Ability: Power or capacity to do or act physically, mentally, legally, morally, financially, etc.

Able-Bodied: A person who does not have a disability.

Ableism: A set of beliefs or practices that devalue and discriminate against people with physical, intellectual, or psychiatric disabilities and often rests on the assumption that disabled people need to be ‘fixed’ in one form or the other.

Aboriginal: First inhabitants of a geographical area. People indigenous to the area.

Access: Creating the necessary conditions so that individuals and organizations desiring to, and who are eligible to, use our services, facilities, programs, and employment opportunities.

Acculturation: The process of learning and incorporating the language, values, beliefs, and behaviors that make up a distinct culture. This concept is not to be confused with assimilation, where an individual, family, or group may give up certain aspects of its culture in order to adapt to that of their new host country.

Affirmative Action: Based on the legal concept introduced in the 1960s to factor “race, color, religion, sex or national origin” in employment, education, and business to improve the representation of underrepresented groups. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of affirmative action in college admissions, but there have been several state and national challenges.

African American (n): Of or related to African Americans. The U.S. Census Bureau defines black or African Americans as “people having origins in any of the black racial groups of Africa. It includes people who indicated their race or races as ‘black, African American, or Negro’ or wrote in entries such as ‘African American,’ ‘Afro American,’ ‘Nigerian,’ or ‘Haitian.’ According to Census 2000, African Americans make up approximately 12.3% of the total U.S. population, and 12.9% including persons of mixed race.

Ageism: Discrimination against individuals because of their age.

Agnosticism: The belief that one cannot know the existence of God without physical evidence. Not a religion.

Alaska Natives (n.): Aboriginal peoples of Alaska, including American Indians, Eskimo, and Aleut peoples. Eskimo people, also called Inuit, are racially distinct from American Indians and are more closely related to peoples of East Asia.

Ally: A person of one social identity group who stands up in support of members of another group; typically member of dominant identity advocating and supporting a marginalized group.

Amerasian: Person born of American and Asian descent, in either Korea or Vietnam with an Asian mother and a non-Asian American father. Originally described people fathered by members of the U.S. military during the Korean and Vietnam wars. The term is not derogatory but should be avoided.

American: A term used to refer to citizens of the United States. However, this is a limited use of the term since American includes all people in the western hemisphere (North, South, and Central America). American is comprised of more than just the United States. To present a more global focus use U.S. resident or U.S. citizen.

American Indian: Term used to refer to those indigenous to the United States. Synonymous with Native Americans, though individuals sometimes prefer one over the other. Do not use Indian as a synonym.

Anglo American: An American or inhabitant of the U.S. whose language and ancestry are English. A dated term that is not generally used correctly. People use it interchangeably with white Americans of European ancestry.

Anti-Semitism: Hostility toward or discrimination against Jews.

Arab: Any native of 22 Arab countries or one who claims ancestry of the Arab world. Not all Middle Easterners or Middle Eastern Americans are Arab. Not all Arabs are Muslim; many are Christian. Further, not all Muslims are Arab, and most live in other places including Asia, Indonesia, Africa, and North America.

Asexual: A person who does not experience sexual attraction. They may or may not experience romantic attraction.

Asian American: Of or related to Asian Americans. 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.’ Asian Americans are approximately 3.6 percent of the total U.S. population, and 4.2% including persons of mixed race.

Assimilation: The process whereby an individual of a minority group gradually adopts characteristics of the majority culture. This adoption results in the loss of characteristics of one’s native culture, such as language, culinary tastes, interpersonal communication, gender roles, and style of dress. Some individuals of immigrant communities take offense to the notion that all immigrants should “assimilate” to U.S. culture because it implies that they must give up some of who they are to become “Americans.” Instead, many immigrant communities assert the notion of biculturalism, which enables them to acculturate to the U.S. culture while maintaining characteristics of their native culture.

Atheism/Atheist: The belief that there is no God. A person who denies the existence of God. Not a religion.


Bias: A conscious or subconscious preference that interferes with impartial judgment.

Bigotry: An unreasonable belief or an irrational attachment to negative stereotypes and prejudices about other groups of people.

Bilingual: Fluency between any two languages.

Biracial: Of or related to more than one race. Biracial individuals may choose to identify with only one race, especially if they find that they are readily accepted by one group than another.

Bisexuality: A sexual orientation in which a person has the potential to feel physically and emotionally attracted to more than one gender.

Black: Of or related to persons having ethnic origins in the African continent; persons belonging to the African Diaspora. “Black” is often used interchangeably with “African American” in the United States.

Brown: A term most often used to refer to people of Latino/Hispanic descent, or of the Latin American Diaspora (Mexico, Central, and South America, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, as well as Latinos/Hispanics in the United States and Canada). Some individuals may use the word to refer to all people of color.

Buddhism: A religion of eastern and central Asia growing out of the teaching of Gautama Buddha that suffering is inherent in life and that one can be liberated from it by mental and moral purification.


Catholic: Usually refers to the Roman Catholic church, but can also refer to other Catholic Christian denominations such as the Eastern Orthodox churches.

Caucasian: Of or related to the Caucasus region, a geographic area between the Black and Caspian seas; a former racial classification that included indigenous persons of Europe, northern Africa, western Asia, and India, characterized by light to brown skin and straight to wavy or curly hair. Loosely called the “white race” although it embraced many peoples of dark skin color. It is now generally discredited as an anthropological and scientific term.

Chicano/Chicana: A term adopted by some Mexican Americans to demonstrate pride in their heritage, born out of the national Chicano Movement that was politically aligned with the Civil Rights Movement to end racial oppression and social inequalities of Mexican Americans. Chicano pertains to the particular experience of Mexican‐descended individuals living in the United States. Not all Mexican Americans identify as Chicano.

Chicano Movement: Mexican American individuals and organizations across the country united for the common purpose of increasing educational opportunities, workers’ rights for farm laborers, land allocation, and resources to Mexican American communities.

Chinese: A person from China, or the written language of China and Taiwan. The spoken language is Mandarin. It is not a synonym for a Chinese American.

Christianity: Began as a breakaway sect of Judaism about 2000 years ago. The two religions share the same history up to the time of Jesus Christ. Christians believe in original sin and that Jesus died in the place of humanity to save humans from that sin. They believe in heaven and that those who repent their sins before God will join him in heaven.

Cisgender: A person whose gender identity matches the gender they were assigned at birth. For example, a person assigned female at birth that identifies as a woman.

Civil Rights: Political, social and economic legal rights are responsibilities guaranteed by the government. The rights of personal liberty guaranteed to U.S. citizens by the 13th and 14th amendments to the Constitution and by acts of congress. The Civil Rights Movement refers to the struggles of African Americans.

Civil Rights Movement: The Civil Rights Movement (n.): The Civil Rights Movement is known as the events that took place between 1955 and 1965 when minority groups across the United States, primarily in the South, rose up against all forms of institutional racism that perpetuated political, economic, and educational disparities within their communities. It served as the catalyst for the restructuring of institutionalized policies and practices that had legally enforced racial segregation, subjugation, and discrimination.

Classism: Biased attitudes and beliefs that result in, and help to justify, unfair treatment of individuals or groups because of their socioeconomic grouping. “Classism” can also be expressed as public policies and institutional practices that prevent people from breaking out of poverty rather than ensuring equal economic, social, and educational opportunities.

Closeted, in the Closet: A term used to describe gender and sexual minorities who do not want to reveal their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Code-Switching: When a person switches between languages or dialects (codes) while speaking. Switching may occur for several reasons. The speaker may be unable to express themselves adequately in one language/dialect, the speaker may switch unconsciously when upset, tired, or excited, or the speaker may switch in order to express solidarity with a particular group.

Cognitive Disability: A disability that affects learning and similar brain functions. Do not use mental retardation and use specific disabilities when possible.

Coming Out: Abbreviated from “coming out of the closet,” meaning to reveal one’s formerly hidden sexual orientation or gender identity. Refers to the overall developmental process that gender and sexual minorities experience as they come to terms with their sexuality and/or gender identity.

Congenital Disability: A disability since birth or born with a disability. Do not use birth defect.

Cross‐Cultural: Relating to more than one culture. Often refers to practices that deal with more than one culture and incorporate the belief‐and value‐systems of the cultures involved.

Cultural Ally: An individual who actively supports others who experience racism and/or discrimination.

Culture: A way of life of a group of people–the behaviors, beliefs, values, and symbols that they accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next.

Cultural Competence: Refers to an ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures. Cultural competence comprises four components:

  1. Awareness of one’s own cultural worldview
  2. Attitude towards cultural differences
  3. Knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews, and
  4. Cross-cultural skills.

Developing cultural competence results in an ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures. Cultural competence is a developmental process that evolves over an extended period.


Deportation: Forced removal of an individual who is not a citizen of the United States when that individual has been found to violate immigration law.

Disability: A physical, mental or cognitive impairment or condition that requires special accommodations to ensure programmatic and physical access.

Disadvantaged: A historically oppressed group having less than sufficient resources to meet basic needs or
a lack of access to the full benefits of economic, social, and political opportunities.

Discrimination: Unfavorable or unfair treatment towards an individual or group based on their race, sex, color, religion, national origin, age, physical/mental abilities, or sexual orientation. A prejudice-based action taken by a dominant group member against a subordinate group member. These actions are used to limit another group’s opportunities, confidence, access, and ability to perform in society.

Diversity: Psychological, physical, and social differences that occur among any and all individuals; including but not limited to race, color, ethnicity, nationality, religion, socioeconomic status, veteran status, education, marital status, language, age, gender, gender expression, gender identity, sexual orientation, mental or physical ability, genetic information, and learning styles. A diverse group, community, or organization is one in which a variety of social and cultural characteristics exist.


Ebonics: A slang dialect or language used in some black American communities. Literally means “black sound.” The term is a blend of ebony and phonics.

Emigrant: A person who voluntarily and or legally migrates from one country to another. Emigrant and emigration refer to the country from which the migration is made. An Irishman who migrates to the U.S. is an emigrant of Ireland and an immigrant to the U.S.

ESL: English as a Second Language. A term used to describe language learning programs in the U.S. for individuals for whom English is not their first or native language.

Eskimos: People inhabiting the arctic coastal regions of North America and parts of Greenland and northeast Siberia. Generally considered Native American People in Alaska and Canada. Appropriate for Inupiat Eskimos or Yupik Eskimos. Not relevant for Aletus or Inuits.

Ethnicity: A social construct that divides people into smaller social groups based on characteristics such as values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interests, history, and ancestral geographical base.

Equality: Evenly distributed access to resources and opportunity necessary for a safe and healthy life; uniform distribution of access that may or may not result inequitable outcomes.

Equity: The guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all students, faculty, and staff, 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 under-served and underrepresented populations and that fairness regarding these unbalanced conditions is needed to assist equality in the provision of effective opportunities to all groups.

Eurocentrism: The practice of using Europe and European culture as a frame of reference or standard criteria from which to view the world. Eurocentrism favors European cultural norms and excludes the realities and experiences of other cultural groups. Systemic oppression based on preference for the European culture over others.

European American: A citizen of the U.S. with European ancestry. 


Feminism: Theory and practice that advocates for educational and occupational equity between men and women and undermines traditional cultural practices that support the subjugation of women by men and the devaluation of women’s contributions to society.

FTM: Acronym for female to male. Describes a transgender person, designated female at birth, who identifies as a man.


Gay: A common and acceptable word for male homosexuals, but used for both genders.

Gay Liberation Movement: The Gay Liberation Movement is generally understood to have begun at the start of the 1969 Stonewall riots in Greenwich Village of New York City. The catalyst for the riots was a police raid of a gay bar on Christopher Street, near the Stonewall Inn. The patrons decided to fight back and were quickly joined by others who supported “Gay Power.” Word and wake of the riot rippled through the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) community and some individuals came together to form the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), which was politically aligned with gay rights and the anti‐imperialist struggle overseas.

Gender: Sexual classification based on the social construction of the categories of “men” and “women.” Gender differs from one’s biological sex (male or female) in that one can assume a gender that is different from one’s biological sex.

Gender-Neutral Terms: Terms, such as pronouns, that do not designate the gender of the subject. In general use gender-neutral terms (e.g. “police officer,” not “policeman”) when possible.

Gender-Neutral Pronouns: Pronouns that do not designate gender. Singular “they/them” is considered grammatically correct and should be the default pronouns used until a person expresses their preferred pronouns. Other examples include “xe/xem” (pronounced zee/zem).

Gender Expression: An individual’s outward and external gendered appearance. This may include hairstyles, clothes, accessories, and mannerisms. Gender expression may also include gender roles which are also defined by an individual’s culture/society.

Gender Identity: A personal conception of one’s own gender; often in relation to a gender opposition between masculinity and femininity. It is how people externally communicate or perform their gender identity to others.

Gender Norms: Refers to the different roles that women and men, and non-binary/gender-nonconforming people play in society. The behavioral, cultural, and psychological traits typically associated with one’s biological sex. Usually refers to those aspects of life that are shaped by social forces or to the meaning that society gives to biological differences.

Genocide: The systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political or ethnic group.

Gentrification: The process whereby a given urban area or neighborhood undergoes a socioeconomic transition from a previously low‐income, working-class neighborhood to a middle‐class or affluent neighborhood.

Ghetto: A part of the city where groups live based on class, race, ethnicity, or religion, and can be derogatory when used by someone outside of the community. Often offensively used to refer to predominately black neighborhoods. Do not use ghetto when describing a particular area; use the name of the neighborhood.

Glass Ceiling: Term used to describe the “unseen” barrier that prevents women and people of color from being hired or promoted beyond a certain level of responsibility, prestige, or seniority in the workplace.


Harassment: Unwelcome, intimidating, or hostile behavior.

Hate Crime: An act by any person or group against the person or property of another which constitutes an expression of hostility because of race, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, gender, or ethnicity.

HBCU: Acronym for Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Established to provide higher education to African Americans during a time in U.S. history when access was limited.

Health Disparity: Healthy People 2020 defines a health disparity as “a particular type of health difference that is closely linked with social, economic, and/or environmental disadvantage. Health disparities adversely affect groups of people who have systematically experienced greater obstacles to health based on their racial or ethnic group; religion; socioeconomic status; gender; age; mental health; cognitive, sensory, or physical disability; sexual orientation or gender identity; geographic location; or other characteristics historically linked to discrimination or exclusion.

Health Equity: Healthy People 2020 defines health equity as the “attainment of the highest level of health for all people. Achieving health equity requires valuing everyone equally with focused and ongoing societal efforts to address avoidable inequalities, historical and contemporary injustices, and the elimination of health and health care disparities.

Heteronormativity: Belief system positing that heterosexuality is the default and normative sexuality and that sex/gender/sexuality are dualistic, static, and innate.

Hinduism: The dominant religion in India emphasizing dharma, basic principles of cosmic or individual existence within nature, with its resulting ritual, social observances, mystic contemplations, and ascetic practices.

Hispanic: Refers to multiracial, culturally mixed group of people who speak Spanish. Is not synonymous with Latino/Latina/Latin@/Latinx.

Homophobia: The discomfort with and fear, hatred, or intolerance of sexual minorities.

Homosexual: Person attracted to people of the same gender.

Human Rights: A set of inalienable rights, as declared by the thirty articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, that all human beings possess and are protected by law.


Immigrant: A person who voluntarily and/or legally re‐locates to a country different from that in which he or she was born. Ex: An Irishman who migrates to the United States is an emigrant of Ireland and an immigrant to the U.S.

Inclusion: The act of creating involvement, environments, and empowerment in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate. An inclusive and welcoming climate with equal access to opportunities and resources embrace differences and offers respect in words and actions for all people.

Indian/East Indian: Accurately defined as one who originates from the Indian continent or East Indies. Use Indian American if referring to someone born in the U.S. of Eastern Indian descent. The term has inaccurately been applied to Native people who inhabited North America before it became the United States; the preferred term for that group is American Indian.

Indigenous: Descendants of native people from any region.

Intercultural Competence: The ability to develop targeted knowledge, skills and attitudes that lead to visible behavior and communication that are both effective and appropriate in intercultural interactions.

Integration: The bringing of different racial or ethnic groups into a free and equal association.

Intersectionality: Coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, this concept describes the ways in which multiple identities intersect and cannot be disentangled. It also posits that oppressive institutions, such as sexism and racism, work in tandem; as such, these forces should be analyzed together.

Intersex: A person whose bodily or hormonal sex characteristics cannot be categorized as male or female. This may be due to external differences in genitalia, hormonal conditions, such as androgen, or insensitivity syndrome or chromosomal variance. Do not use hermaphrodite.

Inuit: Eskimo people who are distinct from American Indians and are more closely related to peoples of East Asia.

Islam: Religion founded by the prophet Muhammed who is believed to be the last in a long line of holy prophets, preceded by Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Being devoted to the Koran, followers worship Allah. They respect the earlier prophets but regard the concept of the divinity of Jesus as blasphemous. There are two main divisions: the Sunnis and the Shiite. They are divided over the succession after the prophet. The Shi’a believe the prophet explicitly appointed Imam Ali as his successor. The Sunnis do not believe that Ali was appointed; rather, they adhere to the orthodox tradition and acknowledge the first four caliphs are rightful successors. Islam is the religion, while Muslim refers to an adherent of Islam.


Jihad: Arabic word for struggle or striving. It can refer to internal as well as external efforts to be a good Muslim or believer, as well as working to inform people about the faith of Islam. Jihad does not refer to violence and is not a declaration of war against other religions.


KKK: The Ku Klux Klan was an organization originally founded in Pulaski, Tennessee in 1866 that functioned as a “secret society organized in the South after the Civil War to reassert white supremacy by means of terrorism.”


Latin America: Includes all countries in North and South America that are primarily Spanish and Portuguese speaking.

Latino/Latina/Latin@/Latinx: Person of Latin American descent, regardless of their ability to speak Spanish. Latin@ (“lah-tee-nez”) and Latinx refer to transgender or non-binary individuals.

LGBTQAAI: The acronym that means Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender. The addition of a “Q” at the end often means “questioning” or “queer.” One “A” stands for “asexual”, another for “allies”. The “I” means “intersex”.

Lesbian: A common and acceptable word for a female homosexual only.

Linguistic Profiling: The practice of making assumptions or value judgments about an individual based on the way he or she speaks and/or the language he or she uses, and then discriminating against that individual because of these factors.


Mandarin: Official language of China and Taiwan, not a dialect. Refers to spoken language only. The written language is Chinese.

Marginalization: Treatment of a person, group or concept as insignificant or pervasive and places them outside of the mainstream society.

Microaggressions: Intentional or unintentional verbal, nonverbal or environmental slights/insults that communicate hostile, derogatory or negative messages to people based upon their marginalized group.

Migrant: A person who migrates. Frequently refers to farm laborers who move often to different locations to harvest seasonal crops. Not a synonym for immigrant or emigrant.

Minority: Segment of the population not in the majority based on certain characteristics and is often subject to differential treatment.

Miscegenation: The mixing of races

Misogyny: Hatred of women, often manifested in sexual discrimination, denigration, or violence against and sexual objectification of women.

MTF: Acronym for male to female. Describes a transgender person designated male at birth who is transitioning, has transitioned, or who identifies as a woman.

Multiculturalism: The practice of acknowledging and respecting the various cultures, religions, languages, social equity, races, ethnicities, attitudes, and opinions within an environment. The theory and practice promotes peaceful coexistence of all identities and people.

Multiracial: A term describing a person of interracial parentage.

Muslim: People who follow or practice Islam, a monotheistic Abrahamic religion. Muslims consider the Quran, their holy book, to be the verbatim word of God as revealed to the Islamic prophet and messenger Muhammad.


National Origin: A group identity based on the nation from which a person originates, regardless of the nation in which they reside.

Native American: Descendants of native inhabitants of the United States. Often used interchangeably with American Indian. First people can also be acceptable. The best practice is to refer to the specific tribal affiliation or nation. When in doubt, ask.

Nazi/Nazism: “National Socialist German Workers Party” brought to power in 1933 under Adolf Hitler. Nazism is the ideology and practice of the Nazis, who have a policy of racist national expression and state control of the economy. A Neo-Nazi is a supporter of the new outgrowth of the original Nazi movement.

Non-binary: Refers to people whose gender is neither female nor male and therefore are outside of the gender binary. Non-binary people fall under the transgender umbrella.

Neo-Colonization: Contemporary policies used by western “first world” nations and organizations to exert regulation, power, and control disguised as humanitarian help or aid over poorer “third world” nations. These policies are distinct from but related to the earlier periods of colonization of Africa, Asia, and the Americas by European nations.


Oppression: Systematic mistreatment of particular individuals. Oppression is not just an isolated incident. Rather, it is a complex system of sustained and pervasive beliefs, laws or policies, behaviors, and feelings. Oppression can be broken up into four levels: ideological, institutional, interpersonal, and internalized.

  1.  Ideological oppression refers to the societal beliefs of one group being superior to another. It is manifested in the subsequent three levels of oppression.
  2. Institutional oppression is the laws and policies that reflect and enforce prejudiced ideology. For example, laws that. School policies that prohibit trans* individuals from putting their preferred pronouns or names on their transcripts are another example.
  3.  Interpersonal oppression is what we normally think of when we think of oppression. It refers to individual acts of racism, sexism, homo/transphobia, classism, or ableism, such as calling a person who uses a wheelchair “crippled.”
  4. Finally, internalized oppression is what occurs when oppressed people internalize the ideology of inferiority, see it reflected in institutional practice, and experience it in interpersonal interactions. They begin to believe that it is true and engage in practices that reinforce it, such as horizontal hostility. It manifests itself in the belief that one is to blame for one’s own oppression, rather than ideological, institutional, and interpersonal discrimination.

Orishas: The various gods and goddesses of the Caribbean and Latin American religion of Santeria, a spiritual practice originating from blended religious aspects of African cultures as well as the Roman Catholic Church.

Out: For lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, it is the state of having one’s sexual orientation or gender identity is known.

Outing: Inadvertently or intentionally sharing information about another person’s sexual orientation or gender identity without their consent. This act deprives the person of choosing when, how, and whom they want to tell. There are degrees of being out; a person may be out to some people or groups and not others, or they may only share varying degrees of information about their orientation. Outing someone can have profoundly negative consequences for that person’s safety, life, work-life, and future career opportunities.


Pacific Islander: Refers to persons whose origins are of the following nations: Fiji, Guam, Hawaii, Polynesian, Samoa, Tahiti, or any of the Pacific Islands.

Pacific Rim: Imaginary line that frames the Pacific Ocean. Primarily bordering the U.S., Canada, China, Japan, and Australia.

Pagan: 1) An adherent of a religion other than Judaism, Christianity, or Islam which are monotheistic. Polytheism is the worship of or belief in multiple deities, which are usually assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, along with their own religions and rituals. 2) A member of a religious, spiritual, or cultural community based on the worship of nature or the earth.

Paraplegia: Paralysis of the lower half of the body involving both legs.

Partner: Used to identify someone in a romantic relationship, typically same-sex relationships, but becoming more common in heterosexual relationships.

Patriarchy: Structural and ideological system that perpetuates the privileging of particular kinds of masculinity and cisgender men. A system in which cisgender men have institutional control and dominance.

People of Color: Describes all racial and ethnic groups other than white.

Political Correctness: Relating to or supporting broad social, political, and educational change, to redress historical injustices in matters such as race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and ability. In practice, people attempting political correctness try to avoid offending others by taking measures or using language they perceive as safe. At the root of political correctness are compassion, respect, and empathy.

Power: Ability to control, coerce, or influence people based on privileged identities. Power may be positional and provide access to social, political, and economic resources.

Power-over: Used in a discriminatory and oppressive way. Having power over others and therefore domination and control over others (e.g. through coercion and violence)

Power-with: Shared with all people in struggles for liberation and equality. Using or exercising one’s power to work with others equitably, for example, in
a social movement.

Prejudice: A preconceived judgment or opinion regarding a person or a group based on insufficient or incorrect evidence. Can be positive or negative.

Privilege: Any unearned benefit, right or advantage one receives in society by nature of their identities.

Protestantism: Religious denominations that broke from the Roman Catholic Church in the 16th century. Includes Anglican, Baptist, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Quaker. Not appropriate use for Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Scientist, Mormons, or Eastern Orthodox churches.

Psychiatric Disability: Acute or chronic mental illness. Psychotic, schizophrenic, neurotic, and similar words should only be used in the appropriate clinical context. Crazy, lunatic, demented, insane, and psycho are offensive. Use psychiatric disability, psychiatric illness, emotional disorder, or mental disorder.


Quadriplegia: A physical impairment where a person cannot use their arms or legs.

Queer: Some LGBTQ people use this term as a way of reclaiming the power associated in the past with this term and other derogatory terms (such as fag or dyke). Others use it as a more general all-inclusive term to represent a variety of sexual orientations and/or gender identities or anything that defies easy definition or categorization. Like any term or label, there is no general consensus on what Queer means, and it is still considered offensive by older generations.

Quota: A number or percentage particularly of people designated as a targeted minimum for a particular group or organization. A term often used in reference to admission to colleges and universities and organizational hiring practices.

Quran: Muslim holy book. Alternately spelled Koran.


Race: A social construct that artificially divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance, ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification, and the political needs of a society at a given period of time.

Racism: Systematic discrimination based on race. Racial prejudice + power = racism.

Rainbow Flag: Flag adopted by the LGBT community to symbolize gay or LGBT pride or safe spaces for LGBT people.

Religion: An organized belief system based on certain doctrines of faith or a belief in a supreme being or God. Organized religion suggests the manner in which people should live and the beliefs that they should accept or reject.

Reservation: A section of land set aside by the federal government for Native Americans, or for a special purpose.

Respect: A feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, valued, and should be treated in a dignified way.

Reverse Discrimination: A term used by opponents to affirmative action who believe that these policies are causing members of traditionally dominant groups to be discriminated against.


Scapegoating: Blaming an individual or group for something when, in reality, there is no one person or group responsible. Scapegoating has often been used to blame racial groups as responsible as a means to discredit that group.

Semitic: Related to the language/culture of Semites. Semitic languages are characterized as Afro‐Asiatic languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, Amharic, and Aramaic.

Sex: Genitally-based physical distinction between female, male, and intersex. Do not use gender as a synonym.

Sexism: Systemic oppression based on sex and/or gender. Gendered prejudice + power = sexism, therefore cisgender men cannot experience sexism.

Sexual Orientation: The direction of one’s sexual attraction toward the same gender, opposite gender, or other genders. It is on a continuum and not necessarily a set of absolute categories.

Shinto/Shintoist: The ancient native religion of Japan. Stresses belief in spiritual beings and reverence for ancestors. Adherents are expected to celebrate their gods, or kami. Support the societies in which kami are patron, remain pure and sincere, and enjoy life.

Sikhism/Sihk: Religion founded by Shri Guru Nanek Dev Ji in the Punjab area, now in Pakistan. Sikhs believe in a single formless God with many names who can be known through meditation. They pray several times a day and are not allowed to worship icons or idols. They believe in samsara, karma, and reincarnation as Hindus do, but reject the caste system. They believe that everyone has equal status in the eyes of God. Although elements of Islam have been incorporated, it is not Islamic.

Social Construct: An idea that appears to be natural and obvious to people who accept it but may or may not represent reality

Social Justice: To take action as an advocate for a just society where all people have a right to fair and equitable treatment, support, and resources.

Spanglish: Spanish characterized by words borrowed from the English language. Not a language or a dialect.

Spanish: Language is primarily spoken in Spain and Latin America, or a person from Spain. Not a synonym for Latino or Hispanic.

Stereotyping:  A positive or negative set of beliefs held by an individual about the characteristics of a certain group.

Straight: Person who is attracted to people of a gender different than their own. Synonymous with heterosexuality.

Systemic Discrimination: Patterns of discrimination embedded in the policies and practices of an organization, institution, and/or society.


Terrorism: The use or threat to use, unlawful acts of force or violence to intimidate or coerce another person, group, or government, often for ideological, religious, or political reasons. The U.S. Department of State defines terrorism as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by sub‐national groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience.”

Third World: Used during the Cold War to describe countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America still developing economically. Developing country is preferred.

Tokenism: The policy of making only a perfunctory effort or symbolic gesture toward the accomplishment of a goal, such as racial integration; the practice of hiring or appointing a token number of people from underrepresented groups in order to deflect criticism or comply with affirmative action rules.

Tolerance: Acceptance and open-mindedness to different practices, attitudes, and cultures; does not necessarily mean agreement with differences.

Transgender:  Transgender people are those whose psychological self (“gender identity” – one’s internal experience of their gender) differs from the physical sex with which they were born (“biological sex” – one’s body -genitals, chromosomes, etc.). Often, society conflates sex and gender, viewing them as the same thing. However, gender and sex are not the same thing.


Underrepresented: Group identities whose numbers are demographically fewer than the larger majority groups. A historically oppressed group characterized by lack of access to the full benefits of the economic, social, and political opportunity, and often used as a replacement term for minority

Undocumented Workers: A term used to describe the populations of laborers in the United States who do not possess legal documentation of residence and/or who did not receive proper authorization to enter into the country.


WASP: White Anglo Saxon Protestant, a term used in the United States to refer to the demographic of people who are of this ancestry.

White: People of European origin. The term is not synonymous with Caucasian. In the U.S., European American can also be used. Some prefer terms that identify their country of origin, such as Italian American, Greek American, etc.

Workplace Diversity: A common term for increased racial/ethnic/gender representation in a company’s entire workforce. Best practices show increased workforce diversity is usually accomplished through demographic goals set by an executive diversity council, strong diversity recruitment efforts, and use of employee resource groups and talent-development initiatives aimed at underrepresented groups.


This resource was adapted from existing resources provided by the National Multicultural Institute, University of California-Berkeley-Diversity Terms, National Conference for Community and Justice, Oregon State University, Texas A & M University, Arizona State University – Intergroup Relations Center, and The National Center for Transgender Equality, Cleveland State University, Office of Diversity and Multicultural Affairs, Deardorff, Darla (2006) “The Identification and Assessment of Intercultural Competence as a Student Outcome of Internationalization at Institutions of Higher Education in the United States.” Journal of Studies in International Education 10:241-266, Adams, Bell and Griffin-Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice.

Center for Disability Rights, Inc. (CDR)-

Richard T. Alpert, Ph.D. Diversity Terms – 9 Essentials. Do You Speak the Language of Diversity?

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Secretary’s Advisory Committee on National Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Objectives for 2020. Phase I report: Recommendations for the framework and format of Healthy People 2020 [Internet]. Section IV: Advisory Committee findings and recommendations [cited 2010 January 6].

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health. National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities. The National Plan for Action Draft as of February 17, 2010 [Internet]. Chapter 1: Introduction.

Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University. EQUID: Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity — School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Diversity Glossary.

Quinsigamond Community College. Glossary of Diversity Terms

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