Key Terms


The practice of identifying, challenging, and changing the values, structures, and behaviors that perpetuate bias.



Policies or practices that prevent or block people from participating in society fully and equally. The barriers may be obvious such as stairs that deny people in wheelchairs access to a space, or not so obvious like hosting meetings for young people during the day when they are at school or work.


Bias - Implicit and Explicit

An implicit bias is a positive or negative mental attitude towards a person, thing, or group that a person holds at an unconscious level (this is sometimes referred to as “hidden bias”).  In contrast, an explicit bias is an attitude that a person is consciously aware of having.  Research has found that our implicit and explicit biases often diverge.  For example, a person may consciously express a neutral or positive opinion about a social group that they unconsciously hold a negative opinion about. 



When an individual’s self-perception of their gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth.  This term is often abbreviated as “cis.”



The shared ideas, beliefs, values, knowledge, norms, and way of life of a group of individuals. It also influences their beliefs about what is right, good, and important.



To act or treat people unfairly based on their sex, race, ethnicity, class, religion, political affiliation, marital or family status, sexual orientation, age or disability, either consciously or deliberately. Discrimination is often based on more than one of these factors.

Prejudice + Action = Discrimination



Exists when all communities, including traditionally excluded communities, and all minority groups within communities, can give voice effectively to their issues and participate fairly in the decision-making structures that determine their lives.


Dominant Group

The dominant group has both the power and authority to preserve, sustain, and promote the existing distribution of power and status in society.



The ability and opportunity to impact the formation of public policy at every level of government. Empowerment of the community means the community can hold public officials and community leaders accountable to the needs and interests of the community. Empowerment means having the ability to change the way things are.



A fear or contempt of those who may be or may identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered, resulting in discrimination.



Exists when disadvantaged communities and minority group members share power and decision-making at all levels in projects, programs and institutions such as schools and workplaces.



Intersectionality is the study of intersections between different disenfranchised groups or groups of minorities; specifically, the study of the interactions of multiple systems of oppression or discrimination.  Various biological, social and cultural categories such as gender, race, class, ability, sexual orientation, and other aspects of identity interact on multiple and often simultaneous levels, contributing to systemic injustice and social inequality. 



Forms of discrimination based on ability, age, sexual orientation, class, race or gender. The “isms” are a system of advantage embedded within the practices and institutions of society.


Minority Group (or Non-Dominant Group)

The concept of a minority group does not refer to numbers of people. It refers to any group that is disadvantaged, excluded, discriminated against, or exploited. A minority group may be made up of those who see themselves as objects of discrimination because of their physical or cultural characteristics. A minority group has an inferior status in society.



Multiculturalism can be defined as a policy that officially acknowledges and promotes the existence of cultural diversity as an integral and necessary component of society.


Power and Privilege (also see Privilege)

The use of advantages that allow some groups to have preference over or dominate others. In combination with the “isms,” power and privilege are used to further unfair advantage and treatment based on membership in a group rather than individual merit. We may not always be aware that we have or use power and privilege, and we may not always want it, but it is what allows some groups to have power over other groups.



An opinion, prejudgment, or attitude about a group or its individual members based on faulty and inflexible generalizations. This sets up an irrational and unfounded set of assumptions about others, which, in turn, influences our ability to evaluate these groups in a fair, objective, or accurate way.

Stereotype + Values = Prejudice.



Privilege is receiving unjust advantages at the expense of others, advantages often largely invisible to those who enjoy them.



Treatment of others with deference, courtesy and compassion to safe guard the integrity, dignity, value and social worth of the individual. It means treating people the way they want to be treated.



An exaggerated belief, image or distorted truth about a person or group – a generalization that allows for little or no individual differences or social variation.  Stereotypes are based on images in mass media, or reputations passed on by parents, peers or other members of society.  Some stereotypes may seem positive, but they are always negative. It is harmful when individuals are judged according to the perceived norms of their group instead of personal merit.


Systemic Bias

This type of discrimination is impersonal, unconscious, unintentional, and hidden. The basis of systemic bias is the consequences (not the intent) of seemingly neutral rules, policies, or procedures.



A person’s principles or standards of behavior.  One’s judgment of what is important in life.