AGE – Refers to how long a person has been alive. In the United States, certain ages (and age groups) are associated with different roles, levels of power and influence, and rights. Significant ages include 18 (ability to vote, “adulthood”), 21 (ability to legally drink alcohol), and 62 (current age to receive Social Security, “retire”). 

ALAANA – Acronym for African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, Native American. (Also see “Race”) 

ANTI-OPPRESSION ORGANIZATION – An organization that actively recognizes and mitigates the oppressive effects of the white dominant culture and power dynamics, striving to equalize that power imbalance internally and for the communities with which they work. 

ASSIMILATE – The phenomenon that occurs when people belonging to the non-dominant group understand dominant cultural norms and take on their characteristics either by choice or by force. Many people of color are asked to “check their identities at the door” in professional settings to make their white peers comfortable. By doing so, many people of color find it easier to get promotions and professional opportunities, as well as to gain access to informal networks typically accessible only to whites. 

BIAS – a conscious or unconscious preference that inhibits a person’s capacity for impartial judgment. 

BIPOC – Acronym for Black, Indigenous, People of Color. Also is used as Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. (Also see “Race”) 

CRITICAL MASS – The representation of people of color within an organization or at a certain level of leadership. This figure is dependent on, and reflective of, the specific demographics of the communities in which an organization serves or operates. 

CRITICAL RACE THEORY – A theory that explicitly states and recognizes that racism is ingrained in the fabric and system of American society. Even without overt racists present, institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. Critical Race Theory examines existing power structures and identifies these structures as based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuate the marginalization of people of color. Overall, Critical Race Theory examines what the legal and social landscape would look like today if people of color were the decision-makers. 

CULTURAL CONSCIOUSNESS – Cultural consciousness can be defined as the process of developing awareness of culture in the self, which can result in expanding understandings of culture and developing deeper cultural knowledge about other individuals and contexts. Culture in this process can be understood as the set of shared attitudes, values, beliefs, behavioral standards, goals, and practices that characterize an institution, organization, or group. As noted by Geneva Gay, we may not be consciously aware of it, but our thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors are determined by culture that in turn influences our teaching and learning practices. (

CULTURAL EQUITY – Cultural equity embodies the values, policies, and practices that ensure that all people—including but not limited to those who have been historically, and continue to be, underrepresented based on race/ethnicity, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, socioeconomic status, geography, citizenship status, or religion—are represented in the development of arts policy; the support of artists; the nurturing of accessible, thriving venues for expression; and the fair distribution of programmatic, financial, and informational resources. While intersectionality is real and crucial to providing entry for people at various stages of readiness, we acknowledge that racial inequity is central to most societal issues, particularly when it comes to the distribution of resources. 

DECOLONIZE (MIND) – We exist within societal structures rooted in historical facts, one of which is colonialism: the policy and practice of acquiring control of land (frequently occupied by people of color), occupying it, and codifying power structures to elevate one race and culture above all others. The international practice of colonization informs the dominant culture that characterizes American society today, driving ideologies and subconscious biases rooted in centuries of racism, classism, and white privilege. In order to dismantle white supremacy and the white dominant culture norms it influences, one must actively “decolonize” the mind, recognizing and counteracting the thoughts, preferences, practices, and behaviors that are deeply rooted vestiges of colonization. 

DISABILITY STATUS – Also “Communities with Disabilities". Disability is a term used to define factors that limit significant life activities or experiences considered to be typical among individuals who do not experience a disability. Such restrictions may be physical or mental and may be permanent or temporary. Some examples of disability: vision/hearing impairment, mobility impairment, mental disorder, autism, etc. Helpful resource: Guidelines for Writing About People With Disabilities

DIVERSITY – Practice or quality of including or involving people of different backgrounds ensuring representation of all community groups and racial identities. These differences can be defined as race, ethnicity, age, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, mental or physical abilities, nationality, language, religious beliefs, socioeconomic background and status, learning styles, and education, among other areas of identity. (Also see “Intersectionality”) 

DOMINANT CULTURE – Dominant culture in society refers to the established language, religion, values, rituals, and social customs on which the society was built. It has the most power, is widespread, and influential within a social entity, such as an organization, in which multiple cultures are present. An organization’s dominant culture is heavily influenced by the leadership and management standards and preferences of those at the top of the hierarchy. In this paper, dominant culture refers specifically to the American context in which organizational culture is predominantly defined by white men and white women in positional power. See also “White Dominant Culture.” 

EMPLOYEE RESOURCE GROUP – Voluntary, employee-led groups that foster a diverse, inclusive workplace aligned with organizational mission, values, goals, business practices, and objectives. Often, these groups provide support to staff who formally or informally lead race equity work in some capacity within an organization. 

ETHNICITY – Refers to a group of people of the same nationality or land of origin who share a distinct and/or common culture. Typically understood as something we acquire, or self-ascribe, based on factors like where we live or the culture we share with others. 

EQUITY – The principle of equity acknowledges that are populations that have been and are systemically underrepresented and underserved and that fairness regarding these unbalanced conditions is needed to assist equality in the provision of effective opportunities to all groups. Equity is the guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement in the systems, protocols, practices, and policies that allow everyone to be treated fairly within an organization, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups.  

GENDER IDENTITY – Gender identity refers to socially constructed roles, behavior, activities, and attributes that a particular society considers appropriate for men and women. Gender identity is also an individual’s self-conception, as distinguished from biological sex, which is based solely on physical characteristics assigned at birth. In addition to man/male, woman/female, and non-binary (among other options), there is also the potential qualifier of “transgender,” meaning one’s gender identity does not match one’s assigned biological sex, and “cisgender,” which means one’s gender identity does match one’s assigned biological sex. “Gender nonconforming” or “gender fluid” is another identifier, used to indicate that one doesn’t adhere to stereotypical understandings of gender expression or roles. 

HOUSEHOLD INCOME (HHI)/CLASS – Household income is the total annual revenue of everyone in one household unit. Class is a relative social ranking or category based on income, standing financial resources, education, status, and/or power. While household income is strictly about annual revenue, class categories are usually associated with levels of access to resources including money, contacts, and education. Some examples: $100,000+ HHI, middle class, upper class, $0-$18,000 HHI. 

INCLUSION – The act of creating environments in which any individual or group can feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate and bring their full, authentic selves to work. An inclusive and welcoming climate embraces differences and offers respect in the words and actions of all people. This can manifest in the intentional integration of diverse voices and perspectives within organizational conversations. Inclusion is closely tied to the culture of an organization. and a sense of belonging for all members of the organization.  Also see Diversity, Equity.

INTERSECTIONALITY – the connectivity of an individual’s various social identities that contributes to the specific type of systemic oppression, discrimination, and/or privilege they experience. These overlapping identities include race, gender, sexual orientation, and class, among others. 

INVESTMENT – Investment is the allocation of a resource (money, time, space) in the expectation that it will yield a future benefit. “Equitable investment” is the centering of cultural equity in investment strategies, in particular the recognition and restructuring of inequitable systems of consideration, allocation, distribution, and evaluation in terms of such investments. 

LEADERSHIP – Individuals who formally or informally influence a group of people to act towards a goal. Individuals may or may not be in positions of authority. 

LGBTQIA+ – Acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual. (Also see “Sexual orientation”)

MARGINALIZED – Relegated to an unimportant or powerless position within a society or group.

MICROAGGRESSION – 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.

POLITICAL AFFILIATION – Political affiliation is one’s association with a political party or faction and that party or faction’s ideals. It can be qualified within the party/faction, as in “moderate Democrat,” or “left-leaning Republican.” Some examples: Democrat, Republican, Green, Libertarian, with modifiers such as “conservative,” “liberal,” “moderate.” 

PRIVILEGE – Privilege operates on a personal, interpersonal, cultural, and institutional level and gives advantages, access, favors, and benefits to members of dominant groups at the expense of members of marginalized groups. Privilege is almost never an earned state; it is commonly invisible to/taken for granted by those who have it and is conferred based on those whose characteristics match the dominant groups whether they want those privileges or not, and regardless of their stated intent. 

PREDOMINANTLY WHITE INSTITUTION/ORGANIZATION – Institutions/organizations whose histories, policies, practices, and ideologies center on whiteness or the white majority. PWIs, by design, tend to implicitly and/or explicitly marginalize the identities, perspectives, and practices of people of color. (See “White Supremacy Culture”) 

RACE – The idea that the human species is divided into distinct groups based on inherited physical and behavioral differences. Genetic studies in the late 20th century refuted the existence of biogenetically distinct races, and scholars now argue that “races” are cultural interventions reflecting specific attitudes and beliefs that were imposed on different populations in the wake of western European conquests beginning in the 15th century. 

RACE EQUITY – The condition where one’s racial identity has no influence on how one fares in society. Race equity is one part of racial justice and must be addressed at the root causes and not just the manifestations. This includes the elimination of policies, practices, attitudes, and cultural messages that reinforce differential outcomes by race.

RACE EQUITY CULTURE – A culture focused on proactive counteraction of social and race inequities inside and outside of an organization.  

RACE EQUITY LENS – The process of paying disciplined attention to race and ethnicity while analyzing problems, looking for solutions, and defining success. A race equity lens critiques a “color blind” approach, arguing that color blindness perpetuates systems of disadvantage in that it prevents structural racism from being acknowledged. The application of a race equity lens helps to illuminate disparate outcomes, patterns of disadvantage, and root causes.

RACISM – A system of advantage and oppression based on race. A way of organizing society based on dominance and subordination based on race. Racism penetrates every aspect of personal, cultural, and institutional life. It includes prejudice against people of color, as well as exclusion, discrimination against, suspicion of, and fear and hate of people of color.  

RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION – A religion is an institutionalized or personal system of beliefs and practices related to the divine. Religious affiliation specifically refers to which system or institution one most aligns with and can include certain non/anti-religious answers including “atheist” (does not believe in the divine) and “agnostic” (does not have an opinion as to the nature of the divine). Some examples: Catholic, Protestant, Christian, Jewish, Muslim/Islamic, agnostic, atheist, Buddhist, spiritual. 

SEXUAL ORIENTATION – An individual’s physical and/or emotional attraction to another individual. A person’s sexual orientation is separate from that person’s gender identity. Some examples: straight, gay, bisexual, asexual, queer, same-sex attracted. 

SOCIAL JUSTICE – A concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society. This is measured by the explicit and tacit terms for the distribution of power, wealth, education, healthcare, and other opportunities for personal activity and social privileges.

STRUCTURAL RACISM – The arrangement of institutional, interpersonal, historical, and cultural dynamics in a way that consistently produces advantages for whites and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color. It illuminates that racism exists without the presence of individual actors because it is systemically embedded.  When the United States was founded, racist principles were codified in governance structures and policies. As a result, racism is embedded in institutions, structures, and social relations across American society. Today, structural racism is composed of intersecting, overlapping, and codependent racist institutions, policies, practices, ideas, and behaviors that give an unjust number of resources, rights, and power to white people while denying them to people of color. 

WHITE DOMINANT CULTURE – Defined by white men and white women with social and positional power, enacted both broadly in society and within the context of social entities such as organizations. See also “Dominant Culture” and “White Supremacy Culture.”

WHITE PRIVILEGE – The power and advantages benefiting perceived white people, derived from the historical oppression and exploitation of other non-white groups. 

WHITE SUPREMACY – The existence of racial power that denotes a system of structural or societal racism which privileges white people over others, regardless of the presence or the absence of racial hatred. White racial advantages occur at both a collective and an individual level, and both people of color and white people can perpetuate white dominant culture, resulting in the overall disenfranchisement of people of color in many aspects of society.

WHITE SUPREMACY CULTURE – Characteristics of white supremacy that manifest in organizational culture and are used as norms and standards without being pro-actively named or chosen by the full group. The characteristics are damaging to both people of color and white people in that they elevate the values, preferences, and experiences of one racial group above all others. Organizations that are led by people of color or have a majority of people of color can also demonstrate characteristics of white supremacy culture. Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun identified twelve characteristics of white supremacy culture in organizations: Perfectionism, Sense of Urgency, Defensiveness, Quantity of Quality, Worship of the Written Word, Paternalism, Power Hoarding, Fear of Open Conflict, Individualism, Progress is Bigger/More, Objectivity, and Right to Comfort.


Language Bank References