Glossary of Terms

Acculturation: The process of becoming adapted to a new or different culture.

Anglo: A North American person of European descent. A White person.

Asian-American: Refers to people of Asian and Pacific Island descent living in the United States. This includes both American born people and recent immigrants. They are also referred to as Asian/Pacific Americans. (The frequently used term "oriental" is considered pejoratve because it evokes images of the "exotic Orient" - a land of spices, silk, and jade. While "oriental" is in common usage, it has negative connotations and Asian/Pacific people prefer other terms.)

Assimilation: The process whereby a group gradually adopts the characteristics of a new culture.

Bias: An inclination of preference, especially one that interferes with impartial judgment.

Bigotry: Prejudice carried to the extreme of overt hatred, often carried to the point of violence.

Blacks: African Americans or Afro-Americans. Used here with upper-case B as a proper noun to refer to a specific group of U.S. citizens, those of African descent. Black is the word many African Americans selected to replace the term "Negro." Haitian and West Indian people living in the U.S. sometimes refer to themselves as Blacks, and sometimes prefer their more specific name.

Chicanos: People of Mexican descent living in the United States, also known as Mexican Americans. Chicanas are female members of this group.

Classism: The United States is a stratified society, where people with wealth, educational credentials, property and businesses have greater power. They are favored in the political process, educational institutions, individual interactions and most areas of life. The belief that greater privileges should be extended to the upper and middle class because of their affluence and position in the society is one definition of classism. This ideology also justifies the extension of limited resources and opportunities to people who are working class or poor. Another definition is: Any attitude or institutional practice that subordinates people due to their economic condition. In the United States, poor people and members of the working class are not accorded the dignity and respect (let alone economic rewards) accorded to wealthy upper class people.

Culture: A system of beliefs, values, customs, behaviors and artifacts that the members of a group use to cope with one another and with their world.

Discrimination: Making decisions in a prejudicial manner that may exclude or deny opportunity; making distinctions based on race, ethnicity or distinguishing features, such as age, religious identification, or disability.

Empathy: Identification with and understanding of another person's feelings.

Ethnicity: Is defined sociologically and historically through shared symbols, meanings, and terms. Ethnicity includes religious beliefs and practices, language, a sense or historical continuity, common ancestry or place of origin.

Ethnocentrism: The emotional attitude that one's own race, nation, or culture is superior to all others.

Gay: This term was said to originate in Paris during the 1930's and referred to the homosexual male underground, i.e. establishments which catered to gay life. With the advent of the Gay Liberation Movement it was reclaimed as a term of pride which defined both men and women involved in a movement to reverse anti-gay prejudice. During the 1970's, and because of the influence of feminist thinking, gay women began to reject the term for the appellation "lesbian," because it was felt that "gay" only conjured the image of men in the minds of the general public and that gay women were invisible. Thus, currently the term "gay" is used primarily to refer to men. However, many lesbians will still alternately refer to themselves as "gay," celebrating their tradition and connecting with men as gay liberation activists.

Gender: The social construction of identity and roles for men and women.

Heterosexism: Many suggest that homophobia is an inaccurate term for anti-gay and anti-lesbian prejudices because it implies a form of uncontrollable mental panic. Heterosexism better describes the institutionalization of anti-gay and anti-lesbian beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. Heterosexism more precisely speaks to the deeply ingrained notion that heterosexuality is the superior sexual orientation.

Homophobia: An attitude and/or assumptions about homosexual people that results in fear and social distancing. Its literal meaning is "fear of same."

Integration: The removal of social and legal barriers imposed by segregation in order to promote free and equal access, association, and affiliation among those groups that have been historically excluded. The concept of integration has been primarily applied to the condition of African-Americans as they have tried to achieve racial equality by "integrating" white institutions. Integration has not been as effective in ending racism or segregation as was once thought. While institutions have become more integrated racially, white people and people of color still find themselves segregated in their lives outside the institutions where they work. Also, integration has meant that people of color have been pressured to assimilate "white values" at the expense of their culture.

Latinos/Latin Americans: Refers to Puerto Ricans, Chicanos (Mexican Americans), and Spanish speaking people from Central America, South America, and the Caribbean who are living in the United States. Hispanic is another term used to describe these populations, in fact, that is the term the U.S. government used in their data collection. But those who prefer to be known as Latinos say the word was coined to express a common cultural heritage (Black, Native American, and Spanish), while the term Hispanic merely reflects common usage of a European-based language. Female members of these groups are called Latinas.

Lesbian: It derives from the name of the famous island, Lesbos, where the teacher and poet, Sappho, was said to have migrated with a group of women who celebrated one another as lovers, friends, and companions. The inhabitants of Lesbos wre called Lesbians which has come to define women for whom sexual and affectional relationships with women are an integral part of their lives. As it came into currency again in the later 1970's "lesbian" infers not only pride and celebration of one's sexual orientation as a lesbian but also a commitment to anti-sexist living which is the result of feminist influence.

Native American: Refers to descendants of the original peoples who inhabited this continent prior to their conquest by Europeans. The terms "Indian" and "Native Peoples" are also acceptable. Preferred usage is to refer to a particular people or nation by name (e.g. Cherokee, Hopi, etc.).

Persons of Color: People of non-European ancestry. All persons self-identifying by the general categories of Black or African-American; Hispanic or Latino/a, Chicano/a; Asian or Pacific Islander; Native American, Indian, or Alaskan Native. The term includes people of these different racial and ethnic groups who are culturally and racially distinct, but who have a shared history of racial oppression. The term is often used to convey unity and enhance self-esteem. It is much preferred over "non-white people" and "minority."

People with Disabilities: Persons who have a physical or mental condition that substantially affects one or more major life activities (e.g. seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, learning, caring for oneself, and working).

Power: The ability or official capacity to exercise control over others; a person, group, or nation having great influence or control over others.

Prejudice: Preconceived judgment or opinion; an opinion or learning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge or experience is acquired.

Puerto Ricans: Refers to people born on the island of Puerto Rico and their descendants. Puerto Rico was taken as a possession of the U.S. in 1898 and U.S. citizenship was granted to (or imposed on) its residents in 1917. Migration from Puerto Rico has resulted in large Latino populations in New York and other eastern cities. Puerto Ricans on the mainland frequently have strong ties to the island.

Race: As a biological concept, it defines groups of human beings based on a set of genetically transmitted characteristics, i.e. physical characteristics, including color. The concept of race as a sociological concept is being replaced by the more appropriate concept of ethnicity.

Racism: An attitude, action or institutional structure that subordinates a person or group because of their color. Racism involves having the power to carry out systematic discriminatory practices.

Individual Racism: Expressed by attitudes and behaviors of individuals. It can be for economic gain, personal power and control. It can also be both covert and overt.

Institutional Racism: Those established laws, customs, and practices which systematically reflect and produce racial inequalities in matter what individual intentions are.

Reverse Racism: Using the defintion above, racism in the U.S. can only be "White Racism," as other groups do not have institutional power. The term "reverse racism" is in fact a misnomer.

Segregation: Segregation is an institutional form of separation and isolation of persons considered undesirable by the particular power group. In the U.S., segregation has been practiced most visibly against African-Americans, because of their race. Segregation as a practice among white people existed in fact (de facto) and by law (de jure) for 100 years after slavery was constitutionally ended. All social, political, educational, economic, and religious institutions, with rare exception, were racially segregated at one time in the U.S. The famous Supreme Court Decision, "Brown vs. the Board of Education, Topeka, Kansas," sounded the death knell to institutional segregation. However, the black civil rights movement in the U.S., during the 1950's and 60's is primarily responsible for destroying the practice of segregation. Apartheid in South Africa is another gross example of segregation. Other racial and ethnic groups as well as women in the U.S. have been victimized by formal and informal policies of segregation.

Separatism: This is a practice that purports a group's best interests are served by withdrawing and separating themselves from the power group. For instance, a group that believes women are best educated in women only universities and classes.

Sexism: A system of beliefs or attitudes that relegates females to limited roles and/or options because of their sex. A bias towards males is generally embedded in institutional structures, schools, and the job market, the political system and so forth. That system is referred to as institutional sexism and it functions in the same way as institutionalized racism, but in this case females are subordinated and excluded. Institutional sexism can be intentional or unintentional.

Sexual Orientation: This term refers to an individual's expression of his or her sexual/affectional attractions.

Stereotype: A mental picture developed as a result of a myth. It is a characteristic or series of characteristics that grow out of a myth or are placed on people.

Third World: Refers to people in the U.S. who are often called "minority" or "non-white." While people of color are a minority in this country, they are the vast majority of the world's population, and White people are a distinct minority. Use of the term minority ignores the global majority/minority reality - a fact of increasing importance in the interconnected liberation struggles of people of color inside and outside the U.S. Use of the term results in our losing sight of this reality. (To describe people of color as "non-white is to use whiteness as the standard "norm" against which all others are defined. It is doubtful that Whites would appreciate being defined as "non-colored.")

Whites: People of European ancestry living in the U.S. We have capitalized Whites here because it stands for European Americans.