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Bookmark this: Diversity, equity and inclusion glossary of terms

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Learning about diversity, equity and inclusion is ongoing. Occasionally new terms are added to the vocabulary. We created this glossary to help all of us stay current. Be sure to bookmark or pin it so you can refer back as needed.

Last update: July 2020

Ableism: A term used to describe discrimination and social prejudice against people with disabilities. Ableism characterizes persons as defined by their disabilities and as inferior to the non-disabled.

Access/Accessibility: A general term used to describe the degree to which, or ease with which, something (e.g., device, service, and environment) can be used and enjoyed by persons with a disability. The term implies conscious planning, design and/or effort to ensure it is barrier-free to persons with a disability, and by extension, highly usable and practical for the general population as well.

Ageism: Treating people unfairly because of their age. A socially constructed way of thinking about older and/or younger persons based on negative attitudes and stereotypes about aging, and thereby failing to respond appropriately to the needs of older/younger people.

Anti-Black racism: Discriminatory actions and systemic barriers specifically directed toward the Black community that can indirectly or directly cause harm.

Antiracist: A conscious ongoing commitment by an individual to working against the structures that disadvantage BIPOC, as opposed to a statement of being non-racist.

Bias: An inclination or preference either for or against an individual or group that interferes with impartial judgment.

BIPOC: An acronym that stands for Black, Indigenous, People of Colour. It identifies them separately in order to point out that, while intertwined due to having the same oppressor, all of their experiences have been different.

Cisgender: This term is used to describe those of us who identify with the gender they were assigned at birth and thereby enjoy certain privileges not shared by those who do not ascribe to the gender assigned to them at birth (i.e. transgender folks).

Discrimination: An intentional or unintentional treatment of groups or individuals rooted in prejudice, bias or stereotyping that puts the groups or individuals at a disadvantage based on real or attributed characteristics. This treatment can result in the denial of access to goods, services or opportunities and the subordination and/or deprivation of political, educational, social, economic and cultural rights.

Disproportionality: the rate at which certain processes and systems affect different groups (i.e. people are subjected to different issues because of the circumstances they are put in). For example, a Black child in the projects could be exceptionally smart but due to their circumstances, they may never get the opportunity to achieve higher education and, therefore, may develop poor health/mental health. Therefore, Black children suffer from poor health/mental health issues disproportionately more than white children do because of their circumstances.

Disparity: differences, inequalities created between two things due to state-/society-made circumstances.

Diversity: Is the presence of a wide range of human qualities and attributes, both visible and invisible, within a group, organization or society.

Equity: Is a condition or a state of fair, inclusive and respectful treatment that recognizes and acknowledges the accommodation of differing needs and expectations. Equity acknowledges the fact that equal treatment does not always yield equal results.

Faithism: Discrimination towards a person or group of people solely dependent on their faith, beliefs or religion.

Folx: The ‘x’ here is meant to represent inclusivity towards all types of people within a community, including marginalized groups within said communities, such as lgbtq2s+ individuals who do not identify with the normative sexual orientation and gender identities of society (i.e. male, female, cisgender, heterosexual).

Heteronormative: This term refers to the perpetuation of opposite sex unions as the default, and the only normal, and acceptable unions, thereby marginalizing all other types of unions, such as same sex unions.

Inclusion: Is creating an environment where people have both the feeling and reality of belonging and are able to achieve their full potential.

Intersectionality: A term coined by Kimberle Crenshaw, intersectionality refers to the many facets of an individual’s identity that cannot be treated as separate from each other as they exist simultaneously within said individual. The more marginalized identities that one person has, the more unique their experience with oppression. For example, a woman of colour will have a different and more distressing experience than a white woman and/or a man of colour due to her intersecting identity, and she, therefore, needs to be placed in a unique and separate group.

Jim Crow laws: These statutes began from roughly around the 1870s for 100 years. They enforced segregation based on skin colour in all public institutions and buildings making it illegal for Black people to access designated White spaces (as identified by the government) such as public transportation (separation on buses), schools, bathrooms, and even water fountains. Entering these spaces resulted in arrest and other incredibly violent and disproportionate forms of punishment.

LGBTTIQQ2S (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Transitioning, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, Two-Spirited)*: This acronym is for all identities fighting against discrimination and queerphobia in our heteronormative societies that do not accept them as valid and real. We see this on both the individual level, but also on the systemic and societal level (ex. the assumption and expectation that all unions are and should be heterosexual, the only options on government documents for gender are ‘male’ and ‘female’).

Lesbian – a woman who is attracted to other women

Gay – a man who is attracted to other men

Bisexual – an individual attracted to both men and women

Transgender – someone who does not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth

Transitioning – an individual that is changing their outward appearance to reflect the gender they identify with on the inside

Intersex – someone born with reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not meet the typical definitions that society uses to define males and females

Queer – an umbrella term for lgbtqia+ identifying people

Questioning – this is a term that refers to an individual that is unsure of their gender identity and sexual orientation and is trying to figure it out

Two-spirited – a term referring to individuals that have both female and male energies/spirits within them in the Indigenous communities (this may manifest as what we understand as gay, lesbian, or nonbinary individuals)

*This is not an exhaustive list of queer identities

Marginalization: The social process of becoming or being made marginal (especially as a group within the larger society).

Me Too: Me Too is a movement founded by a Black woman named Tarana Burke to raise awareness about the pervasiveness about sexual abuse in our societies and therefore, support and encourage sexual assault survivors to come out about their experiences.

MMIW: This acronym stands for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and it refers to the ongoing genocide they have faced for years without justice or sufficient inquiry into their deaths and disappearances. This points to the neglect of this issue by the justice system in Canada and the United States, exposing it as state-sanctioned racism and misogyny towards Indigenous women in particular.

Multiculturalism: Multiculturalism ensures that all citizens can keep their identities, can take pride in their ancestry and have a sense of belonging. Acceptance gives Canadians a feeling of security and self-confidence, making them more open to, and accepting of, diverse cultures.

Non-binary: Individuals that do not identify with the male/man or female/woman identity.

Oppression: discrimination towards, the marginalization, and exclusion of certain communities in overt and covert ways, on the systemic level and by powerful individuals and groups.

Racism: The use of individual and institutional power to deny or grant people and groups rights, respect, representation and resources based on their race. It is the belief in the superiority and/or inferiority of a particular race.

Reconciliation: This term refers to the ongoing process of relationship building between the nation state, the settlers, and the Indigenous communities of colonized lands.

Reparations: Financial and other compensations for atrocities committed toward a group of people.

Residential schools: a school system meant to assimilate Indigenous children into European society in order to eradicate Indigenous cultures; i.e. part of the cultural genocide of Indigenous peoples.

School to prison pipeline: this term refers to the neglect of the state of children of marginalized communities and neighbourhoods that cause them to be more likely to be incarcerated than those in more affluent neighbourhoods and from more privileged communities.

White fragility: This term refers to white people who do not understand the uproar of marginalized communities because of their privileged positions and, therefore, feel that they are being oppressed when they are called out.

White solidarity: Solidarity from white people is an ongoing commitment to the issues faced by BIPOC that are a result of a white supremacist society and the perpetuation of it by white people that are unwilling to leave their comfort zones and privilege to engage in the fight for freedom of marginalized communities.

White supremacy: A state that recognizes whiteness as the default and white as the superior race. White supremacy permeates all aspects of societies and institutions that are built on racist ideals and ways of thinking making it the framework that is embedded in all the workings of the nation state.

Is there a term we missed that you feel should be added? Send us a message!