A Beginner’s Guide for Practicing Diversity: Diversity Glossary

Inclusive language and diversity terminology can make the difference in helping underrepresented students feel welcome. Here are some diversity and inclusion keywords and phrases you might find useful to share in your school community.

Ally: a person from a dominant social group who can support people they know from underrepresented groups by actively working against and identifying prejudice and discrimination

Accomplice: a person from a dominant social group who regularly takes action to fight against prejudice and discrimination, not only when they witness it

Bystander: a person who witnesses prejudice or discrimination against a stranger from an underrepresented group; bystanders have the opportunity to take action

Cisgender: a term for those whose gender matches their sex assigned at birth

Classism: “differential treatment based on social class or perceived social class” (Class Action) 

Code-switching: “the practice of shifting the languages you use or the way you express yourself in your conversations”; people often code-switch to reflect the speech of those around them (NPR)

Collusion: “when people act to perpetuate oppression or prevent others from working to eliminate oppression,” e.g. “able-bodied people who object to strategies for making buildings accessible because of the expense” (Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook/1997)

Culturally relevant teaching: a pedagogical approach that “focuses on the academic and personal success of students as individuals and as a collective by ensuring students engage in academically rigorous curriculum and learning, that they more fully understand and feel affirmed in their identities and experiences and, that they are equipped and empowered to identify and dismantle structural inequities—positioning them to transform society” (Teach for America)

Families and caring adults: an inclusive term that can replace the gender binary term “moms and dads”

Gender binary: the idea that gender falls into two distinct and separate categories, typically male and female

Gender expansive: “an umbrella term used for individuals that broaden their own culture’s commonly held definitions of gender, including expectations for its expression, identities, roles, and/or other perceived gender norms” (GenderSpectrum)

Hidden curriculum: “the unwritten, unofficial, and often unintended lessons, values, and perspectives that students learn in school … consists of the unspoken or implicit academic, social, and cultural messages” (Glossary of Education Reform)

Implicit bias: “negative associations that people unknowingly hold,” often expressed unconsciously (State of the Science Implicit Bias Review/2013)

Intersectionality: “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination and disadvantage” (Oxford English Dictionary)

Macroaggression: overt aggression toward an underrepresented group

Marginalization: “the process of pushing a particular group or groups of people to the edge of society by not allowing them an active voice, identity, or place in it” (Syracuse University)

Microaggression: a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group (Derald Wing Sue/2010)

Nonbinary: “People whose gender is not male or female use many different terms to describe themselves, with nonbinary being one of the most common. Other terms include genderqueer, agender, bigender, and more. None of these terms mean exactly the same thing – but all speak to an experience of gender that is not simply male or female.” (TransEquality.org)

Social determinants: the “personal, social, economic, and environmental factors” that determine “unequal and avoidable differences in health status within and between communities” (Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion)

Sociocultural identity: “a perspective describing people’s behavior and mental processes as shaped in part by their social and/or cultural contact, including race, gender, and nationality” (Social Psychology by Catherine A. Sanderson/2010)

Socioeconomic identity/status: “the social standing or class of an individual or group. It is often measured as a combination of education, income, and occupation.” (American Psychological Association)

Soft bigotry of low expectations: a phrase used by President George W. Bush and coined by speechwriter Michael Gerson referring to the lower expectations White teachers have of Black students and other students of color

Stereotype threat: “the risk of confirming negative stereotypes about an individual’s racial, ethnic, gender, or cultural group” (Glossary of Education Reform)

Systems of oppression: “the systemic and institutional abuse of power by one group at the expense of others and the use of force to maintain this dynamic. An oppressive system is built around the ideology of superiority of some groups and inferiority of others.” (Kalamazoo College Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership)

Target: people from underrepresented groups who are subjected to prejudice and discrimination through micro or macroaggressions

Transgender: a term for those whose gender does not match their sex assigned at birth; does not denote sexual orientation

Queer: a reclaimed slur that denotes non-cisgender gender identities and non-hetero sexual orientations

White privilege: the subconscious, systematic advantages White people benefit from because of racism and bias; does not imply White people do not work for what they’ve achieved or do not struggle (Teaching Tolerance)

For more diversity terminology, visit uh.edu/cdi/diversity_education/resources/pdf/terms.pdf

Kelsey Landis is the editor-in-chief of DiversityIS. This article ran in the 2019 fall issue.