Glossary

For the purpose of this guide, we are using the following definitions for each term:

Agency

The ability to feel empowered to take control of your own choices and actions, and advocate for yourself. Race can have a strong impact on a person’s agency.

Bias

The belief that some people, races, ideas, etc., are valued more than others; a prejudice for or against something.

Biracial

A person who self-identifies as having parents of two different races. Some individuals use the terms “biracial,” “multiracial,” and “mixed race” interchangeably.

Code Switching (regarding race)

When a person of color consciously or unconsciously changes their speech, behaviors, or other traits in order to conform to / fit in with Eurocentric society. Read NPR’s “Five Reasons Why People Code-Switch.”

Collective Responsibility (education)

Teachers, administrators, families, and members of the community work together systemically to ensure higher quality instruction in all classrooms and better results for all students.

Colorblindness (racial)

The idealistic notion that the solution to racial inequity is simply to treat people as equals, without regard to race, culture, or ethnicity. At best, this ideology naively ignores the complexities of systemic racism, whiteness, and the effects of centuries of racism and inequity. At worst, it is a form of racism and privilege. White people do not experience the disadvantage of racism and therefore can ignore racism, deny the negative experiences of people of color, and reject their cultural heritage and perspectives. Read “Colorblind Ideology is a Form of Racism.”

Colorism

Prejudice and discrimination against individuals based on the darkness or lightness of their skin tone. This prejudice and discrimination can come from within or outside of the racial group. See “What’s Colorism?” from Teaching Tolerance.

Competing Victimization

Tactics used to remove responsibility for behaviors that are centered around white privilege.

Equity

Equity is learning and working to understand people’s life experiences and how various structural and institutional practices have created barriers to all people living in a just, fair society. Equity prioritizes and focuses on the just and fair distribution of resources and access to eliminate barriers, so a person’s full humanity can be realized and recognized. Equity is not the same as equality. Equality is treating everyone the same and attempts to promote fairness. Things can only be fair if everyone begins at the same starting point.

Eurocentric

Focusing on European culture and/or history to the exclusion of a wider view of the world; implicitly regarding European culture as the gold / default standard which American society should adhere to. One example is American classrooms, which teach European history, but rarely African history outside of the slave trade.

Institutionalized/Systemic Racism

A systemic mistreatment that occurs when established laws, customs and practices create inequities solely due to an individual's race.

Integration

More than just the act of desegregation, integration involves leveling barriers, creating equal opportunities regardless of race, and developing a culture that values diverse people and traditions, rather than merely allowing a racially marginalized group into the mainstream white culture.

Internalized Oppression

A person who is victim to racism over a period of time who begins to believe that they are inferior and the problem. Eventually they will internalize these negative thoughts and exemplify the lies of inferiority and inadequacy. When they believe this, they have internalized the oppression. Read “Yeah, But They’re White” from Teaching Tolerance.

Multiracial

A person who self identifies as being a part of multiple racial groups. How a multiracial person self identifies may differ from how society or other racial groups perceive them. See “Multiracial in America” from the Pew Research Center.

Race

Race is a social construct based on perceptions of a person’s skin color, hair texture and other physical characteristics. In the words of historian Nell Irvin Painter, “race is an idea, not a fact.” Race is different from a person’s nationality (e.g. Italian, Irish) and their ethnicity (e.g. Jewish, Latinx).

Racial Identity

A person’s identification with a particular race that shares common characteristics with that person. Multiracial individuals identify as being a part of multiple racial groups.

Racism

A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. A “racist” is a person who perpetuates these beliefs.

White Privilege

Rights, immunities or social advantages afforded to those who are or are perceived to be racially white. White privilege is different than economic privilege. Read “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh.

White Supremacy (as it relates to race and power)

A belief that the white race is inherently superior to other races and that white people should have power over people of other races.

Whiteness (culture)

Whiteness is a social construct based on White cultural norms (habits, practices and ways of being). These norms are valued and privileged as the standard that all individuals and institutions are expected to embody. Whiteness as a “standard” is embedded in institutions and structures and is largely based on Eurocentric norms. Read “I Sometimes Don’t Want to Be White Either” on Huffington Post / Read “Whiteness and White Identity Development” from Culture and Youth Studies.