Office of Cultural Fluency, Equity, and Inclusion Glossary of Terms

Conversations about the definitions of diversity, equity, an inclusion are broad and continue to evolve.

The Office of Cultural Fluency, Equity and Inclusion Glossary of Terms is intended to provide a shared sense of understanding and a common vocabulary to avoid misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

The Glossary of Terms is not exhaustive but provides a basic framework for persistent application to the policies and procedures and use of language for the college.

Glossary of Terms

  • 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.). An ally acknowledges oppression and actively commits to reducing their own complicity, investing in strengthening their own knowledge and awareness of oppression.
  • Ableism:  The practices or dominant attitudes by a society that devalue or limit the potential for people with disabilities.  Ableism is the act of giving inferior value or worth to people who have different types of disabilities (physical, emotional, developmental, or psychiatric.)
  • Accessibility: Making a facility usable by people with physical disabilities.  Examples of accessibility include self-opening doors, elevators for multiple levels, raised lettering on signs and entry ramps.
  • ADA: ADA is an abbreviation for the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The ADA is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities.
  • ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (sometimes referred to as ADD or Attention Deficit Disorder) means that a person has difficulty with attention span, activity levels, and impulsive actions.
  • ADOS: Americans Descendants of Slavery.  ADOS is a group that seeks to reclaim and restore the critical national character of the African American identity and experience in the United States.
  • AFAB/AMAB: Assigned Female/Male at Birth, refers to intersex people born with ambiguous genitals.  It’s also used by trans and non-binary people.
  • Affinity Groups: Affinity groups are a collection of individuals with similar interests or goals.  Affinity Groups promote inclusion, diversity, and other efforts that benefit employees and students from underrepresented groups.
  • Accountability: Refers to ways individuals and communities hold themselves to their goals and actions, while acknowledging the values and groups to which they are responsible.
  • Alaska Native: A term for indigenous people of Alaska.
  • African American: Refers to people in the United States who have ethnic origins to Africa.
  • Anglo or Anglo-Saxton: Means to be related to the descendants of Germanic people who reigned in Britain until the Norman conquest in 1066.  Anglo often refers to white English-speaking persons of European descent in England or North American, not of Hispanic or French origin.
  • Anti-Black: Refers to the marginalization of Black People and the unethical disregard for anti-Black institutions and policies.
  • Antiracism: Antiracism means to actively oppose racism by advocating for political, economic, and social change.
  • Arab: Refers to people who have ethnic roots in the following Arabic-speaking lands: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
  • ASD: Autism Spectrum Disorder.  ASD mean that a person has neurological differences because of atypical brain connections affective their development.  These differences might lead to unusual development, challenges, or special abilities.  ASD is used synonymously with Autism Spectrum Condition (ASC).
  • Asian-American: Asian-American is a term that means to have origins in Asia or the Indian subcontinent.  Asian-American includes people who live in the United States and indicate their race as: Asian, Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese or other Asian.
  • Assimilation: The concept of an individual, family, or group that gives up certain aspects of their culture to adapt to the beliefs, language, patterns, and behaviors of a new host cuntry.
  • Belonging:  Belonging is a term used to define the experience of being accepted and included by those around you. Belonging means to have a sense of social connection and identification with others.
  • Bias: A form of prejudice that results from our need to quickly classify individuals into categories.
  • Bicultural: Is a term that refers to people who possess the values, beliefs, languages, and behaviors of two distinct ethnic or racial groups.
  • 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. As with any other identity term, it is up to individuals to use this term as an identifier.
  • Biracial: A term that refers to mixed race. Biracial is used to describe a person who identities as being of two races, or whose parents are from two different race groups.
  • Bisexual: A term for individuals who are attracted to people of two genders.
  • Black: Black means to be related to people who have ethnic origins in Africa, or not of white European descent.  Black is often used interchangeably with African American an the United States.
  • Black-American: Black-American is a term used by Black people born in the United States who do not identify with having ethnic roots in Africa or other nations.
  • Black Lives Matter: Black Lives Matter is a movement that addresses systemic racism and violence against African Americans and other groups with ties to Black culture.
  • Caucuses: Caucuses are groups that provide spaces for people to work within their own racial or ethnic groups.
  • Chicanx: Refers to a person related to Mexican Americans or their culture.  Chicanx is a gender-neutral term used in the place of Chicano or Chicana.
  • Cisgender: A term for people whose gender identity, expression or behavior aligns with those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth.
  • Code-Switching: Code-switching means when a person changes the way they express themselves culturally and linguistically based on different parts of their identity and how they are represented in the group they’re with.
  • Color Blind: The belief that everyone should be treated “equally” without respect to societal, economic, historical, racial, or other difference. No differences are seen or acknowledged; everyone is the same.
  • Color Brave:  Color Brave is when a person has conversations about race that can help people better understand each other’s perspectives and experiences to improve inclusiveness in future generations.
  • Communities of Color: Communities of Color is used in the United States to describe groups of people who are not identified as White, with emphasis on common experiences of racism.
  • Critical Race Theory: A theory based on how historical laws and social structures impact present-day racial inequality. “A conceptual framework that considers the impact of historical laws and social structures on the present-day perpetuation of racial inequality.”
  • Culture: Culture is defined as a social system of customs that are developed by a group of people to ensure its survival and adaptation.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • DEI: D&I stands for “diversity and inclusion” and is often a catch-all for diversity initiatives.
  • Disability: Physical or mental impairment that affects a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.
  • Diversity: Socially, it refers to the wide range of identities. It broadly includes race, ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, veteran status, physical appearance, etc. It also involves different ideas, perspectives, and values.
  • 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.
  • Dominant Culture: A term that refers to the cultural beliefs, values, and traditions that are based on those of a dominant society. Practices in a Dominant Culture practices are considered “normal” and “right.”
  • EDI: EDI Is an acronym that stands for Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion.
  • EEO: EEO stands for Equal Employment Opportunity. EEO is part of the United States Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits discrimination in any aspect of employment based on an individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
  • 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. The principle of equity acknowledges that there are historically underserved and underrepresented populations and that fairness regarding these unbalanced conditions is necessary to provide equal opportunities to all groups.
  • ESL: ESL is an acronym for English as a Second Language. ESL refers to individuals who do not speak English as their first language but may still be proficient in speaking English.
  • Ethnicity: Ethnicity, or Ethnic Group, is a way to divide people into smaller social groups based on characteristics including cultural heritage, values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interests, and ancestral geographical base.
  • Exclusion: Exclusion means leaving someone out based on their differences. These differences can be related to race, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, class, or other social groups.
  • First Nations: First Nations is a term used to describe indigenous people from Canada who are not Inuit or Métis. Many First Nations people prefer to define or identify themselves by their specific tribal affiliations.
  • Gay: Gay is an umbrella term used to refer to people who experience a same-sex or same-gender attraction. Gay is also an identity term used to describe a male-identified person who is attracted to other male-identified people in a romantic, sexual, and/or emotional sense.
  • 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.
  • Gender Non-conforming: An individual whose gender expression is different from societal expectations related to gender.
  • Harassment: The use of comments or actions that can be perceived as offensive, embarrassing, humiliating, demeaning and unwelcome.
  • Heterosexism: A term used to describe the belief that heterosexuality is superior or “normal” compared to other forms of sexuality or sexual orientation.
  • Heterosexual: a term used to identify a female-identified person who is attracted to a male-identified person, or a male-identified person who is attracted to a female-identified person.
  • Homosexual: this term was originally used to diagnose people with a mental illness, and has been used so much by people opposed to LGBTQ+ communities that it has a negative connotation
  • Implicit Bias: Negative associations expressed automatically that people unknowingly hold and that 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 ad welcoming climate embraces and respects differences.
  • Indigenous People: A term used to identify ethnic groups who are the earliest known inhabitants of an area, also known as First People in some regions.
  • 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.
  • Latino: A term used to describe people who are from or descended from people from Latin America.
  • Latinx: Latinx is a gender-neutral term used to replace Latino or Latina when referring to a person of Latin-American descent.
  • Lesbian: A term that refers to a female-identified person who is attracted emotionally, physically, or sexually to other female-identified people.
  • LGBTQIA: An inclusive term for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual.
  • Mexican American: refers to the group of Americans of full or partial Mexican descent in the United States. 
  • 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.
  • Multicultural: Pertaining to more than one culture.
  • Multicultural Competency: A process of embracing diversity and learning about people from other cultural backgrounds. The key element to becoming more culturally competent is respect for the ways that others live in and organize the world and an openness to learn from them.
  • Native American: a broad term that refers to people of North and South America but is generally used to describe the indigenous people from the United States.
  • 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.
  • Pacific Islander: Pacific Islander, or Pasifika, is a term that refers to the indigenous inhabitants of the Pacific Islands, specifically people with origins whose origins from the following sub-regions of Oceania Polynesia, Melanesia, and Micronesia.
  • Patriarchy: Actions and beliefs that prioritizes masculinity. Patriarchy is practiced systemically in the ways and methods through which power is distributed in society (jobs and positions of power given to men in government, policy, criminal justice, etc.) while also influencing how we interact with one another interpersonally (gender expectations, sexual dynamics, space-taking, etc.).
  • People of Color: A collective term for men and women of Asian, African, Latinx and Native American backgrounds, as opposed to the collective “White”.
  • Power:  Access to privileges such as information/knowledge, connections, experience and expertise resources and decision-making that enhance a person’s chances of getting what they need to live a comfortable, safe, productive, and profitable life. (2) Power is control of, and access to, those institutions sanctioned by the state. (3) Power is the ability to define reality and convince other people that it is their definition. (Dr. Wade Nobles) (4) Power is ownership and control of the major resources of the state; and the capacity to make and enforce decisions based on this ownership and control; and power is the capacity of a group of people to decide what they want and to act in an organized way to get it.  (5) Power (in terms of an individual), power is the capacity to act. Power is a relational term.  It can only be understood as a relationship between human beings in a specific historical, economic, and social setting.  It must be exercised to be visible.
  • Preferred Name: A term referring to a name that someone uses instead of their legal name. “Affirming name” is becoming more accepted.
  • Prejudice: A preconceived judgement or preference, especially one that interferes with impartial judgment and can be rooted in stereotypes, that denies the right of individual members of certain groups to be recognized.
  • Privilege: Exclusive access or access to material and immaterial resources based on the membership to a dominant social group.
  • Queer: An umbrella term that can refer to anyone who transgresses society’s view of gender or sexuality. The definitional indeterminacy of the word Queer, its elasticity, is one of its characteristics: “A zone of possibilities.”
  • 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.
  • Racism: the oppression of people of color based on a socially constructed racial hierarchy that gives privilege to white people.
  • Safe Space: Refers to an environment in which everyone feels comfortable expressing themselves and participating fully, without fear of attack, ridicule, or denial of experience.
  • Sexual Orientation: An individual’s enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction to another person. Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same. Transgender people may be straight, lesbian, gay or bisexual.
  • 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. Social justice involves social actors who have a sense of their own agency as well as a sense of social responsibility toward and with others.
  • 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. Stereotypes are typically negative, based on little information and does not recognize individualism and personal agency.
  • Structural inequality:  Systemic disadvantage(s) of one social group compared to other groups, rooted and perpetuated through discriminatory practices (conscious or unconscious) that are reinforced through institutions, ideologies, representations, policies/laws, and practices. When this kind of inequality is related to racial/ethnic discrimination, it is referred to as systemic or structural 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. Sometimes is used to refer to systemic racism.
  • Tokenism: Performative presence without meaningful participation. 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 this person a real opportunity to speak for her/himself.
  • 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.

The terms contained in this glossary have been reproduced from the following resources:

  1. Anti-Violence Project. Glossary. University of Victoria.
  2. Colors of Resistance. Definitions for the Revolution.
  3. Cram, R. H. (2002). Teaching for diversity and social justice: A sourcebook.
  4. Equity and Inclusion. Glossary. UC Davis.
  5. Potapchuk, M., Leiderman, S., et al. (2009). Glossary. Center for Assessment and Policy Development.
  6. Center for Diversity & Inclusion. Glossary of Bias Terms. Washington University in St. Louis.
  7. Ontario Human Rights Commission. Glossary of human rights terms.

CFLC DL 4/25/22