Glossary of Terms

Words have power.

Below is an alphabetical list of key terms used throughout this website and in YCD’s programs, or terms that show up frequently in social justice work. We’ve done our best to leverage definitions created by experts in each field, but if you spot a definition that could be improved or a term missing, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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  • AAPI: Asian-American / Pacific Islander
  • Ableism: systematic, institutional devaluing of bodies and minds deemed deviant, abnormal, defective, subhuman, less than. (Lydia X.Z. Brown)
  • Abolitionist teaching: tries to restore humanity for kids in schools. Abolitionist teachers are willing to put their reputation, home, and lives on the line for other people’s children. (Dr. Bettina Love)
  • Accomplice: will focus more on dismantling the structures that oppress that individual or group—and such work will be directed by the stakeholders in the marginalized group. (Colleen Clemens / Learning for Justice)
  • Activism: an intentional action with the goal of bringing about social change. (Amherst College)
  • Activist: a person who diligently and repeatedly tries to achieve some social, economic, or political objective, especially by participation in protest, pressure, organizing, or resistance. (Sharp’s Dictionary of Power and Struggle: Language of Civil Resistance in Conflicts)
  • Advocacy (or lobbying): organized initiatives that seek to change laws or rules, often by talking to or influencing decision-makers such as elected officials, or in the case of education, a principal or school board.
  • Ally: will mostly engage in activism by standing with an individual or group in a marginalized community. (Colleen Clemens / Learning for Justice)
  • Anti-oppression: Actions that seeks to provide equitable approaches and practices to mitigate (interrupt and counteract) the effects of oppression. (National Council of Jewish Women)
  • Anti-racist: When we choose to be anti-racist, we become actively conscious about race and racism and take actions to end racial inequities in our daily lives. (National Museum of African American History and Culture)
  • Antisemitism: the belief or behavior hostile toward Jews just because they are Jewish. It may take the form of religious teachings that proclaim the inferiority of Jews, for instance, or political efforts to isolate, oppress, or otherwise injure them. It may also include prejudiced or stereotyped views about Jews. (ADL)
  • Anxiety: anxiety is a normal human emotion. Many people feel anxious, or nervous, when faced with a problem at work, or before taking a test or making an important decision. (Cleveland Clinic)
  • Asexual:The lack of a sexual attraction or desire for other people. (Human Rights Campaign)
  • Asylum seeker: Someone who is also seeking international protection from dangers in his or her home country, but whose claim for refugee status hasn’t been determined legally. Asylum seekers must apply for protection in the country of destination—meaning they must arrive at or cross a border in order to apply. Then, they must be able to prove to authorities there that they meet the criteria to be covered by refugee protections. Not every asylum seeker will be recognized as a refugee. (International Rescue Committee)


  • Bias: a prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another usually in a way that’s considered to be unfair. Biases may be held by an individual, group, or institution and can have negative or positive consequences. (Santa Monica College)
  • BIPOC: Black, Indigenous, and people of color. Used as a more inclusive term than POC, to build community, and “undoing Native invisibility, anti-Blackness, dismantling white supremacy and advancing racial justice.” (The BIPOC Project)
  • Bisexual: A person emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to more than one sex, gender or gender identity though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way or to the same degree. (Human Rights Campaign)
  • Bullying: unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time. (
  • Bystander: Someone who sees bias or bullying and does not say or do anything. (ADL)


  • Cisgender (or cis): People whose gender identity aligns with their assigned sex at birth. (Gender Spectrum)
  • Coalition: a group of individuals and/or organizations with a common interest who agree to work together toward a common goal. (Community Tool Box)
  • Colorism (or shadeism): prejudicial or preferential treatment of same-race people based solely on their [shade of skin] color. (Alice Walker)
  • Conflict: a natural, fundamental, and pervasive part of life. It is what happens when things are opposed — when different interests, claims, preferences, beliefs, feelings, values, ideas, or truths collide. (Peter Coleman and Robert Ferguson)
  • Conflict resolution: the process for resolving a conflict, usually using specific strategies.
  • Consensus: general agreement by members of a group used for decision-making. In the YCD Program, consensus is taught as a more deliberative and inclusive method for making decisions, rather than using majority rules voting.
  • Cultural competence: having and applying knowledge and skill in four areas: awareness of one’s own cultural worldview; recognition of one’s attitudes toward cultural differences; realization of different cultural practices and worldviews; and thoughtfulness in cross-cultural interaction. Over an extended period of time individuals and organizations develop the wisdom and capability to examine critically how cultural worldviews influence perceptions of power, dominance and inequality; and behave honorably within the complex dynamics of differences and commonalities among humans, groups and systems. (Fresno State University)
  • Culturally responsive teaching: pedagogy that recognizes the importance of including students’ cultural references in all aspects of learning. (Gloria Ladson-Billings) or, alternatively: pedagogy that builds the learning capacity of the individual student. (Zaretta Hammond)
  • Culturally sustaining pedagogy: teaching and learning that seeks to perpetuate and foster linguistic, literate, and cultural pluralism as part of the democratic project of schooling and as a needed response to demographic and social change. CSP takes dynamic cultural and linguistic dexterity as a necessary good, and sees the outcome of learning as additive, rather than subtractive, as remaining whole rather than framed as broken, as critically enriching strengths rather than replacing deficits. (Dr. Django Paris)
  • Culture: a social system of meaning and custom that is developed by a group of people to assure its adaptation and survival. These groups are distinguished by a set of unspoken rules that shape values, beliefs, habits, patterns of thinking, behaviors and styles of communication. (Maurianne Adams and Lee Anne Bell)
  • Cyberbullying: bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets. Cyberbullying can occur through SMS, Text, and apps, or online in social media, forums, or gaming where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyberbullying includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else. It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation. (


  • DACA: the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program announced in 2012 by President Obama which shields some undocumented immigrants from deportation.
  • Depression: a depressed mood is a normal reaction to loss, life’s struggles, or injured self-esteem. Sometimes, however, depression becomes intense, lasts for long periods, and prevents a person from leading a normal life. (Cleveland Clinic)
  • Disability justice: challenges the idea that our worth as individuals has to do with our ability to perform as productive members of society. It insists that our worth is inherent and tied to the liberation of all beings. (Nomy Lamm)
  • Discrimination: when a person is unable to enjoy his or her human rights or other legal rights on an equal basis with others because of an unjustified distinction made in policy, law or treatment. (Amnesty International)
  • Displacement: low-income households relocate due to new development or gentrification in their neighborhood once they can no longer afford to remain due to higher rents, appreciated taxes, tenant harassment, or the withholding of services. (Urban Institute)
  • Diversity: includes all the ways in which people differ, and it encompasses all the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another. It is all-inclusive and recognizes everyone and every group as part of the diversity that should be valued. A broad definition includes not only race, ethnicity, and gender — the groups that most often come to mind when the term “diversity” is used — but also age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, and physical appearance. It also involves different ideas, perspectives, and values. (Racial Equity Tools)
  • Dreamers: Immigrants who were brought to the U.S. by their parents when they were young without legal documentation, and have grown up in American society. They are the people most affected by DACA.


  • Economic justice: a moral economy that prioritizes the general welfare, workers, and families, securing their basic needs and creating the conditions for them to thrive. (Poor People’s Campaign)
  • Equity: equity is fairness. To achieve equity, more resources may need to be devoted to those who do not have access to them than to those who already do. (Dr. Gordon Nagayma Hall)
  • Equity literacy: a comprehensive approach for creating and sustaining equitable schools. The foundations of equity literacy are (1) a commitment to deepening individual and institutional understandings of how equity and inequity operate in organizations and societies, and (2) the individual and institutional knowledge, skills, and will to vigilantly identify inequities, eliminate inequities, and actively cultivating equity. (Paul Gorksi / Equity Literacy Institute)
  • Ethnicity: a social construct that divides people into smaller social groups based on characteristics such as shared sense of group membership, values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interests, history and ancestral geographical base. (Maurianne Adams and Lee Anne Bell)


  • Facilitator: someone who guides a group through a discussion or decision.
  • Feminism: a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. (bell hooks)
  • Folx: a gender- and trans-inclusive way of writing “folks”. This terms is preferred to avoid saying “ladies and gentlemen”, which emphasizes the gender binary.
  • Food desert: an area in which someone does not have access to a food source, such as a supermarket, nearby. (US Department of Agriculture)
    • In urban areas, an area with no ready access to a store with fresh and nutritious food options within one mile.
    • In rural America, living 10 miles or more from the nearest supermarket.
  • Food pantry or food bank: a community-based program that collects and safely stores food and household products for free distribution to low-income and needy members of the community. (Second Harvest)


  • Gay: A person who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to members of the same gender. (Human Rights Campaign)
  • Gender equity: a set of actions, attitudes, and assumptions that provide opportunities and create expectations about individuals, regardless of gender.
  • Gender identity: Our internal experience and naming of our gender. It can correspond to or differ from the sex we were assigned at birth. (Gender Spectrum)
  • Gender justice: ending the inequalities between women and men that are produced and reproduced in the family, the community, the market and the state. (UN Women)
  • Gentrification: the process whereby higher-income households move into low-income neighborhoods, escalating the area’s property values to the point that displacement occurs. In addition to changes in economic class, gentrification often involves a change in a neighborhood’s racial and ethnic composition, which can further alter an area’s characteristics, potentially leading to community tension. (Urban Institute)
  • GSA: These letters can stand for gay-straight alliance or gender and sexuality alliance. These groups are student-led clubs and organizations in schools that provide a safe and welcoming space for LGBTQ+ youth and their straight allies to discuss and explore gender and sexuality.


  • Hate crime: a violent or property crime — such as murder, arson, assault or vandalism — that is “motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” (FBI / Southern Poverty Law Center)
  • Healthy competition: focus is placed on how we are winning, rather than whether or not we are winning. If, for example, we define a win as leaving it all on the field, accomplishing the objectives we practiced in training, and coming away with some really strong lessons learned, then a “win” is suddenly within reach of every player on the field. (Soccer Sidelines)
  • Healthy relationship: relationship between two people with open, honest and safe communication; mutual respect; compromise; reassurance and encouragement; and healthy boundaries. (
  • Homophobia: the fear and hatred of or discomfort with people who are attracted to members of the same sex. (Human Rights Campaign)


  • Identity: (1) the collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which a thing or person is definitively recognized or known; and (2) the set of behavioral or personal characteristics by which an individual is recognizable as a member of a group. (Learning for Justice)
  • Immigrant: Someone who makes a conscious decision to leave his or her home and move to a foreign country with the intention of settling there. Immigrants often go through a lengthy vetting process to immigrate to a new country. Many become lawful permanent residents and eventually citizens. Immigrants research their destinations, explore employment opportunities, and study the language of the country where they plan to live. Most importantly, they are free to return home whenever they choose. (International Rescue Committee)
  • Immigration justice: humane economic policies to reduce forced migration; protection of labor rights of all workers; a clear path to citizenship for undocumented workers; respect for civil and human rights of immigrants; demilitarization of the U.S.-Mexico border; family reunification a top priority; and ensuring immigrants and refugees have access to services. (AFSC)
  • Implicit bias: social stereotypes about certain groups of people that individuals form outside their own conscious awareness. Everyone holds unconscious beliefs about various social and identity groups, and these biases stem from one’s tendency to organize social worlds by categorizing. Unconscious bias is far more prevalent than conscious prejudice and often incompatible with one’s conscious values. (Santa Monica College)
  • Inclusion: authentically bringing traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into processes, activities, and decision/policy making in a way that shares power. (Racial Equity Tools)
  • Interfaith cooperation: a process in which people who orient around religion differently come together in ways that respect different identities, build mutually inspiring relationships, and engage in common action around issues of shared concern. (IFYC)
  • Interfaith dialogue: people of different religious faiths coming together to have a conversation. Interfaith dialogue is not intended to be a debate; it is aimed at mutual understanding. (US Institute of Peace)
  • Intersectionality: a lens, a prism, for seeing the way in which various forms of inequality often operate together and exacerbate each other. We tend to talk about race inequality as separate from inequality based on gender, class, sexuality or immigrant status. What’s often missing is how some people are subject to all of these, and the experience is not just the sum of its parts. (Kimberlé Crenshaw)
  • Intersex: About 1% of children are born with chromosomes, hormones, genitalia and/or other sex characteristics that are not exclusively male or female as defined by the medical establishment in our society. In most cases, these children are at no medical risk, but most are assigned a binary sex identity (male or female) by their doctors and/or families. (Gender Spectrum)
  • Islamophobia: anti-Muslim racism, or an industry that generates fear of Islam and anti-Muslim bigotry. (ING)
  • Invisible disability: disabilities not readily visible when you see or meet a person, for example debilitating pain, fatigue, dizziness, cognitive dysfunctions, brain injuries, learning differences and mental health disorders, as well as hearing and vision impairments. (Invisible Disabilities Association)


  • Lesbian: A woman who is emotionally, romantically or sexually attracted to other women. (Human Rights Campaign)
  • LGBTQ+: An acronym to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning people. The + symbol is used to extend the acronym to additional groups, such as intersex, asexual, and other sexualities and non-binary gender identities. (Human Rights Campaign)


  • Marginalization: the treatment of a person, group or concept as secondary, unimportant, inferior or abnormal compared with those who hold more power in society. (ADL)
  • Mental wellness (or mental health): the foundation for emotions, thinking, communication, learning, resilience and self-esteem. Mental health is also key to relationships, personal and emotional well-being and contributing to community or society. (Cleveland Clinic)
  • Microaggressions: brief, everyday exchanges that send denigrating messages to certain individuals because of their group membership. (Derald Wing Sue)
  • Migrant: Someone who is moving from place to place (within his or her country or across borders), usually for economic reasons such as seasonal work. Similar to immigrants, they were not forced to leave their native countries because of persecution or violence, but rather are seeking better opportunities. (International Rescue Committee)
  • Mindfulness: being present in the current moment, rather than spending time anticipating concerns, thinking about what might happen or what did happen. (Dr. Suzanne Sukol)
  • Minimum wage: the lowest legal wage companies can pay workers. (The Balance)
  • Misogyny: social systems or environments where women face hostility and hatred because they’re women in a man’s world. (Kate Manne) Misogyny enforces sexism and sexist ideas through social structures, policies and behaviors.


  • Neurodivergent: having a brain that functions in ways that diverge significantly from the dominant societal standards of “normal.” (Dr. Nick Walker)
  • Neurodiversity: the idea that there is no single, perfect ideal of what a human mind or brain should be: that, on the contrary, the existence of diversity of minds and brains is necessary for human societies to flourish. (Patrick Dwyer)
  • Neurotypical: having a style of neurocognitive functioning that falls within the dominant societal standards of “normal.” (Dr. Nick Walker)
  • Non-binary: An umbrella term for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine. (Gender Spectrum)


  • Oppression: the systematic subjugation of a social group by another social group with access to institutional or systemic power. Individuals belonging to the dominant group have access to privilege and benefit at the expense of individuals in the subordinate group. (Chinook Fund)
  • Othering: to treat a culture or individual as fundamentally different from another class of individuals, often by emphasizing its apartness in traits that differ from one’s own. Othering can be as simple as speaking of a group of people as “them” in relation to another’s “us,” or even putting the definite article the in front of a label (i.e. “the gays”). (Merriam-Webster)


  • Pansexual: Someone who has the potential for emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to people of any gender though not necessarily simultaneously, in the same way or to the same degree. (Human Rights Campaign)
  • Patriarchy: a political-social system that insists that males are inherently dominating, superior to everything and everyone deemed weak, especially females, and endowed with the right to dominate and rule over the weak and to maintain that dominance through various forms of psychological terrorism and violence. (bell hooks)
  • Play equity: Play Equity means fairness. Play Equity means opportunity. Play Equity means that how much exercise kids get must not be determined by their income. Play Equity means that the dreams of our youth must not be determined by their zip codes. (LA84 Foundation)
  • POC: People of color
  • Poverty: poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a doctor. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time. Poverty is powerlessness, lack of representation and freedom. (World Bank)
  • Prejudice: a judgment or belief that is formed on insufficient grounds before facts are known or in disregard of facts that contradict it. Prejudices are learned and can be unlearned. (NCCJ)
  • Privilege: (1) unearned benefits you get just by belonging to a social group; or (2) an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was “meant” to remain oblivious. (Peggy McIntosh)


  • Queer: A term people often use to express fluid identities and orientations. Often used interchangeably with “LGBTQ.” This term was once considered an insult by some people but has been “reclaimed” by the LGBTQ+ community. (Human Rights Campaign)


  • Race: a social construct that artificially divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance (particularly color), ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification, and the social, economic and political needs of a society at a given period of time. (Maurianne Adams and Lee Anne Bell)
  • Racial justice: the systematic fair treatment of people of all races, resulting in equitable opportunities and outcomes for all. Racial justice—or racial equity—goes beyond “anti-racism.” It is not just the absence of discrimination and inequities, but also the presence of deliberate systems and supports to achieve and sustain racial equity through proactive and preventative measures. (Race Forward)
  • Racism: Racism involves one group having the power to carry out systematic discrimination through the institutional policies and practices of the society and by shaping the cultural beliefs and values that support those racist policies and practices.
  • Refugee: A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her home because of war, violence or persecution, often without warning. They are unable to return home unless and until conditions in their native lands are safe for them again. An official entity such as a government or the United Nations Refugee Agency determines whether a person seeking international protection meets the definition of a refugee, based on well-founded fear. (International Rescue Committee)
  • Restorative practices (or restorative justice): a philosophy, not a curriculum, focusing on building positive relationships and providing opportunities for community members to take responsibility for their behavior while remaining connected to the community.  An intentional restorative approach fosters a compassionate, relationship-centered culture. (Conflict Center)


  • Saviorism: a character (in books or film) or person that “rescues” the marginalized from their oppression (learn more from this video from OnlyBlackGirl)
  • Sex: Used to label a person as “male” or “female” (some US states and other countries offer a third option) at birth, this term refers to a person’s external genitalia and internal reproductive organs. When a person is assigned a particular sex at birth, it is often mistakenly assumed that this will equate with their gender; it might, but it might not. (Gender Spectrum)
  • Sexism: beliefs that rationalize the patriarchy by naturalizing sex differences. (Kate Manne) For example, sexism claims that in the “natural” order of social organization, women act as emotional and social caregivers.
  • Sexual orientation: An inherent or immutable enduring emotional, romantic or sexual attraction to other people. (Human Rights Campaign)
  • Shadeism: see colorism
  • Social justice: full and equal participation of all groups in a society that is mutually shaped to meet their needs. A vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members of a space, community, or institution, or society are physically and psychologically safe and secure. (Maurianne Adams and Lee Anne Bell)
  • Stress: the body’s reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response. The body reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and emotional responses. Stress is a normal part of life. You can experience stress from your environment, your body, and your thoughts. Even positive life changes such as a promotion, a mortgage, or the birth of a child produce stress. (Cleveland Clinic)
  • Structural or institutional racism: Institutional racism refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes for different racial groups. The institutional policies may never mention any racial group, but their effect is to create advantages for whites and oppression and disadvantage for people from groups classified as people of color. (Flipping the Script: White Privilege and Community Building. Maggie Potapchuk, Sally Leiderman, Donna Bivens and Barbara Major, 2005)


  • Transgender (or trans): Sometimes this term is used broadly as an umbrella term to describe anyone whose gender identity differs from their assigned sex. It can also be used more narrowly as a gender identity that reflects a binary gender identity that is “opposite” or “across from” the sex they were assigned at birth. (Gender Spectrum)
  • Transphobia: the fear and hatred of, or discomfort with, transgender people. (Human Rights Campaign)
  • Two spirit: a term used within the Indigenous community to describe people who have both male and female spirit within them. This is an umbrella term adopted by the Native community, and many tribes have their own terms, roles and traditions for two spirit people going back centuries. (Indian Country Today)


  • Unconscious bias: see implicit bias
  • Undocumented: Anyone residing in any given country without legal documentation. It includes people who entered the U.S. without inspection and proper permission from the government, and those who entered with a legal visa that is no longer valid.


  • White privilege: see privilege.
  • White savior: see saviorism.
  • White supremacy: used to characterize various belief systems which have at least one of the following central tenets: 1) whites should have dominance over people of other backgrounds, especially where they may co-exist; 2) whites should live by themselves in a whites-only society; 3) white people have their own “culture” that is superior to other cultures; 4) white people are genetically superior to other people. As a full-fledged ideology, white supremacy is far more encompassing than simple racism or bigotry. Most white supremacists today further believe that the white race is in danger of extinction due to a rising “flood” of non-whites, who are controlled and manipulated by Jews, and that imminent action is need to “save” the white race. (ADL)