Carthage promotes a working language that frames our understanding of diversity, equity, and inclusion within the context of deepening equity and access, institutional receptivity, diversity in the curriculum, and student/adult learning development to promote equitable student outcomes. This is not envisioned to be an in-depth glossary of all the language used in conversations regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion. The meaning of these words may change and evolve depending on its context. This glossary and its definitions provide a foundation to engage in open and honest conversation, and is a tool meant to build a common language of understanding.

AAC & U (Association of American Colleges & Universities)

A national voice and a force for liberal education in support of campus action, advocacy, and research initiatives

Active listening

A process of hearing and understanding what someone is saying by empathizing with the speaker(s) and considering their perspective(s)

Achievement gap

Refers to outputs; the unequal or inequitable distribution of educational results and benefits


Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions, such as treating someone as weak or unintelligent because they are not adults; usually those of older persons against younger persons


Prejudiced thoughts and discriminatory actions, such as referring to someone’s age in a context in which age isn’t relevant, based on differences in age; usually those of younger persons against older persons


A tendency to be unconcerned with history or historical events, a lack of regard for history; specifically a system of thought or analysis which fails to view persons, texts, cultural phenomena, etc., within their historical context


An active verb; leveraging personal positions of power and privilege to fight oppression by respecting, working with, and empowering marginalized voices and communities; using one’s own voice to project others’, less represented, voices


The process of adapting or adjusting to the culture or behaviors of a dominant or majority group or nation

Be Uncomfortable

The act of putting yourself outside of your comfort zone, and into situations in which you are not privileged where you otherwise would be *Does not include putting oneself in physical danger!*


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


A person who functions effectively and appropriately and can select appropriate behaviors, values, and attitudes within either of two cultures; a person who identifies with two cultures


A gender identity in which a person’s experiences of their gender matches the gender and sex they were assigned at birth


A socially constructed assumption that everyone’s gender matches their biological sex, and that that is the norm from which all other gender identities deviate

Civil rights

The rights established and ensured by a state government regarding political and social equality


Any attitude or institutional practice which subordinates people of a certain socioeconomic class due to income, occupation, education, and/or their economic status; a system that works to keep certain communities within a set socioeconomic class and prevents social and economic mobility


The conscious or unconscious act of ‘switching’ between two languages, dialects, or intonations depending on the specific situation of who one is speaking to, what is being discussed, and the relationship and power and/or community dynamics between those involved


A term referring to the disregard of racial characteristics. Proponents of color-blind practices believe that treating people equally inherently leads to a more equal society and/or that racism and race privilege no longer exercise the power they once did, while opponents of color-blind practices believe that color-blindness allows those in power to disregard or ignore the history of oppression and how it is experienced today

Critical Race Theory (CRT)

Recognizes that racism is endemic to American life; expresses skepticism toward dominant legal claims of neutrality, objectivity, colorblindness, and meritocracy; challenges ahistoricism and insists on a contextual/historical analysis of the law; presumes that racism has contributed to all contemporary manifestations of group advantage and disadvantage

Cultural appropriation

The act of members of dominant/powerful/privileged groups claiming ownership of,or the rights to, less powerful/privileged groups’ cultural and/or religious symbols, dress, and ceremonies

Cultural competence

The ability to effectively and empathetically work and engage with people of different cultural identities and backgrounds in order to provide safe and accountable spaces for dialogue and discourse; cultural competence is relevant in all fields of work, education, and informal social interactions


The patterns of shared basic assumptions, behaviors, and experiences within a group of people that are learned by and taught to new members in order to guide them in the appropriate and inappropriate ways of perceiving, thinking, feeling, and acting

Deficit thinking

A way of thinking (beliefs & attitudes) to explain the school failures of economically challenged and ethnically diverse students as a result of preconceived biases


A bi-directional conversation between people of two different groups or communities coming together to create and recreate multiple understandings of a topic or issue


Being differently abled (physically, mentally, emotionally) from that which society has structured to be the norm in such a way so that the person is unable to move, or has difficulty moving—physically, socially, economically—through life


Being deprived of power and/or access to rights, opportunities, and services


Actions or thoughts, based on conscious or unconscious bias, that favor one group over others


A multiplicity of shared and different individual and group experiences, values, beliefs, and characteristics among people; an emphasis on access to an institution and representation within the student body; a “mix” of differences around nationality, ethnicity, gender, age, family background, abilities/disabilities, educational background, socio-economic status, work experience, home/geographic “roots”, profession, religion, and organizational affiliation

Educate yourself

Taking time to learn about issues from other communities for oneself without making people of those communities spend time teaching you. By learning about the histories and experiences of target groups, we can become better allies and advocates


A learned skill that allows one to recognize and deeply listen to another’s story or experiences, and connect them to common understandings and emotions; differs from sympathy


Cultivate collaborative learning experiences to connect people, purpose, and practice toward a common goal of equity for all students


Treating everyone the same but giving everyone the same opportunities regardless of their differences


The situation in which all people or groups are given access to the correct number and types of resources for them so as to achieve equal results; emphasis on achieving parity in educational outcomes and experiences; race-conscious awareness of how race and ethnicity can affect the opportunities available to an individual

Equity gap

Inequities that occur when biased or unfair policies, programs, practices, or situations contribute to a lack of equality in educational performance, results, and outcomes


Involves data-driven inquiry into student outcomes, new and intensified awareness of identity-based inequities as institutional problems; personal and collective responsibility for achieving outcomes. Equity thinking promotes robust discussions about gaps in student outcomes because it focuses attention on factors within the realm of institutional control

Explicit bias

Refers to the attitudes and beliefs we have about a person or group on a conscious level. Much of the time, these biases and their expression arise as the direct result of a perceived threat


The pursuit of the social, economic, and political equality of all people, regardless of sex, gender, sexuality, race, geographic allocation,body size, socioeconomic status, physical and mental ability, and religion

Fundamental attribution error

The often unconscious bias to place more emphasis on perceived internal or innate characteristics to explain someone’s behavior in a given situation; doesn’t take into consideration the external factors that can, and often do, impact an individual’s behavior


The socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and characteristics that a given society categorizes as ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’; not defined by one’s biological sex

Gender identity

A person’s individual and subjective sense of their own gender; gender identities exist in a spectrum, and are not just masculine and feminine

Gender neutral pronoun

Pronouns that do not adhere to the he:she and his:her binary, and can refer to a number of different gender identities


The intentional attempt to completely erase or destroy a peoples through structural oppression and/or open acts of physical violence


Demographic shifts that usually occur in big cities in which upper-middle class and/or racially privileged individuals and businesses move into historically working class and poor and/or racially oppressed neighborhoods and communities


One group or community holding all authoritative power or dominance over other groups in a given society, geographical region, and/or politicalsystem


A socially constructed assumption that heterosexuality is the natural norm from which all other sexual preferences deviate; the assumption that everyone identifies as heterosexual until shown or proven otherwise


On a personal level, homophobia is an irrational fear, aversion, or dislike of homosexualities and people who identify as homosexual; on a social level, homophobia is the ingrained structural discrimination against homosexuality and those who identify homosexual that prevents access to certain resources or opportunities and inhibits individuals from feeling safe or able to be socially recognized as homosexual

Horizontal hostility

The structural strategy to intentionally place two or more oppressed groups in competition with one another; a strategy that aims to divide and conquer

ICS (Intercultural Conflict Style)

Inventory used to recognize and effectively respond to cultural differences in communication and conflict styles

IDI (Intercultural Development Inventory)

Is a 50-item, cross culturally generalizable, valid, and reliable assessment of intercultural competence. The IDI is available online and measures both one’s mindset and skillset

Intercultural competence

The capability to shift cultural perspective and appropriately adapt behavior to cultural difference and commonalities


A person who moves out of their country of birth, supposedly for permanent residence in a new country

Implicit bias

Refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control. Residing deep in the subconscious, these biases are different from known biases that individuals may choose to conceal for the purposes of social and/or political correctness


Involves bringing together and harnessing diverse forces and resources, in a way that is beneficial; puts the concept and practice of diversity into action by creating an environment of involvement, respect, and connection—where the richness of ideas, backgrounds, and perspectives are harnessed to create business value

Inclusive excellence

A focus on intellectual and social development; attention to cultural differences learners bring to the educational experience; purposeful development and utilization of organizational resources in support of a welcoming community

Institutional oppression

The systematic mistreatment and dehumanization of any individual based solely on a social identity group with which they identify that is supported and enforced by society and its institutions; based on the belief that people of such a social identity group are inherently inferior


The intersection of race, class, gender, and ability identities within each individual that informs how one views, discusses, and navigates through the world the way each of us views and discusses the world


The establishment or determination of rights according to rules of law and standards of equity; the process or result of using laws to fairly judge crimes and criminality


The umbrella community of people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, two-spirited, queer, questioning, intersex, and/or asexual


The systematic disempowerment of a person or community by denying access to necessary resources, enforcing prejudice through society’s institutions, and/or not allowing for that individual or community’s voice, history, and perspective to be heard


Subconscious and often well-meaning actions or remarks that convey an unconscious bias and hurt the person at the receiving end


The ability to move through society, both physically and socioeconomically


A person who identifies as coming from two or more ethnic groups; a person whose biological parents come from different ethnic groups


A person who identifies as coming from two or more racial groups; a person whose biological parents come from different racial groups


Prejudiced thoughts or discriminatory actions that benefit or show preference to individuals born in a territory over those who have migrated into said territory


A strategy employed by social and civil advocates that stresses social and political change through acts that do not involve physical violence against oneself or others; nonviolent language is used to imply language that does not perpetuate structural inequalities

Opportunity gap

Refers to inputs; the unequal or inequitable distribution of resources and opportunities


The systemic use of institutional power and ideological and cultural hegemony, resulting in one group benefiting at the expense of another; the use of power and the effects of domination


A social system and institution in which men have primary power in the political, social, economic, legal, and familial spheres; patriarchy favors male-dominated thought, and is centralized on the male narrative or perspective of how the world works and should work

People of Color

An umbrella term for any person or peoples that is considered by the society in which they live to be non-white


A preconceived, often unconscious, judgment or opinion about a person or group; usually a negative bias


Benefit, advantage, or favor granted to individuals and communities by unequal social structures and institutions


An umbrella term within the LGBTQQIA community that refers to anyone who doesn’t prescribe to societal views of gender and sexuality; implies elasticity and a resistance to the notion of a predetermined gender and sexual identity based on biology


Someone who is questioning their gender identity and/or sexuality


A term used to identify and define individuals as part of a distinct group based on physical characteristics and some cultural and historical commonalities; once used to denote differentiations in humankind based on physiology and biology, race is now understood as a social construct that is not scientifically based, though is still commonly associated with notions of biological difference; race is still sometimes perceived as innate and inalterable


An ideology and institution that reflects the racial worldview in which humans are divided into racial groups and in which races are arranged in a hierarchy where some races are considered innately superior to others; racism is the effect of domination of certain racial groups by other racial groups, historically the domination of people of color by white/European peoples


To take back or demand the return of something that was lost or taken away; to restore to a previous state


A person who flees for refuge or safety, especially to a foreign country, as in time of political upheaval, war, etc.


Giving consideration and attention to a given person, group, or situation that takes another’s perspective and experiences into account

Safe space

Spaces in which people, often of marginalized or underrepresented social groups, can say, be, and share their experiences without fear or judgment


Characteristic of a feature that is made prominent, important, or is brought to the forefront of a person’s social identity and how they are perceived by others

Sense of belonging

Is relational and reciprocal; It’s the “I am we and we are each” phenomenon. In essence, “a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group, and shared faith that members’ needs will be met through their commitment to be together”


The conscious or unconscious act of excluding or inhibiting certain groups’ voices, thus preventing their experiences, perspectives, and histories to be heard


An insulting or derogatory comment, reference, or label

Social justice

The practice of allyship and coalition work in order to promote equality, equity, respect, and the assurance of rights within and between communities and social groups


Unity or agreement based on shared interests and objectives; long-term mutual support within and between groups


An attitude, belief, feeling, or assumption about a person or group of people that are widespread and socially sanctioned; though stereotypes can be positive and negative, they all have negative effects because they support institutionalized oppression by validating

Stereotype threat

The risk of internalizing and confirming others’ negative biases towards one’s social group


The superiority of one group of people over other groups of people through a system of domination and subordination

Systemic racism

A form of racism that stems from social and political hierarchy


Acceptance and open-mindedness to cultures, practices, and attitudes that are different from one’s own; does not necessitate agreeing with those differences

Unconscious bias

Negative stereotypes regarding a person or group of people; these biases influence individuals’ thoughts and actions without their conscious knowledge. We all have unconscious biases

Underrepresented student

Racial and ethnic student populations that are disproportionately lower in number to its general population of students

White guilt

The individual or collective guilt felt by some white people for the historical and current oppressions experienced by people of color; though white guilt has been described as being a detrimental consequence of racism, experiences associated with white guilt are not comparable to the experiences of systemic oppression faced by marginalized communities

White privilege

The right or advantage provided to people who are considered white; an exemption of social, political, and/or economic burdens placed on non-white people; benefitting from societal structuring that prioritizes white people and whiteness


Like race, whiteness is a social construct rather than an essential characteristic or biological fact; is used as cultural property, and can be seen to provide material and/or social privilege to those who are considered white, pass as white, or are given honorary white status


Pertaining to a type of feminism that acknowledges the abilities and contributions of black women


The unreasonable fear or dislike of things, cultures, forms of expression, or people that are different from oneself and one’s own experiences of the everyday; fear of that which seems foreign or strange