Diversity and Inclusion Glossary

No glossary on the vast subject of diversity and inclusion can be complete in this limited space. Regrettably, much terminology covering specific areas of exclusion has been omitted. For deeper coverage of terms, refer to the “References” list.

“Stereotyping and prejudice against individuals or groups because of their age. The term was coined in 1969 by gerontologist Robert N. Butler, M.D., founder, president and CEO of the International Longevity Center at Columbia University, to describe discrimination against seniors and patterned on sexism and racism. Dr. Butler defined ageism as a combination of three connected elements: prejudicial attitudes towards older people, old age and the aging process; discriminatory practices against older people; and institutional practices and policies that perpetuate stereotypes about older people” (Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism).

American Indian/Native American
Both terms (but not Indian or Indian American, which are used for people with ancestral ties to India), “are generally acceptable and can be used interchangeably, although individuals may have a preference. Native American gained traction in the 1960s for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Over time, Native American has been expanded to include all Native people of the continental United States and some in Alaska.” However, when referencing individuals, identifying a person by his or her tribal affiliation is preferred. (Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism)

“A prejudice against people of Jewish heritage. It has inspired the Holocaust, physical abuse, slander, economic and social discrimination, vandalism and other crimes. Religious anti-Semitism is based on the idea that all Jews are eternally and collectively responsible for killing Jesus (known as deicide). It has been formally renounced by most major churches, led by the Catholic Church. Although Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet, they do not make the anti-Semitic claim against Jews because they do not believe that Jesus was crucified. Economic and political anti-Semitism is rooted in widespread 19th- and 20th-century claims that Jews were engaged in a plot to rule the world” (Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism).

“Refers to a nation or people from an Arabic-speaking country. Not synonymous with Muslim. When referring to events in a specific country, name the country, rather than generalizing Arab. Arab is a noun for a person and it can be used as an adjective, as in Arab country. Do not imply…that Arab equals Muslim, holy war or terrorist. Note: Iran is not an Arab country. The majority of Iranian people are Persian and the language is Farsi.” See Muslim. (Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism)

A predisposition to see things or people in a certain way, negative or positive. While bias is often used as a synonym for stereotype, the differences are important. A bias refers to the useful human adaptation of classifying experience into categories. It is when a classification becomes judgmental, global, and resistant to change that it is referred to as a stereotype. However, a special case of bias in terms of diversity and inclusion is known as implicit bias. (Aguilar, 2006) (U.S. Justice Department Community Relations Service)

Campus climate 
“The current perceptions, attitudes, and expectations that define the institution and its members” (Hurtado, Milem, Clayton-Pedersen, & Allen, 1999).

“A term used to describe a disregard of racial characteristics or lack of influence by racial prejudice. The concept of colorblindness is often promoted by those who dismiss the importance of race in order to proclaim the end of racism. It presents challenges when discussing diversity, which requires being racially aware, and equity that is focused on fairness for people of all races” (Race Forward, 2015).

“Treatment of an individual or group based on their actual or perceived membership in a social category, usually used to describe unjust or prejudicial treatment on the grounds of race, age, sex, gender, ability, socioeconomic class, immigration status, national origin, or religion” (Race Forward, 2015).

“There are many kinds of diversity, based on race, gender, sexual orientation, class, age, country of origin, education, religion, geography, physical, or cognitive abilities. Valuing diversity means recognizing differences between people, acknowledging that these differences are a valued asset, and striving for diverse representation as a critical step towards equity” (Race Forward, 2015). Read Indiana University Southeast’s Diversity Statement.

Refers to “fairness and justice and focuses on outcomes that are most appropriate for a given group, recognizing different challenges, needs, and histories. It is distinct from diversity, which can simply mean variety (the presence of individuals with various identities). It is also not equality, or ‘same treatment,’ which doesn't take differing needs or disparate outcomes into account. Systemic equity involves a robust system and dynamic process consciously designed to create, support and sustain social justice” (Race Forward, 2015).

“A socially constructed grouping of people based on culture, tribe, language, national heritage, and/or religion. It is often used interchangeably with race and/or national origin, but should be instead considered as an overlapping, rather than identical, category” (Race Forward, 2015).

“An umbrella term referring to a person whose ethnic origin is in a Spanish-speaking country, as well as residents or citizens of the United States with Latin American ancestry, except for those from Brazil, which is not a Spanish-speaking country. Federal policy defines ‘Hispanic’ not as a race, but as an ethnicity; it notes that Hispanics can be of any race. The term Hispanic is more commonly used in the Eastern United States and is generally favored by those of Caribbean and South American ancestry or origin. According to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey of Hispanic adults, 50 percent of respondents said they had no preference for either term. But among those who did express a preference, ‘Hispanic’ was preferred over ‘Latino’ by a ratio of about two to one. The U.S. Census Bureau uses terms such as ‘Hispanic or Latino’ and ‘non-Hispanic or Latino’ in its survey questions on ethnicity and race.” See Latina/Latino. (Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism)

Implicit bias/unconscious bias
“Attitudes that unconsciously affect our decisions and actions. People often think of bias as intentional, i.e. someone wanted to say something racist. However, brain science has shown that people are often unaware of their bias, and the concept of implicit bias helps describe a lot of contemporary racist acts that may not be overt or intentional. Implicit bias is just as harmful, so it is important to talk about race explicitly and to take steps to address it. Institutions are composed of individuals whose biases are replicated, and then produce systemic inequities. It is possible to interrupt implicit bias by adding steps to decision-making processes that thoughtfully consider and address racial impacts” (Race Forward, 2015). Those wishing to pursue this phenomenon further may take an Implicit Association Test (IAT), administered free of charge by Harvard University. The IAT “measures attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling or unable to report. The IAT may be especially interesting if it shows that you have an implicit attitude that you did not know about” (Project Implicit). Take the test on Harvard's Project Implicit website.

“Being included within a group or structure. More than simply diversity and quantitative representation, inclusion involves authentic and empowered participation, with a true sense of belonging and full access to opportunities” (Race Forward, 2015).

Inclusive language
Terms used for people and their experiences that seek to eliminate stereotyping, treat people equally and respectfully, and include, rather than exclude, them (Aguilar, 2006). Many, but not all, uses of inclusive language are neologisms, based on the awareness that traditional terms embed historical biases and stereotypes in the structures of languages, cultures, and institutions. Examples of inclusive language are the substitution of “firefighter,” “first-year student,” and “upper-level student” for the gendered terms “fireman,” “freshman,” and “upperclassman.” However, using inclusive language goes beyond substituting one term for another. It also acknowledges the right of those experiencing discrimination to set their own terminology and the context for its use; emphasizes people over labels, such as referring to a person with a disability rather than a “disabled person”; and addresses unconscious biases that persist in writing styles, such as referring to males by their surname and females (or members of certain races) by first name; including honorifics for males, and excluding honorifics for females (or members of certain races); and inserting a race or ethnic label in crime reports when suspects are people are of color and victims are white. The struggle to overcome systemic bias embedded in language is ongoing, and not without controversy, as, for example, the increasing use of the singular “they” and “them” as gender-neutral terms, i.e. “Ask each student what they want for lunch” (Merriam-Webster) or as a pronoun used to refer to a person with a non-binary gender identity: “They is a fine writer.” The simple rule of thumb is that adopting inclusive language favors respect over tradition. The often heated arguments surrounding its use would seem to be made by those for whom “tradition” and “correctness” are codes for feelings of white fragility.

A term coined by Kimberlè Crenshaw in 1989, originally intended to address the limitations of both feminist and civil rights theory, and the law’s inability, to address the oppression and experiences of black women, due to a single-identity approach. In Crenshaw’s words: “the tendency to treat race and gender as mutually exclusive categories of experience and analysis” erases the experiences as well as remedies of black women. For example, when five black women sued General Motors under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, alleging the company had not hired black women “prior to 1964 and that all of the Black women hired after 1970 lost their jobs in a seniority-based layoff,” the suit was dismissed. The court rejected “the plaintiffs’ attempt to bring a suit not on behalf of Blacks or women, but specifically on behalf of Black women.” Crenshaw used the metaphor of the intersection to illustrate the limitations of single-issue approaches. “Discrimination, like traffic through an intersection, may flow in one direction, and it may flow in another. If an accident happens in an intersection, it can be caused by cars traveling from any number of directions and, sometimes, from all of them. Similarly, if a Black woman is harmed because she is in the intersection, her injury could result from sex discrimination or race discrimination.” The term has since been expanded to include and conceptualize people whose identities, as well as experiences of discrimination and oppression, stand in intersections of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, age, and others. (Crenshaw, 1989)

“Umbrella terms referring to residents or citizens of the United States with Latin American ancestry. Latina is the feminine form of Latino and means a woman or girl. Use Latina(s) for a woman or women; use Latino(s) for a man or men. Latino is principally used west of the Mississippi, where it has displaced Chicano and Mexican American.…Federal policy defines ‘Latino’ not as a race, but as an ethnicity; it notes that Latinos can be of any race. The U.S. Census Bureau uses terms such as ‘Hispanic or Latino’ and ‘non-Hispanic or Latino’ in its survey questions on ethnicity.” See Hispanic. (Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism)

Stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, and questioning (or queer–the “q” is used in both senses). You may also find LGBTQA, with the “a” standing for asexual, and other additions. For more information and additional definitions for terms such as cisgender, gender binary, and others, the LGBTQ Center at Wake Forest University has a good glossary at

“are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative…slights and insults to the target person or group.” Microaggressions have harmful mental effects. (Sue et al., 2007)

“A Muslim is a follower of Muhammad and the tenets and practices of Islam. The word Muslim is a noun; use the adjective Islamic when referring to the Islamic faith or the Islamic world.” Do not imply that Muslim = holy war or terrorist. See Arab. (Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism)

“Whiteness scholars define racism as encompassing economic, political, social, and cultural structures, actions, and beliefs that systematize and perpetuate an unequal distribution of privileges, resources and power between white people and people of color (Hilliard, 1992). This unequal distribution benefits whites and disadvantages people of color overall and as a group. Racism is not fluid in the U.S.; it does not flow back and forth, one day benefiting whites and another day (or even era) benefiting people of color. The direction of power between whites and people of color is historic, traditional, normalized, and deeply embedded in the fabric of U.S. society” (DiAngelo, 2011).

Silent collusion
The result that occurs when witnesses to victimization remain silent. The persons targeted will interpret bystander silence as tacit support for the victimizer. Silence allows discrimination to flourish; speech silences discrimination. Leslie Aguilar’s book, Ouch! That Stereotype Hurts, available through the ADIE Diversity Library and as a workshop (see “Resources”), contains effective verbal strategies anyone can learn, in order to become an ally for people or groups being subjected to verbal aggression. (Aguilar, 2006)

Sex, gender, sexual orientation
Simply put, sex refers to a biological/genetic classification, while gender refers to a social construction of sex roles and attributes. Sexual orientation might best be described as “who you are attracted to romantically and sexually.” Sexual orientation is not regarded as a choice, or as a type of attraction that can be changed through any type of treatment, therapy, or pressure.

A simplified, fixed belief about a group of people. Even positive stereotypes can be demeaning and offensive, and can limit opportunities due to preconceptions. Three ways of recognizing stereotypes are that they tend to be judgmental, global, and inflexible (Aguilar, 2006).

White fragility
“a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves,” including “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.” It results from the “insulated environment of racial protection” within which many whites exist (DiAngelo, 2011).

Whiteness/white privilege
“Whiteness informs many aspects of college campuses, including decisions regarding what constitutes canonical literature (Morrison, 1993)…what forms of language are considered ‘academic’ (Smitherman, 1985) and which methods of inquiry and ways of knowing are privileged (Milner, 2007; Parker & Lynn, 2002)….The structural and normative privileges of whiteness are rarely seen by Whites because they frame privilege as a series of independent outcomes rather than the result of deliberate decisions made by governments, institutions, and groups of people. Taken together, these decisions demonstrate the ‘remarkable power of racism to sustain itself’ (Cleaver, 1997, p. 161)…A corollary of white privilege is minimizing racism. While many Whites accept that the blatantly discriminatory practices of legal segregation and Jim Crow were racist and harmed people of color, they rarely acknowledge the many ways that Whites continue to receive advantages. Racism is collectively defined as the aberrant, violent behavior of the few, not the subtle benefits enjoyed by Whites, and as something that was a problem in the past but rarely an issue today” (Mitchell, Donahue, & Young-Law, 2012).


  • Aguilar, L. C. (2006). Ouch! That Stereotype Hurts: Communicating Respectfully in a Diverse World: Walk the Talk Books.
  • Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism. The Diversity Style Guide.
  • Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics. University of Chicago Legal Forum, 1(8), 139-167.
  • DiAngelo, R. (2011). White Fragility. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 3(3), 54-70.
  • Merriam-Webster. Though singular ‘they’ is old, ‘they’ as a nonbinary pronoun is new—and useful. Retrieved from
  • Mitchell, T. D., Donahue, D. M., & Young-Law, C. (2012). Service Learning as a Pedagogy of Whiteness. Equity and Excellence in Education, 45(4), 612-629. doi:10.1080/10665684.2012.715534
  • Project Implicit. Implicit Association Test (IAT). Retrieved from
  • Race Forward. (2015). Race Reporting Guide. New York: The Center for Racial Justice Innovation.
  • Sue, D. W., Capodilupo, C. M., Torino, G. C., Bucceri, J. M., Holder, A. M. B., Nadal, K. L., & Esquilin, M. (2007). Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Implications for Clinical Practice. American Psychologist, 271-286.
  • S. Justice Department Community Relations Service. Understanding Bias: A Resource Guide. Retrieved from

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