Activism: process of taking active steps towards social justice (see social justice)

Ally: a person who is a member of an advantaged social group who takes a stand against oppression, works to eliminate oppressive attitudes and beliefs in themselves and their communities, and works to interrogate and understand their privilege.

Anti-Blackness: a form of racism that specifically targets Black people. This racism is rooted in the US’ history of slavery and violence against Black people. Like all forms of racism, it often manifests in non-overt ways, such as when non-Black people of color put distance between themselves and Blackness.

Classism: The institutional, cultural, societal, and individual beliefs and practices that assign value to people based in their socio-economic class. Here, members of more privileged socio-economic classes are seen as having a greater value.

Coalition: building alliances based on common responsibilities and goals

Colorism: a practice of discrimination by which those with lighter skin are treated more favorably than those with darker skin; a system of oppression in society that values lighter skin and depreciates darker skin. This form of discrimination is rooted in anti-Blackness.  

Discrimination: When members of a more powerful group behave unjustly or cruelly to members of a less powerful group (Qkit: LGBTQ Residence Hall Programming Toolkit, UC Riverside)

Domestic violence: Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence, and emotional abuse. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically; however, the one constant component of domestic violence is one partner’s consistent efforts to maintain power and control over the other. (, National Coalition Against Domestic Violence)

Empowerment: to feel as though one has the ability to achieve their goals in the process of self-determination, or that one has the resources they need to determine their life on their own terms

Gender: Socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society deems masculine or feminine. This social construct is often linked to and confused with the biological construct of sex.

Grassroots: the quality of being organized by communities of people instead of by elite groups. Similar terms include “bottom-up” or “populist”

Heterosexism: the individual, societal, cultural, and institutional beliefs and practices that that favor heterosexuality and assume that heterosexuality is the only natural, normal, or acceptable sexual orientation. This creates an imbalance in power, which leads to systemic, institutional, pervasive, and routine mistreatment of LGBTQ+ individuals (UT Austin Gender and Sexuality Center)

Homophobia: the fear, hatred, and intolerance of people who identify or are perceived as LGBTQ+.

Identity: a person’s concept of themselves in relation to the world, and the various aspects that help compose this concept.

Internalized Oppression: the fear and self-hatred of one’s own identity or identity group. Internalized oppression is learned and is based in the acceptance of oppressive stereotypes, attitudes, and beliefs about one’s own identity group.

Intersectionality: A feminist sociological model and/or lens for critical analysis that focuses on the intersections of multiple, mutually-reinforcing systems of oppression, power, and privilege. Intersectional theorists look at how the individual experience is impacted by multiple axes of oppression and privilege. Variables include, but are not limited to: race, gender, ethnicity, religion ability, education, sexual orientation, sexuality, gender identity, gender expression, class, first language, citizenship, and age. (J. Beal 2011)

Islamophobia: the irrational fear or hatred of Islam, Muslims, Islamic traditions and practices, and, more broadly, those who appear to be Muslim.

Model Minority: a term created by sociologist William Peterson to describe the Japanese community, who he saw as being able to overcome oppression (read: being interned in camps during WWII) because of their cultural values. This term has come to describe Asian Americans in general, when it really only describes East Asians and certain South Asian groups. The term largely does not apply to Southeast Asian, Pacific Islanders, or SWANA (South West Asian and North African) populations, who are systematically affected by discrimination and experience poorer standards of living. This phenomenon is related to colorism and its root, anti-Blackness. The model minority myth creates an understanding of Asian Americans as a monolith, or as a mass whose parts cannot be distinguished from each other. The model minority myth can be understood as a tool that white supremacy uses to pit people of color against each other in order to protect its status.

Oppression: The systemic 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 prejudice in a complex web of relationships and structures that saturate most aspects of life in our society.

  • Oppression denotes structural and material constraints that significantly shape a person’s life chances and sense of possibility.
  • Oppression also signifies a hierarchical relationship in which dominant or privileged groups benefit, often in unconscious ways, from the disempowerment of subordinated or targeted groups.
  • Oppression resides not only in external social institutions and norms but also within the human psyche as well.
  • Eradicating oppression ultimately requires struggle against all its forms, and that building coalitions among diverse people offers the most promising strategies for challenging oppression systematically. (Adams, Bell, and Griffin, editors. Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook. New York: Routledge.)

Privilege: A group of unearned cultural, legal, social, and institutional rights extended to a group based on their social group membership. Individuals with privilege are considered the normative group, leaving those without access to this privilege invisible, unnatural, deviant, or just plain wrong. Most of the time, these privileges are automatic and most individuals in the privileged group are unaware of them. Some people who can “pass” as members of the privileged group might have access to some levels of privilege (J. Beal 2009).

Queer: a term for individuals whose gender identity/expression and/or sexual orientation does not conform to societal norms. This reclaimed term is increasingly being used as an inclusive umbrella term for the LGBTQIA+ community.

Racism: oppression against individuals or groups based on their actual or perceived racial identity. This oppression is often distinguished as “prejudice plus power.”

Religious Oppression: oppression against individuals or groups based on their religious beliefs and practices.

Sexism: a system of oppression that privileges men, subordinates others, and devalues practices associated with non cisgendered males.

Sexual Orientation: a person’s sexual and emotional attractions, not necessarily dependent on behavior. Terms associated with sexual orientation include: gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, heterosexual, and more!

Social Justice: a process and a goal. A commitment to a socially just world and the committed actions to make that world a reality. Or, “The goal of social justice is full and equal participation of all groups in a society that is mutually shaped to meet their needs. Social justice includes 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, their society, and the broader world in which we live.” (Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice)

Solidarity: See coalition.

White Privilege: The concrete benefits of access to resources and social rewards and the power to share the norms and values of society that white people receive, tacitly or explicitly, by virtue of their position in a racist society.

Xenophobia: the fear and hatred of that which is perceived to be foreign or strange.

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