SJE Concepts Defined

Note/resourcesNew England Resource Center for Higher Education and the National Conference for Community and Justice, Oregon State University.  It is not intended to be an exhaustive list of every word and term used in conversations about diversity and social justice.  Keep in mind that as language continues to evolve around these concepts, many of these words and terms will also change.

Ableist: discrimination or prejudice against an individual or group with a disability.

Accessibility: The extent to which a facility is readily approachable and usable by individuals with disabilities, particularly such public/commonly shared areas, public offices, the worksite, college campus, and businesses.

Ageist:  discrimination or prejudice against an individual or group on the basis of their age.

Agender: a nonbinary gender identity in which one feels no alignment to any gender

Ally: member of the "majority" group who works to end oppression in their personal life through support of and as an advocate for the oppressed population/group.

American Indian (Native American): A person having origin in any of the original tribes of North America who maintains cultural identification through tribal affiliation or community recognition.

Androgynous: A person appearing and/or identifying as neither man nor woman, presenting a gender either mixed or neutral.

Aromantic: an orientation in which one has no desire for romantic relationships

Asexual: an orientation in which one has no desire for sexual relationships

Assigned Birth Sex: The biological sex assigned (named) an individual baby at birth.

Biphobia: A dislike or fear of bisexual people.

Bisexual: A person who may be attracted, romantically and/or sexually, to people of more than one gender, not necessarily at the same time, not necessarily in the same way, and not necessarily to the same degree.

Bullied: Being subjected to unwanted offensive and malicious behavior that undermines, patronizes, intimidates, or demeans.

Cisgender: a person who identifies with gender they were assigned at birth.

Classist: discrimination or prejudice against an individual or group based on social or economic class.

Climate:  the current attitudes, behaviors, and standards of students, faculty, staff, and administrators, as well as UNH environment and policies, which influence the level of respect for individual needs, abilities, and potential.

Cronyism: The hiring or promoting of friends or associates to positions without proper regard to their qualifications.

Dead-naming: the act of using a name for a trans person that they no longer use, whether intentionally or accidentally

Discrimination: Discrimination refers to the treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person based on the group, class, or category to which that person belongs rather than on individual merit. Discrimination can be the effect of some law or established practice that confers privilege or liability based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender, gender expression, gender identity, pregnancy, physical or mental disability, medical condition (cancer-related or genetic characteristics), genetic information (including family medical history), ancestry, marital status, age, sexual identity, citizenship, or service in the uniformed services.

Diversity: Individual differences (e.g., personality, learning styles, and life experiences) and group/social differences (e.g., race/ethnicity, class, gender, sexual orientation, country of origin, physical or cognitive abilities, as well as cultural, political, religious, or other affiliations) that can be engaged in the service of learning.

Equity: Creating opportunities for equal access and success for historically underrepresented populations, such as racial and ethnic minority and low-income students, in three main areas:

  • Representational equity, the proportional participation at all levels of an institution;
  • Resource equity, the distribution of educational resources in order to close equity gaps; and
  • Equity-mindedness, the demonstration of an awareness of and willingness to address equity issues among institutional leaders and staff

Ethnic Identity: A socially constructed category about a group of people based on their shared culture. This can be reflected in language, religion, material culture such as clothing and cuisine, and cultural products such as music and art.

Ethnocentrism: discrimination or prejudice against an individual or group’s culture based solely by the values and standards of one's own culture. Ethnocentric individuals judge other groups relative to their own ethnic group or culture, especially with concern for language, behavior, customs, and religion.

Experiential Learning:  refers to a pedagogical philosophy and methodology concerned with learning activities outside of the traditional classroom environment, with objectives which are planned and articulated prior to the experience (e.g., internship, service learning, co-operative education, field experience, practicum, cross-cultural experiences, apprenticeships, etc.).

Family Leave: The Family and Medical Leave Act is a labor law requiring employers with 50 or more employees to provide certain employees with job-protected unpaid leave due to situations such as the following: serious health conditions that make employees unable to perform their jobs; caring for a sick family member; or caring for a new child (including birth, adoption, or foster care). For more information, see http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/

Gender Identity: A person’s inner sense of being man, woman, both, or neither. Gender identity may or may not be expressed outwardly and may or may not correspond to one’s physical characteristics.

Gender Expression: The manner in which a person outwardly represents gender, regardless of the physical characteristics that might typically define the individual as male or female.

Genderfluid: when one feels that their gender flows or fluctuates between binary genders.

Gender non-conforming: a person who does not fully present as either binary gender, or presents in a way that contradicts their assigned sex at birth. 

Genderqueer: A person whose gender identity is outside of, not included within, or beyond the binary of female and male, or who is gender nonconforming through expression, behavior, social roles, and/or identity.

Harassment: Unwelcomed behavior that demeans, threatens, or offends another person or group of people and results in a hostile environment for the targeted person/group.

Heterosexist: Discrimination or prejudice against an individual or group based on a sexual orientation that is not heterosexual.

Homophobia: A fear of, aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality and individuals who identify as or are perceived as homosexual.

Inclusion: The active, intentional, and ongoing engagement with diversity—in people, in the curriculum, in the co-curriculum, and in communities (intellectual, social, cultural, geographical). 

Intersectionality: A way of understanding and analyzing the complexity in the world, in people, and in human experiences. The events and conditions of social and political life and the self can seldom be understood as shaped by one factor. They are generally shaped by many factors in diverse and mutually influencing ways.  When it comes to social inequality, people's lives and the organization of power in a given society are better understood as being shaped not by a single axis of social division, be it race or gender or class, but by many axes that work together and influence each other. Intersectionality as an analytic tool gives people better access to complexity of the world and themselves (from Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge's Intersectionality (New York: Polity, 2016), 2.

Intersex: Any one of a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that does not seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.

Microaggression:  A term used for brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative prejudicial slights and insults toward any person/group. They can be intentional or unintentional and are often unacknowledged.

Nepotism: The hiring or promoting of family members to positions without proper regard to their qualifications.

Non-Binary:  A transgender person who does not fully identify either either male or female category.

Oppression: A systemic social phenomenon based on preconceived and real differences among social groups that involve ideological domination, institutional control, and the promulgation of the oppressor's ideology, logic system, and culture to the oppressed group.  The result is the exploitation of one social group by another for the benefit of the oppressor group.

Pansexual: Fluid in sexual identity and is attracted to others regardless of their sexual identity or gender.

People of Color: is used primarily in the United States to describe any person who is not white.  

Prejudice:  A set of negative personal beliefs about a social group that leads individuals to prejudge people from that group, or the group in general, regardless of individual differences among members of that target group.

Privilege: A special advantage, immunity, permission, right or benefit granted to or enjoyed by an individual, class or caste.  In the context of relations between social groups, privilege is a consequence of social hierarchies and power dynamics.  Privilege is not a right or a deserved entitlement; it is an arbitrary advantage or benefit enjoyed by an individual or a group, based upon prejudicial and/or discriminatory norms, attitudes and practices.

Racial Identity: A socially constructed category about a group of people based on generalized physical features such as skin color, hair type, shape of eyes, physique, etc.

Racism: the systemic subordination of members of marginalized racial groups who have relatively little social power by members of a dominate racial group.  This subordination is supported by the action of individuals, cultural norms and values, and institutional structures and practices of society.

Safe Space: Refers to an environment in which everyone feels comfortable in expressing themselves and participating fully, without fear of attack, ridicule or denial of experience.

Sexist: discrimination or prejudice against an individual or group based on their assigned birth sex.

Sexual Assault: Unwanted sexual assault is any actual or attempted non-consensual sexual activity including, but not limited to: sexual intercourse, or sexual touching, committed with coercion, threat, or intimidation (actual or implied) with or without physical force; exhibitionism; or sexual language of a threatening nature by a person(s) known or unknown to the victim. Forcible touching, a form of sexual assault, is defined as intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose, forcibly touching the sexual or other intimate parts of another person for the purpose of degrading or abusing such person or for gratifying sexual desires.

Sexual Identity: A personal characteristic based on the sex of people one tends to be emotionally, physically, and sexually attracted to; this is inclusive of, but not limited to, lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, heterosexual people, and those who identify as queer.

Social Identity: The ways in which one characterizes oneself, the affinities one has with other people, the ways one has learned to behave in stereotyped social settings, the things one values in oneself and in the world, and the norms that recognizes or accepts governing everyday behavior.

Social Justice: A broad term for action intended to create genuine equality, fairness and respect among all people.

Socioeconomic Status: The status one holds in society based on one’s level of income, wealth, education, and familial background.

Stalking: Repetitive, menacing pursuit, following, harassment, and/or interference with the peace and/or safety of a member of the community. Stalking includes the use of any electronic means.

Stereotype: Blanket beliefs and expectations about members of certain groups that present an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment.  They go beyond necessary and useful categorizations and generalizations in that they are typically negative, are based on little information, and are highly generalized. 

Tolerance: Acceptance and open-mindedness to different practices, attitudes, and culture; does not necessarily mean agreement with the differences.

Transgender: An umbrella term referring to those whose gender identity or gender expression is different from that associated with their sex assigned at birth.

Transphobia: A dislike or fear of transgender, transsexual, and other gender non­conforming individuals because of their perceived gender identity or gender expression.

Universal Access to Education: is the ability of all people to have equal opportunity in education, regardless of their social class, gender, ethnicity background or physical and mental disabilities.

Xenophobic: Fear of, or hostility directed toward people from other countries.

Additional Information

Genderqueer FAQ

National Center for Transgender Equality

Suffolk University: Social Justice Terminology

UMASS Lowell, Office of Multicultural Affairs

Understanding Non-Binary People How to be Respectful and Supportive

W.K. Kellogg Foundation: Racial Equity Resource Guide