia.



A transformative practice wherein a society relies on the entire community to acknowledge past and current harms to reform governing laws and societal morals. The goal is to move from inequitable, unequal, and unfair processes to produce equal, equitable, and fair access, opportunities, outcomes, and treatment for everyone.

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A gender-neutral term that is typically used by the younger generation of Latinos that omits reference to feminine or masculine roots and is used to refer to someone who is of Latin American descent or origin. Also, see Latino or Latina.


The term used to describe individuals who identify as female and are emotionally, physically, and/or sexually attracted to other people who identify as femal


These are acronyms that are commonly used to refer to multiple communities of people who are neither cis/cisgender nor heterosexual. When examined individually, the letters stand for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersexual, asexual, and pansexual. The plus (+) is provided to include any additional expressions of gender identity and/or sexual orientation.


Marginalization (also Marginalized)

The when members of the dominant group intend to maintain power by relegating a dissimilar group or culture to the fringes of their community or society. They work to accomplish this by refusing the minority group the ability to have an active voice, identity, or place, thereby devaluing them. These groups have limited or even restricted access to resources such as education and healthcare. This makes it harder for them to achieve their goals.


Commonplace daily behavioral, environmental, or verbal insults and/or indignities. These may be intentional or unintentional, yet they communicate derogatory and/or hostile slights toward groups that have historically been culturally marginalized. “Backhanded compliments” delivered so that the recipient doesn’t know if they’ve been affirmed or torn down are considered Also, see racially coded language.

Minority Group

A group of people scrutinized by the majority group who receive different or unequal treatment because of their physical or cultural characteristics. These groups often regard themselves as the targets of collective discrimination. It’s important to note that the predominant characteristic of being a minority group has nothing to do with being a numerical minority. The lack of power is what is reflective of a minority group. Therefore, the dominant, or majority, group is the one with the most societal power.


When someone intentionally or unintentionally refers to another individual using a word or a pronoun that is not aligned with the other person’s chosen gender i This is typically a behavior or action based on assumptions that have been made about a person’s gender identity.


An extreme form of sexism and racism describing contempt that is rooted in ingrained prejudice specifically directed toward Black women. This is a unique oppression experienced by Black women where discrimination is demonstrated based on the intersectionality of class, gender, race, and sexual orientation. Misogynoir perpetuates inaccurate stereotypes of Black women.


Aversion, hatred, or prejudice against women. Misogyny can manifest in multiple ways, including denigration, sexual discrimination, sexual objectification, and/or violence against women.


Relating to more than one culture represented in a specific area.


Refers to the theory and practice that promotes the peaceful coexistence of all identities and people. The practice of acknowledging, respecting, and supporting the representation of multiple attitudes, cultures, languages, opinions, races, religions, and social equity within an environment.


A term used to refer to an individual with roots from more than one ethnicity.


A term used to refer to someone with roots in more than one race.



Native American Indian Serving Non-Tribal Institutions. An acronym referring to institutions of higher learning that have at least 10 percent of the student registration which legally identify as Native These institutions qualify as a Tribal College and University (TCU).

Native American

People who legally identify as those who were the first to live on the North American continent. Also, see First Nations People.


A gender identity used by those who neither exclusively identify as female or male. Individuals who identify as non-binary may identify outside the female and male gender binary categories.



An often unconscious, but sometimes conscious and intentional, hierarchical institutional and individual application of social inequality that benefits the dominant group. This system of discrimination and supremacy is perpetuated against subordinated or targeted groups through bias, bigotry, differential or unjust treatment, discrimination, ideology, and institutional control.


The intentional/unintentional placement or perception of a group that is viewed to be in contrast to the accepted societal norm. The irrational identification of a subordinated group as a threat to the favored dominant group.


Pacific Islander

This term refers to persons whose origins are of the following nations: any of the Pacific Islands, Melanesia, Micronesia, or Polynesia.


A societal practice wherein the actions and beliefs prioritize men in positions of power, privilege, social society, and systems. It may be systemic in the ways and methods through which a society distributes its power, or it may be a subconscious influence on how individuals interact with one another interpersonally.


An acronym for Predominantly Black Institutions. These are institutions of higher learning wherein at least 40 percent of the student enrollment demographics identify as Black.

Person/People of Color(PoC)

A collective term predominantly used in the United States referring to people who are non-white individuals of African, Asian, Latinx, and Native American backgrounds. The shared experience of these groups is that of being oppressed and targeted by racism. While each oppressed group maintains its unique identity and is affected by racism differently, there is the recognition that racism has the potential to unite oppressed people in resistance as a collective group.


The ability or act of exercising one individual’s or group’s will over others due to having a greater advantage, access, or control of resources than others. Social constructs that reflect how power is leveraged include citizenship, education, heterosexism, patriarchy, wealth, and whiteness.


An unjustifiable inclination or preference (usually negative), one that precludes one’s ability or desire to act with impartial judgment. It can be based on gross generalizations or stereotypes that deny certain groups or individuals within those groups the right to be recognized and treated in regard to their unique characteristics.


A set of unearned advantages, benefits, and entitlements accorded to the members of the dominant group by society’s formal and informal institu This often is used to refer to white/Caucasian people as opposed to people of color, men as they relate to women, heterosexuals as compared to homosexuals, adults versus children, and rich people as compared to poor people). Those who possess it typically don’t recognize or see it because they have it. It is its absence (lack of privilege) that calls attention to it.

Procedural Equity

Inclusive and authentic engagement exercised through the development, examination, and implementation of accessible fair policies, procedural rights, and programs.


Refers to Predominantly White Institutions. These institutions of higher learning have a student enrollment of at least 50 percent who identify as white.



This is an adaptable word often used in multiple It can refer to any combination of gender identity and sexual orientation. Please note that because of its varying meanings, this term should only be used by someone who is self-identifying as queer or when quoting a person who self-identifies as queer (i.e., “My uncle identifies as queer.”) It is typically used to refer to those who do not fit what is defined by the majority as fitting within the cultural norms regarding the expression of gender and/or sexuality. It may be used as an all-encompassing term referring to anyone who has a non-heterosexual sexual orientation or to anyone who is marginalized based on sexual orientation. The term “Queer” is disliked by some members of the LGBT community, yet is still occasionally used by some outside of that community (and even by some within) as a contemptuous term. Also, see LGBT/LGBTA/LGBTQ/LGBTQIA+.



A societally created term used to arbitrarily define and divide people into distinct groups. Characteristics are used as the basis for this term and are generally based on identifiers such as ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation and/or history, ethnic classification, and physical appearance (particularly skin color). The term is often associated with a society’s economic, political, and social constructs that are present at any given time.

Racial and Ethnic Identity

The categories related to ethnicity and race a person uses to describe themselves. They base this identity on factors such as their biological heritage, the culture they choose to affiliate with, their personal experience(s), and physical appearance. This impacts how someone experiences being associated with and/or identifying as a member of a specific ethnic and/or racial group.

Racial Anxiety

The feeling of concern that frequently arises before and during new or uncertain interactions that are interracial in nature. Racial anxiety is experienced when People of Color worry that they will be subject to adverse or discriminatory treatment. White people experience racial anxiety when they worry that they will be unfairly perceived as racist. White people who are not concerned about racism do not experience this form of anxiety. Also, see People of Color (PoC).

Racial Disparity

Reflects the inappropriate and inconsistent treatment of racial groups regarding many aspects of their lives and societal experiences, including access to economic status, housing options, income, safety, and societal treatment. Discriminatory practices in the United States and globally, both past and current, have had an intense impact on the inequalities evident in today’s society. Also, see racial equity and racial justice.

Racial Equity

A society where race is not a biased predictor of outcomes. It is a result of more equitable attitudes, cultural messages, policies, and practices. A racially equitable society equitably distributes its benefits and burdens, and those distributions are not skewed by race. A society must pay attention to discrimination at the individual level as well as its overarching social outcomes to achieve racial equity. Also, see racial disparity and racial justice.

Racial Justice

Reflects the fair treatment of all races which results in the application of equitable opportunities and outcomes for everyone. It is not only the absence of discrimination and inequities, but is the reality of the presence of intentional systems and supports that have been created to assure and sustain racial equity through the application of preventative and proactive measures. Also, see racial disparity and racial equity.

Racially Coded Language

Language that on the surface seems to be race-neutral but is actually a disguise for racial stereotypes inappropriately allowing the person saying it to escape without the stigma of explicit racism. Also, see microaggression.


The systematic suppression, even subjugation, of members of targeted (generally non-white) racial groups who are not identified as members of the majority group. It involves actions grounded in inaccurately presumed superiority that are typically correlated with or resulting from bigotry. Racism differs from discrimination, hatred, or prejudice. To be present, it requires one racial group to have presumed superiority and systematic power over other groups in society.


Typically a formal, organized institution that reflects a specific system of beliefs that are usually spiritual in nature.

Reverse Racism

The feeling of discrimination directed toward a dominant group or political majority.


Safe Space

A place where anyone can fully express themselves in a relaxed environment regardless of their age, biological sex, cultural background, ethnicity, gender expression, gender identity, mental ability, physical ability, race, religious affiliation, or sexual orientation without having to experience the fear of attack, being made to feel uncomfortable, unsafe, or unwelcome, denied the truth of their reality, or ridicule.

Scientific Racism

The use of scientific hypotheses, techniques, or theories used to falsely prove or even sanction the belief of the existence of racial inferiority, racial superiority, or racism. Hitler’s belief in the ability to create a superior race and exterminate all others is an example.


The biological classification of female or male based on a person’s biological and physiological features. One’s sex may be different from their chosen gender identity.

Sexual Orientation

The gender(s) or sex(es) to which a person is emotionally, physically, romantically, and/or sexually attracted. Examples of sexual orientation may include asexual, bisexual, gay, heterosexual, lesbian, pansexual, queer, etc. Also, see LGBT/LGBTA/LGBTQ/LGBTQIA+.

Social Equity

Social equity is defined in the context of public administration as the equitable, fair, and just implementation, management, and oversight of all institutions that directly, or by contract, serve the public. It involves the commitment to promote equity, fairness, and justice in the creation, development, formation, and implementation of public policy. Also, see racial equity.

Social Justice

A form of activism that encompasses a desire to see a society’s equitable distribution of resources. It is based on principles of equity and inclusion and intended to ensure that all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. Also, see racial justice.

Social Self-View

The social identity group(s) to which an individual perceives they belong.


An acronym that stands for sexual orientation (SO), gender identity (GI), and (gender) expression (E). It is intended to honor the numerous expanding and fluid identities. Also, see gender expression, gender identity, LGBT/LGBTA/LGBTQ/LGBTQIA+, and sexual orientation.


Erroneous assumptions, expectations, unconscious associations, and widely held beliefs related to members of groups that are broadly applied and presumed to be true of every member of said group. It represents a judgment that has been based on an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment. A stereotype is typically negative and based on limited, if any, information. It is broadly generalized and/or usually inflammatory. A stereotype does not acknowledge individualism.

Structural Equity

The Identification and removal of institutional barriers to ensure equal and fair opportunities. It recognizes the cultural, historical, and institutional dynamics and structures that have historically or currently routinely advantaged privileged groups in a society resulting in the chronic and cumulative disadvantage for subjugated groups.

Structural Inequality

The conscious or unconscious perpetuation of systemic disadvantage(s) of a particular social group compared to other groups that are reinforced and rooted in through a given society’s discriminatory practices of ideologies, institutions, laws, policies, practices, and representatio Therefore, it refers to the system of inequality and privilege that have been created, designed, and maintained by interdependent societal institutions.

Structural Racism

The overarching societal system of racial bias that spans cultural, historical, institutional, and interpersonal legitimization and normalization – that routinely advantage the majority population while producing chronic and cumulative adverse outcomes for minority people groups. Structural racism is most often associated with portions of our culture and history that are associated with privileges of “whiteness” and the disadvantages associated with People of Color (PoC). It is more difficult to identify in a singular institution because it encompasses the reinforcing effects of multiple cultural “norms” and institutions, both past and present. Therefore, it continually creates new and reproduces old forms of racism. Structural racism is the most pervasive and profound form of racism as it is the base from which all other forms of racism emerge. Also, see individual racism, institutional racism, and systemic racism.

Systemic Racism

A system of racism based on an interwoven correlation between individual, institutional, and structural levels. These multiple applications of racism function and operate together in an interlocking model as an entire system. “Systemic racism” and “structural racism” are essentially synonymous. The only difference between them may exist in how a structural racism analysis is applied because it pays more attention to a recently racialized society’s cultural, historical, and social psychological facets. Also, see Individual Racism, Institutional Racism, and Structural Racism.


Targeted Universalism

A way to approach equity work by setting universal goals for all individuals and groups that are then followed by strategically targeted processes to achieve those goals. The strategic processes are developed to achieve the universal goals based on how various groups are situated across geographies, within the culture and its structures.


Tribal Colleges and Universities. This acronym represents institutions of higher learning that have a student enrollment of at least 50 percent who legally identify as Native American, Eskimo, or Alaska Native.


An overarching term for people whose assigned sex at birth is different from their gender expression and/or gender identity People who identify as transgender may or may not choose to transition their bodies by choosing to participate in gender affirmation surgery and/or hormone therapy. Transgender may be referred to by the shortened “trans.” It does not refer to or imply any specific sexual orientation. Transgender people may identify with any sexual orientation, which they may or may not decide to revise before, during, or after their medical transition (linked definition). When referring to someone in this population, use “transgender,” not “transgendered.” Also, see Cisgender, gender identity, and gender expression.


The process people choose to go through when they change their gender expression, thereby altering their physical appearance to align with their gender identity (e.g., through hormones and/or surgery). An individual may decide to span their transition over a period of It may involve “coming out” to coworkers, family, friends, and others, legally changing one’s name and/or sex designation, and/or various levels of medical intervention. Some find the term “transition” offensive as they already relate to their chosen gender. These individuals prefer terms such as “gender affirmation.” It is best to ask each individual what term they prefer. Also, see Transgender.


When misogyny and transphobia intersect. This term refers to the negative attitudes exhibited through cultural hate, discrimination, and state violence that are focused on trans women and transfeminine individuals. Also, see misogyny.


The irrational fear or hatred of people who are transgender. It is manifested in multiple ways, including discrimination, harassment, and violence. This phobia can exist in either LGBTQIA+ or straight communities. Also, see LGBT/LGBTA/LGBTQ/LGBTQIA+.


Underrepresented Groups

Groups who, due to discriminatory or other societal barriers, traditionally (or historically) have not had equal access to economic opportunities. This may vary by context and geography but can include disability, ethnicity, gender, low-income status, race, or sexual orientation. Women or women of color are examples of groups that may be considered underrepresented, specifically in disciplines that have been traditionally dominated by men and/or Caucasians, such as engineering, mathematics, technology, and science.


Veteran Status

A status reserved for those who have honorably served in uniformed service or in the armed forces.


White Fragility

When white people experience even a slight amount of racial stress and feel it is intolerable, thereby feel triggered and display a spectrum of defensive behaviors. These behaviors may include an external emotional display including anger, fear, and guilt, and various behaviors such as being argumentative, leaving the situation that brought on the stress, and/or being silent. The conscious or subconscious display of these behaviors function to reinstate their sense of white racial equilibrium. When a white person experiences racial stress, it is because they feel there has been an interruption to that with which one is racially familiar.

White Privilege

Advantages, benefits, choices, and entitlements people can access strictly because they are white. These privileges are inherent, unearned, and unquestioned. Generally, those who experience white privilege, collectively or individually, are not conscious of their access to said privilege. Additionally, they are not generally hindered by the economic barriers associated with the color of one’s skin, even if they don’t experience the associated socioeconomic privilege.

White Supremacy

The historically based and institutionally perpetuated idea (or ideology) that white people and their actions, beliefs, ideas, and thoughts are superior to those of People of Color (PoC). White supremacy exists with the intent of defending and maintaining a system of power, privilege, and wealth. It assigns goodness, humanity, morality, and value to the white group while attempting to project perceptions of people and communities of color as bad, immoral, inhuman, “undeserving,” and worthless (worth less than those who are white). Also, see People of Color (PoC) and white privilege.



An attitude, behavior, policy, or practice that explicitly or implicitly reflects the dislike of people from other countries or who are perceived as foreigners by the dominant group of people.


Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story did not include this background on the definition of “Arab”: “It’s also important to note that there are many non-Arab communities that originate on the lands of the areas above, including but not limited to: Assyrians, Kurds, Arameans, Copts, Samaritans, Shawiya, Tuareg, and Kabyles.”

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