Conversations around race can be confusing and daunting for many people. We believe that when people take the time to educate themselves about the issues and become familiar with terms and language used, dialogue can be much more productive. Because of that, we have created this definitions page as a resource for anyone ready to enter into the conversastion on race and/or for anyone confused by any language we use on this site. It is possible you have heard or even used these same terms but with different meanings than what we have below. We are not here to argue with you. Rather, these definitons represent what we mean when we use these terms. Have more questions? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The consistent and ongoing commitment to dismantling racism--in structures and systems, in institutions and policy, in others, and in yourself.
As sociologist Beverly Tatum describes, "I sometimes visualize the ongoing cycle of racism as a moving walkway at the airport. Active racist behavior is equivalent to walking fast on the conveyor belt…Passive racist behavior is equivalent to standing still on the walkway. No overt effort is being made, but the conveyor belt moves the bystanders along to the same destination as those who are actively walking. Some of the bystanders may feel the motion of the conveyor belt, see the active racists ahead of them, and choose to turn around…But unless they are walking actively in the opposite direction at a speed faster than the conveyor belt – unless they are actively antiracist – they will find themselves carried along with the others."
Black, Indigenous, People of Color
BIPOC is meant to unite all people of color in the work for liberation, while intentionally acknowledging that not all people of color (POC) face the same levels of injustice. By specifically naming Black and Indigenous people, we are recognizing that Black and Indigenous people face the worst consequences of systemic white supremacy, classism, and settler colonialism (SunriseMovement.org).
A term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw to describe the legal experiences of Black women in the justice system. According to Black feminist scholar Patricia Hill Collins, “As opposed to examining gender, sexuality, race, class, and nation as separate systems of oppression, the construct of intersectionality references how these systems mutually construct one another.”
An institution of higher education where 50% or more of the student body identifies as White. According to M. Christopher Brown II and T. Elon Dancy II, “the majority of these institutions may also be understood as historically white institutions.”
An ideology or belief set which claim not to "see" race or color. Colorblindness, often associated with the idea of being "post-racial," ultimately erases the particularity of racial and ethnic identites and experiences.
By claiming not to see race, colorblindness also ignores inequities and inequalities that result from racial discrimination. Colorblindness often implicitly assumes that race no longer matters, and may also claim that racism is no longer a significant issue, leading to the view that racism is isolated to a small population of overtly racist individuals.
Racial Justice is “the systematic fair treatment of people of all races...It is not just the absence of discrimination and inequities, but also the presence of deliberate systems and supports to achieve and sustain racial equity.” (definition from RacialEquityTools.org)
Racial justice becomes possible through the consistent and active reinforcement of antiracist policy and practice to address the cause(s) of inequity and remove systemic barriers in order to “produce equitable power, access, opportunities, treatment, impacts and outcomes for all” (RacialEquityTools.org).
RACISM = PREJUDICE + POWER.
Racism operates on multiple levels, including individual, interpersonal, and systemic (see graphic).
In the words of Black activist James Boggs, “Racism is systematized oppression of one race by another...The various forms of oppression within every sphere of social relations—economic exploitation, military subjugation, political subordination, cultural devaluation, psychological violation, sexual degradation, verbal abuse, etc.—together make up a whole of interacting and developing processes which operate so normally and naturally and are so much a part of the existing institutions of society that the individuals involved are barely conscious of their operation.”
A term coined by Robin DiAngelo to describe "a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, 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.”
Defined by Oxford Languages as “inherent advantages possessed by a white person on the basis of their race in a society characterized by racial inequality and injustice.”
White privilege can include things like: wide and varied representation of White people within media, government, and other positions of authority and power; access to generational wealth; the ability to avoid conversations about race if so desired; not being asked to speak for or represent one’s racial group; being considered “default” or “normal”; and/or not being barred from opportunities on the basis of race.
A violent ideology that values and protects the lives and cultural contributions of White people over the lives and cultural contributions of people of color. White supremacy can manifest in society in both overt/socially unacceptable ways and covert/socially acceptable ways (see graphic).
“White” refers to people who are racially White--often people of European descent and heritage. However, Whiteness refers to the dimensions of power and privilege attached to White identity, including White supremacy, White fragility, and White privilege.
Sociologists Cara Cancelmo and Jennifer C. Mueller understand Whiteness "as the result of the social and cultural processes, rooted in a global history of European colonialism, imperialism, and transatlantic slavery, and maintained today through various institutions, ideologies, and everyday social practices.