Educational Resources

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice Vocabulary

Term Definition

The discrimination in favor of able-bodied people. “At its heart, ableism is rooted in the assumption that disabled people require ‘fixing’ and defines people by their disability. Like racism and sexism, ableism classifies entire groups of people as ‘less than,’ and includes harmful stereotypes, misconceptions, and generalizations of people with disabilities.” 


Prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of a person's age.


A positive or negative inclination toward a person, group, or community; can lead to stereotyping. Bias can be conscious or unconscious and impact how we interact with others. 


Climate-related factors internal to and within the control of individual colleges and universities, such as history and legacy of inclusion or exclusion, compositional or structural diversity, psychological dimensions, behavioral dimensions, and diversity leadership.


The shared customs, arts, and social institutions of particular people or other social groups.

Cultural Competence The ability to effectively deliver education or services that meet the social, cultural, and linguistic needs of those being educated or served.
Cultural Intelligence (CQ) Is a capability to work effectively across national, ethnic, and organizational cultures. Evidence-based strategies exist to help individuals and organizations enhance their (CQ) skills.
Discrimination The unjust or prejudicial treatment of various categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex.
Gender Identity/Expression A person's perception of having a gender, which may or may not correspond with their sex at birth.
Harassment A form of employment discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. It is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetics.
Institutional racism Racial inequity within institutions and systems of power, such as places of employment, government agencies, and social services. It can take the form of unfair policies and practices, discriminatory treatment, and inequitable opportunities and outcomes.
Interpersonal racism How our private beliefs about race become public when we interact with others. When we act upon our prejudices or unconscious bias—whether intentionally, visibly, verbally, or not—we engage in interpersonal racism. Interpersonal racism also can be willful and overt, taking the form of bigotry, hate speech, or racial violence.
Intersectionality Coined by scholar Kimberle Crenshaw, as “the complex, cumulative way in which the effects of multiple forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, or intersect especially in the experiences of marginalized individuals or groups.”
LGBTQIA2S+ An acronym that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, Intersex, Asexual or Agender, Two-Spirit. These terms are not synonymous, and the plus indicates there are many more sexuality and gender identities not included in this list.
Microaggressions Manifestations of prejudice and hatred that are brief and/or subtle but great in the power or magnitude of their consequences.

The presence of, or support for the presence of, several distinct cultural or ethnic groups within a society.


A person identifying with two or more races as their primary identity.

Person of Color A person who does not identify as White/Caucasian.
Race A socially constructed system of categorizing humans based on observable physical features (phenotypes) such as skin color and ancestry. There is no scientific basis for or discernible distinction between racial categories. The ideology of race has become embedded in our identities, institutions, and culture, and is used as a basis for discrimination and domination. The concept of racism is widely thought of as simply personal prejudice, but in fact, it is a complex system of racial hierarchies and inequities.
Racial justice

The systematic fair treatment of people of all races that results in equitable opportunities and outcomes for everyone. All people can achieve their full potential in life, regardless of race, ethnicity, or the community in which they live. Racial justice—or racial equity—goes beyond “anti-racism.” It is not just about what we’re against, but also what we are for. A “racial justice” framework can move us from a reactive posture to a more powerful, proactive, and even preventive approach.

Racial microaggressions Brief and commonplace verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults to the target person or group. These hostilities add up and are described as racial weathering and can have significant effects on the mental and physical health and well-being of individuals from marginalized groups.
Sexism Is prejudice or discrimination, especially against women or girls, and today, against all genders.
Systematic equity A complex combination of interrelated elements consciously designed to create, support, and sustain social justice. It is a robust system and dynamic process that reinforces and replicates equitable ideas, power, resources, strategies, conditions, habits, and outcomes.

Leaders to learn from and follow

Diversity & Inclusion Resources

List of References