Access Network Glossary

This glossary of terms was adapted from UWT’s Diversity Resource Center and Ohio State University’s Multicultural Center by the 2021 Access Assembly team. It draws from a number of resources, including universities, community centers, and the wisdom and experience of various people engaged in social justice. 

This glossary lists terminology used in our conversations about diversity and equity. Because language is a reflection of the lived experience of those using it, many of these words and terms will continue to evolve as society evolves, as such, this is a living document. Even so, it is still useful to have a reference that provides basic working definitions to facilitate shared discussions. If you have strong opinions about anything in this glossary, share your feedback with any member of the Core Organizer Team.


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A
Ableism
Prejudicial thoughts and discriminatory actions based on differences in physical, mental, and/or emotional ability; usually that of able-bodied/minded persons against people with illnesses, disabilities, or less developed skills/talents.
Accessibility
The extent to which a facility or resource is readily approachable and usable by individuals with physical disabilities, such as self-opening doors, elevators for upper levels, captions, or raised lettering on signs. Also the term refers to being admitted to programs and activities and having the right to enter institutions, such as colleges and universities.
Adultism
Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions against young people, in favor of older person(s).
Advocate
Someone who speaks up for her/himself and members of his/her identity group; e.g., a woman who lobbies for equal pay for women.
Affinity Group
A group of people linked by a common interest or purpose.
Ageism
Prejudicial thoughts and discriminatory actions based on differences in age; usually evidenced as a societal predilection for younger persons over older persons.
Agency
The thoughts and actions taken by people that express their individual power in a social context. Agency denotes the power people have to think for themselves and act in ways that shape their experiences and life trajectories.
Ally
Someone who makes the commitment and effort to recognize their privilege (based on gender, class, race, sexual identity, etc.) and work in solidarity with oppressed groups in the struggle for justice. Allies understand that it is in their own interest to end all forms of oppression, even those from which they may benefit in concrete ways.
Androgynous
(1) A person whose biological sex is not readily apparent, whether intentionally or unintentionally. The individual may reflect an appearance that is both masculine and feminine, or who appears to be neither or both a boy and a girl. (2) A person whose identity is between the two traditional genders. (3) A person who rejects gender roles entirely.
Anti-Black Racism
Prejudice, attitudes, beliefs, stereotyping or discrimination that is directed at people of African descent and is rooted in their unique history and experience of enslavement and colonization. Anti-Black racism is deeply embedded in institutions, policies and practices, to the point that it becomes a part of our systems. See also: Racism.
Anti-Racist
The practice of identifying, challenging, and changing the values, structures and behaviors that perpetuate systemic racism.
Anti‐Semitism
The fear or hatred of Jews as an ethnic, religious, or racial group.
Asexual
Not having sexual feelings toward others; not experiencing sexual desire or attraction.
Assimilation
The process by which one group takes on the cultural and other traits of a larger group; usually refers to the forced acculturation of a marginalized group by the dominant or white group.
Audism
The notion that one is superior based on one’s ability to hear (or to behave in the manner of one who hears) or that life without hearing is futile; an attitude which results in a negative stigma toward anyone who does not hear.
B
Bias
Prejudice; an inclination or preference, especially one that interferes with impartial judgment. See also: Fundamental Attribution Error, Implicit Bias, Implicit Bias, In-group Bias (Favoritism)
Bigendered
A person who possesses and expresses a distinctly masculine persona as well as a distinctly feminine persona. This person is comfortable in, and enjoys, presenting in both gender roles. See also: Dual Gendered
Bigotry
Intolerance and prejudice that glorifies one’s own group and denigrates other groups and their members.
Biphobia
The fear or hatred of homosexuality (and other non‐heterosexual identities), and persons perceived to be bisexual.
Bisexual
A person who is attracted to people of their same and different genders.
Bi‐racial
A person who identifies as being of two races or who’s biological parents are of two different racial groups.
C
Categorization
The natural cognitive process of grouping and labeling people and other things based on their perceived similarities. Categorization becomes problematic when the groupings become oversimplified and rigid, thereby stereotyping people.
Cisgender
A term for individuals whose gender identity aligns with their sex assigned at birth. Sometimes abbreviated as cis.
Classism
Prejudicial thoughts and discriminatory actions based on difference in socio-economic status and income, usually referred to as class. Most particularly refers to the hierarchical striation of people by class.
Coalition
A collection of different people or groups, working toward a common goal.
Code switching
The practice of changing one’s language, speaking style, or dialect to better fit one’s environment.
Colonialism
The invasion, dispossession and subjugation of a people that results in long-term institutionalized inequality in which the colonizer benefits at the expense of the colonized.
See also: Colonizing
Colonizing
The invasion, dispossession and subjugation of a people that results in long-term institutionalized inequality in which the colonizer benefits at the expense of the colonized.
See also: Colonialism
Color Blind
Ignoring systemic and cultural differences and believing 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.
Colorism
Prejudice or bias against persons on the basis of their skin color or complexion, often among persons of the same racial identification.
Critical Race Theory
The view that the law and legal institutions are inherently racist and that race itself, instead of being biologically grounded and natural, is a socially constructed concept that is used by white people to further their economic and political interests at the expense of people of color. According to critical race theory (CRT), racial inequality emerges from the social, economic, and legal differences that white people create between “races” to maintain elite white interests in labour markets and politics, giving rise to poverty and criminality in many minority communities. The CRT movement officially organized itself in 1989, at the first annual Workshop on Critical Race Theory, though its intellectual origins go back much further, to the 1960s and ’70s.
Cultural Appropriation
Theft of cultural elements for one’s own use, commodification, or profit—including symbols, art, language, customs—often without understanding, acknowledgement, or respect for its value in the original culture. Results from the assumption of a dominant culture’s right to take other cultural elements.
Cultural Racism
Cultural racism refers to representations, messages and stories conveying the idea that behaviors and values associated with the dominant societal group, generally identified as White, are automatically “better” or more “normal” than those associated with subordinate groups, generally other racially defined groups. See also: Racism.
Culture
A social system of meaning and custom that is developed by a group of people to assure its adaptation and survival. These groups are distinguished by a set of unspoken rules that shape values, beliefs, habits, patterns of thinking, behaviors and styles of communication.
D
Deaf culture
The set of social beliefs, behaviors, art, literary traditions, history, values, and shared institutions of communities that are influenced by deafness and which use sign languages as their main means of communication. When used as a cultural label, the word Deaf is written with a capital D. When used as a label for the audiological condition, it is written with a lowercase d.
Decolonization
The active resistance against colonial powers, and a shifting of power towards political, economic, educational, cultural, psychic independence and power that originate from a colonized nations’ own indigenous culture. This process occurs politically and also applies to personal and societal psychic, cultural, political, agricultural, and educational deconstruction of colonial oppression.
Diaspora
The dispersion of a group of people who live outside their homeland due to an historical event that caused them to flee or which forcibly removed them from their homelands into new regions: such as, Africans as a result of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Disability
A physical or mental condition that limits some of a person’s movements, senses or activities.
Discrimination
Actions stemming from conscious or unconscious prejudice, which favor and empower one group over others based on differences of race, gender, economic class, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion, language, age, national identity, and other categories.
Diversity
Diversity refers to all the ways in which people differ, and it encompasses all the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another. It is all-inclusive and recognizes everyone and every group as part of the diversity that should be valued. A broad definition includes: race, ethnicity, gender, age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, and physical appearance.
Domestic Partner
Refers to a member of an unmarried, cohabiting relationship.
Dominant culture
The cultural values, beliefs, practices, language and traditions that are assumed to be the most common, accepted, and influential within a given society.
Don’t yuck my yum
A principle of respecting others interests and passions even if you don’t share them yourself.
Dual Gendered
A person who possesses and expresses a distinctly masculine persona as well as a distinctly feminine persona. This person is comfortable in, and enjoys, presenting in both gender roles. See also: Bigendered
E
Equity
The condition that would be achieved if one’s identity no longer predicted, in a statistical sense, how one fares. When we use the term, we also include work to address root causes of inequities, not just their manifestation. This includes elimination of policies, practices, attitudes and cultural messages that reinforce inequities or fail to eliminate them.
Ethnicity
A socially constructed grouping of people who share a common cultural heritage derived from values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interests, history, geographical base, and ancestry. Examples include: Cape Verdean, Haitian, African American (Black); Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese (Asian); Cherokee, Mohawk, Navajo (Native American); Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican (Latino); Polish, Irish, and Swedish (White European).
F
First Nations People
Tribal people who identify as those who were the first people to live on the Western Hemisphere continent; also identified as Native Americans.
First-Generation College Student
A student whose parent(s) and/or legal guardian(s) have not attended college.
Fundamental Attribution Error
A common cognitive action in which one attributes his/her own success and positive actions to his/her own innate characteristics (“I’m a good person”) and failure to external influences (“I lost it in the sun”), while attributing the success of other people to external influences (“he had help, was lucky”) and failure to others’ innate characteristics (‘they’re bad people”). A “double standard.” See also: Bias
G
Gaslighting
A form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, hoping to make them question their own memory, perception, and sanity.
Gender
The socially constructed concepts of masculinity and femininity; as opposed to sex.
Gendered
Having a denotative or connotative association with being either (traditionally) masculine or feminine.
Genderqueer
Denoting or relating to a person who does not subscribe to conventional gender distinctions but identifies with neither, both, or a combination of male and female genders.
H
Hapa
A Hawaiian language term used to describe a person of mixed Asian or Pacific Islander racial or ethnic heritage.
Hate crime law
Legislation that designates a crime as being motivated by hate for the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person and assigns a greater penalty for conviction of such a crime.
Heterosexism
The presumption that everyone is, and should be, heterosexual.
Heterosexual
Attracted to members of the opposite sex.
Homophobia
The fear or hatred of homosexuality (and other non-heterosexual identities), and persons perceived to be gay, lesbian, bisexual and /or transgender.
Homosexual
Denotes a person who is attracted to members of the same sex. NOTE: The terms ‘gay’ or ‘lesbian’ are preferred because of the previous American Psychological Association definition of ‘homosexuality’ as a mental illness.
I
Identity
The ways in which an individual characterizes oneself, the affinities they have with other people, the ways they have learned to behave in stereotyped social settings, the things they value in oneself and in the world, and the norms that they recognize or accept governing everyday behavior.
Implicit Bias
Negative associations expressed automatically that people unknowingly hold; also known as unconscious or hidden bias. Implicit biases affect individuals’ attitudes and actions, thus creating real-world implications, even though individuals may not even be aware that those biases exist within themselves. See also: Bias
Imposter syndrome
A concept describing individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.” Despite external evidence of their competence, those exhibiting the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved.
Inclusivity
An intention or policy of including people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalized, such as on the grounds of gender, race, class, sexuality, disability, etc.
Indigeneity
The state of being from an indigenous population. Indigenous people are composed of the existing descendants of the peoples who inhabited the present territory of a country wholly or partially at the time when persons of a different culture or ethnic origin arrived there from other parts of the world; overcame them, by conquest, settlement, or other means; and reduced them to a non-dominant or colonial condition.
Individual Racism
Refers to the beliefs, attitudes, and actions of individuals who support or perpetuate racism. Individual racism can be deliberate, or the individual may act to perpetuate or support racism without knowing what he or she is doing: for example, telling a racist joke or believing in the inherent superiority of Whites over other groups. See also: Racism.
Institutional Racism
Institutional racism refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes for different racial groups but always benefitting the dominant group. See also: Racism.
Internalized Oppression
A process by which people come to accept and internalize the inaccurate myths and stereotypes they have been exposed to.
Interpersonal Racism
When private beliefs are put in interaction with others, racism resides in the interpersonal realm. See also: Racism.
Intersectionality
An approach largely advanced by women of color, arguing that classifications such as gender, race, class, and others cannot be examined in isolation from one another; they interact and intersect in individuals’ lives, in society, in social systems, and are mutually constitutive. For example, a Black woman in America does not experience gender inequalities in exactly the same way as a White woman, nor racial oppression identical to that experienced by a Black man. Each race and gender intersection produces a qualitatively distinct life.
Intersex
(1) A person who is biologically intermediate between male and female. (2) A person with both ovarian and testicular tissue. (3) A person with two ovaries or two testes, but ambiguous genitals.
In‐group Bias (favoritism)
The tendency for groups to “favor” themselves by rewarding group members economically, socially, psychologically, and emotionally in order to uplift one group over another. See also: Bias
Ism
A social phenomenon and psychological state where prejudice is accompanied by the power to systemically enact it.
J
K
L
LGBTIQQA
Acronym encompassing the diverse groups Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, Asexual.
Latinx/Latine
A person of Latin American origin or descent. Latinx and Latine are the gender-neutral alternatives to Latino, Latina, and Latin@.
Lesbian
A woman who is attracted to other women.
M
Marginalized
Excluded, ignored, or relegated to the outer edge of a group/society/community.
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.
Model Minority Stereotype
Refers to the belief that a minority ethnic, racial, or religious group achieves higher degrees of success than the dominant group. This stereotype is used to obscure forms of oppression faced by people belonging to those groups. People in dominant groups sometimes draw on the myth of the model minority oppressing other marginalized groups.
Multicultural Competency
A process of learning about and becoming allies with people from other cultural backgrounds, thereby broadening our own understanding and ability to positively interact with diverse people and groups. 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.
Multiracial/multiethnic
An individual that comes from more than one race or ethnicity.
N
National Origin
The political state from which an individual hails; may or may not be the same as the person’s current location or citizenship.
Neurotypical
Neurotypical people are those individuals who do not have a diagnosis of autism or any other intellectual or developmental difference. A “neurotypical” person is an individual who thinks, perceives, and behaves in ways that are considered to be “normal” by the general population.
Non-Binary
Describes someone whose gender identity isn’t exclusively male or female.
O
Omnisexuality
A term referring to the potential for sexual attractions or romantic love toward people of all gender identities and biological sexes. The concept of pansexuality deliberately rejects the gender binary, and derives its origin from the transgender movement. See also: pansexual, polysexuality
Oppression
 The use of power to disenfranchise and marginalize groups of people, usually people of color, for the benefit of another, usually white people, in order to dominate the culture and society. It may also be defined as the use of institutional power and privilege for domination.
Othering
To alienate, separate oneself from, or to exclude a person or group of people based on perceived or highlighted differences.
P
Pansexual
A term referring to the potential for sexual attractions or romantic love toward people of all gender identities and biological sexes. The concept of pansexuality deliberately rejects the gender binary, and derives its origin from the transgender movement. See also: omnisexuality, polysexuality
People of Color
A collective term for men and women of Asian, Pacific Islander, African, Latin and Native American backgrounds; as opposed to the collective “White” for those of European ancestry.
Polyamory
The practice of having multiple open, honest love relationships.
Polysexuality
A term referring to the potential for sexual attractions or romantic love toward people of all gender identities and biological sexes. The concept of pansexuality deliberately rejects the gender binary, and derives its origin from the transgender movement. See also: omnisexuality, pansexual
Power
Power is unequally distributed globally and in U.S. society; some individuals or groups wield greater power than others, thereby allowing them greater access to and control over resources. Wealth, Whiteness, citizenship, patriarchy, heterosexism, and education are a few key social mechanisms through which power operates.
Prejudice
A pre-judgment or unjustifiable, and usually negative, attitude of one type of individual or groups toward another group and its members. Such negative attitudes are typically based on unsupported generalizations (or stereotypes) that deny the right of individual members of certain groups to be recognized and treated as individuals with individual characteristics.
Privilege
Unearned social power accorded by the formal and informal institutions of society to ALL members of a dominant group (e.g. White privilege, male privilege, etc.). Privilege is usually invisible to those who have it because they are taught not to see it, but nevertheless it puts them at an advantage over those who do not have it.
Q
Queer
An umbrella term for gender and sexual minorities. The definitional indeterminacy of the word Queer, its elasticity, is one of its constituent characteristics: “A zone of possibilities.”
Questioning
A term used to refer to an individual who is uncertain of their sexual orientation or identity.
R
Race
A socially constructed category for groups of people who share certain inherited physical characteristics, such as skin color, facial features, and stature.
Racial Battle Fatigue
The result of constant physiological, psychological, cultural and emotional coping with racial microaggressions in racially hostile and unsupportive environments.
Racial Justice
The proactive reinforcement of policies, practices, attitudes and actions that produce equitable power, access, opportunities, treatment, impacts and outcomes for all.
Racism
Individual, cultural, institutional and systemic ways by which differential consequences are created for groups historically or currently defined as being advantaged, and groups historically or currently defined as disadvantaged or non-White (African, Asian, Latinx, Native American, etc.). Racism may also be said to be prejudice plus power. The relationship and behavior of these interdependent elements has allowed racism to recreate itself generation after generation, such that systems that perpetuate racial inequity no longer need racist actors or to explicitly promote racial differences in opportunities, outcomes and consequences to maintain those differences. See also: Anti-Black Racism, Cultural Racism, Individual Racism, Interpersonal Racism, Institutional Racism, Structural Racism.
Rainbow Flag
The Rainbow Freedom Flag was designed in 1978 by Gilbert Baker to designate the great diversity of the LGBTIQ community. It has been recognized by the International Flag Makers Association as the official flag of the LGBTIQ civil rights movement.
Religion
A system of beliefs, usually spiritual in nature, and often in terms of a formal, organized institution.
S
Safe Space
Refers to an environment in which everyone feels comfortable in expressing themselves and participating fully, without fear of attack, ridicule or denial of experience.
Same Gender Loving
A term coined by activist Cleo Manago as a description for homosexuals, particularly in the African American community. SGL is an alternative to Eurocentric homosexual identities e.g. gay and lesbian.
Sex
The biological classification of male or female (based on genetic or physiological features); as opposed to gender.
Sexism
Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions based on difference in sex/gender; usually by men against women.
Sexual Orientation
An individual’s natural preference in sexual partners; predilection for homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality, or pansexuality.
Silencing
The conscious or unconscious processes by which the voice or participation of particular social identities is excluded or inhibited.
Social Justice
A broad term for action intended to create genuine equality, fairness and respect among peoples.
Stereotype
Blanket beliefs and expectations about members of certain groups that present an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment. They go beyond necessary and useful categorizations and generalizations in that they are typically negative, are based on little information, and are highly inflammatory.
Structural Racism
Structural racism encompasses the entire system of racism, diffused and infused in all aspects of society including its history, culture, politics, economics and entire social fabric. Structural racism is more difficult to locate in a particular institution because it involves the reinforcing effects of multiple institutions and cultural norms, past and present, continually reproducing old and producing new forms of racism. See also: 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.
T
Tolerance
An outdated term that alludes to the idea of acceptance and open-mindedness to different practices, attitudes, and cultures, but that does not mean agreement with the differences. For instance, an individual might say “I don’t mind if you’re Gay as long as I don’t have to see it.”
Tone Policing
An attempt to detract from the validity of a statement by attacking the tone in which it was presented rather than the message itself.
Transgender
A person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their sex assigned at birth
Transphobia
The fear or hatred of homosexuality (and other non‐heterosexual identities), and persons perceived to be transgender and/or transexual.
Two Spirit
A Native American term for individuals who identify both as male and female. In western cultures these individuals are identified as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgendered.
U
Undocumented
Refers to a person who has entered the U.S. legally and immigration status has since expired, entered the U.S. without inspection, and/or whose immigration application/petition is denied and continued to remain in the U.S.
Universal Design
The idea of producing environments that are inherently accessible to all people, regardless of ability.
V
Veteran Status
Whether or not an individual has served in a nation’s armed forces (or other uniformed service)
W
White Fragility
A state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable [for white people], triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.
White Supremacy
A historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations and peoples of color by White people and nations of the European continent, for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power and privilege.
Worldview
The perspective through which individuals view the world; comprised of their history, experiences, culture, family history, spiritual beliefs and other influences.
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Last Updated: May 14, 2024

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