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GLOSSARY: Racial Equity Tools

Language can be used deliberately to engage and support community anti-racism coalitions and initiatives, or to inflame and divide them. Discussing definitions can engage and support coalitions yet is important for groups to decide the extent to which they must have consensus and where it is okay for people to disagree. It is important to keep in mind that the words people use to discuss power, privilege, racism and oppression hold different meanings for different people. People at different stages in developing an analysis tend to attach different meanings to words like discrimination, privilege and institutional racism. When people are talking about privilege or racism, the words they use often come with emotions and assumptions that are not spoken.

Many of these and other related terms have evolved over time. For example, given the changing demographic trends in the United States, the word “minority” no longer accurately reflects the four primary racial/ethnic groups. The terms “emerging majority” and “people of color” have become popular substitutes. Also, the terms used to refer to members of each community of color have changed over time. Whether to use the terms African American or black, Hispanic American or Latino, Native American or American Indian, and Pacific Islander or Asian American depends of a variety of conditions, including geographic location, age, generation, and, sometimes, political orientation.