Appendix C: Glossary of Terms

We have included a Glossary of Terms that we frequently hear in our work around racism. We hope that these definitions will help to clarify words that are often used but that are not always defined. We encourage you to become familiar with these terms and definitions and to help educate others in your congregation on their importance and their usefulness in dismantling racism and promoting antiracist attitudes and behaviors. 

Anti-Oppression: 

The process of making one’s view of the world large enough to include all. Antiracism is a form of anti-oppression or making the connection among different people’s struggles against oppression. Anti-oppression means not just not accepting ‘norms,’ and ‘isms’ as stagnant and inevitable, but actively working to make the invisible visible, and challenging and dismantling the systems that hold them in place. 

An anti-oppression analysis acknowledges that all forms of oppression are linked and that the best way to organize against one form of oppression such as racism is to take into account that all oppressions are linked. When we practice antiracist actions we will become more aware of other forms of harm and ways we can confront and engage in systemic change. 

Antiracism:

Antiracism is an active state and one is antiracist when expressing antiracist ideas or actively supporting antiracist policies. Policies and those with power to implement and change policies should be the primary target of antiracist actions. People can (and do!) regularly support both racist ideas and antiracist ideas; sometimes in back-to-back sentences. This means that each moment presents us with a choice to act in antiracist ways and that our past choices and actions do not define our potential.

Bias:

Once we have learned about each other, stereotypes and prejudices may still resist change, even when evidence fails to support their assertions or points to the contrary. People can embrace anecdotes that reinforce their biases, but disregard experience that contradicts them. The statement "Some of my best friends are..." captures this tendency to allow some exceptions without changing our bias.

Bias is perpetuated by conformity with in-group attitudes and socialization by the culture at large. Mass media routinely takes advantage of stereotypes as shorthand to paint a mood, scene, or character of particular ethnic or racial groups. Elders, for example, are routinely portrayed as being frail and forgetful, while younger people are frequently shown as vibrant and able. Stereotypes can also be conveyed by omission in popular culture, as when the media present an all-white world. The result is unquestioned bias. 

Colonization:

Emma LaRocque has defined colonization as a “form of invasion, dispossession, and subjugation of a peoples…The result of such incursion is the dispossession of vast amounts of lands from the original inhabitants.” Colonization is often legalized after the fact. The long-term result of such massive dispossession is institutionalized inequality. The colonizer/colonized relationship is by nature an unequal one that benefits the colonizer at the expense of the colonized.

Colonization provides colonizers with political power and control, economic wealth through the exploitation of peoples and resources which have been transformed into commodities, and social power with the dominance of a colonizer’s cultural practices and beliefs as normative. Colonization is an ongoing process which continues to provide political/economic/social benefits to the colonizers. Settler colonialism is a specific example of a process by which colonists migrate with the express purposes of usurping indigenous sovereignty, expanding territorial occupation, and the forming of a new, dominant community rather than limiting their relationship to the economic extraction of resources and subjugation of indigenous peoples.

Culture:

The learned and shared values of interacting with people.

Cultural Generalization:

The tendency of a majority of people in a cultural group to hold certain values and beliefs, and to engage in certain patterns of behavior.

Cultural Stereotype:

The application of a generalization to every person in a cultural group; or, generalizing from only a few people in a group.

Denial:

A person in denial shows “disinterest in and/ or avoidance of cultural difference with little recognition of more complex cultural differences.” 

A denial mindset reflects more limited experience and capability for understanding and appropriately responding to cultural differences in values, beliefs, perceptions, emotional responses, and behaviors. Denial consists of a disinterest in other cultures and a more active avoidance of cultural differences. Individuals with a denial mindset often do not see differences in perceptions and behavior as “cultural.” A denial orientation is characteristic of individuals who have limited experience with other cultural groups and, therefore, tend to operate with broad stereotypes and generalizations about the cultural “other.” Those in denial may also maintain a distance from other cultural groups and express little interest in learning about the cultural values and practices of diverse communities. When denial is present in the workplace, cultural diversity oftentimes feels “ignored.” 

When we experience our own culture and race as normal or normative we are thinking and acting in an ethnocentric way that supports racism. This may happen when we lack relationships with or familiarity with racial groups other than our own or when we are disinterested in another's culture or race.

An example could be that different racial groups are expected to all fit into one national culture;  they must learn about our organization and how we do things, they speak our language, dress as we do. But these expectations are usually based on limited stereotypes of who our race and culture are. Denial of differences, denial of a clash of racial differences and a defense of the dominant racial group perpetuate an "us against them" way of thinking and behaving. 

Discrimination:

Behavior that treats people unequally, inequitably, or unfairly based on the group that they belong to.

Diversity:

Diversity is about representation. Diversity can be measured through numbers and tracked by nationality, for example through nationality, race, gender identity, sexual identity, age, education, economic status. In other words, we are a diverse group because, “You have been invited to the party!”

Equity:

Equity is about fairness and especially fairness in how procedures and processes are determined and enacted. Equity is about building power and authority through relationships and not domination. Equity involves how we distribute resources. Equity exists when disparities in the outcomes experienced by historically under-represented populations have been eliminated.

Equity means, “You can contribute to defining what is included in planning the party and you have the authority to influence and invite people to the party. You have power.”

Equity implies a greater sense of belonging. “You know that it’s your party too and you can contribute to planning it or you can skip it if you want to!” 

Inclusion:

The act of including or being included within a group or structure. Inclusion is about participation and is most often measured by actions and perceptions and is usually achieved when diverse groups of people are involved in decision making that impacts the practices and policies of an organization. In other words, “You are invited to plan the party and are an active participant!”

Minimization:

Highlights cultural commonality that can mask deeper recognition of cultural differences. Cultural differences are perceived in neutral terms—but differences are made sense of and responded to within one’s own culturally familiar categories.

Minimization can take one of two forms: (a) the highlighting of commonalities due to limited cultural self-understanding, which is more commonly experienced by dominant group members within a cultural community; or (b) the highlighting of commonalities as a strategy for navigating the values and practices largely determined by the dominant culture group, which is more often experienced by non-dominant group members within a larger cultural community. This latter strategy can have survival value for nondominant culture members and often takes the form of “go along to get along.”

We focus on some shared commonalities; for a dominant cultural or racial group, the focus is on what other racial groups have in common with my group. Your culture and race are valuable as long as it fits into how “we” live. In other words, “People are people. We can all just get along. But you should want to be like us.”

Here, we focus on eliminating stereotypes and discriminatory behavior at a personal level and promoting tolerance.  But the focus is surely not on valuing diversity or adapting ourselves to appreciating and respecting a non-majority racial or ethnic group’s culture or story.

Polarization:

Polarization is an evaluative mindset that views cultural differences from an “us versus them” perspective. Polarization can take two forms: Defense – sees cultural differences frequently as divisive and threatening to one’s own way of doing things. “My cultural practices are superior to other cultural practices.” Reversal – values and may idealize other cultural practices while denigrating one’s own culture group. Reversal may also support the “cause” of an oppressed group, but this is done with little knowledge of what the “cause” means to people from the oppressed community. “Other cultures are better than mine.”

Prejudice:

An opinion, attitude, or judgment about a person or a group that is either positive or negative. Prejudices are usually accompanied by ignorance, fear, or hatred. They are reinforced by powerful psychological processes that determine “in groups” and “out groups” and unfair or inequitable treatment of each group.

Privilege:

Privilege exists when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than anything they have done or failed to do. Privilege is a visible and at times invisible asset or unearned entitlements—something that people should all have. When an unearned entitlement is restricted to a particular group or specific persons it becomes an unearned advantage that can be passed down to the next generation.

For example, in 2013 when a group of human resource managers were asked, “Why do people in the workplace who identify with dominant or majority racial groups not engage issues of racism?” Their response was that people say they don't know racism exists in the first place. 

People fear bringing it up because they fear this will make it worse. The dominant group may also claim that they have no idea how their racial privilege actually oppresses others. Lack of awareness gives them a dominant racial or ethnic group a low tolerance to listen to the trouble someone else faces because silence is a natural human response. People also don’t respond to the unfairness of unearned racial privilege because people believe they don't have to. They are not responsible. 

Privilege serves to insulate a majority racial group from a minority or non-dominant group and nothing compels their attention until a violent outburst occurs such as a racist assault or racist shooting, or racial slurs spoken in a public space.

People in a majority group also may think racial injustice is a personal problem. They are convinced that individuals get what they deserve.

People also may want to hang onto their racial privilege. The Redskins football team is an excellent example. The United Methodist Church has called for an economic boycott of this team because its name references a historically documented racist stereotype. Finally, a patent court has taken the team’s privilege away to hold the only patent and the economic pressure coupled with public opinion has caused them to search for a new team name. 

People are also afraid of being blamed for the persistence of racism if they acknowledge that it exists. People fear rejection by their own racial or ethnic group if they express concern. Pressure from one’s own ethnic or racial group may increase with the competition across racial and ethnic groups because of a loss in jobs or economic insecurity. Maintaining silence to support the system works to maintain their group’s racial and ethnic privilege.

Race:

The concept of race is socially constructed, developed over centuries partially as a method of social control (McIntosh 2007, 349). Science has shown that race is not biological, but merely an ideology based upon superficial value judgments (Painter 2010, 2).

While race does not accurately represent the patterns of human biological diversity, an abundance of scientific research demonstrates that racism, prejudice against someone because of their race, and a belief in the inherent superiority and inferiority of different racial groups, affects our biology, health, and well-being. This means that race, while not a scientifically accurate biological concept, can have important biological consequences because of the effects of racism. The belief in races as a natural aspect of human biology and the institutional and structural inequities (racism) that have emerged in tandem with such beliefs in European colonial contexts are among the most damaging elements in human societies.

Racial Identity: 

Racial identity is a multifaceted construct that refers to (a) the qualitative meaning one ascribes to one’s own racial group, (b) meaning attributed to other racial groups, (c) sense of group identification with one’s own racial group, (d) salience of race in defining one’s self-concept, and (e) perspectives regarding race over time.

Racism:

Race is a construct, a social concept, an idea that helps us make sense of the world we observe. Race is not natural. Racial difference is based on the historical value we assign to groups' physical characteristics that are inferior or superior.

Racism further includes attitudes and behaviors that privilege certain racial or ethnic groups at the expense of others, resulting in an increased threat to their dignity, safety, health, quality of life, and wealth; racism promotes personal and group fear, bias, discrimination, suspicion, scapegoating, harassment, and deprivation resulting in suffering, harm and oppression; racism is built into systems of authority, power and policy, that determine where people live, work and worship and belong; and racism is the pattern of privilege and oppression that creates, perpetuates and legitimates those public patterns and civic systems.

  • Individual racism is a form of prejudice based on bias held by a particular person. 
  • Cultural racism includes the norms, values, narratives, and stories of a people that are affirmed or denied because of history as determined by a dominant racial group
  • Systemic racism is embedded in economic, political, social and cultural structures of a society. Racism is not about bad white people, just like sexism is not about bad men. 
  • Structural racism is a system of social structures that produces and reproduces cumulative, sustained and durable, race based inequalities. Racialized outcomes as a result of structural racism is not dependent on individuals. Focusing on individual instances of racism can have the effect of diverting our attention from the structural changes that are required to achieve racial justice and correct the harm done by structural racism. 

For additional information about race, see this article by the Association of American Physical Anthropologists: Statement on Race & Racism.

Redlining:

Redlining is the systematic denial of various services or goods by federal government agencies, local governments, or the private sector either directly or through the selective raising of prices. This is often manifested by placing strict criteria on specific services and goods that often disadvantage poor and minority communities. (Source: Wikipedia)

Stereotype:

A stereotype is an exaggerated belief, image, or distorted truth about a person or a group, a generalization that allows for little or no individual difference or social variation. Stereotypes are based on images in mass media, reputations and repetitions passed down by our parents, church, educators, peers, and other influential members of society. Stereotypes can be either negative or positive but they are limited and inaccurate. 

Whiteness:

Whiteness and white racialized identity refer to the way that white people, their customs, culture, and beliefs operate as the standard by which all other groups of people are compared. Whiteness is also at the core of understanding race in America. Whiteness and the normalization of white racial identity throughout America's history have created a culture where nonwhite persons are seen as inferior or abnormal. 

The term white refers most obviously to light skin, but also denotes those who historically have benefitted from light-skin privilege. Thus, both definitions of whiteness will be considered here when referring to white people. As opposed to the racialization assigned to people of color, whiteness can be defined by its hyper-visibility, which counterintuitively leads to invisibility.

(See, Defining Whiteness: Perspectives on Privilege

One central importance of whiteness as an analytical concept is that it identifies how the unmarked and normative position of whites is maintained by positing "race" as a category of difference.

White supremacy:

"The belief that white people constitute a superior race and should therefore dominate society, typically to the exclusion or detriment of other racial and ethnic groups, in particular, black or Jewish people." (Attribution: Oxford English Lexicon)