Common Language

There are a lot of terms that get thrown around when it comes to “diversity”.  Here you can find some definitions from the Anti-Defamation League’s A World of Difference Curriculum, Courageous Conversations on Race, GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight, Education Network), National Network for immigrant and Refugee Rights, and a few similar publications. Here’s to common language!

Ableism: Ableism is prejudice and/or discrimination against people with mental and/or physical disabilities.

Ageism: Ageism is prejudice and/or discrimination against people because of how old or young a person is.

Anti-bias: Anti-bias is an active commitment to challenging prejudice, stereotyping and all forms of discrimination.

Anti-Semitism: Anti-Semitism is prejudice and/or discrimination agaisnt Jewish people.  Anti-Semitism can be based on hatred against Jewish people because of their religious beliefs, their group membership (ethnicity).

Bias: Bias is an inclination or preference either for or against an individual or group that interferes with impartial judgment.

Bigotry: Bigotry is an unreasonable or irrational attachment fro to negative stereotypes and prejudices.

Classism: Classism is prejudice and/or discrimination against people because of their  real or perceived economic status.

Culture: Culture is the patterns of daily life learned consciously and unconsciously by a group of people.  These patterns can be seen in language, governing practice, arts, customs, holiday celebrations, food, religion, dating rituals and clothing, to name a few.

Discrimination: Discrimination is the denial of justice and fair treatment by both individuals and institutions in many arenas, including employment, education, housing, banking and political rights.  Discrimination is an action that can follow prejudicial thinking.

Diversity: Diversity means different or varied.  The population of the United States is made up of people from diverse races, cultures and places.

Environmental Racism: Racial discrimination in environmental policy-making, enforcement of regulations and laws, and targeting of communities of color for toxic waste disposal and siting of polluting industries; and the history of excluding people of color from the leadership of the environmental movement.

Female to Male (FTM): A person born biologically female, who identifies as or feels male, and who takes on the sex, gender, or both of a male through surgery, mannerisms, dress, behavior, etc.

Heterosexism: Heterosexism is prejudice and/or discrimination against people who are or who are perceived to be lesbian, gay or bisexual.  Homophobia is the irrational fear of people who are believed to be lesbian, gay, or bisexual.

Gender Expression: Refers to the ways in which people externally communicate their gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyle, voice, and emphasizing, de-emphasizing, or changing their bodies’ characteristics. Gender expression is not necessarily an indication of sexual orientation.

Gender Dysphoria : Unhappiness or discomfort with the gender role assigned by family and society to one’s biological sex. This may or may not coincide with sexual dysphoria.

Gender Identity: An individual’s innermost sense of self as ‘male/masculine’ ‘female/feminine,’ somewhere in between, or somewhere outside of these gender boundaries. Sometimes this “innermost sense” does not correspond with anatomy (e.g. a person born anatomically male, but who identifies as female).

Gender Role: Describes socially determined sets of behaviors (i.e. ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’) assigned to people based on their biological sex (i.e. male or female). People who are born biologically female, for example, may be expected to like the Power Puff Girls but not baseball; people who are born biologically male may be expected to like baseball but not the Power Puff Girls.

Immigration: Any individual from one country living in another country.

Indigenous peoples: The original inhabitants of an area.

Institutionalized oppression: The systematic, pervasive, and routine mistreatment of various groups of people who are disadvantaged by imbalances of power in society.  This mistreatment occurs in social institutions, such as economic, political, educational, judicial systems.  Unequal access to health care, housing, employment, and discriminatory policing and profiling are examples of institutionalized oppression.

Male to Female (MTF): A person born biologically male, who identifies as or feels female, and who takes on the sex, gender, or both of a female through surgery, mannerisms, dress, behavior, etc.

Multicultural: Multicultural means many or multiple cultures.  The United States is multicultural because its population consists of people from many different cultures.

Nativism: Intense dislike and opposition to a minority group perceived to be “foreign.”

Oppression: the systematic and institutionalized mistreatment, exploitation, and exclusion of people who are members of a certain group.

People of Color: A term used to refer to nonwhite people, used instead of the term “minority,” which implies inferiority and disenfranchisement.  The term emphasizes common experiences of racial discrimination or racism.

Prejudice: Prejudice is prejudging or making a decision about a person or group of people without sufficient knowledge.  Prejudicial thinking is frequently based on stereotypes.

Racism: Racism is prejudice and/or discrimination against people based on the social construct of “race.”  Differences in physical characteristics (e.g., skin color, hair texture, eye shape) are used to support a system of inequities.

Racism: The institutionalized and day-to-day mistreatment of people of color.  This mistreatment takes on many forms including economic, social, and physical violence.

Religious bigotry: Religious bigotry is prejudice and discrimination against people based on their spiritual beliefs and/or practices.  Anti-Semitism is a form of religious bigotry.

Refugee: Any person who is outside his or her country of nationality who is unable or unwilling to return to that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution.  Persecution or the fear thereof must be based on the person’s race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.  People with no nationality must generally be outside their country of last habitual residence to qualify as a refugee.  Refugees are subject to ceilings by geographic area set annually by the President in consultation with Congress and are eligible to adjust to lawful permanent resident status after one year of continuous presence in the United States.

Sexism: Sexism is prejudice and/or discrimination based on gender.

Sexual Dysphoria: Unhappiness or discomfort with one’s biological sex. This may or may not coincide with gender dysphoria.

Sexual Orientation: The structure of our romantic, sexual, and/or emotional attractions. Some of the better-known categories include “heterosexual” (or “straight”), “homosexual” (or “gay” or “lesbian”), or “bisexual.”

Scapegoating: Scapegoating is blaming an individual or group for something based on that person’s or group’s identity when, in reality, the person or group is not responsible.  Prejudicial thinking and discriminatory acts can lead to scapegoating.

Stereotype: A stereotype is an oversimplified generalization about a person or group of people without a regard for individual differences.  Even seemingly positive stereotypes that link a person or a group to a specific positive trait can have negative consequences.

Transgender: Originally coined to describe non-operative transsexuals, this term now refers to people who do not identify with the gender roles assigned to them by society based on their biological sex. Transgender is also used as an umbrella term for all those who choose not to conform to society’s often stereotypical notions of gender expression, including transsexuals, cross-dressers, two-spirit people, and drag queens and kings.

Transition: The period when one is changing from living as one sex or gender to a different conception of sex or gender. Transitioning is a complicated, multi-step process that may include surgically and/or hormonally altering one’s body.

Queer: An umbrella identity term encompassing lesbians, questioning people, gay men, bisexuals, non-labeling people, transgendered folks, and anyone else who does not strictly identify as heterosexual.  “Queer” originated as a derogatory word.  Currently, it is being reclaimed by some and used as a statement of empowerment.  Some people identify as queer to distance themselves from the rigid categorizations of “straight” and “gay”.  Some transgendered, lesbian, gay, questioning, non-labeling, and bisexual people, however, reject the use of this term due to its connotations of deviance and its tendency to gloss over and sometimes deny the differences between these groups.