Definitions of Racism
The systematic subordination of members of targeted racial
groups who have relatively little social power in the United States
(Blacks, Latino/as, Native Americans, and Asians), by the members
of the agent racial group who have relatively more social power
(Whites). The subordination is supported by the actions of
individuals, cultural norms and values, and the institutional
structures and practices of society.
The beliefs, attitudes, and actions of individuals that
support or perpetuate racism. Individual racism can occur at both
an unconscious and conscious level, and can be both active and
passive. Examples include telling a racist joke, using a racial
epithet, or believing in the inherent superiority of
Actions which have as their stated or explicit goal the
maintenance of the system of racism and the oppression of those in
the targeted racial groups. People who participate in active racism
advocate the continued subjugation of members of the targeted
groups and protection of “the rights” of members of the
agent group. These goals are often supported by a belief in the
inferiority of people of color and the superiority of white people,
culture, and values.
Beliefs, attitudes, and actions that contribute to the
maintenance of racism, without openly advocating violence or
oppression. The conscious or unconscious maintenance of attitudes,
beliefs, and behaviors that support the system of racism, racial
prejudice and racial dominance.
Those aspects of society that overtly and covertly
attribute value and normality to white people and Whiteness, and
devalue, stereotype, and label people of color as
“other”, different, less than, or render them
invisible. Examples of these norms include defining white skin
tones as nude or flesh colored, having a future time orientation,
emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology,
defining one form of English as standard, and identifying only
Whites as great writers or composers.
The network of institutional structures, policies, and
practices that create advantages and benefits for Whites, and
discrimination, oppression, and disadvantages for people from
targeted racial groups. The advantages created for Whites are often
invisible to them, or are considered “rights” available
to everyone as opposed to “privileges” awarded to only
some individuals and groups.
Source: Teaching for Diversity and Social
Justice, 1197 eds. Adams, Bell & Griffin
A pseudobiological category that distinguishes people
based on physical characteristics (e.g., skin color, body
shape/size, facial features, hair texture). People of one race can
vary in terms of ethnicity and culture.
A group whose members share a common history and origin,
as well as commonalities in terms of factors such as nationality,
religion, and cultural activities.
The way of life of a group of people including the shared
values, beliefs, behaviors, family roles, social relationships,
verbal and nonverbal communication styles, orientation to
authority, as well as preferences and expressions (art, music,
food). “What everybody knows that everybody else
A dynamic process that occurs when members of one culture
(culture of origin) come into contact with another culture
(host/dominant culture) over a long period of time. The process
involves exposure to, reaction to, and possible adoptions of
aspects of the other groups culture. Adapting to the
characteristics of the larger or dominant culture, while retaining
some of one’s unique cultural traits.
The process of giving up connections to and aspects of
one’s culture of origin and blending in with the
host/dominant culture. Also, the wholesale adoption of the dominant
culture at the expense of the original culture.
An attitude or opinion that is held in the absence of (or
despite) full information. Typically it is negative in nature and
based on faulty, distorted or unsubstantiated information that is
over generalized and relatively in-flexible. Prejudices can be
conscious or relatively unconscious.
Treatment of a group of people within a society that
results in the systematic denial of equal access to civil rights,
freedoms, and power within that society. It involves a devaluing
and non-acceptance of the target group and can be manifested
economically, politically, socially, and/or psychologically.
Individuals, through their values and behavior, can collude with a
system of oppression which contributes to its maintenance in a
"In any given circumstances, people who are the same in
those respects relevant to how they are treated in those
circumstances should receive the same treatment" (p. 45). Equality
defined in this way, looks at the individual and the circumstances
surrounding him or her. It does not focus on group differences
based on categories such as race, sex, social class, and ethnicity.
This view is one of assimilation because it assumes that
individuals, once socialized into society, have the right "to do
anything they want, to choose their own lives and not be hampered
by traditional expectations and stereotypes" (Young, 1990, p.
"…. deals with difference and takes into
consideration the fact that this society has many groups in it who
have not always been given equal treatment and/or have not had a
level field on which to play. These groups have been frequently
made to feel inferior to those in the mainstream and some have been
oppressed. To achieve equity, according to Young (1990), "Social
policy should sometimes accord special treatment to groups" (p.
158). Thus, the concept of equity provides a case for unequal
treatment for those who have been disadvantaged over time. It can
provide compensatory kinds of treatment, offering it in the form of
special programs and benefits for those who have been discriminated
against and are in need of opportunity."
Equitable access provides groups of people access to
resources, services and programs that would not otherwise be
available to them due to disadvantages created over time resulting
from many factors including marginalization, racism,
discrimination, and oppression. In essence, equitable access
attempts to create a level playing field between the have and have
Equity and Equality Definitions came from Krause,
J. K, Traini, D. J., & Mickey, B. H. (2001). Equality versus
equity. In J. P. Shapiro & J. A. Stefkovick (Eds), Ethical
leadership and decision making in education (76-90). Mahwah, NJ: