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Glossary of Terms

To better understand the work we do, and to start from the same point of view, please read the following vocabulary list.


Treating someone negatively because of their actual or perceived:

  • Age
  • Creed
  • (Dis)ability
  • Ethnic or national origin
  • Gender, gender identity, or gender expression
  • Marital status
  • Political or social affiliation
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sexual orientation

Some examples of bias incidents include:

  • Telling jokes
  • Name-calling
  • Stereotyping
  • Offensive graffiti
  • Avoiding or excluding others

Bias stems from:

  • Fear
  • Misunderstanding
  • Hatred
  • Stereotypes


Intolerant prejudice, which glorifies one’s own group, but denigrates members of other groups.


Unequal treatment of people based on their membership in a group is discrimination. In contrast to prejudice, discrimination is behavior. To discriminate is to treat a person, not on the basis of their intrinsic individual qualities, but on the basis of prejudgment about a group. Discrimination can be either de jure (legal as in segregation laws) or de facto (discrimination in fact without legal sanction.)


Inclusiveness denies every semblance of discrimination. The mark of an inclusive society is one in which people are open, accepting and supportive of all other persons, enabling them to participate fully in life, the community and the world.

Institutional or Systemic Racism

The established social patterns that support, implicitly or explicitly, racist value systems. It is fulfilled through policies and understandings of official corporate organizations.


Oppression is the systematic exploitation of one social group by another for its own benefit. It involves institutional control, ideological domination, and the imposition of the dominant group’s culture on the oppressed group. Oppression is different from discrimination, bias, prejudice or bigotry because:

  • It is pervasive, woven throughout social institutions as well as embedded within individual consciousness.
  • It is restricting. Structural limits significantly shape a person’s life chances and a sense of possibility in ways beyond the individual’s control.
  • It is hierarchical. The dominant or privileged groups benefit, often in unconscious ways, from the disempowerment of subordinated or targeted groups.

Personal Racism

The individual expressions—attitudes and/or behaviors—that accept the assumptions of a racial value system and maintain the benefits of the system.


A positive or negative attitude toward a person or group, formed without just grounds or sufficient knowledge, will not be likely to change in spite of new evidence or contrary argument.  Prejudice is an attitude. Attitudes or opinions, especially of a hostile nature, are based on prejudgment and insufficient information.


A general term to describe people who are Asian, Black or African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Pacific Islanders and White.  Everyone has an ethnicity, even White folks. However, when the term is used to abbreviate “racial and ethnic minority,” it generally describes all these groups except Whites.


Racial and cultural prejudice and discrimination, supported intentionally or unintentionally by institutional power and authority, used to the advantage of one race and the disadvantage of other races. The critical element that differentiates racism from prejudice and discrimination is the use of institutional power and authority to support prejudices and enforce discriminatory behaviors in systemic ways with far-reaching outcomes and effects. The combination of the power to dominate by one race over other races or ethnic groups that is grounded in historical assumptions and prejudice that the dominant race is innately superior to the others. Racism is different from racial prejudice, hatred or discrimination. Racism involves having the power to carry out systematic discriminatory practices through the major institutions of our society.


The arbitrary assigning of habits, abilities, or expectations to a person or group of people based on their race, gender or other visible characteristics is stereotyping. It’s a process in which we tend to treat all members of a particular group as being alike. Fixed impressions or exaggerated or preconceived ideas about particular social groups are usually based on race, gender or other visible characteristics.

The danger in relying on stereotypes to guide our thoughts and actions stems from their being:

  • Simplified ideas, whether negative or positive in nature
  • Overgeneralizations that do not represent all, or perhaps even most individuals within a group
  • Designed to enhance our own self-identity
  • The foundation for prejudice and discrimination
  • Obstacles in getting to know others for who they are versus who we think they might be

Stereotypes are unfortunately learned at a young age, and they remain, as most mental models do, untested, unchallenged, confused with reality. Common sources of stereotypes include parents, other family members, educators, peers, media, etc.  Even “positive” stereotypes are harmful to those they target. They, like negative stereotypes, result in negative self-image, stress, mental illness, pressure to conform, and ineffective intercultural interactions.


Adams, Maurianne and Bell, Lee Anne and Griffin, Pat, editors. Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook. New York, Routledge, 1997.

Della-Dora, Delmo. What Curriculum Leaders Can Do About Racism. New Detroit, Inc., 1970.

Dismantling Racism: National Conference for Community Justice, St. Louis Region. 1996.

McIntosh, Peggy. White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women’s Studies. Wellesley College, MA, 1988.

Pizarro-Eckert, Susan. Your Guide to Race Relations. Adapted.

Syracuse University. What is bias?

University of Arkansas.