Glossary of Terms


Glossary of Terms


Antiracism: An active and consistent process of change to eliminate individual, institutional and systemic racism as well as the oppression and injustice racism causes. (Source: Canadian Race Relations Foundation’s Glossary of Terms)


Class: A category usually used to divide members of society into groups in terms of their economic status. The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as “a social stratum whose members share certain economic, social, or cultural characteristics.”


Classism: The cultural, institutional and individual set of practices and beliefs that assign value to people according to their socio-economic status, thereby resulting in differential treatment. (Source: Canadian Race Relations Foundation’s Glossary of Terms)


Culture: The mix of ideas, beliefs, values, behavioral and social norms, knowledge and traditions of a group of individuals who have historical, geographic, religious, racial, linguistic, ethnic or social context, and who transmit, reinforce and modify those ideas, values and beliefs, passing them on from one generation to another. It results in a set of expectations for appropriate behavior in seemingly similar contexts. (Source: Canadian Race Relations Foundation’s Glossary of Terms)


Cultural Group: A group of people that share certain characteristics such as mannerisms, beliefs (religious and other), language, values, and usually a common history, real or fictitious. See Ethnic Group.


Cultural Humility: The ability to understand, appreciate, communicate and interact with persons from other cultures, races, genders, and belief systems different from one’s own, in order to effectively engage with people in God’s intercultural community.


Culturally Humble Organization: The policies and practices of an organization, its values and mores, which enable that organization, and individuals in the organization, to interact effectively in an intercultural environment: assessing culture, valuing and managing the dynamics of difference, adapting to difference, and institutionalizing cultural knowledge. Cultural humility is a “way of being” that is reflected in the way an organization treats its members, its employees, its clients, and its community.


Cultural Identity: Seeing oneself in relation to one’s own ethnic or cultural group. There are many different affiliations that we hold that come together to create a unique cultural identity for each of us. Our cultural identity is very complex with each group membership intersecting with the others. Because of this complexity, we cannot be judged, labeled or categorized based on one aspect of our identity. (Source:  D. Merrill-Sands, Holvino, and Cumming. Working with Diversity: Working Paper NO.

11, Center for Gender in Organizations, Simmons Graduate School of Management, MA, USA, 2000.


Discrimination: Treating members of a targeted group less favorably than those of the dominant group. This often occurs when the dominant group determines the accessibility of goods or services for, and/or the rights and privileges of, the targeted group. (Source: Association for Women’s rights in Development.


Ethnic Group: A group socially defined on the basis of cultural characteristics of diverse types such as language, religion, kinship organization, dress, and mannerism, or any other set of criteria deemed relevant to the actors concerned. (Source: Merrill-Sands, D., Holvino, and Cumming. Working with Diversity, Working Paper, No. 11, Center for Gender in Organizations, Simmons Graduate School of Management, MA, USA: 2000)


Ethnicity: A social construct which divides people into smaller social groups based on characteristics such as shared sense of group membership, values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interests, history and ancestral geographical base. (Source: Maurianne Adams, Lee Anne Bell, and Pat Griffin, editors. Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A sourcebook. New York: Routledge, 2000)


Gender Equality: Women and men have equal conditions for realizing their full human rights and potential to contribute to national, political, economic, social and cultural development and to benefit equally from the results, not by becoming the same, but by correcting the systemic nature of inequality. (Source: Association of Women’s Rights in Development,


Institutional Racism: When the values, norms, beliefs, standards and expectations of a dominant group become the basis for organizational policies, practices, arrangements and appropriate behaviors, and result in unequal distribution of benefits and opportunities. The power to control resources, determine access, reward and punish behaviors, distribute benefits and privilege is lodged in norms of the dominant group and access is denied to people of different identity groups. (Source: Merrill-Sands, D., Holvino and Cumming. Working with Diversity.


Intercultural: Respecting and embracing different cultures or cultural identities within a society or nation, holding each as equally valuable to and influential upon the members of society. An intercultural church treasures the different cultural contexts that God gives to different individuals and communities and values diverse expressions of practicing the faith. It offers a positive vision of the whole community, together in its difference. It encourages a healthy critique of each other’s points of view, and it values the give and take of respectful relationships. It also takes steps to become a multilingual community.


Intercultural Church Movement: Igniting the intercultural vision in the church is a radical transformation calling all of us to change. The movement inspires Presbyterians to: I- Interact and build deep relationships with people of different races and cultures, E- Educate in the areas of cultural humility and intercultural ministry, and I- Involve ourselves in intercultural coalitions to ignite the vision for intercultural ministries in the church in this new era.


Intercultural Coalitions: Individuals of different races and cultures who join together in groups as allies, advocates, and partners, learning from one another, strategizing and taking action to disrupt racism, actively resist white privilege, challenging social and historical inequalities that permeate institutions, and joining together in the vision of becoming God’s intercultural community.


Internalized Oppression: External oppression becomes internalized oppression when the oppressed come to believe and act as if the oppressor’s belief system, values, and way of life are reality.


Intersectionality: The experience of the interconnected nature of race, gender, class, ethnicity, etc. (cultural and social), and the way they are imbedded within existing systems, such that they define how one is valued. The reality for people who suffer not only from one form of bias, but also experience a range of other forms of oppression. For instance, most women of color experience discrimination not only because of their race but also because of their gender; in other words, women of color live the intersection of gender and race discrimination.


Prejudice: A pre-judgment drawn in the absence of evidence and held in the face of evidence that contradicts it. (Source: Working Definitions prepared for anti-racism training in the PCUSA)

Privilege: In organizational systems, large or small, privilege refers to the unearned benefits that come from having access to the tangible resources and social rewards of that system. Privilege also extends to the power to name and influence the functions of the system itself. Privilege in any organizational system includes the ability to have one’s voice heard and/or exercise power, to shape the norms and values of the system (group, organization, society).


Race: A socially constructed category – rather than an objective, scientifically or biologically consistent characteristic of a person or group of persons – developed during the period of European colonial expansion that uses characteristics such as skin color, facial features, and body structure as a basis for classifying people.


Racism: (Power + Racial Prejudice = Racism) Racism in the United States is a social system in which some are advantaged and others are disadvantaged because of skin color. Racism is not primarily about individual prejudice or an individual’s beliefs and attitudes. It results from a merger of social power and racial prejudice to create systems that treat people differently whether intentionally or unintentionally. It shapes institutions and structures, so that they provide privileges for some while oppressing others. It involves inequality and unfair access to the distribution of such resources as money, education, information, and decision-making power between dominant and dominated groups.


Sexism: Refers to gender stereotyping of women and men as hierarchically ordered (men over women) and also as confined to limited cultural identities and roles as “masculine and “feminine.” It is expressed in the exclusion of women from certain types of employment or leadership roles that are assumed to be the prerogatives of males. Sexism is expressed in personal, interpersonal, cultural, economic, legal and political terms, and is part of a total social and cultural system. (Source: Rosemary Radford Ruether, Dictionary of Feminist Theologies, Westminster/John Knox. Letty M. Russell and J. Shannon Clarkson, 1996.)


Stereotype: A fixed notion or conception of a person, group, idea, etc., allowing for no individuality and no critical judgment of individual cases. Stereotypes are usually based on false generalizations about a particular category of people, and are often used to justify the actions taken against members of that group. (Source: Maurianne Adams, et. al.)


White Privilege: “White privilege” names the unearned advantages that come to whites in the system of racial preference. Whites tend to assume that they are “normal” and that others are “other.” This puts them in the powerful position of defining the world. The concrete benefits of access to resources and social rewards and the power to shape the norms and values of society which whites receive, either consciously or unconsciously, by virtue of their skin color in a racist society where those who are considered to be white are the dominant group. Generally white people who enjoy such privilege do so without being conscious of it. The sense of whites as non-raced and others as being racialized perpetuates the assumed authority of whites to define, and with this assumed authority whites define everyone (themselves and others) in terms of themselves. Whites assume the right to make meaning, to describe, analyze, and define reality. This definition nearly always places whites and their/our definitions and understandings at the center; all others are hyphenated or labeled as other. (Source: “Working Definitions” prepared for antiracism training in the PCUSA).