Here are some commonly used terms when doing DEI at MIIS. The definitions for these terms were compiled from varied sources to build our understanding and to support our work. This list is regularly updated.
Terms beginning with the letter "A"
A system of superiority and discrimination that provides or denies resources, agency, and dignity based on one’s abilities (mental/intellectual, emotional, and/or physical.) Ableism depends on a binary, and benefits able-bodied people at the expense of disabled people. Like other forms of oppression, ableism operates on individual, institutional and cultural levels. [Source: Anti-Violence Project]
Someone who makes the commitment and effort to recognize their privilege (based on gender, class, race, sexual identity, etc.) and work in solidarity with oppressed groups in the struggle for justice. Allies understand that it is in their own interest to end all forms of oppression, even those from which they may benefit in concrete ways. [Open Source Leadership Strategies]
The work of actively opposing racism by advocating for changes in political, economic, and social life. Anti-racism tends to be an individualized approach, and set up in opposition to individual racist behaviors and impacts. [Source: Race Forward]
Someone who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing antiracist ideas. This includes the expression or ideas that racial groups are equals and do not need developing, and supporting policies that reduce racial inequity. [Source Ibram X Kendi, How to be an Antiracist, Random House, 2019]
Terms beginning with the letter "B"
Conscious or unconscious prejudice against an individual or group based on their identity. [Teaching Tolerance]
A term that brings together Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. Highlights the unique relationship to whiteness that Indigenous and Black (African Americans) people have, which shapes the experiences of and relationship to white supremacy for all people of color within a U.S. context. For more information visit The BIPOC Project. [Source: The BIPOC Project]
A person whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same and other genders, or towards people regardless of their gender. Some people may use bisexual and pansexual interchangeably. [LGBTQIA Resource Center]
Terms beginning with the letter "C"
A gender identity, or performance in a gender role, that society deems to match the person’s assigned sex at birth. The prefix cis- means “on this side of” or “not across.” A term used to highlight the privilege of people who are not transgender. [LGBTQIA Resource Center]
Terms beginning with the letter "D"
The term includes all the ways in which people differ, and it encompasses all the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another. It is all-inclusive and recognizes everyone and every group as part of the diversity that should be valued. A broad definition includes not only race, ethnicity, and gender — the groups that most often come to mind when the term “diversity” is used — but also age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, and physical appearance. It also involves different ideas, perspectives, and values.
It is important to note that many activists and thinkers critique diversity alone as a strategy. For instance, Baltimore Racial Justice Action states: “Diversity is silent on the subject of equity. In an anti-oppression context, therefore, the issue is not diversity, but rather equity. Often when people talk about diversity, they are thinking only of the “non-dominant” groups.” [UC Berkeley Center for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity]
Terms beginning with the letter "E"
The fair treatment, access, opportunity and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. The principle of equity acknowledges that there are historically underserved and underrepresented populations and that fairness regarding these unbalanced conditions is needed to assist in the provision of adequate opportunities to all groups. [Source: College of Environment, University of Washington]
Terms beginning with the letter "G"
A person who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to members of the same gender [Source: Human Rights Campaign]
Is the belief that there are, and should be, only two genders & that one’s gender or most aspects of it, are inevitably tied to assigned sex. In a genderist/cissexist construct, cisgender people are the dominant/agent group and trans/ gender non-conforming people are the oppressed/target group. [Source LGBTQIA Resource Center]
Adjective for people who do not subscribe to societal expectations of typical gender expressions or roles. The term is more commonly used to refer to gender expression (how one behaves, acts, and presents themselves to others) as opposed to gender identity (one’s internal sense of self). [LGBTQIA Resource Center]
Terms beginning with the letter "H"
The assumption that all people are or should be heterosexual. Heterosexism excludes the needs, concerns, and life experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer people while it gives advantages to heterosexual people. It is often a subtle form of oppression, which reinforces realities of silence and erasure. [LGBTQIA Resource Center]
The fear and hatred of or discomfort with people who are attracted to members of the same sex. Also, the fear and persecution of queer people. Rooted in a desire to maintain the heterosexual social order, which relies on oppressive gender roles. [Human Rights Campaign and Colors of Resistance]
Terms beginning with the letter "I"
Refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control. Residing deep in the subconscious, these biases are different from known biases that individuals may choose to conceal for the purposes of social and/or political correctness. Notably, implicit biases have been shown to trump individuals’ stated commitments to equality and fairness, thereby producing behavior that diverges from the explicit attitudes that many people profess. [Source: Kirwan Institute and Racial Equity Tools]
Authentically bringing traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into processes, activities, and decision/policy making in a way that shares power. [Open Source Leadership Strategies]
Internalized racism is the situation that occurs in a racist system when a racial group oppressed by racism supports the supremacy and dominance of the dominating group by maintaining or participating in the set of attitudes, behaviors, social structures and ideologies that undergird the dominating group’s power. It involves four essential and interconnected elements:
Decision-making - Due to racism, people of color do not have the ultimate decision-making power over the decisions that control our lives and resources. As a result, on a personal level, we may think white people know more about what needs to be done for us than we do. On an interpersonal level, we may not support each other’s authority and power - especially if it is in opposition to the dominating racial group. Structurally, there is a system in place that rewards people of color who support white supremacy and power and coerces or punishes those who do not.
Resources - Resources, broadly defined (e.g. money, time, etc.), are unequally in the hands and under the control of white people. Internalized racism is the system in place that makes it difficult for people of color to get access to resources for our own communities and to control the resources of our community. We learn to believe that serving and using resources for ourselves and our particular community is not serving “everybody.”
Standards - With internalized racism, the standards for what is appropriate or “normal” that people of color accept are white people’s or Eurocentric standards. We have difficulty naming, communicating and living up to our deepest standards and values, and holding ourselves and each other accountable to them.
Naming the problem - There is a system in place that misnames the problem of racism as a problem of or caused by people of color and blames the disease - emotional, economic, political, etc. - on people of color. With internalized racism, people of color might, for example, believe we are more violent than white people and not consider state-sanctioned political violence or the hidden or privatized violence of white people and the systems they put in place and support. [Source: Internalized Racism, Donna Bivens, Women’s Theological Center. 1995]
Intersectionality is simply a prism to see the interactive effects of various forms of discrimination and disempowerment. It looks at the way that racism, many times, interacts with patriarchy, heterosexism, classism, xenophobia — seeing that the overlapping vulnerabilities created by these systems actually create specific kinds of challenges. “Intersectionality 102,” then, is to say that these distinct problems create challenges for movements that are only organized around these problems as separate and individual. So when racial justice doesn’t have a critique of patriarchy and homophobia, the particular way that racism is experienced and exacerbated by heterosexism, classism etc., falls outside of our political organizing. It means that significant numbers of people in our communities aren’t being served by social justice frames because they don’t address the particular ways that they’re experiencing discrimination. [Source: Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw]
IBPoC is a contemporary term that refers to Indigenous, Black and People of Color. The terms places the ’First Peoples first’ [Primary Colors]
Terms beginning with the letter "L"
Usually, a woman whose primary sexual and affectional orientation is toward people of the same gender. However, some nonbinary people also identify as lesbians, often because they have some connection to womanhood and are primarily attracted to women. [LGBTQIA Resource Center]
Stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer; the “plus” is intended as an all-encompassing representation of sexual orientations and gender identities. [Source: Human Rights Campaign]
Terms beginning with the letter "M"
Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. [Source: Derald Wing Sue, “Microaggressions: More than Just Race,” Psychology Today, November 17, 2010]
Terms beginning with the letter "N"
Neurodiversity refers to the natural and important variations in how human minds think. These differences can include autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyspraxia, dyslexia, dyscalculia, Tourette Syndrome, and others. Like other variable human traits like race, gender, sexuality, or culture, there is no right or wrong form of diversity. The social dynamics that exert power over other forms of diversity also impact neurodivergent people. Neurodiversity is not something to be cured or corrected to fit some social norm - rather, we should celebrate different forms of communication and self-expression and promote support systems to allow neurodivergent people to thrive. (Neurocosmopolitanism, The National Symposium on Neurodiversity) [LGBTQIA Resource Center]
A gender identity and experience that embraces a full universe of expressions and ways of being that resonate for an individual, moving beyond the male/female gender binary. It may be an active resistance to binary gender expectations and/or an intentional creation of new unbounded ideas of self within the world. For some people who identify as non binary there may be overlap with other concepts and identities like gender expansive and gender non-conforming. [LGBTQIA Resource Center]
Terms beginning with the letter "P"
A pre-judgment in favor of or against a person, a group, an event, an idea, or a thing. An action based on prejudgment is discrimination. A negative prejudgment is often called a stereotype. An action based on a stereotype is called bigotry. (What distinguishes this group of terms from all the others on these two pages is that there is no power relationship necessarily implied or expressed by “prejudice,” discrimination,” “stereotype” or “bigotry.”) [Source: Colors of Resistance]
Unearned social power accorded by the formal and informal institutions of society to ALL members of a dominant group (e.g. white privilege, male privilege, etc.). Privilege is usually invisible to those who have it because we’re taught not to see it, but nevertheless it puts them at an advantage over those who do not have it. [Source: Colors of Resistance]
Terms beginning with the letter "Q"
It is commonly used as an umbrella term by folks who feel that they personally don’t fit into dominant norms due to their own gender identity/expression, their sexual practices, their relationship style, their politics, etc. It is a term that has been reclaimed by many folks, as it was one time considered a derogatory slur towards the gay and lesbian community. For this reason, some folks do not wish to identify with it and it should be recognized as one option for folks to identify with if they find it fitting. [Source: The Anti-Violence Project]
Terms beginning with the letter "R"
A complex system of beliefs and behaviors, grounded in a presumed superiority of the white race. These beliefs and behaviors are conscious and unconscious; personal and institutional; and result in the oppression of people of color and benefit the dominant group, whites.
Racism = race prejudice + social and institutional power
Racism = a system of advantage based on race
Racism = a system of oppression based on race
Racism = a white supremacy system
[Source: Racial Equity Resource Guide and Racial Equity Tools]
Terms beginning with the letter "S"
Perpetuates a system of patriarchy where men hold power and privilege and women are subordinate to men. [Source: Colors of Resistance]
An inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic or sexual attraction or non-attraction to other people. [Source: Human Rights Campaign and LGBTQIA Resource Center]
Terms beginning with the letter "T"
This term has many definitions. It is frequently used as an umbrella term to refer to all people who do not identify with their assigned gender at birth or the binary gender system. Some transgender people feel they exist not within one of the two standard gender categories, but rather somewhere between, beyond, or outside of those two genders. ‘Trans’is often used as shorthand to mean transgender, or sometimes to be inclusive of a wide variety of identities under the transgender umbrella. [Anti-Violence Project and GLAAD]
Tone policing describes a diversionary tactic used when a person purposely turns away from the message behind her interlocutor’s argument in order to focus solely on the delivery of it.[Tess Martin, Medium]
People of power and privilege often use tone policing to avoid the discussion at hand and to instead attack the character, emotion or other attributes of the person making the argument rather than the argument itself. [Tyler Adamson, Johns Hopkins News-Letter]
Terms beginning with the letter "W"
‘Whiteness,’ like ‘color’ and ‘Blackness,’ are essentially social constructs applied to human beings rather than veritable truths that have universal validity. The power of Whiteness, however, is manifested by the ways in which racialized Whiteness becomes transformed into social, political, economic, and cultural behavior. White culture, norms, and values in all these areas become normative natural. They become the standard against which all other cultures, groups, and individuals are measured and usually found to be inferior [Alberta Civil Liberties Research Center]
Refers to the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices bestowed on people solely because they are white. Generally white people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it.
Structural White Privilege: A system of white domination that creates and maintains belief systems that make current racial advantages and disadvantages seem normal. The system includes powerful incentives for maintaining white privilege and its consequences, and powerful negative consequences for trying to interrupt white privilege or reduce its consequences in meaningful ways. The system includes internal and external manifestations at the individual, interpersonal, cultural and institutional levels.
The accumulated and interrelated advantages and disadvantages of white privilege that are reflected in racial/ethnic inequities in life-expectancy and other health outcomes, income and wealth and other outcomes, in part through different access to opportunities and resources. These differences are maintained in part by denying that these advantages and disadvantages exist at the structural, institutional, cultural, interpersonal and individual levels and by refusing to redress them or eliminate the systems, policies, practices, cultural norms and other behaviors and assumptions that maintain them.
- Interpersonal White Privilege: Behavior between people that consciously or unconsciously reflects white superiority or entitlement.
- Cultural White Privilege: A set of dominant cultural assumptions about what is good, normal or appropriate that reflects Western European white world views and dismisses or demonizes other world views.
- Institutional White Privilege: Policies, practices and behaviors of institutions — such as schools, banks, non-profits or the Supreme Court — that have the effect of maintaining or increasing accumulated advantages for those groups currently defined as white, and maintaining or increasing disadvantages for those racial or ethnic groups not defined as white. The ability of institutions to survive and thrive even when their policies, practices and behaviors maintain, expand or fail to redress accumulated disadvantages and/or inequitable outcomes for people of color. [Source: Racial Equity Tools]
White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress (Racial stress results from an interruption to what is racially familiar) becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium. [White Fragility, Robin DiAngelo]
The idea (ideology) that white people and the ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions of white people are superior to People of Color and their ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions. While most people associate white supremacy with extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the neo-Nazis, white supremacy is ever present in our institutional and cultural assumptions that assign value, morality, goodness, and humanity to the white group while casting people and communities of color as worthless (worth less), immoral, bad, and inhuman and “undeserving.” Drawing from critical race theory, the term “white supremacy” also refers to a political or socio-economic system where white people enjoy structural advantage and rights that other racial and ethnic groups do not, both at a collective and an individual level. [Dismantling Racism]