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The conversation around diversity, equity and inclusion is growing more and more. This introduces the need for common vocabulary to avoid any misunderstandings and misinterpretations since words often have different meanings for different people. Take a look at the carefully researched and thoughtfully discussed terms below. The purpose of this glossary is to promote dialogue around equity and inclusion. If you would like a PDF copy of this list, email the IDEAL office at

Anti-blackness: A global ideology and theory that dehumanizes people of color to justify segregation, violence and extermination of black and brown bodies through unexamined whiteness. Racism, colorism, horizontal hostility and model minority myths are built on a foundation of anti-blackness.

Anti-racism: The active process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures, policies, practices and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and shared equitably.

Anti-racism examines the power imbalances between racialized people and nonracialized/white people. These imbalances play out in the form of unearned privileges that white people benefit from and racialized people do not.

Anti-racism is the practice of identifying, challenging and changing the values, structures and behaviors that perpetuate systemic racism.

Anti-racism is an active way of seeing and being in the world, in order to transform it. Because racism occurs at all levels and spheres of society (and can function to produce and maintain exclusionary "levels" and "spheres"), anti-racism education/activism is necessary in all aspects of society. In other words, it does not happen exclusively in the workplace, in the classroom or in selected aspects of our lives.

Anti-racist: Someone who is supporting an anti-racist policy through their actions or expressing anti-racist ideas. This includes the expression or ideas that racial groups are equals and do not need developing and supporting policies that reduce racial inequity.

Colorism: Functions as a symptom of colonization, racism, racial prejudice and discrimination to elevate people with lighter complexions and/or European features to positions of “leadership” and give more access to opportunities.

Diversity: 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.”

Equity: Equity is providing more to those who need it in proportion to individual circumstances to ensure that everyone has access to the same opportunities and potential for success. Equity ensures fairness by adjusting for differences in advantages and barriers.

Horizontal Hostility: Currently exists among people of color; racial prejudice demonstrated by members of one racial group against members of another racial group. Intraracial group conflict.

Inclusion: Authentically bringing traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into processes, activities and decision/policy making in a way that shares power.

Internalized White Superiority: The beliefs, thoughts and assumptions of white people and cultures as better than other racial groups that, “…live inside of my white body and my white brain, which influence my actions.” 

Institutionalized Racism: Institutional racism refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes for different racial groups. The institutional policies may never mention any racial group, but their effect is to create advantages for whites and oppression and disadvantage for people from groups classified as people of color.


  • Government policies that explicitly restricted the ability of people to get loans to buy or improve their homes in neighborhoods with high concentrations of African Americans (also known as "red-lining").
  • City sanitation department policies that concentrate trash transfer stations and other environmental hazards disproportionately in communities of color.

Internalized Racism: Occurs 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.

Interpersonal Racism: Interpersonal racism occurs between individuals. Once we bring our private beliefs into our interaction with others, racism is now in the interpersonal realm.


  • Public expressions of racial prejudice
  • Hate
  • Bias
  • Bigotry between individuals

Intersectionality: A framework to navigate and acknowledge how power, privilege and access impact persons with multiple marginalized identities at the same time. Beginning with race, intersectionality builds in gender, sexual orientation, citizenship, socioeconomic status and other identities to humanize the whole of a person; thus, combating a single narrative often given to marginalized communities. (Originally coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw)

Marginalization: A twin to discrimination, it is the systemic treatment of persons and groups as inferior; to put or keep (someone) in a powerless or unimportant position within a society.

Microaggression: 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.

Racial Equity: Being equitable requires a focus on the history and context of race, race relations and access to opportunities. Racial equity is the removal of all social, political, economic and systemic barriers that reinforce outcomes that disadvantage and oppress people of color.

Racism: Racial prejudice and the institutional power to impact an entire racial group of people.

Racial Prejudice: Personal adverse and preconceived beliefs, opinions or thoughts about a group based on their skin color or race.

Racial Discrimination: Individual behaviors that give access or deny individual persons better treatment due to skin color

Structural Racism: The normalization and legitimization of an array of dynamics, historical, cultural, institutional and interpersonal, that routinely advantage whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color. Structural racism encompasses the entire system of white domination, diffused and infused in all aspects of society including its history, culture, politics, economics and entire social fabric. Structural racism is more difficult to locate in an institution because it involves the reinforcing effects of multiple institutions and cultural norms, past and present, continually reproducing old and producing new forms of racism. Structural racism is the most profound and pervasive form of racism – all other forms of racism emerge from structural racism.

For example, we can see structural racism in the many institutional, cultural and structural factors that contribute to lower life expectancy for African American and Native American men, compared to white men. These include higher exposure to environmental toxins, dangerous jobs.

Whiteness: An ideology and theory that proselytizes white culture, ideas, standards and values as the norm. It is the basis for worldwide colonization and violence against people of color, past and present.

White Fragility: Per Robin DiAngelo, white fragility is, “a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable [for white people], 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 Guilt: The feelings of shame and remorse some white people experience when they recognize the legacy of racism and racial injustice and perceive the ways they have benefited from it.

White Privilege: 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.

White Savior Complex: Refers to a white person who provides help to non-white people in a self-serving manner.

“The White Man's Burden” by Rudyard Kipling (1899) proposes that the "white race" is morally obliged to "civilize" the “non-white" peoples of planet Earth, and to encourage their progress (economic, social and cultural) through settler colonialism.

Its impact:

  • It leads to paternalism. Doing things to or for others rather than seeking to empower and build local capacity. It makes us into heroes rather than empowering others to become the heroes of their own stories.
  • It robs agency from the economically poor and contributes to a shame-based identity and sense of helplessness.
  • It perpetuates poverty porn, the ubiquitous images of the poor seen in many fundraising campaigns, which objectify human beings for the sake of eliciting an emotional response in order to garner a donation. It labels them as powerless victims who can’t help themselves.


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