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Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Glossary With Essential Terms

Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Glossary With Essential Terms

The conversation around diversity and inclusion is broad and ever-changing. Due to this, there is a need for common vocabulary to avoid any misunderstandings or potential miscommunication. The overall purpose of this glossary is to foster a dialogue around diversity, equity, and inclusion. By no means is this glossary exhaustive; the point of this glossary is to provide a reference point and a framework around the conversation of diversity and inclusion.

DEI Glossary:

  • 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: discrimination against persons with mental and/or physical disabilities; social structures that favor able-bodied individuals. (The National Multicultural Institute) 
  • Acculturation:the process of learning and incorporating the language, values, beliefs, and behaviors that makes up a distinct culture. This concept is not to be confused with assimilation, where an individual or group may give up certain aspects of its culture in order to adapt to that of the prevailing culture. (The National Multicultural Institute) 
  • Affirmative Action: proactive policies and procedures for remedying the effect of past discrimination and ensuring the implementation of equal employment and educational opportunities, for recruiting, hiring, training and promoting women, minorities, people with disabilities and veterans in compliance with the federal requirements enforced by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). (Society for Human Resources Management) 
  • Bias: A form of prejudice that results from our need to quickly classify individuals into categories.
  • BIPOC: An acronym for Black, Indigenous and People of Color. The term has increased in use and awareness during 2020 after the Black Lives Matter resurgence against racism and police brutality in the wake of the George Floyd shooting. BIPOC is meant to emphasize the particular hardships faced by Black and Indigenous people in the US and Canada and is also meant to acknowledge that not all people of color face the same levels of injustice. Bisexuality – romantic and/or sexual attraction to people of more than one sex and/or gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree. (Ochs) 
  • Bullying: intimidating, exclusionary, threatening or hostile behavior against an individual. (Sierra Club Employee Handbook) 
  • Bystander:A person who is present at an event or incident but does not take part. Similar to an onlooker, passerby, nonparticipant, observer, spectator. 
  • Cisgender: a gender identity where an individual’s self-perception of their gender aligns with their perceived sex. (The National Multicultural Institute) 
  • Classism:  biased attitudes and beliefs that result in, and help to justify, unfair treatment of individuals or groups because of their socioeconomic grouping. Classism can also be expressed as public policies and institutional practices that prevent people from breaking out of poverty rather than ensuring equal economic, social, and educational opportunity. (The National Multicultural Institute) 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 and welcoming climate embraces and respects differences.
  • 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.
  • Invisible Disability (Hidden Disability): an umbrella term that captures a whole spectrum of hidden disabilities or challenges that are primarily neurological in nature. Invisible disability, or hidden disability, are defined as disabilities that are not immediately apparent. 
  • 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.
  • 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”.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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 Centering:  putting your feelings as a White person above the Black and POC causes you’re supposed to be helping. Layla F. Saad explains in her book, Me and White Supremacy, “White centering is the centering of White people, white values, white norms and white feelings over everything and everyone else.” White centering can manifest as anything ranging from tone policing and white fragility to white exceptionalism and outright violence. White Privilege – refers to the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices bestowed on people solely because they are White. White people who experience such privilege may or may not be conscious of it. (McIntosh) 
  • 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.

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