This list of definitions is not exhaustive and is not intended to be so. Our inclusion of a list like this as a resource is not meant to create a sense of “mastery” or replace the importance of conversation and listening for understanding. Rather, it is our hope this may help to highlight and define words associated with the Work of Diversity and Reconciliation so that our conversations can be built upon and deepened as we continue to seek the direction of the Holy Spirit, following after Jesus in the way of reconciliation, redemption, and repair. 

Anti-racism: The process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, organization structures, policies, practices, and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and shared equitably (Source: Creating Communities of Belonging: Stronger Together – Best Practices to be Anti-Racist, NCAA, 2020). 

Bias: A form of prejudice that results from our tendency and need to classify individuals into categories, or, predicting individual characteristics based on group membership. [See also: Implicit Bias] (Source: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Glossary, University of Washington College of the Environment

BIPOC: Acronym that stands for Black, Indigenous, People of Color. This term is specific to U.S. contexts because it calls attention to how this country was founded on the enslavement of Black people and the genocide of Indigenous people, and the consequent unique struggles that both Black and Indigenous people experience still today. (Adapted from: "Why the term 'BIPOC' is so complicated, explained by linguists,” Constance Grady, 2020

Brave Space: A “brave space” encourages dialogue where community members can come together to have hard conversations and hear each other out, even and especially when that is challenging. In a brave space, people have the opportunity to recognize difference and hold each person accountable to do the hard work of sharing experiences and coming to new understandings. (Adapted from: “Do We Need Safe or Brave Spaces?”, Break Away, 2017) 

Cultural Appropriation: The non-consensual use or misappropriation of cultural elements for commodification or profit purposes – including symbols, art, language, customs, etc. — often without understanding, acknowledgment, or respect for its value in the original culture. (Source: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Glossary, University of Washington College of the Environment) Even with good intentions, use of cultural elements like clothing, language, or art without context and attribution can be harmful. 

Decolonize: The active and intentional process of unlearning values, beliefs, and conceptions that have caused physical, emotional, or mental harm to people or the land through colonization. (Source: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Glossary, University of Washington College of the Environment) It requires a recognition of systems of oppression and acknowledgment of historical omissions and distortions that have elevated one narrative and perspective over all others [See also: White Supremacy]. 

Discrimination: The unequal treatment of members of various groups, based on conscious or unconscious prejudice, which favor one group over others on differences of race, gender, economic class, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion, language, age, national identity, religion, and other categories. (Source: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Glossary, University of Washington College of the Environment

Diversity: A basic feature of God’s creation – God creates diversity with intentionality – and a core theme of the Gospel – we pursue diversity as an aspect of our calling to be a reconciled community. (Adapted from: “Our Diversity Commitment,” SPU Office of Inclusive Excellence

Diversity includes all the ways in which people differ, and it encompasses all the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another. It is all-inclusive and recognizes everyone and every group as part of the diversity that should be valued. A broad definition includes not only race, ethnicity, and gender — the groups that most often come to mind when the term "diversity" is used — but also age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, and physical appearance. It also involves different ideas, perspectives, and values. (Source: Racial Equity Tools Glossary, Racial Equity Tools)  

It is important to note that many activists and thinkers critique a strategy [of “achieving” diversity alone]. For instance, Baltimore Racial Justice Action states: “Diversity is silent on the subject of equity. In an anti-oppression context, therefore, the issue is not diversity, but rather equity. Often when people talk about diversity, they are thinking only of the 'non-dominant' groups.” (Source: Racial Equity Tools Glossary, Racial Equity Tools)

Ethnicity: A social construct that divides people into smaller social groups based on characteristics such as a 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, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Cherokee, Mohawk, Navajo, Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Polish, Irish, and Swedish. (Source: Racial Equity Resource Guide Glossary, Racial Equity Tools) 

Equity: The alleviation of historic disparities by addressing institutional biases. Equity asks, “What conditions have we created that maintain certain groups as the perpetual majority here?” (Adapted from: “Language of Appeasement”, Dafina-Lazarus Stewart, Inside Higher Ed, 2017) 

Implicit Bias: Negative associations expressed automatically that people unknowingly hold and that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions; also known as unconscious or hidden bias. (Source: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Glossary, University of Washington College of the Environment

Inclusion: Authentically bringing traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into processes, activities, and decision/policy making in a way that shares power. (Adapted from: Racial Equity Resource Guide Glossary, Racial Equity Tools) 

Inclusion focuses on how members of various groups are experiencing life in the community, with a goal of full participation for all people. Inclusion asks, “Has everyone’s idea been heard? Is the environment safe for everyone to feel like they belong?” (Adapted from: “Language of Appeasement,” Dafina-Lazarus Stewart, Inside HigherEd, 2017) 

Institutional Racism: The ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes and opportunities for different groups based on racial discrimination. 

Examples of institutional racism:
  • Government policies that explicitly restricted the ability of people to get loans to buy or improve their homes in neighborhoods with high concentrations of African Americans (also known as "red-lining").  
  • City sanitation department policies that concentrate trash transfer stations and other environmental hazards disproportionately in communities of color. (Source: Racial Equity Tools Glossary, Racial Equity Tools) 

Intersectionality: Per Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, "...a prism to see the interactive effects of various forms of discrimination and disempowerment. It looks at the way that racism, many times, interacts with patriarchy, heterosexism, classism, xenophobia — seeing that the overlapping vulnerabilities created by these systems actually create specific kinds of challenges. 'Intersectionality 102,' then, is to say that these distinct problems create challenges for movements that are only organized around these problems as separate and individual. So when racial justice doesn’t have a critique of patriarchy and homophobia, the particular way that racism is experienced and exacerbated by heterosexism, classism etc., falls outside of our political organizing. It means that significant numbers of people in our communities aren’t being served by social justice frames because they don’t address the particular ways that they’re experiencing discrimination." (Source: “Kimberlé Crenshaw and Lady Phyll Talk Intersetionality, Solidarity, and Self-Care,” Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw quoted in article by Otamere Guobadia, 2018) 

Exposing one’s multiple identities can help clarify the ways in which a person can simultaneously experience privilege and oppression. For example, a Black woman in America does not experience gender inequalities in exactly the same way as a White woman, nor racial oppression identical to that experienced by a Black man. Each race and gender intersection produces a qualitatively distinct life. (Source: Racial Equity Tools Glossary, Racial Equity Tools) 

Microaggression: The verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, insults, or belittlement, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon discriminatory belief systems. (Adapted from: Racial Equity Tools Glossary, Racial Equity Tools) 

For more information see, “Racial Microaggressions,” Paul Youngbin Kim, SPU, 2019.

People of Color (POC): A collective term for people of Asian, African, Latin and Native American backgrounds; as opposed to the collective “White”. (Source: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Glossary, University of Washington College of the Environment) Using a collective term grouping all non-White people in one category can be problematic as it does not recognize the unique histories of oppression of each group. Language continues to progress over time to address these gaps, becoming more inclusive and particular [See also: BIPOC and People of the Global Majority below].  

People of the Global Majority (PGM): Can be used interchangeably with BIPOC and POC (see above), since Black, Indigenous, and People of Color represent over 80% of the world’s population. This wording points out the demographic inaccuracy of the euphemism “minority” and can feel more empowering for some people, as it can unite people from all corners of the world that are struggling against White oppression (Source: Language Matters: POC Caucus Renamed Global Majority Caucus, 2019; and adapted from: People of the Global Majority in the Outdoors Nature, & Environment Frequently Asked Questions

Prejudice: An inclination or preference, especially one that interferes with impartial judgment and can be rooted in stereotypes that deny the right of individual members of certain groups to be recognized and treated as individuals with individual characteristics. (Source: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Glossary, University of Washington College of the Environment

Privilege: Exclusive access to or availability of material and immaterial resources based on the membership to a dominant social group [See also: White Privilege]. (Source: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Glossary, University of Washington College of the Environment

RaceA social construct that artificially divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance (particularly [skin] color), ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification, and the social, economic and political needs of a society at a given period of time. (Source: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Glossary, University of Washington College of the Environment

RacializationThe very complex and contradictory process through which groups come to be designated as being of a particular "race" and on that basis subjected to differential and/or unequal treatment. This process is often rendered invisible or normative to those designated as White. As a result, White people may not see themselves as part of a race but still maintain the authority to name and racialize "others." (Source: Racial Equity Tools Glossary, Racial Equity Tools) 

ReconciliationAn ongoing spiritual process involving forgiveness, repentance, and justice. Its goal is to transform broken relationships and systems so that they better reflect God‘s original intention for all creation to flourish. (Source: Becoming Brave: Finding the Courage to Pursue Racial Justice Now, Brenda Salter McNeil, Brazos Press, 2020, 23) 

Redemptive Justice: Justice which has its ends in reconciliation, peace, and flourishing for all parties. The "redemption" is not the spiritual redemption which only Christ could achieve on the Cross, but it does take Christ's sacrifice as its model of self-giving love of neighbor. This understanding of justice differs from the view which says that justice is the overthrowing of all powers or the leveling of all positions. Rather, it acknowledges that power can be used for good or evil. Just as the Roman authorities used their powers to crucify Christ, but Christ used His power to heal, teach, lead, [reconcile, and reveal God’s glory]. Redemptive Justice challenges corrupt use of power and calls all people to use the power God has given them stewardship over for good. (Source: And Campaign

StereotypeA form of generalization rooted in blanket beliefs and false assumptions, a product of processes of categorization that can result in a prejudiced attitude, uncritical judgment, and intentional or unintentional discrimination. Stereotypes are typically negative, based on little information that does not recognize individual differences within groups or personal agency. (Source: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Glossary, University of Washington College of the Environment

Tokenism: [An individual’s or group’s] presence without meaningful participation [or agency]. For example, a superficial invitation for the participation of members of a certain socially oppressed group, who are expected to speak for the whole group without giving them a real opportunity to speak for [themselves or to influence the culture of the organization/event]. (Source: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Glossary, University of Washington College of the Environment

Whiteness: The term White, referring to people, was created by Virginia slave owners and colonial rules in the 17th century. It replaced terms like “Christian” and “Englishman” to distinguish European colonists from Africans and Indigenous peoples. European colonial powers established “Whiteness” as a legal concept after Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, during which indentured servants of European and African descent united against the colonial elite. The legal distinction of White separated the servant class on the basis of skin color and continental origin. The creation of “Whiteness” meant giving privileges to some, while denying them to others, based on the justification of biological and social inferiority.   Whiteness itself refers to the specific dimensions of racism that serve to elevate White people over People of Color. This definition counters the dominant representation of racism in mainstream education as isolated in discrete behaviors that some individuals may or may not demonstrate, and goes beyond naming specific privileges. 

[People who are White] are theorized to be actively shaped, affected, defined, and elevated through their Racialization and the individual and collective consciousness formed within it. Whiteness is thus conceptualized as a constellation of processes and practices rather than as a discrete entity (i.e., skin color alone). Whiteness is dynamic, relational, and operating at all times and on myriad levels. These processes and practices include basic rights, values, beliefs, perspectives and experiences purported to be commonly shared by all but which are actually only consistently afforded to White people. (Source: Racial Equity Tools Glossary, Racial Equity Tools)

White Privilege: Refers to the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices bestowed on people solely because they are White. Generally White people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it. The accumulated and interrelated advantages and disadvantages of White privilege are reflected in racial/ethnic inequities like health, income and wealth, and other outcomes in part because of different access to opportunities and resources. These differences are maintained in part by denying that these advantages and disadvantages exist at the structural, institutional, cultural, interpersonal and individual levels and by refusing to redress them or eliminate the systems, policies, practices, cultural norms and other behaviors and assumptions that maintain them. 

    • Structural White Privilege: A system of White domination that creates and maintains belief systems that make current racial advantages and disadvantages seem normal. The system includes powerful incentives for maintaining White privilege and its consequences, and powerful negative consequences for trying to interrupt White privilege or reduce its consequences in meaningful ways. The system includes internal and external manifestations at the individual, interpersonal, cultural and institutional levels.  
    • Interpersonal White Privilege: Behavior between people that consciously or unconsciously reflects White superiority or entitlement.  
    • Cultural White Privilege: A set of dominant cultural assumptions about what is good, normal or appropriate that reflects Western European White world views and dismisses or demonizes other world views.  
    • Institutional White Privilege: Policies, practices and behaviors of institutions - such as schools, banks, non-profits or the Supreme Court - that have the effect of maintaining or increasing accumulated advantages for those groups currently defined as White, and maintaining or increasing disadvantages for those racial or ethnic groups not defined as White. It is also the ability of institutions to survive and thrive even when their policies, practices and behaviors maintain, expand or fail to redress accumulated disadvantages and/or inequitable outcomes for People of Color. (Source: Racial Equity Tools Glossary, Racial Equity Tools) 

White SupremacyThe systemic evil that denies and distorts the Image of God inherent in all human beings based upon the heretical belief that White aesthetics, values, and cultural norms bear the fullest representation of the imago Dei. White supremacy thus maintains that White people are superior to all other peoples, and it orders creation, identities, and social structures in ways that support this distortion and denial. (Source: White Lies: Nine Ways to Expose and Resist the Racial Systems That Divide Us, Daniel Hill, Zondervan, 2020) 

Work of DiversityAn action, suggests there is something we need to do collectively to create the environment, practices, strategies, and infrastructure to steward diversity well for the purpose of human flourishing. When we talk about the Work of Diversity, we are addressing those areas of human difference where historical barriers or dividing walls have been created. We ground the work in the gospel of Jesus Chris, pursuing diversity as an aspect of our calling to be a reconciled community. (Source: Diversity 101 Workshop, SPU, 2018; Our Diversity Commitment, SPU Office of Inclusive Excellence)  

Unless otherwise noted, all definitions are quoted directly from the listed sources.