Racial Equity Tools Glossary

Words and their multiple uses reflect the tremendous diversity that characterizes our society.

Language can be used deliberately to engage and support community anti-racism coalitions and initiatives, or to inflame and divide them. Discussing definitions can engage and support coalitions. However, it is important for groups to decide the extent to which they must have consensus and where it is okay for people to disagree. It is also helpful to keep in mind that the words people use to discuss power, privilege, racism and oppression hold different meanings for different people. For instance, people at different stages of developing an analysis tend to attach different meanings to words like discrimination, privilege and institutional racism. Furthermore, when people are talking about privilege or racism, the words they use often come with emotions and assumptions that are not spoken.

Many of the terms in this glossary have evolved over time. For example, given the changing demographic trends in the United States, the word “minority” no longer accurately reflects the four primary racial/ethnic groups. The terms “emerging majority” and “people of color” have become popular substitutes. Also, the terms used to refer to members of each community of color have changed over time. Whether to use the terms African American or Black, Hispanic American, Latinx or Latino, Native American or American Indian, and Pacific Islander or Asian American depends on a variety of conditions, including your intended audiences’ geographic location, age, generation, and, sometimes, political orientation.

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SOURCE:  Project Change’s “The Power of Words.” Originally produced for Project Change Lessons Learned II, also included in A Community Builder’s Toolkit – both produced by Project Change and The Center for Assessment and Policy Development with some modification by RacialEquityTools.org.

 

citation: MP Associates, Center for Assessment and Policy Development, and World Trust Educational Services, October 2021.

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