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Laupus Library Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Accessibility Libguide

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Vocabulary/Glossary

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Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Accessibility Vocabulary & Glossary:

Below is a short guide to common terms used on the topics of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility. This list is NOT exhaustive and it's important to remember that words have different meanings depending on your lived experiences and backgrounds. We must acknowledge that language around diversity, equity, inclusion, & accessibility is constantly evolving. A term that may be acceptable today, may be understood as harmful, biased, or racist the next day. Good practice is to listen, learn, and change your own language as you gain new understandings. 


  • Ableism - Discrimination against persons with mental and/or physical disabilities and  practices or social structures that favor able-bodied individuals.

  • Accessibility - The extent to which a facility is readily approachable and usable by individuals with physical disabilities, such as self-opening doors, elevators for upper levels, or raised lettering on signs. Accessibility can also refer to the level of difficulty or ease of which it is for a person to get: healthcare, internet access, food, shelter, transportation, etc... 

  • Ally/Allyship - Someone who supports another person's group (often in terms of race, gender, age, identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, etc.) An ally acknowledges another person's oppression and actively works educate themselves on the issue, to reduce their own complicity, and spent invest time to strengthen their own knowledge and awareness of oppression. It's important to note that in many circumstances those who are oppressed feel deeply that a person cannot name themselves an ally. Allyship should only seen as a title "bestowed upon you", not a title you earn. See this story, or this one for reference. 

  • Anti-Racist/Anti-Racism - A person who openly opposes racism and promotes racial acceptance and equality. Ibram X. Kendi defines antiracism as "any idea that says the racial groups are equal... (and an antiracist) as someone who is expressing an antiracist idea or supporting an antiracist policy with their actions." As shared in this article

  • Bias - A form of prejudice that results from a need to quickly categorize people into groups or categories. 

  • Bigot - A person who is obstinately devoted to their own opinions and prejudices and is intolerant of other diverse social groups. 

  • BIPoC - This acronym stands for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. 

  • Cisgender/Cis - Cis is a Latin prefix meaning congruent. In the case of one’s gender if we identify with the gender that we were labeled as at birth, as well as how we were raised, we are cisgender and have cisgender privilege. Often we are referred to as a cisman or ciswoman.

  • Code-Switching - The conscious or unconscious act of having to "switch" between two different languages, dialects, intonations, body language, and even clothing choices depending on the specific situation of who one is speaking too or interacting with, or depending upon what is being discussed and the relationship and power and/or community dynamics between those involved. 

  • Color-Blind - The believe that everyone should be treated "equally" without respect to societal, economic, historical, racial or other differences. The believe that you "think" you see everyone as equals, without acknowledging the their differences. This is often stated by a person of privilege. 

  • Cultural Appropriation - The use of objects or elements of a non-dominant culture in a way that doesn't respect their original meaning, give credit to the sources, reinforces stereotypes, or contributes to oppression. 

  • 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 person to recognize that there are systems of oppression. 

  • Disability - Physical or mental impairment, the perception of a physical or mental impairment, or a history of having had a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

  • Diversity -  Psychological, physical, and social differences that occur among any and all individuals; including but not limited to race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, age, gender, sexual orientation, mental or physical ability, and learning styles. A diverse group, community, or organization is one in which a variety of social and cultural characteristics exist.

  • Discrimination - Unfavorable or unfair treatment towards an individual or group based on their race, ethnicity, color, national origin or ancestry, religion, socioeconomic status, education, sex, marital status, parental status, veteran’s status, political affiliation, language, age, gender, physical or mental abilities, sexual orientation or gender identity.

  • Emotional Tax - The combination of being on guard to protect against bias and feeling different from peers at work because of gender, race, and/or ethnicity and the associated effects on health, well-being, and ability to thrive at work. 

  • Equality - Evenly distributed access to resources and opportunity necessary for a safe and healthy life; uniform distribution of access to ensure fairness.

  • Equity - The guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented 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 needed to assist equality in the provision of effective opportunities to all groups.

  • Gender Identity - A personal conception of one’s own gender; often in relation to a gender opposition between masculinity and femininity. Gender expression is how people externally communicate or perform their gender identity to others.

  • Gender Non-conforming (or Gender Expansive) - Used to describe those who view their gender identity as one of many possible genders beyond strictly man or woman. These individuals have expanded notions of gender expression and identity beyond what is perceived as the expected gender norms for their society or context. Some gender expansive individuals identify as a man or a woman, some identify as neither, and other identify as a mix of both. In some Indigenous American cultures, there are individuals that identify as "Two Spirit", or a person who identifies as having both a male and a female essence or spirit. 

  • Harassment - Unwelcome, intimidating, exclusionary, threatening or hostile behavior against an individual that is based on a category protected by law.

  • Implicit Bias - Implicit biases are negative associations that people unknowingly hold. They are expressed automatically and without conscious awareness. Many studies have indicated that 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.

  • Inclusion - The act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate. An inclusive and welcoming climate embraces differences and offers respect in words and actions for all people.

  • Institutional Racism - Refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes for different racial groups. The institutional policies may never mention any racial group, but their effect is to create advantages for Whites and oppression and disadvantage for people from groups classified as People of Color.

  • Intersectionality - The ways in which oppressive institutions (the "ism's" - sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, xenophobia, classism, etc...) are interconnected and cannot be examined separately from one another. 

  • "Ism's" - A way of describing any attitude, action or institutional structure that subordinates (oppresses) a person or group because of their target group: race (racism), gender (sexism), economic status (classism), age (ageism), religion, sexual orientation, language, etc...

  • Latinx - a gender-neutral term or nonbinary alternative to Latina or Latino.

  • LGBTQIA+/ LGBT/ LGBTQ, etc... - Acronyms that stands for the following sexual identities and allies: Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, Intersex, Agender, and Asexual/Ally, and also including Pansexual and Polyamorous. 

  • Microaggressions - 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.

  • 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, religion, criminal justice, etc...) while also influencing how we interact with one another interpersonally (gender expectations, sexual dynamics, space-taking, etc...)

  • Privilege - Exclusive access or access to material and immaterial resources based on the membership to a dominant social group. The flip side of oppression, privilege constitutes advantages we receive consciously OR unconsciously, simply by virtue of one or more of our identities. These advantages are upheld by systems of power that advantage certain groups over others, and include ideologies such as racism, sexism, cissexism, heterosexism, elitism, classism, ableism, nativism, colonialism, etc... Privilege is the freedom from stress, anxiety, and/or fear of harm related to your identity. 

  • People of Color/ People of the Global Majority - A collective term for humans of Asian, African, Latinx, and Native American backgrounds, as opposed to the collective "White." 

  • Prejudice - A pre-judgement or unjustifiable (and usually negative) attitude of one type of individual or group towards another group and it's 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 unique characteristics. 

  • Pronouns (or Personal Gender Pronoun) - Formerly recognized as "preferred" pronoun, which incorrectly asserts that their use is optional. The pronoun or set of pronouns that an individual personally uses and would like others to use when referring to them. 

  • Queer - An umbrella term that can refer to anyone who transgresses society's view of "correct" gender or sexuality. A term used refer to people or culture of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. A term once perceived as derogatory is now embraced by some members of the LGBTQ+ community. 

  • Race - A social construct that artificially divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance, ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification, and the political needs of a society at a given period of time. 

  • Safe Space - A space in which an individual or group may remain free of blame, ridicule, persecution, and are in no danger of coming to mental or physical harm. 

  • Sexual Orientation - The direction of one's sexual attraction toward the same gender, opposite gender, or other genders. It is on a continuum and not necessarily of a set of absolute categories. The type of attraction one feels for others, often described based on the gender relationship between the person and the people they are sexually attracted too. 

  • Stereotype -  A positive or negative set of beliefs held by an individual about the characteristics of a certain group.  Often refer to widely held, oversimplified ideas we hold about a person based on their identities (real or perceived). Usually, stereotypes are based on assumptions, popular opinion, or misinformation, are generally negative, are sweeping and simple, and are often characterized by words such as "always" and "never." 

  • Structural Inequality - A condition where one category of people are attributed an unequal status in relation to other categories of poeple. This relationship is perpetuated and reinforced by a confluence of unequal relations in roles, functions, decisions, rights, and opportunities. 

  • Social Justice - 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 and the society as a whole. Social justice means equal rights and equitable opportunities for all. 

  • System of Oppression - Conscious and unconscious, non-random and organized harassment, discrimination, exploitation, prejudice and other forms of unequal treatment that impacts different groups. It is sometimes also referred too as systemic racism. 

  • Tokenism - Performative presence without meaning participation. For example; a superficial invitation for the participation of members of socially oppressed group, who are expected to speak for the whole group without giving the person a real opportunity to speak for themselves. 

  • White Supremacy - A power system structures 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. 


The definitions shared in this glossary have come from the following sources: