Center for Diversity & Inclusion


Ableism: The intentional or unintentional discrimination or oppression of individuals with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior.

Accessibility: The quality of being possible to get into, use, make use of.

Acknowledgment: Recognition of the existence of something, such as another person’s point of view or opinion.

Ageism: A socially constructed way of thinking about older persons based on negative attitudes and stereotypes about aging and a tendency to structure society based on an assumption that everyone is young, thereby failing to respond appropriately to the real needs of older persons.

Ally: Someone who supports a group other than one’s own (in terms of multiple identities such as race, gender, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, etc.).

Antiracism: Any idea that suggests that racial groups are equals in all their apparent differences that there is nothing right or wrong with any racial group.

Bias: A form of prejudice that results from our need to quickly classify individuals into categories.

Bigot: A person who is obstinately devoted to their own opinions and prejudices and is intolerant towards other diverse social groups.

BIPoC: An acronym used to refer to black, Indigenous and people of color. It is based on the recognition of collective experiences of systemic racism.

Color Blind: The belief that everyone should be treated “equally” without respect to societal, economic, historical, racial or other differences. No differences are seen or acknowledged; everyone’s the same.

Cultural Appropriation: The non-consensual/misappropriate use 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 context of its original culture.

Cycle of liberation: A cyclical process that leads to some degree of liberation from oppression for those involved, regardless of their individual roles.

Cycle of socialization: A cyclical process that helps us understand the way in which we are socialized to play certain roles, how we are affected by issues of oppression, and how we help maintain an oppressive system based on power.

Decolonize: The active and intentional process of unlearning values, beliefs and conceptions that have caused physical, emotional or mental harm to people through colonization. It requires a recognition of systems of oppression.

Dehumanization: The process of depriving a person or group of positive human qualities, personality, or dignity.

DEI: Acronym for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Disability: Physical or mental impairment that affects a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

Discrimination: The unequal treatment of members of various groups, based on conscious or unconscious prejudice, which favors one group over others on differences of race, gender, economic class, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion, language, age, national identity, religion and other categories.

Diversity: Efforts to increase representation of different types of identities within communities (e.g., demographics, sexuality, religion, etc.).

Empathy: The ability to imagine what something might feel like for someone who experiences the world in a different way than you do. It involves showing sensitivity and responding to another’s thoughts, feelings, and experiences as though you were experiencing them yourself.

Ethnicity: A socially or politically constructed group based on cultural criteria, such as language, customs, and shared history.

Equity: The fair treatment, access, opportunity and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that prevent the full participation of some groups

Feminism: The belief that all genders have equal rights and opportunities.

Gender: Social constructed categories of masculinity/manhood and femininity and womanhood.

Gender Identity: Distinct from the term “sexual orientation,” refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female or something else. Since gender identity is internal, one’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others.

Harassment: The use of comments or actions that can be perceived as offensive, embarrassing, humiliating, demeaning and unwelcome.

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.

Inclusion: The act of creating an environment in which any individual or group will be welcomed, respected, supported and valued as a fully participating member. An inclusive and welcoming climate embraces and respects differences.

Indigenous: Peoples in independent countries who are regarded as indigenous on account of their descent from the populations which inhabited the country, or a geographical region to which the country belongs, at the time of conquest or colonization or the establishment of present state boundaries and who, irrespective of their legal status, retain some or all of their own social, economic, cultural and political institutions.

Individual Racism: Occurs between individuals. These are public expressions of racism, often involving slurs, biases, and hateful words or actions.

Institutional Racism: Institutional racism refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes and opportunities for different groups based on racial discrimination.

Intersectionality: A social construct that recognizes the fluid diversity of identities that a person can hold such as gender, race, class, religion, professional status, marital status, socioeconomic status, etc.

“Isms”: A way of describing any attitude, action or institutional structure that oppresses a person or group because of their target group. For example, race (racism), gender (sexism), economic status (classism), older age (ageism), religion (e.g., anti-Semitism), sexual orientation (heterosexism), language/immigrant status (xenophobism), etc.

Microaggression: The verbal, nonverbal and environmental slights, snubs, insults or actions, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory or negative messages to target persons based solely upon discriminatory belief systems.

Micro-inequity: Apparently small events which are often ephemeral and hard-to-prove, events which are covert, often unintentional, frequently unrecognized by the perpetrator, which occur wherever people are perceived to be different- Mary Rowe, MIT.

Multicultural Competency: A process of embracing diversity and learning about people from other cultural backgrounds. .

Neurodiversity: The concept that there is great diversity in how people’s brains are wired and work, and that neurological differences should be valued in the same way we value any other human variation.

Oppression: The systemic and pervasive nature of social inequality woven throughout social institutions as well as embedded within individual consciousness. Oppression fuses institutional and systemic discrimination, personal bias, bigotry and social prejudice in a complex web of relationships and structures.

Patriarchy: Actions and beliefs that prioritizes masculinity.

People of Color: A collective term for men and women of Asian, African, Latinx and Native American backgrounds, as opposed to the collective “White”.

Positionality: Social identities in relation to power, which influences the way we understand the world and our interactions with others.

Prejudice: ‘Pre-judgement’ Personal bias for or against anything, all humans have bias and prejudice.

Privilege: Systemic favoring, enriching, valuing, validating and including of certain social identities over others. Individuals cannot ‘opt out’ of systems of privilege; rather these systems are inherent to the society in which we live.

Race: A social construct that artificially divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance (particularly race), ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification, and the social, economic and political needs of a society at a given period of time.

Racial and ethnic identity: An individual’s awareness and experience of being a member of a racial and/or ethnic group; the racial and ethnic categories that an individual chooses to describe themselves based on such factors as biological heritage, physical appearance, cultural affiliation, early socialization, and personal experience. 

Racism: An umbrella term for individual, institutional, and systemic forms of racial prejudice. Any idea that suggests one racial group is inferior or superior to another racial group in any way.

Religious identity: A person’s experience and connection to being a member of or affiliated with a religious group. 

Sex: An identity category typically assigned to someone at birth based upon their genitalia.

Sexual Orientation: A concept referring to sexual desire and preference for emotional and sexual relationships with others based on their sex/gender; often implies that sexual object choice is an essential in-born characteristic, so may be problematic to some. 

Social Justice: Social justice constitutes a form of activism, based on principles of equity and inclusion that encompasses a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure

Stereotype: A form of generalization rooted in blanket beliefs and false assumptions, a product of processes of categorization that can result in a prejudiced attitude, critical judgment and intentional or unintentional discrimination. 

Social identities: How we identify ourselves in relation to others based on what we have in common

Structural inequality: The overarching system of racial bias across institutions and society that sustains inequality.

Systemic racism: The overarching system of racial bias across institutions and society that sustains racism.

System of Oppression: Conscious and unconscious, non-random and organized harassment, discrimination, exploitation, discrimination, prejudice and other forms of unequal treatment that impact different groups. 

Targeted/marginalized identities: Social identities who, for whatever reason, are denied involvement in mainstream economic, political, cultural, and social activities.

Transparency: The act of informing others about what is occurring within a relationship or organizational structure.

Tokenism: Performative presence without meaningful participation.

White Supremacy: A power system structured and maintained by persons who classify themselves as White, whether consciously or subconsciously determined; and who feel superior to those of other racial/ethnic identities.

Whiteness: Whiteness, as a concept, refers to the way in which white racial identity is normalized and considered the default in American society.