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Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice

A guide to highlight the resources at NECC on diversity, inclusion, equity, social justice, race, diverse functionality, gender, multiculturalism, LGBTTQI+, and anti-oppression..

Why Language Matters: A Helpful Glossary

Language helps to shape our perception of reality, so as we seek to eliminate or reduce harm, using appropriate terminology matters. Common terms and phrases can unintentionally communicate cultural prejudices (Nordell, 2021), often having been repeated and normalized without acknowledging their insidious roots (Cook, 2021).

We also live in an information ecosystem where words can be weaponized, and are often used to misinform, disinform, and malinform.

  • Misinformation refers to unintentional inaccuracies or falsehoods (the information is false but the person disseminating it believes it to be true).
  • Disinformation is intentionally created to spread false or manipulated content (the information is false, and the person disseminating it knows that it is false).
  • Malinformation is the deliberate intent to cause harm to an individual or group by sharing racist, misogynist, homophobic, or any kind of hatred (Cooke, 2017). This also includes the misuse of personal or confidential information (i.e. doxxing, revenge porn, etc.)

Why is this important?

Our community includes BIPOC, LBGTTQI+, and persons of all abilities who have diverse lived experiences, environment, history, and culture. As part of our regular reflective practices and ethical care, we need to review our language and or communications to ensure that it is representative of our ideals.


Ableism is the "discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities" (Merriam-Webster, 2021). There are three kinds of ableism: 

  • Physical ableism is the best-known form of ableism. It is induced by a physical inability.
  • Mental ableism is characterized by negative stigma concerning cognitive or mental disorders.
  • Cultural ableism manifests itself as imposing cultural imperialism, whiteness, lack of cultural capital, and other socially standardized social constructs on non-white persons.


Abolishment is to put an end to an activity, custom, etc. completely, by law, or by official action (Cambridge Dictionary, n.d.).

Accessibility (ref. in Education)

Accessible” means a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally effective and equally integrated manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use. The person with a disability must be able to obtain the information as fully, equally, and independently as a person without a disability. Although this might not result in identical ease of use compared to that of persons without disabilities, it still must ensure equal opportunity to the educational benefits and opportunities afforded by the technology and equal treatment in the use of such technology (Staat, 2013).


Africa is a continent comprised of 48 countries. These are divided into five regions: North Africa, West Africa, Middle Africa, Eastern Africa, and Southern Africa.

To learn more about countries located in Africa, visit our database, Global Road Warrior.


Anti-ableism is the opposite of ableism, with a practical focus on strategies, theories, actions, and practices that challenge and counter ableism, inequalities, prejudices, and discrimination based on any type of disability — including visible, invisible, learning, developmental, physical, or mental health (Sheri Byrne-Haber, 2020).


Anti-Fatmisia is strategies, theories, actions, and practices that challenge and counter fatmisia, inequalities, prejudices, and discrimination based on size (Simmons University Libraries, 2021).


Anti-Oppression work seeks to recognize the oppression that exists in our society and attempts to mitigate its effects and eventually equalize the power imbalance in our communities (Anti-Violence Project, 2021).

Audism is "the belief that the ability to hear makes one superior to those with hearing loss. Those who support this perspective are known as audists, and they may be hearing or deaf. The term audism was coined in 1975 in an unpublished article written by American communication and language researcher Tom L. Humphries as a way to describe discrimination against persons who are deaf" (Bauman, 2018; Bauman, 2004).

Some examples of audism are: 

  1. Refusing to call an interpreter when one is requested.
  2. Assuming that those with better speech/English skills are superior.
  3. Asking a Deaf person to "tone down" their facial expressions because they are making others uncomfortable.
  4. Refusing to explain to a Deaf person why everyone around him is laughing – "never mind, I’ll tell you later, it doesn't matter."
  5. Devoting a significant amount of instructional time for a Deaf child to lipreading and speech therapy rather than educational subjects.
  6. Approaching deafness as a tragedy.
  7. Employment discrimination.


1. partiality: an inclination or predisposition for or against something. See also prejudice. 

2. any tendency or preference, such as a response bias or test bias. 

3. systematic error arising during sampling, data collection, or data analysis. See biased estimator; biased sampling. 

4. any deviation of a measured or calculated quantity from its actual (true) value, such that the measurement or calculation is unrepresentative of the item of interest. —biased adj. 

(APA, 2020). 

Binary (related term “gender binary”) 

  1. a classification system consisting of two genders, male and female. 

  1. a concept or belief that there are only two genders and that one's sex or gender assigned at birth will align with traditional social constructs of masculine and feminine identity, expression, and sexuality. 

(Dictionary, 2021) 

Black refers to any person who, according to the U.S. Census Bureau (2021; 2020), is from the Black racial groups of Africa. The term is mostly, but not limited, to people who are of Sub-Saharan African descent and the indigenous peoples of Oceania. It should be noted that the term "black" varies across regions and countries, depending on its social constructs and history.

Black Lives Matter (BLM) is a decentralized social justice movement that started in 2013 in the United States. It protests the violence perpetrated by police and other agents of power against Black people. The social media (i.e., Twitter) hashtag #BlackLivesMatter emerged in the Summer of 2013 as the result of the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trevon Martin, an African-American teenager, in Sanford, FL in 2012. The movement has extended to other countries and regions. In 2020 the movement became larger after the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. 

The Caribbean (also ref. to as the Caribbean Basin or West Indies) is comprised of over 7,000 islands, islets, reefs, and cays. These are governed by 36 different nations, 16 of these being independent countries. Some of the nations that govern the dependent Caribbean islands are the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, the United States, and France. The Caribbean islands are divided into the Greater Antilles (Cuba, Hispaniola -Haiti and Dominical Republic, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico), and the Lesser Antilles, which are further divided into the Leeward Islands (from the US Virgin Island to Guadaloupe), and the Windward Islands.

The Caribbean Basin includes the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Republic of Suriname, Colombia, Guyana, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Venezuela. Some of these countries and islands are also part of CARICOM.

The region's languages are Spanish, English, Dutch, French, Creole, and Papiamento.


Nontransgender. Someone whose gender identity is consistent with the sex they are assigned at birth (Costanza-Chock, 2020).

Civil Rights Movement, also ref. the American civil rights movement was a mass protest movement against racial segregation and discrimination mostly in the southern United States. The movement took prominence from the mid-1950s until the late 1960s. The root of the movement can be traced to previous centuries when African Americas were enslaved and took part in the abolitionist movement that culminated with the U.S. Civil War. As a result of the abolitionist movement, Congress passed the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the US Constitution. Yet, this did not ensure that the rights of African Americans and other POCs were respected. Institutional prohibitions as a result of Jim Crow laws were still in effect (Carson, 2020). The history of the US Civil Rights Movement is multifaceted. Its results and claims also impacted the social justice activism that took place from the 1970s until the present. 

Colorblindness (ref. to racism; related term “color-blind”) is the belief that race is insignificant. The proponents of this belief expose that a color-blind society leads to less discrimination. However, colorblind ideology is strongly criticized as being racist. Colorblindness or “not seeing race” are debated to be seen as denying a BIPOC person’s race, experiences, and identity. It also denies the existence of racism (i.e., systemic and institutional) and White supremacy (Neville, Gallardo, & Sue, 2016). 

Colonialism “is defined as “control by one power over a dependent area or people.” It occurs when one nation subjugates another, conquering its population and exploiting it, often while forcing its own language and cultural values upon its people. By 1914, a large majority of the world's nations had been colonized by Europeans at some point. 

The concept of colonialism is closely linked to that of imperialism, which is the policy or ethos of using power and influence to control another nation or people that underlies colonialism” (Blakemore, 2019). 

Constitutional Rights 

are the protections and liberties guaranteed to the people by the U.S. Constitution.  Many of these rights are outlined in the Bill of Rights, such as the right to free speech and the right to a speedy and public trial. Even though these rights are expressly stated, their proper interpretation and scope [have] been the subject of many Supreme Court decisions. Additionally, not all rights protected by the U.S. Constitution are explicitly stated. Some are implied or unenumerated, like the right to privacy (Cornell Law School, n.d.).

Counter narrative 

refers to the narratives that arise from the vantage point of those who have been historically marginalized. The idea of “counter-” itself implies a space of resistance against traditional domination. A counter-narrative goes beyond the notion that those in relative positions of power can just tell the stories of those in the margins. Instead, these must come from the margins, from the perspectives and voices of those individuals. A counter-narrative thus goes beyond the telling of stories that take place in the margins. The effect of a counter-narrative is to empower and give agency to those communities. By choosing their own words and telling their own stories, members of marginalized communities provide alternative points of view, helping to create complex narratives truly presenting their realities (Mora, 2014). 

Cultural Appropriation “takes place when members of a majority group adopt cultural elements of a minority group in an exploitative, disrespectful, or stereotypical way. To fully understand its consequences, though, we need to make sure we have a working definition of culture itself” (Britannica, n.d.). This type of appropriation happens in a non-consensual manner. Regardless of its intent, it is considered harmful (Seattle Pacific University, n.d.). Some common forms of cultural appropriation are related to the unauthorized use of music, cuisine, religious symbols, or clothes. 

Deadnaming refers to “the name that a transgender person was given at birth and no longer uses upon transitioning” (Merriam-Webster, 2021). 


is the process of deconstructing colonial ideologies of the superiority and privilege of Western thought and approaches. On the one hand, decolonization involves dismantling structures that perpetuate the status quo and addressing unbalanced power dynamics. On the other hand, decolonization involves valuing and revitalizing Indigenous knowledge and approaches and weeding out settler biases or assumptions that have impacted Indigenous ways of being. For non-Indigenous people, decolonization is the process of examining your beliefs about Indigenous Peoples and culture by learning about yourself in relationship to the communities where you live and the people with whom you interact (Cull, Hancock, McKeown, Pidgeon, &Vedan, n.d.)

Related term indigenization.

Discrimination is the “unfair or prejudicial treatment of people and groups based on characteristics such as race, gender, age or sexual orientation” (APA, 2019). Discrimination has been deemed harmful and a practice that perpetuates inequality (Amnesty International, n.d.). There are various types of discrimination. Some of the most prevalent are based on nationality, gender, race, sexuality, caste, or social-economic background (i.e., those who fall under lower socioeconomic group). However, these are not the only types of discrimination. The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (n.d.) has identified other prevalent forms of discrimination and actions that imply that a person is being discriminated against. View the complete list [here]. 


When describing people and population groups, diversity can include factors such as age, gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, education, livelihood, and marital status (APA, 2020). 

Emotional Literacy is “a type of ‘social intelligence’ which enables people to differentiate between emotions and the resulting actions. The teacher’s role is then to provide a safe but rich and challenging learning environment where children are free to grow socially and emotionally, while academically nurtured” (Bruce, 2010). 


Related term: Epistemic supremacy is defined by Morales and Williams (2021) "as a political ideology that facilitates, enables, and upholds the conditions that lead to the destruction of communities color, particularly working-class and poor Blacks and Indigenous communities" (p. 74). It also takes into account the destruction of systems of knowledge that are not controlled by those in power.

Equality is “the quality or state of being equal” (same to another state) (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). 


The notion of being fair and impartial as an individual engages with an organization or system, particularly systems of grievance. “Equity” is often conflated with the term “Equality” (meaning sameness). In fact, true equity implies that an individual may need to experience or receive something different (not equal) in order to maintain fairness and access. For example, a person with a wheelchair may need differential access to an elevator relative to someone else (Morton & Fasching-Varner, 2015). 

Ethnicity is a social construct that categorizes people by characteristics such as values, language, music, food, religion(s), family life, and other anthropological and cultural aspects. Many ethnic groups have a geographical base and ancestral origin (Seattle Pacific University, n.d.; Britannica, n.d.). “The concept of ethnicity contrasts with that of race, which refers to the perceived unique common physical and biogenetic characteristics of a population” (Britannica, n.d.). 

Eurocentric (also ref. to as Eurocentrism) is a term used to state that something is “centered on Europe or the Europeans” (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). The term is especially used to depict that something is “reflecting a tendency to interpret the world in terms of European or Anglo-American values and experiences” (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). 


(also called Fatphobia or Sizeism) is prejudice plus power; anyone of any weight or body type can have/exhibit size-based prejudice, but in North America and across the globe, thin people have the institutional power, therefore Fatmisia is a systematized discrimination or antagonism directed against fat bodies/people based on the belief that thinness is superior (Simmons Libraries, 2021). 

Femme is “a term used to describe a feminine person or gender expression” (Green, & Maurer, 2015).

Feminism is the “belief in and advocacy of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes expressed especially through organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests” (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). 

First Nations 

is a term used to describe Indigenous peoples in Canada who are not Métis or Inuit. First Nations people are original inhabitants of the land that is now Canada and were the first to encounter sustained European contact, settlement, and trade (Gadacz, 2009/2016). 

Food Justice Movement 

works to ensure universal access to nutritious, affordable, and culturally appropriate food for all, while advocating for the well-being and safety of those involved in the food production process. The movement aims to address disparities in food access, particularly for communities of color and low-income communities, by examining the structural roots of our food system. Food Justice addresses questions of land ownership, agricultural practices, distribution of technology and resources, workers’ rights, and the historical injustices communities of color have faced. Food Justice is closely intertwined with environmental justice and sustainability movements (Boston University Community Service Center, n.d.). 

Gaslighting is the “psychological manipulation of a person usually over an extended period of time that causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, the uncertainty of one's emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator” (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). 


refers to the characteristics of women, men, girls, and boys that are socially constructed. This includes norms, behaviors, and roles associated with being a woman, man, girl, or boy, as well as relationships with each other. As a social construct, gender varies from society to society and can change over time. 

Gender is hierarchical and produces inequalities that intersect with other social and economic inequalities. Gender-based discrimination intersects with other factors of discrimination, such as ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability, age, geographic location, gender identity, and sexual orientation, among others. This is referred to as intersectionality (World Health Organization, n.d.) 

Gender Identity

reflects a deeply felt and experienced sense of one’s own gender. Everyone has a gender identity, which is part of their overall identity. A person’s gender identity is typically aligned with the sex assigned to them at birth. Transgender (sometimes shortened to “trans”) is an umbrella term used to describe people with a wide range of identities – including transsexual people, cross-dressers (sometimes referred to as “transvestites”), people who identify as third gender, and others whose appearance and characteristics are seen as gender-atypical and whose sense of their own gender is different to the sex that they were assigned at birth. Trans women identify as women but were classified as males when they were born. Trans men identify as men but were classified as female when they were born. Cisgender is a term used to describe people whose sense of their own gender is aligned with the sex that they were assigned at birth. Gender identity is distinct from sexual orientation and sex characteristics (UNFE, n.d.).

Gender Non-Conforming is a “term for those who do not follow gender stereotypes. Often an umbrella for nonbinary genders” (PFLAG, 2021). 

Gentrification is the “process in which a poor area (as of a city) experiences an influx of middle-class or wealthy people who renovate and rebuild homes and businesses and which often results in an increase in property values and the displacement of earlier, usually poorer residents” (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). Gentrification is a complex process that considers various aspects, including but not limited to historical conditions, city disinvestment, and community impact. 

Global Majority (also People of the Global Majority [PGM]) is a term used interchangeably with BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and Persons of Color) and POC (Persons of Color). PGM refers to the 80 percent of the world's population that identifies themselves or belong to any of the groups that have been historically referred to as “minorities” as a result of settler colonialist practices in the US and the Americas (Seattle Pacific University, n.d.; PGM One, n.d.). The term “People of the Global Majority” aims to empower Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, and address demographic inaccuracies (Encompass, 2019). It should be noted that this term is also a critique of the use of POC since it is stated that such a term is the direct result of centering and referring to “whiteness” as the norm or standard (Lim, 2020). 

Global North and Global South divide is used to classify countries by their socioeconomic and political characteristics. The term gained popularity in the 1980s with the issue of the Brandt Report. According to Brandt, most countries in the northern hemisphere are “more developed”, while the Southern hemisphere contains the poorer countries. The countries that belong to the Global North are Australia, Canada, (the entirety of) Europe, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It can be observed that the majority of the countries belonging to the Global South are located near the tropics. Most of the Global South countries are from Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Mexico (located in the Southern region of North America) the Middle East, and the Pacific Islands.  

Hegemony is

[t]he ability of a dominant or ruling group to impose its own values and ideas about what is “natural” or “normal” on a subordinated group, often defining the parameters of what is even considered an “acceptable” topic within the dominant discourse (also referred to as the “Master Narrative”)  (Gramsci, 1971). 


One of the most discussed definitions for heritage is: 

[T]he full range of our inherited traditions, monuments, objects, and culture.  Most important, it is the range of contemporary activities, meanings, and behaviors that we draw from them (University of Massachusetts Amherst, n.d.). 

However, when discussing race, ethnicity, and nationality, heritage takes into consideration the ancestry of a person.

Heterosexism is 

prejudice against any nonheterosexual form of behavior, relationship, or community, particularly the denigration of lesbians, gay men, and those who are bisexual or transgender. Whereas homophobia generally refers to an individual’s fear or dread of gay men or lesbians, heterosexism denotes a wider system of beliefs, attitudes, and institutional structures that attach value to heterosexuality and disparage alternative sexual behavior and orientation (APA, 2020). 

Heterosexuality is “sexual attraction to or activity between members of the opposite sex” (APA, 2020). 

Hispanic are people whose heritage is from a Spanish-speaking country in the Caribbean, Central or South America. It also includes Mexico and Spain. Although Latinx is used as a synonym and is inclusive of Hispanic countries, it is not. Latinx includes Portuguese-speaking countries, such as Brazil (US Census Bureau, 2020; Pew Research Institute, 2020). 

Historical Literacy requires the person to have and develop a "coherent, conceptual, and meaningful knowledge about the past that is grounded in the critical use of evidence" (Downey & Long, 2016). Some of the fundamental aspects of historical literacy in education are the understanding of the types of texts that are being used and their intent. 

Inclusive Language refers to the acknowledgment of diversity in race, ethnicity, sexuality, identity, diverse functionality, and social condition. Inclusive language avoids expressions and terminology that exclude or discriminate against historically minoritized groups. 

Indigenous peoples

are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. They have retained social, cultural, economic, and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live. Despite their cultural differences, indigenous peoples from around the world share common problems related to the protection of their rights as distinct peoples. 

Indigenous peoples have sought recognition of their identities, way of life, and right to traditional lands, territories, and natural resources for years, yet throughout history, their rights have always been violated. Indigenous peoples today, are arguably among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of people in the world (Department of Economic and Social Affairs. United Nations, n.d.). 

Information behavior 

is the currently preferred term used to describe the many ways in which human beings interact with information, in particular, the ways in which people seek and utilize information (Bates, 2010). 

Institutional Racism (also called systemic racism or structural racism) is the type of racism embedded in laws, regulations, politics, and most of not all socio-political institutions (Cambridge, n.d.). This type of racism can impact healthcare and education for BIPOCs and other minoritized persons. This form of the internalized and social form of racism evidences itself in forms of inequality and has a macro-level impact (Glee & Ford, 2011). Glee, Ro, Shariff-Marco, and Chae (2009) use the iceberg metaphor to describe the levels of institutional racism within the U.S. healthcare system. Yet, their metaphor can be applied to various sectors and agencies. 

The base of the iceberg, however, is often more hazardous than the tip. What lies below the surface determines the direction and velocity of the iceberg and, when unrecognized, can cause catastrophes. The bottom of the iceberg represents institutionalized discrimination, which may be considered a fundamental cause of health and health disparities. Addressing the tip of the iceberg through protective legislation and cultural competency efforts is important. The metaphor, however, highlights the need to change the structural base beneath the surface in order to change the course of health disparities (Glee, Ro, Shariff-Marco, and Chae, 2009). 

Intersectionality is a term first coined by law professor, Kimberlé Crenshaw. It is 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” (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). The term was first introduced and it is prominent in Black Feminist Critique of Feminist Theory and anti-racism politics. 

Latinx (read as Latin X or Latine) is a pan-ethnic label that describes people who have roots in Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula. The term has been used as the result of the gendered aspects of the Spanish language (e.g., latino and latina). The term has gained popularity and it is considered a gender and LBTTQI+ inclusive term (Bustamente, Mora, & Lopez, 2020). 

Marginalization is the “relegation to or placement in an unimportant or a depowered position in society (APA, 2017a).” 

Microaggression is a 

brief and commonplace verbal, behavioral, or situational indignities that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative slights or insults, especially toward members of minority or oppressed groups. Microaggression may be intentional (e.g., calling a transgender person a “she-male”) or implicit (e.g., a White employee asking a Black colleague how he or she got a certain job, implying that the colleague may have obtained it through affirmative action or a quota system). Three subtypes have been identified: microassaults, which are purposefully discriminatory actions (e.g., uttering a racial slur, displaying a swastika); microinsults, which are subtle snubs that devalue a person’s identity; and microinvalidations, which are unintentional exclusions or negations of an individual’s thoughts, feelings, or experiences. Research on microaggression is limited but shows that this form of bias can cause recipients to feel that they are abnormal, inferior, invisible, powerless, or untrustworthy. [introduced in 1970 by U.S. psychiatrist Chester M. Pierce (1927–); the subtypes were proposed in 2007 by U.S. psychologist Derald Wing Sue] (APA, 2020).

Master narrative is

[a] term brought into prominence by Jean-Françios Lyotard implying a “narrative about narratives of historical meaning, experience, or knowledge, which offers a society legitimation through the anticipated completion of an (as yet unrealized) idea.” It is the “story that produces all other stories; or, to put it another way, the Big Story that lends coherence and shape to all the little stories… A master narrative is not a particular story; it is the story [we] are always writing when [we] tell the stories [we] typically tell (Lyotard, 1979). 

Minoritized is “[a] term used in place of minority (noun) to highlight the social oppression that minoritizes individuals" (Vaccaro, 2020). The use of the term minoritized is increasingly favored over the term minority, which can be experienced as demeaning given that individuals likely do not incorporate this status into their identity. Rather, their status as a minority is a systemic function within a racialized hierarchy that advantages and disadvantages groups differently. Thus, the term minoritized uses active voice to reveal the system of social oppression that is often rendered unseen through the use of passive voice within the term minority” (Vaccaro, 2020). 

Nationality is “the official right to belong to a particular country” (Cambridge Dictionary, n.d.). 

Native American, also ref. to as American Indians, are a group any of the indigenous groups of North America (i.e., the United States). Depending on the government agency, or source, the term will or exclude Native Hawaiians, Alaskan Natives, Samoans, or Chamorros. When excluded, they will be designated as “Native Hawaiian”, “Alaskan Native”, or “Pacific Islander.” 

Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander is “a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands” (U.S. Census Bureau, 2020). 

Neurodiversity refers to the “individual differences in brain functioning regarded as normal variations within the human population” (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). Baumer and Frueh (2021), elaborate that the term refers to the “diversity of all people, but it is often used in the context of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), as well as other neurological or developmental conditions such as ADHD or learning disabilities.” Although neurodiversity and neurodivergent have been used as synonyms, the latter refers to individuals “whose cognitive profile diverges from an established cognitive norm, a norm that is not an objective statistical fact of human neurological functioning but a standard established and maintained by socio-political processes” (Legault, Bourdon, & Poirier, 2021). 

One-in-three (1 in 3) is the ratio of women who experience physical or sexual assault in their lifetime. The number reflects women's (cis and trans) condition globally. In the United States, “nearly a quarter of female college students reported having experienced sexual assault or misconduct” (United Nations, 2019). Furthermore, the World Health Organization ([WHO], 2021) exposes that “[t]his violence starts early: 1 in 4 young women (aged 15-24 years) who have been in a relationship will have already experienced violence by an intimate partner by the time they reach their mid-twenties.” The statistic came from 2018 from a study that details the prevalence of violence against women. The study was conducted between 2000-2018 (WHO, 2018). 

Oppression consists of “a situation in which people are governed in an unfair and cruel way and prevented from having opportunities and freedom” (Cambridge Dictionary, n.d.) van Wormer (2015) extends the definition of oppression to include: 

Devaluation, exploitation, and privilege are key concepts in it, which are inextricably linked to the phenomenon of oppression, which exists in all societies, and has probably done so throughout history. Attempts to eradicate oppression in society are relatively new, and the focus may be on one group to the neglect of another. For example, in the United States and Northern Ireland during the 1960s, while the civil rights movements brought a focus on discrimination and denial of human rights to minority groups on the basis of race and religion, respectively, the denial of women's rights were largely ignored. In the US, the forces that brought about freedoms for the groups in question (blacks and other minority groups) ultimately led to the feminist movement and social changes that extended across the Western world in subsequent decades. 

Othering refers to the treatment of historically underrepresented groups as essentially inferior (Macmillan, 2017). The term is also used in Feminist theory.  

Patriarchy is a social system disproportionately controlled by men (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). Most definitions center on the figure of the father or an elder male who has absolute authority over women and children (Britannica, n.d.). Many societies, including Wester and Eurocentric ones, are rooted within the norms of a patriarchal system (Maine & Bunnel, 2010). Scholars have extended the impact of patriarchy outside of gender to include race relations, such as those related to the oppression (i.e., colonization) of Black persons and Indigenous persons in the United States by Anglo-Saxon (ref. White) men (Nash, 2009). Swart (2015) argues that there is a strong correlation between patriarchal beliefs and violence against women and BIPOCs. Patriarchal systems hold strong homophobic views, insisting on heterosexist views and beliefs (Pease, 2015). 

Person of Color (POC) is a term used to describe people who are not White or Caucasian. In the past, this term was deemed politically correct, but there has been recent debate about it. The idea behind PoC as a term is to be inclusive of most minoritized racial groups.

Pronouns (ref. gender identity)

are used in place of a proper noun (like someone’s name). We use pronouns most often when referring to someone without using their name. Female pronouns are she and her(s), while male pronouns are he and him. Gender non-conforming or genderqueer pronouns are they, them, ze (also spelled zie, or xe) (LGBT Life Center, n.d.; GLSEN, 2019). 

Race is “any one of the groups that humans are often divided into based on physical traits regarded as common among people of shared ancestry” (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). Race as a social construct has been used to “assign human worth and social status using the White racial identity as the archetype of humanity for the purpose of creating and maintaining privilege, power, and systems of oppression” (Lawrence & Keleher, 2014). 

Racial Battle Fatigue (RBF) refers to the “psychophysiological symptoms—from high blood pressure to anxiety, frustration, shock, anger, and depression—people of color may experience living in and navigating historically white spaces” (Adams, 2016). The term was introduced by William A. Smith (2007) a professor at the University of Utah. Initially, the term focused on the expiries of African American persons in academic settings, but it quickly transcended to other minoritized groups in historically predominantly white spaces (Smith, Allen, & Danely, 2007). 

Racial Literacy refers to the education, knowledge, skills, awareness, and disposition to address race and racism (Sealey-Ruiz,2021). The term was developed by France Winddance Twine, a Black and Native American sociologist. The concept draws from Bourdieu's work to introduce elements of ethnic capital, which indicate the reinforcement of racism. Racial literacy seeks to counter racism by providing critical education lenses to address ideological stances, language, practices, and resources used within instructional settings (Harris, 2012).

Racial Profiling

refers to the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual's race, ethnicity, religion or national origin. Criminal profiling, generally, as practiced by police, is the reliance on a group of characteristics they believe to be associated with crime. Examples of racial profiling are the use of race to determine which drivers to stop for minor traffic violations (commonly referred to as "driving while black or brown"), or the use of race to determine which pedestrians to search for illegal contraband. 

Another example of racial profiling is the targeting, ongoing since the September 11th attacks, of Arabs, Muslims and South Asians for detention on minor immigrant violations in the absence of any connection to the attacks on the World Trade Center or the Pentagon. 

Law enforcement agent includes a person acting in a policing capacity for public or private purposes. This includes security guards at department stores, airport security agents, police officers, or, more recently, airline pilots who have ordered passengers to disembark from flights, because the passengers' ethnicity aroused the pilots' suspicions. Members of each of these occupations have been accused of racial profiling. 

Racial profiling does not refer to the act of a law enforcement agent pursuing a suspect in which the specific description of the suspect includes race or ethnicity in combination with other identifying factors (ACLU, n.d.). 

Roe vs. Wade is the 

legal case in which the U.S. Supreme Court on January 22, 1973, ruled (7–2) that unduly restrictive state regulation of abortion is unconstitutional. In a majority opinion written by Justice Harry A. Blackmun, the Court held that a set of Texas statutes criminalizing abortion in most instances violated a woman’s constitutional right of privacy, which it found to be implicit in the liberty guarantee of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (“…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”). Roe v. Wade was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2022 (Britannica, 2022). 

A Safe Space is a “place (as on a college campus) intended to be free of bias, conflict, criticism, or potentially threatening actions, ideas, or conversations” (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). Safe Spaces usually target or serve historically underrepresented groups such as BIPOC, LGBTTQI+ persons, and women. The term has been predominantly applied to designated locations in educational settings, support groups, and counseling services/spaces. 

Savior Complex (also Messiah Complex, Jehovah Complex, and White Savior Complex) is a behavior characterized by “the desire and compulsion to redeem or save others or the world” (APA, n.d.). At times the individual will have delusions of grandeur and identify themselves with qualities associated with God (a form of megalomania) (APA, n.d.). This behavior has been described as a toxic form of codependence (Summersault, 2020). It has also been deemed negative and problematic (Benton, 2017). 


is an ongoing system of power that perpetuates the genocide and repression of indigenous peoples and cultures. Essentially hegemonic in scope, settler colonialism normalizes the continuous settler occupation, exploiting lands and resources to which indigenous peoples have genealogical relationships. Settler colonialism includes interlocking forms of oppression, including racism, white supremacy, heteropatriarchy, and capitalism. This is because settler colonizers are Eurocentric and assume that European values with respect to ethnic, and therefore moral, superiority are inevitable and natural. However, these intersecting dimensions of settler colonialism coalesce around the dispossession of indigenous peoples’ lands, resources, and cultures (Cox, 2019). 

Sexism is the

individuals' attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, and organizational, institutional, and cultural practices that either reflect negative evaluations of individuals based on their gender or support unequal status of women and men (Swim, 2009). 

Stereotypes are

a set of cognitive generalizations (e.g., beliefs, expectations) about the qualities and characteristics of the members of a group or social category. Stereotypes, like schemas, simplify and expedite perceptions and judgments, but they are often exaggerated, negative rather than positive, and resistant to revision even when perceivers encounter individuals with qualities that are not congruent with the stereotype (APA, 2020). 

Social Justice 

is both a process and a goal. The goal of social justice is full and equal participation of all groups in a society that is mutually shaped to meet their needs. Social justice includes a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are psychologically and physically safe and secure (Bell, 2013, p. 21). 

Racism is "a form of prejudice that assumes that the members of racial categories have distinctive characteristics and that these differences result in some racial groups being inferior to others. Racism generally includes negative emotional reactions to members of the group, acceptance of negative stereotypes, and racial discrimination against individuals; in some cases, it leads to violence” (APA, 2020). There are various types of racism, which include but are not limited to: systemic racism, institutional racism, and adverse racism. 

Title IX is a federal civil rights law passed in 1972 as part of the Education Amendments of 1972. The law states that: 

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance” (U.S. Department of Education, 2021). 

Tokenization (ref. Tokenism) 

The making of a perfunctory or symbolic gesture that suggests a commitment to practice or standard, particularly by hiring or promoting a single member of a previously excluded group to demonstrate one’s benevolent intentions. For example, an all-White company may hire a token Black employee to give the appearance of organizational parity as opposed to actually eliminating racial inequality in the workplace. Tokenism depends on the prevailing norms, structures, and conceptualizations (e.g., of ideal ingroup and outgroup members) of the cultural context in which it is embedded (APA, 2020).

Two-Spirited Person is a term used by Native and Indigenous Peoples to indicate that they embody both masculine and feminine spirits. Is sometimes also used to describe Native Peoples of diverse sexual orientations and has nuanced meaning in various indigenous sub-cultures (Green, & Maurer, 2015).

Vocational Awe 

describes the set of ideas, values, and assumptions librarians have about themselves and the profession that results in notions that libraries as institutions are inherently good, sacred notions, and therefore beyond critique. I argue that the concept of vocational awe directly correlates to problems within librarianship like burnout and low salary. This article aims to describe the phenomenon and its effects on library philosophies and practices so that they may be recognized and deconstructed (Ettarh, 2018). 

WASP is an acronym that stands for White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. The concept is pertinent to the United States, as well as other former British colonies, it refers to persons of British and Germanic. Persons who fall within the WASP description are often wealthy and part of elite groups who have social, political, and economic power. WASP is considered an offensive term (Zhang, 2015).

White (ref. to race) is “a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa" (U.S. Census Bureau, 2020).

White Supremacy is

beliefs and ideas purporting natural superiority of the lighter-skinned, or “white,” human races over other racial groups. In contemporary usage, the term white supremacist has been used to describe some groups espousing ultranationalist, racist, or fascist doctrines. White supremacist groups often have relied on violence to achieve their goals (Jenkins, 2021). 

Whitewashing refers to censoring something deemed shameful and troubling (i.e., a country's problematic history with racism). The term has also been used in media to refer to the practice of casting White actors to play the role of BIPOC persons. This practice has also been referred to as blackface or yellowface (Merriam-Webster, n.d.). 

Xenomisia is the hatred, dislike, and prejudice against foreigners.

Bias-Free Language

The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2020), the Modern Language Association Handbook (2021), and the Chicago Manual of Style (2017) encourage the use of bias-free language. Each manual has its guidelines on how to apply bias-free and inclusive language. Some of the common themes around the use of bias-free and inclusive language take into consideration the following:

  • Describe with an appropriate level of specificity. This point emphasizes the avoidance of prejudicial, offensive, harmful, and objectification in writing (see chapter 5 from the APA 7 Manual, section 3.3 from the MLA Handbook, and section 5.260 from the Chicago Manual). The MLA Handbook further states that the writer should avoid using a term if it is questionable (see section 3.7, page 93). One of the helpful tips that MLA (2021) proposes is using an updated dictionary.
  • Avoid the use of labels that exclude. Using labels such as binary pronouns or terminology that minoritizes historically underrepresented groups can lead to misrepresentations. Both ALA (2020) and MLA (2021) agree that the writer should not assume the gender of a person, socio-economic status, race/ethnicity, or able-bodiedness. It is imperative to respect the subject (ref. the person).
  • "Accept that language changes with time and that individuals within groups sometimes disagree about the designation they use (ALA, 2020, p. 133). On a similar note, MLA (2021) shares a similar view about the use of language regarding how to refer to a person (see section 3.7, p. 93).
  • The writer should communicate biased terminology (Chicago, 2017, section 5.253).

The following table reflects some suggestions based on the APA Manual of Publication, 7th edition.


Topic General Guidelines Appropriate Terms Inappropriate Terms
Age Exact ages or age ranges are more specific than broad categories.

Any age: "person," "individual," etc.

<12 years: "infant," "child," "girl," "boy," "transgender girl," "transgender boy," "gender-fluid child," etc.

13-17 years: "adolescent," "young person," "youth," "young woman," "young man," "female adolescent," "male adolescent," "agender adolescent," etc.

>18 years: "adult," "woman," "man," "transgender man," "trans man," "transgender woman," "trans woman," "genderqueer adult," "cisgender adult," etc.

Older adults: "older persons," "older people," "older adults," "older patients," "older individuals," "persons 65 years and older," and "the older population"; combination terms for older age groups ("young-old," "old-old," "oldest old"); contrast older adults with other age groups specifically, such as with decade-specific descriptors ("octogenarian," "centenarian")

Any age: Avoid using "males" and "females" as nouns; instead, use "men" and "women" or other age-appropriate words. ("Males" and "females" are appropriate when groups include individuals with a broad age range.)

Older adults: Avoid using terms such as "seniors," "elderly," "the aged," "aging dependents," and similar "othering" terms. Do not use "senile." Use "dementia" instead of "senility" to specify the type of dementia when known. Generational descriptors (e.g., "baby boomers," "Gen X," "millennials") should be used only when discussing studies related to the topic of generations.

Disability Names of conditions are more specific than categories of conditions or general references such as "people with disabilities." The language to use for disability is evolving. The overall principle is to maintain the integrity of all individuals as human beings.

Person-first language: emphasize person, not individual's disabling or chronic condition (e.g., "person with paraplegia," "people with substance use disorders," "people with intellectual disabilities")

Identity-first language: disability becomes the focus, which allows individuals to claim the disability and choose their identity rather than permitting others to name it or select terms with negative implications (e.g., "blind person," "autistic person," "amputee")

*It is permissible to use either approach or to mix person-first and identity-first language unless or until you know that a group clearly prefers one approach.

Refer to individuals with disabilities as "patients" or "clients" within the context of a health care setting.

Avoid pictorial metaphoric or negativistic terms that imply restriction (e.g., "wheelchair-bound"), excessive and negative labels (e.g., "AIDS victim"), and slurs (e.g., "cripple").

Avoid euphemisms that are condescending when describing individuals with disabilities (e.g., "special needs," "physically challenged," "handi-capable"). Avoid reducing people with disabilities to a "bundle of deficiencies."

Gender When writing about gender identity, descriptors with modifiers (e.g., cisgender women, transgender women) are more specific than descriptors without modifiers (e.g., women) or general nongendered terms (e.g., people, individuals). Explicitly report information about the gender identities of participants rather than assuming cisgender identities. These terms are generally used in an identity-first way.

Gender: refers to attitudes, feelings, and behaviors that a given culture associates with a person's biological sex; used when referring to people as social groups

Sex: refers to biological sex assignment; use when the biological distinction of sex assignment is predominant

Gender identity: a component of gender that describes a person's psychological sense of their gender; distinct from sexual orientation

Cisgender: individuals whose sex assigned at birth aligns with their gender identity

Transgender: used as an adjective to refer to persons whose gender identity, expression, and/or role does not conform to what is culturally associated with their sex assigned at birth; other terms include "gender-nonconforming," "genderqueer," "gender-nonbinary," "gender-creative," "agender," or "two-spirit" ("two-spirit" is specific to Indigenous and Native American communities)

Transgender and gender-nonconforming (TGNC) people: generally agreed-upon umbrella term Sex assignment: use terms "assigned sex" or "sex assigned at birth" Use specific nouns to identify people or groups of people (e.g., women, men, transgender men, trans men, transgender women, trans women, cisgender women, cisgender men, gender-fluid people). Use "male" and "female" as adjectives. To refer to all human beings, use terms like "individuals," "people," or persons." Use the singular "they" to avoid making assumptions about an individual's gender.

Avoid cisgenderism/cissexism (the belief that being cisgender is normative) and genderism (the belief that there are only two genders and that gender is automatically linked to an individual's sex assigned at birth.

Avoid the terms "birth sex," "natal sex," "tranny," "transvestite," and "transsexual."

When referring to all human beings, avoid terms like "man" or "mankind."

Avoid gendered endings such as "man" in occupational titles (e.g., use "police officer" instead of "policeman").

Do not refer to pronouns as "preferred pronouns" because this implies a choice about one's gender. Use the terms "identified pronouns," "self-identified pronouns," or "pronouns" instead.

Avoid "he" or "she" as alternatives to the singular "they" because such contractions imply an exclusively binary nature of gender.

Avoid referring to one sex or gender as the "opposite sex" or "opposite gender"; appropriate wording may be "another sex" or "another gender."

Participation in research Terms that indicate the context of the research (e.g., patients, participants, clients) are more specific than general terms (e.g., people, children, women). Structure your sentences in a way that acknowledges participants' contributions and agency. Use the active voice to describe your actions and the actions of participants.

Descriptive terms such as "college students," "children," "respondents," "participants," "subjects," and "sample" Use the term "patient" to describe an individual diagnosed with mental health, behavioral health, and/or medical disease, disorder, or problem which is receiving services from a health care provider. In academic, business, school, or other settings, the term "client" might be preferred instead.

Case: an occurrence of a disorder or illness

Person: affected by disorder or illness and receiving care from a health care professional

Avoid broad clinical terms such as "borderline" and "at risk."

Avoid passive voice (e.g., "the trial was completed by the subjects" and "the participants were run") and use active voice instead (e.g., "the subjects completed the trial" and "we collected data from the participants").

Avoid the term "failed" (e.g., "eight participants failed to complete the Rorschach test") and instead use "did not complete."

Racial or ethnic groups The nation or region of origin (e.g., Chinese Americans, Mexican Americans) is more specific than a generalized origin (e.g., Asian Americans, Latin Americans).

Race: physical differences that groups and cultures consider socially significant

Ethnicity: shared cultural characteristics such as language, ancestry, practices, and beliefs

Racial and ethnic groups are designated by proper nouns and are capitalized. Use "Black" and "White" instead of "black" and "white."

When writing about people of Asian ancestry from Asia, the term "Asian" is appropriate. For people of Asian descent from the United States, the appropriate term is "Asian American" or "Asian Canadian," respectively. To provide more specificity, "Asian origin" may be divided regionally, for example into South Asia, Southeast Asia, and East Asia. The corresponding terms (e.g., East Asian) can be used; however, refer to the specific nation or region of origin when possible.

When writing about people of European ancestry, the terms "White" and "European American" are acceptable.

When writing about Indigenous Peoples, use the names that they call themselves. In general, refer to an Indigenous group as a "people" or "nation" rather than as a "tribe." Appropriate terms listed by region, but specify nation or people if possible:

  • North America: "Native American" and "Native North American" (avoid the term "Indian")
  • Hawaiian Natives: "Native American,"" "Hawaiian Native," "Indigenous Peoples of the Hawaiian Islands," and/or "Pacific Islander"
  • Canada: "Indigenous Peoples" or "Aboriginal Peoples" -Alaska: "Alaska Natives"; avoid the term "Eskimo"
  • Latin America and Caribbean: "Indigenous Peoples" -Australia: "Aboriginal People" or "Aboriginal Australians" and "Torres Strait Islander People" or "Torres Strait Island Australians"
  • New Zealand: "Māori" or the "Māori people."

When writing about people of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) descent, state the nation of origin when possible. In some cases, people of MENA descent who claim Arab ancestry and reside in the United States may be referred to as "Arab Americans."

When writing about people who identify as Hispanic, Latino/x, Chicano, or another related designation, authors should consult with their participants to determine the appropriate choice. The term "Latino" might be preferred by those originating from Latin America, including Brazil. Some use the word "Hispanic" to refer to those who speak Spanish; however, not every group in Latin America speaks Spanish. The word "Latino" is gendered, use of the word "Latin@" to mean both Latino and Latina is now widely accepted. "Latinx" can also be used as a gender-neutral or nonbinary term inclusive of all genders. There are compelling reasons to use any of the terms "Latino," "Latina," "Latino/a," "Latin@," and/or "Latinx."

To refer to non-White racial and ethnic groups collectively, use terms such as "people of color" or "underrepresented groups" rather than "minorities."

Do not use hyphens in multiword names (e.g., write "Asian American participants," not "Asian-American participants").

"African American" should not be used as an umbrella term for people of African ancestry worldwide because it obscures other ethnicities or national origins; in these cases, use "Black." The terms "Negro" and "Afro-American" are outdated.

It is problematic to group "Asian" and "Asian American" as if they are synonymous. The older term "Oriental" is primarily used to refer to cultural objects and is pejorative when used to refer to people.

The use of the term "Caucasian" as an alternative to "White" or "European" is discouraged because it originated as a way of classifying White people as a race to be favorably compared with other races.

"Hispanic" is not necessarily an all-encompassing term, and the labels "Hispanic" and "Latino" have different connotations.

Nonparallel designations (e.g., "African Americans and Whites") should be avoided because one group is described by color, whereas the other group is not. Instead, use "Blacks and Whites" or "African Americans and European Americans." Do not use the phrase "White Americans and racial minorities."

Avoid essentialism. For example, phrases such as "the Black race" and "the White race" are essentialist in nature and considered inappropriate.

Avoid the term "minority." Rather, Rather, a "minority group" is a population subgroup within ethnic, racial, social, religious, or other characteristics different from the majority of the population. If a distinction is needed, use a modifier when using the word "minority" (e.g., ethnic minority, racial minority, racial-ethnic minority."

Do not assume members of minority groups are underprivileged. Terms such as "economically marginalized" and "economically exploited" may be used rather than "underprivileged."

Sexual orientation When writing about sexual orientation, the names of people's orientations (e.g., lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, straight people) are more specific than broad group labels.

Sexual orientation: part of individual identity that includes a person's sexual and emotional attraction to another person and the behavior and/or social affiliation that may result from this attraction. Conceptualized first by the degree to which a person feels sexual and emotional attraction and second by having a direction.

Sexual orientation terms: lesbian, gay, heterosexual, straight, asexual, bisexual, queer, polysexual, and pansexual (also called multisexual and omnisexual). Sexual orientation label is predicated on the perceived or known gender identity of the other person (e.g., lesbian women or gay men), when possible.

Use the umbrella term "sexual and gender minorities" to refer to multiple sexual and/or gender minority groups, or write about "sexual orientation and gender diversity." Abbreviations such as LGBTQ, LGBTQ+, LGBTQIA, AND LGBTQIA+ may also be used to refer to multiple groups (if used, define the term and ensure it is representative of the groups you are writing about).

The terms "straight" and "heterosexual" are both acceptable to use when referring to people who are attracted to individuals of another gender.

Do not use the terms "sexual preference," "sexual identity," or "sexual orientation identity." Instead, use the term "sexual orientation."

The form "LGBT" is considered outdated, but there is no consensus about which abbreviation including or beyond LGBTQ to use.

Avoid the terms "homosexual" and "homosexuality." Instead, use specific, identity-first terms to describe people's sexual orientation (e.g., bisexual people, queer people).

Socioeconomic status When writing about SES, income ranges or specific designations (e.g., below the federal poverty threshold for a family of four) are more specific than general labels (e.g., low income). SES encompasses not only income but also educational attainment, occupational prestige, and subjective perceptions of social status and social class. Use specific, person-first language such as "mothers who receive TANF [Temporary Assitance for Needy Families U.S. welfare program] benefits" (rather than "welfare mothers"). Include racial and/or ethnic descriptors within SES categories.

Avoid using broad, pejorative, and generalizing terms, such as "the homeless," "inner-city," "ghetto," "the projects," "poverty-stricken," and "welfare reliant."

Avoid deficit-based language. Do not label people as "high school dropouts," "being poorly educated," or "having little education." Provide more sensitive and specific descriptors such as "people who do not have a grade school education."

Instead of writing about an "achievement gap," write about an "opportunity gap."

Note: Table retrieved from the Janis P. Bellack Library and Study Commons, MGH Institute of Health Professionals (2021).

Below are some helpful links about the use of bias-free and inclusive language.

To cite this LibGuide use the following templates:

APA: Northern Essex Community College Library. (Date updated). Title of page. Title of LibGuide. URL

MLA: Northern Essex Community College Library. "Title of Page." Title of LibGuide, Date updated, URL.