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The Language of Diversity

Language can be as diverse as people. Words can mean different things to different audiences. As such, we have created this introductory glossary of commonly used terms to better equip the campus community with practical tools to promote inclusive excellence through language. This comprehensive list of terms is not meant to be exhaustive, but it is our hope these working definitions will serve as a reference in developing a common shared understanding of equity, diversity and inclusion terminology. Just like people, language is continually evolving, and words are just as powerful as the people who use them.


Affirming Language – respectfully recognizes an individual before their identity (also known as person-first language – example: “people with disabilities” instead of “disabled people”)


Bias – an inclination or preference, especially one that interferes with impartial judgment


Blind Spot Bias – the inability to recognize personal biases yet recognizing biases in others


Dialogue engaging in respectful communication where individuals are able to freely share information about one’s thoughts, perspectives and experiences


Discrimination – behavior that treats people unequally because of their group membership(s)


Diversity – the wide variety of shared and different personal and group characteristics among human beings; recognizing individual difference


Equality – the belief that everyone should be treated the same


Equity – accounting for each person’s individual history, experiences and needs in an effort to treat everyone equally and fairly


Feminism – the idea that women and men should have social, political and economic equality


Implicit Bias – the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner


Inclusion – the breaking down of barriers and building of bridges to purposefully define and shape a culture


Intercultural  the interaction of groups from different racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds


Interfaitha relation that involves or occurs between persons of different faiths or non-faiths


Intersectionality – the overlap and interconnectedness of various social identities (race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, religion/worldview, etc.)


Oppression – systemic discriminationresulting from institutional power and privilege where one membership group benefits at the expense of another


Pluralism - the co-existence and active engagement of members of diverse religious and non-religious belief systems


Prejudice – an opinion, prejudgment or attitude about a group or individual group members before having guaranteed and adequate knowledge to do so


Privilege – an inherited, unearned advantage based on membership in an identity group


Social Identity – involves the ways in which individuals are categorized based on group membership


Social Justice  the concept that all people should have access to resources and the exercise of rights 


Spheres of Influence – areas where we can influence change on personal, interpersonal, community and societal levels


Stereotype – an exaggerated belief, image or distorted truth about a person or group