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Glossary of terms

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Prejudice and/or discrimination against people with mental or physical disabilities.

Source:   M. Adams, L. Bell, & P. Griffin (Eds.), Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice (2nd ed., pp. 335-358). New York: Routledge.


Discrimination of individuals based on their age, i.e. of the elderly based on the notion that they are incapable of performing certain functions such as driving, or of the young based on the notion that they are immature and therefore incapable of performing certain tasks.

Source:  Love, B. J., & Phillips, K. J. (2007). Ageism and Adultism. In M. Adams, L. Bell, & P. Griffin (Eds.), Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice (2nd ed., pp. 359-377). New York: Routledge.


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.  Allies commit to reducing their own complicity or collusion in oppression of those groups and invest in strengthening their own knowledge and awareness of oppression.

Source: OpenSource Leadership Strategies, “The Dynamic System of Power, Privilege and Oppressions.” and Center for Assessment and Policy Development.


Black Lives Matter

A political movement to address systemic and state violence against African Americans. Per the Black Lives Matter organizers: “In 2013, three radical Black organizers—Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi—created a Black-centered political will and movement building project called #BlackLivesMatter. It was in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman. The project is now a member-led global network of more than 40 chapters. [Black Lives Matter] members organize and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of Black folks’ humanity, our contributions to this society, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.” 

Source: Black Lives Matter, “Herstory” 


Campus Climate

1. Current attitudes, behaviors and standards of faculty, staff, administrators and students concerning the level of respect for individual needs, abilities and potential. 2. The institutional climate for diversity can be conceptualized as a product of various elements that include the historical (such as the institution’s history of access and exclusion), structural (include institutional characteristics such as size, control, selectivity, and racial composition of the college), perceptual (including the ideology of the institutions, institutional commitments to minority concerns and support for minority programs, the intent of the institution, perceptions of racial and interracial activity behavior on campus), and behavioral. Perceptions of the campus climate for diversity vary substantially by ethnic/racial group, reflecting student, faculty, staff, and administrators background characteristics and actual experiences across institutions.

Source:  University of California Office of the President. (2014). What is campus climate? Why does it matter?  In Campus Climate Study. Retrieved June 9, 2014, from Adapted from: Hurtado, S. (1994). The institutional climate for talented Latino students. Research in Higher Education, 35(1), 21-41.


Cisgender is a term used to describe people who, for the most part, identify as the gender they were assigned at birth. For example, if a doctor said “it’s a boy!” when you were born, and you identify as a man, then you could be described as cisgender.

Source: Basic Rights Oregon. (2011, October 9). Trans 101: Cisgender. In Basic Rights Oregon. Retrieved August 24, 2017, from


1. Relative social rank in terms of income, wealth, status, and/or power. 2. Category or division based on economic status; members of a class are theoretically assumed to possess similar cultural, political and economic characteristics and principles.

Adapted from: Leondar-Wright, B., & Yeskel, F. (2007). Classism Curriculum Design. In M. Adams, L. Bell, & P. Griffin (Eds.), Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice (2nd ed., pp. 308-333). New York: Routledge.


Climate refers to the way that an organization is perceived and experienced by its individual members. Climate influences whether individuals feel valued, listened to, personally safe and treated with fairness and dignity within an organization.

Source:  Oregon State University



"The unequal allocation of goods, resources, and services, and the limitation of access to full participation in society based on individual membership in a particular social group; reinforced by law, policy, and cultural norms that allow for differential treatment on the basis of identity."

Retrieved August 24, 2017, from National Conference for Community and Justice, Resources, Social Justice Definitions,


The wide range of national, ethnic, racial and other backgrounds of U.S. residents and immigrants as social groupings, co-existing in American culture. The term is often used to include aspects of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, class and much more.

Source: Institute for Democratic Renewal and Project Change Anti-Racism Initiative. A Community Builder's Tool Kit.



Equality is about ensuring that every individual has an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents. It is also the belief that no one should have poorer life chances because of the way they were born, where they come from, what they believe, or whether they have a disability.  Equality recognises that historically certain groups of people with protected characteristics such as race, disability, sex and sexual orientation have experienced discrimination. 

Source:  Equality and Human Rights Commission


Equity is 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. Improving equity involves increasing justice and fairness within the procedures and processes of institutions or systems, as well as in their distribution of resources. Tackling equity issues requires an understanding of the root causes of outcome disparities within our society.

Source:  Independent Sector


A social construct that divides people into smaller social groups based on characteristics such as shared sense of group membership, values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interests, history and ancestral geographical base.Examples of different ethnic groups are: Cape Verdean, Haitian, African American, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Cherokee, Mohawk, Navaho, Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Polish, Irish, and Swedish.

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




1) System of sexual classification based on the social construction of the categories "men" and "women," as opposed to sex which is based on biological and physical differences which form the categories "male" and "female."  2) A social identity usually conflated with biological sex in a binary system that presumes one has either male and masculine characteristics and behavior, or female and feminine characteristics and behavior. In addition to being a major social status experienced by individuals, this is also “a social institution” that helps humans organize their lives.

Source: Parvis, L. (2013). Understanding Cultural Diversity in Today's Complex World (5th ed., p. 166). Embrace Publications. Adapted from: Goodman, D. and Schapiro, S. (1997). Sexism Curriculum Design. In M. Adams, L. Bell, & P. Griffin (Eds.), Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice (1st ed., pp. 111-129). New York: Routledge.  Adapted from: Adams, M., Bell, L., & Griffin, P. (2007). Appendix 10A: Transgender Oppression Definitions. In Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

Gender Expression

“Gender expression” refers to the ways in which we each manifest masculinity or femininity. It is usually an extension of our “gender identity,” our innate sense of being male or female. Each of us expresses a particular gender every day – by the way we style our hair, select our clothing, or even the way we stand. Our appearance, speech, behavior, movement, and other factors signal that we feel – and wish to be understood – as masculine or feminine, or as a man or a woman.

Source: Gill Foundation. (2014). Gender Expression . In Gill Foundation. Retrieved June 9, 2014, from

Gender Identity

A person's sense of being male or female.

Adapted from:  Griffin, P. (2007). Sexism, Heterosexism, and Transgender Oppression. In M. Adams, L. Bell, & P. Griffin (Eds.), Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice (2nd ed., pp. 167-172). New York: Routledge.


Hate Inciden

Behavior which constitutes an expression of hostility against the person or property of another because of his/her difference. Such incidents include actions motivated by bias, but do not meet the necessary elements required to prove a crime.

Source:  Adapted From: Association of Chief Police Officers. (2005, March). Hate Crime: Delivering a Quality Service - Good Practice and Tactical Guidance. Retrieved June 6, 2013, from


1. Social structures and practices which serve to elevate and enforce heterosexuality while subordinating or suppressing other forms of sexuality. 2. Societal, cultural, institutional, and individual beliefs and practices that assume that heterosexuality is the only natural, normal, acceptable sexual orientation.

Adapted from:  Griffin, P. (2007). Sexism, Heterosexism, and Transgender Oppression. In M. Adams, L. Bell, & P. Griffin (Eds.), Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice (2nd ed., pp. 167-172). New York: Routledge.  Parvis, L. (2013). Understanding Cultural Diversity in Today's Complex World (5th ed., p. 164). Embrace Publications.



The distinctive characteristic belonging to any given individual (self-identity), or shared by all members of a particular social category or group (such as national or cultural identity).

Source: Rummens, J. (1993). Personal Identity and Social Structure in Sint Maarten/Saint Martin: A Plural Identities Approach. Doctoral Dissertation/Thesis: York University, Toronto, ON.

Implicit Bias

Implicit biases are judgments and behaviors that are generally influenced by stereotypic social portrayals of different social groups or individuals or favorable or unfavorable past experiences. While implicit biases can operate consciously, these judgments and behaviors can also exist without (1) intention (i.e., are involuntary and uncontrollable), and (2) conscious awareness and thus may be nonconscious.

Adapted from:  Rudman, L. A. (2004). Social justice in our minds, homes, and society: The nature, causes, and consequences of implicit bias. Social Justice Research,17(2), 129-142.

Impostor Syndrome

Impostor syndrome, also known as impostorship or imposter phenomenon, describes a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Impostorship characteristics are largely organized into three subcategories: (1) feeling like a fake, or the belief that one does not deserve one’s success; (2) attributing success to luck or other external reasons and not to one’s own internal abilities; and (3) discounting success, or the tendency to downplay or disregard achievement of success. Impostor syndrome has been discovered in the psychology of individuals with marginalized social identities, particularly high-achieving women. From its earliest definitions, the impostor phenomenon was said to manifest in patriarchal or sexist contexts—or contexts that center on the interests of men. Recently, the impostor phenomenon has also been discussed in racial identify contexts.  

Source: the SAGE Encyclopedia of Psychology and Gender


Inclusion authentically brings traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into processes, activities and decision/policy making.

Source: Crossroads Charlotte Individual Initiative Scorecard for Organizations Scorecard Overview, revised 3/12/07.

Indigenous Peoples

Individuals who identify as indigenous generally meet or have experienced  several of the following characteristics: 1) self-identification with indigenous peoples at the individual level and accepted by the indigenous community as their member; 2) historical continuity with pre-colonial and/or pre-settler societies; 3) strong link to territories and surrounding natural resources; 3) strong link to distinct social, economic or political systems; 4) distinct language, culture, and beliefs; 5) have been a part of a  non-dominant groups of society; and 6) resolve to maintain and reproduce their ancestral environments and systems as distinctive peoples and communities.

Source: United Nations Permanent Forum of Indigenous Issues. (n.d.). Indigenous Peoples, Indigenous Voices - Factsheet. In United Nations. Retrieved June 12, 2014, from

Institutional racism 

The network of institutional structures policies, and practices that create advantages and benefits for Whites, and discrimination, oppression, and disadvantage for people from targeted racial groups. The advantages created for Whites are often invisible to them, or are considered "rights" available to everyone as opposed to "privileges" awarded to only some individuals and groups.

Source:  Adapted from: Adams, M., Bell, L., & Griffin, P. (2007). Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

Intersectionality (Intersectionalism) 

The study of intersections between forms or systems of oppression, domination or discrimination.  The ways in which oppressive institutions (racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc.) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another (African American Policy Forum).

Source:  Adapted From: Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford law review, 1241-1299.







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,




When an agent group, whether knowingly or unknowingly, abuses a target group. This pervasive system is rooted historically and maintained through individual and institutional/systematic discrimination, personal bias, bigotry, and social prejudice, resulting in a condition of privilege for the agent group at the expense of the target group. 



Passive racism

Beliefs, attitudes, and actions that contribute to the maintenance of racism, without openly advocating violence or oppression. The conscious and unconscious maintenance of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that support the system of racism, racial prejudice and racial dominance.

Source:  Adapted from: Adams, M., Bell, L., & Griffin, P. (2007). Appendix 6B: Definitions of General Concepts I - Racism. In Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.


1. Power and advantages benefiting a group derived from the historical oppression and exploitation of other groups. 2. Unearned access to resources only readily available to some people as a result of their group membership.

Source: Parvis, L. (2013). Understanding Cultural Diversity in Today's Complex World (5th ed., p. 169). Embrace Publications; Adams, M., Bell, L., & Griffin, P. (1997). Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice (1st ed.). New York: Routledge.




A social construct that artificially divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as a physical appearance (particularly color) ancestral heritage, cultural affiliations, cultural history, ethnic classification, and the social, economic, and political needs of a society at a given period of time. Racial categories subsume ethnic groups.

Source: Adapted from: Adams, M., Bell, L., & Griffin, P. (2007). Appendix 6B: Definitions of General Concepts I - Racism. In Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.


The individual, cultural, and institutional beliefs and discrimination that systematically oppress  people of color (Blacks, Latino/as, Native Americans, and Asians). 

Source:  Source:  National Conference for Community and Justice.


Social Justice

“We believe social justice is both a process and a goal. The goal of social justice is full and equal participation of all groups in society that is mutually shaped to meet their needs. Social justice includes a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. We envision a socially in which individuals are both self-determining (able to develop their full capacities) and interdependent (capable of interacting democratically with others). Social justice involves social actor who have a sense of their own agency as well as a sense of social responsibility toward and with others, their society, and the broader world in which we live. These conditions we wish not only for own society but also for every society in our interdependent global community.

The process of attaining the goal of social justice, we believe, should also be democratic and participatory, inclusive and affirming of human agency and human capabilities for working collaboratively to create change…

The goal of social justice education is to enable people o develop the critical analytical tools necessary to understand oppression and their socialization within oppressive systems, and to develop a sense of agency and capacity to interrupt and change oppressive patterns and behaviors in themselves and in the institutions and communities they are a part” (pps. 1-2)

Source: Bell, L. A. (2007). Theoretical Foundation for Social Justice Education. In Adams, M.A., Bell. L.A., & Griffin, P. (Eds). Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice (2nd Ed.), NY: Routledge)


The process by which a human beginning at infancy acquires the habits, beliefs, and accumulated knowledge of society through education and training (by family, friends, culture and systems/institutions).  

Source:  National Conference for Community and Justice.





'Values are principles, fundamental convictions, ideals, standards or life stances which act as general guides to behaviour or as points of reference in decision-making or the evaluation of beliefs or actions and which are closely connected to personal integrity and personal identity.' Source:  (Halstead, 1996, p5). Halstead, J.M. (1996) 'Values and Values Education in Schools'.