Power/Privilege Structures (racism, class, etc)

Active listening: a process of hearing and understanding what someone is saying by empathizing with the speaker(s) and considering their perspective(s)

Allyship: an active verb; leveraging personal positions of power and privilege to fight oppression by respecting, working with, and empowering marginalized voices and communities; using one’s own voice to project others’, less represented, voices

Be Uncomfortable: the act of putting yourself outside of your comfort zone, and into situations in which you are not privileged where you otherwise would be

Classism: any attitude or institutional practice which subordinates people of a certain socioeconomic class due to income, occupation, education, and/or their economic status; a system that works to keep certain communities within a set socioeconomic class and prevents social and economic mobility

Colonialism:the exploitative historical, political, social, and economic system established when one group or force takes control over a colonized territory or group; the unequal relationship between colonizer and the colonized

Cultural appropriation:the act of members of dominant/powerful/privileged groups claiming ownership of, or the rights to, less powerful/privileged groups’ cultural and/or religious symbols, dress, and ceremonies

Cultural competence: the ability to effectively and empathetically work and engage with people of different cultural identities and backgrounds in order to provide safe and accountable spaces for dialogue and discourse; cultural competence is relevant in all fields of work, education, and informal social interactions

Disability: being differently abled (physically, mentally, emotionally) from that which society has structured to be the norm in such a way so that the person is unable to move, or has difficulty moving—physically, socially, economically—through life

Empathy: a learned skill that allows one to recognize and deeply listen to another’s story or experiences, and connect them to common understandings and emotions; differs from sympathy

Equity: the situation in which all people or groups are given access to the correct number and types of resources for them so as to achieve equal results; differs from equality, which focuses on the equal distribution of resources rather than equal results

Ethnocentrism: consciously or unconsciously privileging one’s own ethnic group over others; assuming or judging other groups according to one’s own group values

Feminism: the pursuit of the social, economic, and political equality of all people, regardless of sex, gender, sexuality, race, geographical location, body size, socioeconomic status, physical and mental ability, and religion

Gentrification: demographic shifts that usually occur in big cities in which upper-middle class and/or racially privileged individuals and businesses move into historically working class and poor and/or racially oppressed neighborhoods and communities

Hegemony: one group or community holding all authoritative power or dominance over other groups in a given society, geographical region, and/or political system

Horizontal hostility: the structural strategy to intentionally place two or more oppressed groups in competition with one another; a strategy that aims to divide and conquer

Institutional oppression: the systematic mistreatment and dehumanization of any individual based solely on a social identity group with which they identify that is supported and enforced by society and its institutions; based on the belief that people of such a social identity group are inherently inferior

Intersectionality: the intersection of race, class, gender, and ability identities within each individual that informs how one views, discusses, and navigates through the world the way each of us views and discusses the world

Marginalize: the systematic disempowerment of a person or community by denying access to necessary resources, enforcing prejudice through society’s institutions, and/or not allowing for that individual or community’s voice, history, and perspective to be heard

Microaggression: subconscious and often well-meaning actions or remarks that convey an unconscious bias and hurt the person at the receiving end

Mobility: the ability to move through society, both physically and socioeconomically

Multiracial: a person who identifies as coming from two or more racial groups; a person whose biological parents come from different racial groups

Oppression: the systemic use of institutional power and ideological and cultural hegemony, resulting in one group benefiting at the expense of another; the use of power and the effects of domination

Patriarchy: a social system and institution in which men have primary power in the political, social, economic, legal, and familial spheres; patriarchy favors male-dominated thought, and is centralized on the male narrative or perspective of how the world works and should work

People of Color: an umbrella term for any person or peoples that is considered by the society in which they live to be non-white

Privilege: benefit, advantage, or favor granted to individuals and communities by unequal social structures and institutions


Safe space: spaces in which people, often of marginalized or underrepresented social groups, can say, be, and share their experiences without fear or judgment

Social justice: the practice of allyship and coalition work in order to promote equality, equity, respect, and the assurance of rights within and between communities and social groups

Supremacy: the superiority of one group of people over other groups of people through a system of domination and subordination [—> white supremacy??]

Unconscious bias: negative stereotypes regarding a person or group of people; these biases influence individuals’ thoughts and actions without their conscious knowledge. We all have unconscious biases.

White privilege: the right or advantage provided to people who are considered white; an exemption of social, political, and/or economic burdens placed on non-white people; benefitting from societal structuring that prioritizes white people and whiteness

Whiteness: like race, whiteness is a social construct rather than an essential characteristic or biological fact; is used as cultural property, and can be seen to provide material and/or social privilege to those who are considered white, pass as white, or are given honorary white status

Yes Means Yes: a phrase that defines sexual consent as an “affirmative, unambiguous, and conscious decision by each participant to engage in mutually agreed-upon sexual activity” according to California state legislation; ‘yes means yes’ shifts the responsibility of confirming consent from just one party to all parties involved

*Credit for these terms goes to The ABC’s of Social Justice:A Glossary of Working Language for Socially Conscious Conversation, thanks to the Department of Inclusion & Multicultural Engagement atLewis & Clark College*