Glossary of Terms Used in the Online Training
How we communicate, and what we say, are central to who we are and how we function. Our identities are linked to the languages we use. Our relationship to the world is constructed by and filtered through language. In short: language is powerful, and the way we communicate with one another can create discord... or it can create connections.
See the Racial Equity Tools Glossary for a full list of more complex and nuance definitions.
Ableism is prejudice and discrimination against people with disabilities.
Accessibility is about enabling people with disabilities to participate in everyday life. It includes making sure disabled people can access physical spaces (like having elevators, ramps, benches, larger bathroom stalls with grab bars, and curb cuts), products (like adaptations for cars so people can drive using only their hands and books published in braille so people can read without seeing), and services (like telecommunication relay services that help people use telephones to communicate, or an online course being designed for learners who use screen-reading technologies).
Accommodation / Reasonable Accommodation:
Making a change so that a person with a disability can have the same opportunities and benefits as people without disabilities is referred to as an accommodation. Accommodations can be made to jobs, facilities, programs, courses, services, and many other things. For example, allowing a student to take a break during a long exam in order to check and regulate their blood sugar would typically be considered a reasonable accommodation for an institution to make to allow a student who needs to do so to safely participate in the educational environment.
Acephobia includes fear, dislike, or hatred of asexual people. (Asexual people generally don’t experience sexual attraction, though they may have romantic attractions and relationships.)
Active listening is a communication technique that helps reduce conflict and build understanding. In active listening, the listener focuses on understanding what the speaker is saying when the speaker is talking. Using a variety of techniques, the listener will demonstrate that they understand the speaker. Typically, this involves reflecting the speaker’s position or emotions, listening as the speaker confirms or corrects, and appreciating or validating the speaker.
Ageism is prejudice or discrimination on the basis of a person’s age. Stereotypes about what age people are “supposed” to be when engaging in activities or pursuits, can have an alienating and limiting impact.
Being an ally refers to supporting members of oppressed groups and actively trying to change the systems that contribute to oppression. Allyship is a process that involves listening and understanding how power, privilege, and oppression are connected. It includes ongoing self-education work.
Anti-blackness is racism specifically directed at black people; it includes dehumanization and indifference to suffering. It can be enacted by white people and by other communities of color. Examining anti-blackness is an important part of understanding the unique ways racism impacts black people.
Antisemitism includes hostility, discrimination, and prejudice toward Jewish people. In many parts of the world, the swastika symbolizes white supremacy and is associated with Nazism and the oppression of Jewish and other people.
A disability that is observable by others. See also: Disability, Non-Apparent Disability
Asexuality is a sexual orientation. Asexual people generally do not feel a sexual attraction to others, though they may feel romantic attractions.
There is great diversity of experience among people of color. The term BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) is used to highlight some of these differences in history and experience.
Body-shaming is the act of making negative, critical, mocking, or humiliating comments about a person’s body size, shape, or proportions. Body-shaming comments include negative talk about weight, build, and physical appearance, and can also involve disabilities.
Bullying is repeated abusive conduct that causes intentional harm, either physical or emotional, to the target. It often involves an imbalance of power between the bullied person and the bully or bullies. Often, emotional distress and/or depression occurs as a result of intense bullying over a period of time.
Calling in is the practice of recognizing that people make mistakes, of identifying those mistakes, and trying to educate and move forward. It can be applied anywhere, although it originated within diversity movements. Proponents of calling in suggest that the process acknowledges that people aren't perfect and encourages inclusiveness. Critics of calling in say it can reduce accountability for prior bad actions.
Calling out is the practice of publicly identifying people or communities who have acted in non-inclusive ways (including discrimination, harassment, bullying, and other forms of aggression). Proponents of calling out say it makes an example of those who have done wrong, forcing them to be accountable for their behavior. Critics of calling out suggest that it can sometimes become a form of bullying or shaming instead of encouraging education and change.
Cis / Cisgender
Cisgender people have a gender identity that tends to match the sex/gender they were assigned at birth. For example, a person who was assigned the sex/gender of girl or female at birth, and who feels like and identifies as a woman, is usually cisgender.
In her book In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens, Alice Walker explained colorism as “prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their skin color.”1 Colorism affects people of many diverse backgrounds. Usually, colorism privileges people with lighter skin over people with darker skin. Colorism can be enacted by people of all races.
1Walker, Alice. In search of our mothers' gardens: Womanist prose. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004.
Confirmation bias is a phenomenon where people tend to notice or look for evidence that supports pre-existing beliefs, and avoid or overlook evidence that disproves them.
Cultural appropriation happens when people from a dominant culture take an element from an oppressed group’s culture and exploit it for their own benefit or enjoyment. Usually marked by a sense of disrespect or superficiality, classic examples of appropriation include wearing the traditional clothing of a racially marginalized group as a Halloween costume, or using a group’s symbols of religious or spiritual significance as decorative accessories.
Also known as curb ramps, curb cuts are graded areas that make it possible for people who use mobility devices like wheelchairs and scooters to access a sidewalk (they’re also convenient for people pushing strollers and riding bicycles or skateboards). They are often found at intersections and crosswalks. The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 requires curb cuts for new construction or alterations to existing construction in the United States.
The law generally defines disability as a mental or physical impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities. Qualified individuals with a disability are protected from discrimination; both disabled and non-disabled people are protected from discrimination based on the perception they are disabled.
Discrimination means treating someone differently, or less favorably, based on specific characteristics. Not all discrimination is unlawful, but discrimination based on categories that are specifically protected by laws generally is unlawful.
Diversity is about understanding and honoring the ways people are unique. It includes the incredible variety that exists from one person to another. This variety can come from traits like race, sex/gender, gender identity, color, ability, age, and sexual orientation. Things like appearance, body size, culture, national origin, education and economic background also play a key role in informing who we are and how we think.
Equality means sameness, so treating people equally means treating everyone the same.
Equity means fairness, which is about giving everyone what they need to be successful. This includes a guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity and advancement for all individuals while working to identify and eliminate barriers to full participation.
Expert power comes from the perception that a person (like a professor), or group (like a department), has more knowledge than others.
Gender expression typically refers to the manifestation of a person's gender identity through presentation, mannerisms, or characteristics.
Gender identity is an individual's internal, personal sense (or self-perception) of being male, female, androgynous, agender, third gender, trans, transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, or something else entirely.
Any behavior by a person or persons that is offensive, aggravating or otherwise unwelcome to another person. Some forms of harassment are lawful, and some forms are not, but regardless of legality, harassment may violate an institution’s policies or code of conduct.
The American Bar Association defines hate speech as “speech that offends, threatens, or insults groups, based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, disability, or other traits.”
Heteronormativity / Homophobia
Heteronormativity is the assumption that heterosexuality (being straight) is expected or normal. Homophobia is fear, bias, dislike, or discrimination against people based on their status as lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, or similar categories.
Values and beliefs are often tied to the social and cultural groups people are a part of. These groups have many benefits, however, individuals can sometimes experience incompatibilities between their varying values and beliefs, known as identity conflicts.
Identity negotiation is the mutual process of establishing “who’s who” in a relationship. For example, a student who identifies as the “class clown” might respond with a joke when a new professor asks them a question on the first day of class. Identity negotiations can occur “automatically,” without much thought, or they can be done on purpose.
An identity transition describes the process of shifting from a particular central identity to a different central identity (or identities). It's important to understand that at any given time, people can experience positive, negative, or neutral identity transitions.
When oppression is based on the idea that one group is somehow better or more deserving than another, and has some right to control the other group, that is the heart of ideological oppression. Examples: A person who works in a trade (such as a plumber, or in construction) may earn just as much or more than somebody who works a white-collar job, but society may consider the latter person more valuable or belonging to the “upper class” because of the reputation around their career choice.
Impostor syndrome is common to high-achieving individuals. The term refers to fears of inadequacy and/or being exposed as a fraud despite measurable success and real accomplishments. Impostor syndrome can cause feelings of self-doubt, anxiety, stress, shame, and depression.
Inclusion is about welcoming all people and ensuring they have equitable access to opportunities, benefits, and services by creating environments of mutual respect where everyone is valued and supported.
Oppression happens at an institutional level when ideological oppression becomes woven into the systems and institutions that make society run. Institutional oppression can be seen in common policies and practices, like how people with the least access to money often pay the highest loan or credit card interest rates because they don’t have well-established credit histories.
When outward negative messages are repeated often enough, people who are targets of oppression may internalize them and believe them to be true. An example of this internalized oppression is believing oneself to be lazy or worthless because those are the societal messages and expectations, or expecting members of one’s own group to be lazy or worthless.
Interpersonal oppression plays out between individuals, often when people act out the ideological oppression. Examples include hurtful jokes, microaggressions, disrespectful behavior, and discrimination.
Intersectionality is a framework articulated by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw that describes the way that someone holding multiple oppressed or marginalized identities can experience more injustice than someone having any one of those identities would face, including injustice or oppression because of the intersection of those identities.
The letters are a shorthand way of describing a diverse community composed of lesbian, gay, bisexual, bigender, trans/transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, agender, asexual, pansexual, gender non-conforming, and other people. There are diverse opinions within the intersex community about whether intersex people should be included because, while there are some significant overlaps in experience, there are also major differences.
Microaggressions are brief, common exchanges that can communicate hostility, disrespect, or similar negative messages about an identity. Microaggressions can be hard to recognize because they are often subtle and sometimes unintentional.
Misgendering is the intentional refusal to use the appropriate pronoun to refer to an individual. It is disrespectful and can constitute harassment that violates anti-discrimination policies and laws.
Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
Multiple chemical sensitivity, also called environmental illness, is a condition that can significantly impact the ability of individuals to attend classes and be in public spaces. It can be triggered by chemicals, perfumes, and scents in the environment. Headache, fatigue, and dizziness are commonly reported symptoms.
Non-apparent disabilities are disabilities that are not obvious or visible. There are many types of non-apparent disabilities, including chronic fatigue, multiple chemical or environmental sensitivities, severe allergies, psychosocial disabilities (like depressive or anxiety disorders), neurological disabilities, and others.
Nonbinary is an umbrella term that includes all genders that do not fit precisely (or at all) within female/male or woman/man categories. Trans/transgender people may, or may not, identify as nonbinary.
Normative power is power that comes from holding accepted group, community, or societal norms or values.
Oppression is underserved disadvantage. (Privilege is the opposite side of the coin - unearned advantage.) Sometimes oppression is accidental, and sometimes it’s intentional. It can be turned outward against other people, or inward against oneself (referred to as “internalized oppression”). Oppression is a form of injustice that may occur between people, and as part of larger institutions and systems.
Othering is thinking about a person or a group as “not one of us” based on an aspect of their identity. Othering usually reinforces one group as “in,” dominant, or desirable. For example, the prevalence of people living with mental health conditions or psychotic delusions as dangerous or villainous in the media, or a danger to people when they encounter homeless individuals living with mental health conditions, literally “others” people who don’t fit into the expectation of people in the dominant group being neurotypical. To create an equitable, respectful community, it’s helpful to identify where othering happens, and work to interrupt it.
An acronym for “science, technology, engineering, and math.”
Stereotypes / Stereotyping
Stereotyping occurs when someone forms assumptions about a particular person or group that is based on generalizations. These assumptions can be biased, exaggerated, or distorted, and may interfere with our ability to accurately perceive people and events. They affect how we interact with each other and can negatively impact our relationships. They can be harmful because they perpetuate prejudice and may cause us to overlook or mistreat others.
Stigma is an unjust, negative societal view associated with a group, often based on a trait, condition, or aspect of identity.
Tone-policing is the practice of attempting to shut down someone who disagrees with you by focusing on their emotional state and using it to invalidate their argument. Often, someone who is tone-policing will say that their opponent is “too angry” or “too emotional.” People with privilege may use tone-policing to exercise their privilege as part of an effort to preserve the status quo.
Many of the characteristics typically equated with manhood, such as being assertive, competitive, loyal, or brave, are qualities that many find desirable in everyone, not just men. Masculinity may become toxic when a narrowly-defined set of undesirable characteristics, such as being sexually dominant, unemotional, violent, or aggressive, are glorified as what it means to be a “real man.” Stereotypes of toxic masculinity limit the ability of boys and men to fully be themselves. Toxic masculinity can also encourage or condone harmful behavior like engaging in sexual activity without another person’s consent or starting fights.
Trans / Transgender
The term transgender typically describes individuals who have an assigned birth sex/gender that does not match their actual gender identity (their internal sense of their gender). A transgender person may, or may not, express a gender that is different from the social expectations of the sex they were assigned at birth. An individual's gender identity can evolve over their lifetime, and there is no one way to be transgender. Some transgender people alter their bodies with surgery or hormones; some do not.
Trans is an umbrella term that includes transgender people. It describes a diverse community with wide-ranging experiences including transexual, gender non-conforming, and many additional identities, though it is important to realize that there are many nonbinary and gender nonconforming people who do not identify as trans. The trans community is a part of the larger LGBTQIA+ community.
Transphobia / Transantagonism
Transphobia is prejudice, antagonism, or discrimination against trans people. Transantagonism includes hostility, aggression and violence. Bathroom harassment is a form of discrimination that may be experienced by trans people, gender nonconforming people, and cisgender people who don’t fit stereotypical ideas related to their gender presentation.
The idea that environments, products, and services should be designed to serve the needs of all the people who want to use them, regardless of their age, ability, disability, size, or stamina, is the principle behind universal design. Incorporating principles of universal design is a great strategy to make environments more inclusive because it can help make materials, events, and spaces more accessible.
Whitesplaining / ____splaining
Regardless of intent, when someone with privilege assumes they have expertise and starts explaining oppression to a member of an oppressed group, rather than listening, it is sometimes referred to as “____splaining.” Whitesplaining is an example related to race, and is a form of racism.