14 Racial Equity Terms You Should Know
Learn the vocabulary you'll need for conversations about antiracism in the workplace.
At Catalyst, we care deeply about educating our Supporters and the public, so we’ve compiled a list of definitions of words related to antiracism from our work and other leading sources across the globe that reflect Catalyst’s approach. Because these are complex concepts, we encourage you to develop a more nuanced understanding by clicking the links and doing more of your own research. Keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive, and these terms likely will evolve over time. The point: We can learn and grow our vocabulary together—starting now.
Antiracism: Proactive efforts to root out racism within communities, organizations, and yourself while also advocating for equity, inclusion, and justice.
Bias: “A preference in favor of, or against a person, group of people, or thing. These initial human reactions, which are often unconscious, are rooted in inaccurate information or reason and are potentially harmful.” (National Museum of African American History & Culture)
Colorism: “Within-group and between-group prejudice in favor of lighter skin color.” (Learning for Justice)
Emotional Tax: The combination of being on guard to protect against bias because of race, ethnicity, and gender and experiencing the associated effects on well-being and ability to thrive at work.
Ethnicity: “The multiplicity of beliefs, behaviours, and traditions held in common by a group of people bound by particular linguistic, historical, geographical, religious, and/or racial homogeneity.” (Canadian Race Relations Foundation)
Intersectionality: A framework for understanding how social identities (such as gender, race, ethnicity, social class, religion, sexual orientation, ability, and gender identity) overlap with one another and with systems of power that oppress and advantage people in the workplace and broader community. This term was coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw.
Microaggressions: “Everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.” (Derald Wing Sue)
Privilege: Benefits and advantages that come to a person solely from being a member of a group. Privilege is often not what you are given, but the hurdles and barriers you don’t have to negotiate or overcome.
Race: “A socially constructed system of categorizing humans largely based on observable physical features (phenotypes), such as skin color, and on ancestry. There is no scientific basis for or discernible distinction between racial categories.” (The Annie E. Casey Foundation)
Racial Justice: “The systematic fair treatment of people of all races, resulting in equitable opportunities and outcomes for all.” (The National Education Association)
Racism: “Historically rooted system of power hierarchies based on race—infused in our institutions, policies and culture—that benefit White people and hurt people of color.” (Race Forward)
Racisms: “New and more subtle forms of racism [that] continue to emerge derived from the false doctrine of racial differentiation…The phrase racism/s incorporates xenophobia and antisemitism… [and reflects] hostility [that] arises from markers connected to culture, language, and religion.” (British Council)
Structural racism: A type of systematic oppression that occurs when institutions explicitly or implicitly provide unfair advantages that favor some people over other people based on their race.
Systematic oppression: Occurs when institutions discriminate against groups over time and generations.