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Ableism: A system of discrimination, marginalization or violence against individuals perceived by society to be outside the norm of physical, mental or emotional abilities. The assumption (implicit or explicit, acknowledged or not) that being able-bodied is “the” norm, most healthy, and most advantageous.

Abolition: Eliminating the carceral state, which includes the policing and prison systems and the other institutions of the prison industrial complex, by resourcing our communities to meet their needs so that cages aren’t necessary. The carceral state also extends to programs that operate in low-income, communities of color and the ways in which these programs impose various forms of supervision and surveillance that funnel people into the prison system.

Accountability: The obligation of an individual or organization to be responsible for their actions, to disclose results in a transparent manner, and to take corrective action if the results do not align with goals.

Accountability Partner: A person who coaches another person to help the other person keep a commitment usually related to a personal goal. In the context of activism, an accountability partner would coach someone who is trying to undo their own internal racism and sexism. An activist group that is trying to eliminate covert racism and sexism from their spaces could also have an accountability partner to keep them on the right track. The accountability partner would be a person who has lived experiences with racism and sexism.

Anarchism: The form of social organization that ensures that all people have the freedom to define and organize themselves on their own terms. Decision-making structures are horizontal rather than vertical, so no one dominates anyone else; they foster power to act freely rather than power over others. Anarchism opposes all coercive hierarchies, including capitalism, the state, white supremacy, and patriarchy. Mutual aid and solidarity are key components of anarchist forms of social organization. Essentially, anarchism can be boiled down to a system that maximizes individual self-actualization that fosters and ensures the collective good. People are free to cooperate with whomever they want, however they see fit; likewise, they are free to refuse any relationship or arrangement they do not judge to be in their interest. Everyone is able to move freely, both physically and socially. Anarchism opposes borders of all kinds and involuntary categorization by citizenship, gender, or race. Anarchists believe it is more empowering and effective to accomplish goals directly than to rely on authorities or representatives. Anarchists think that entrenched systems of repression cannot be reformed away, but rather require revolution to overthrow the ruling class in order to create a free society. Anarchist movements prioritize the importance of people being at the forefront of their own liberation and that freedom cannot be given; it must be taken. (From Peter Gelderloos – “Anarchism Works”) 

Anti-Blackness: The specific kinds of exploitation, marginalization and violence directed at Black people, domestically and globally, throughout the Diaspora as well as throughout Africa. 

Anti-Indigeneity: The specific kinds of violence directed at Indigenous nations, tribes and peoples throughout the world—whether in Australia, the South Pacific, the Americas or elsewhere. See also Anti-Nativeness and Colonial Settlerism

Anti-Fascism: Also known as Antifa. A network of people committed to disrupting, shutting down, and denying public forums to fascists and the Alt-right in general.

Anti-Nativeness: The specific kinds of violence directed at Native Americans, in particular, the Indigenous peoples of the Northern Americas by White settlers past and present, as well as state violence from the U.S. government. See also Indigenous Genocide.

Anti-Semitism: “Anti-Semitism is different from most racism in that it “punches up” against a perceived oppressor–the Jews, who are cast as a diabolical elite. Anti-Semitism is a conspiracy theory. Anti-Semitism is a long-standing form of hate within the west dating back to the time that Christianity became the only authorized religion of the Roman Empire and Jews were blamed for killing Jesus. It has taken many forms including expulsions, denial of human rights,  ghettos, pogroms, and mass industrialized murder in its wake.” 

Assimilation: The process of indigenous people being incorporated into colonial society. As a part of colonization and genocide, Indigenous society and culture must be dismantled and erased. 

BIPOC: Black, Indigenous and other people of color 

Black Holocaust: See Middle Passage.

Black Power Movement: The Black Power Movement of the 1960s and 1970s was a political and social movement whose advocates believed in racial pride, self-sufficiency, and equality for all people of Black and African descent. By the mid 1960s, many no longer saw nonviolent protests as a viable means of combating racism. New organizations, such as the Black Panther Party, the Black Women’s United Front, and the Nation of Islam, developed new cultural, political, and economic programs and grew memberships that reflected this shift. Desegregation was insufficient—only through the deconstruction of white power structures could a space be made for a black political voice to give rise to collective black power. (Adopted from the Digital Public Library of America)

Capitalism: The socio-economic system where social relations are based on private ownership and commodity exchange. This system defines the natural world, including humans, simply as a body of resources to be exploited and reshaped to serve the purposes and interests of power. As such, it entails colonization and exploitation of all life forms, land, and the natural environment. Capitalism results in competition for resources, accumulation by dispossession, class structures, involuntary relations, and a coercive hierarchy. Adherents of capitalism trust a god-like “invisible hand of the market” over human guidance of economies. (Unsettling Ourselves)

Cisgender: Meaning one’s gender identity corresponds to the gender assigned to them at birth.

Class: A class is a segment of society that, through its shared economic position and cultural values, participates in common social, political, and economic interests and specific forms of access or lack of access to power. (Paul Kivel)

Class shaming/Classism: Classism is differential treatment based on social class or perceived social class. Classism is the systematic oppression of subordinated class groups to advantage and strengthen the dominant class groups. It’s the systematic assignment of characteristics of worth and ability based on social class. (

Collective Liberation: The understanding that no one is free until we are all free. The struggle for healing and justice for everyone. 

Colonization: The practice of invading other lands and territories for the purpose of settlement and/or resource exploitation. Colonization exists in four stages: reconnaissance, invasion, occupation, and assimilation. It is comprised of two primary aspects – physical and mental. Colonization also includes the physical occupation of land and the domination of indigenous peoples through military conflicts, genocide, and relocation. Religious, cultural, social, and economic assimilation follows. (Unsettling Ourselves)

Consent: An agreement between participants to engage in sexual activity. It is clear, mutual and revocable at any time. A helpful framework to remember how sexual activity can be consensual is FRIES: Consent is Freely given, Reversible, Informed, Enthusiastic, Specific.

Critical Race Theory: A theoretical framework that examines society and culture as they relate to categorizations of race, law, and power. Critical Race Theory proposes that white supremacy and racial power have been maintained over time and that the law has a role in this process.

Cultural Appropriation: Cultural appropriation is the adoption or theft of icons, rituals, aesthetic standards, and behavior from one culture or subculture by another. It generally is applied when the subject culture is a minority culture or somehow subordinate in social, political, economic, or military status to the appropriating culture. This “appropriation” often occurs without any real understanding of why the original culture took part in these activities or the meanings behind these activities, often converting culturally significant artifacts, practices, and beliefs into “meaningless” pop-culture or giving them a significance that is completely different/less nuanced than they would originally have had. (Unsettling America)

Decolonization: The revitalization and resurgence of Indigenous self-determination including at a political, economic, territorial, social, cultural and spiritual level. It means the end of the settler-colonial domination of life, lands, cultures, and peoples of the Americas. All decisions regarding human interaction and relationship with the land, including who lives on it, are justly those of Indigenous people.

Deplatform: A method of shutting down oppressive speech. This could involve shouting down a speaker at an event, direct action to remove a speaker from a social media or internet platform, organizing advertisers to distance themselves as sponsors of a show, or finding a way to deny access to a speaker at an event. Commonly refers to efforts to deny white supremacists, neo-nazis, and the alt right access to public forums to recruit white people to their cause

Dismantle: To disconnect the pieces of; to destroy the integrity or functioning of something

Emotional labor: The work and effort that goes into cementing social relationships. It is the invisible work of caring and requires the person doing the caring to manage their emotions, in order to shape the state of mind and emotions of another person. Anyone can perform emotional labor, but women are usually the ones required to do so in relationships, households and work. 

Environmental Justice: Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income, with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.

Environmental Racism: Whether, by conscious design or institutional neglect, actions and decisions that result in the disproportionate exposure of people of color to environmental hazards and environmental health burdens.

Fascism: a form of far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation of society and of the economy. Fascism is capitalism in its most desperate, violent form, meant to secure the continuation of class hierarchy and ensure that the ruling class meets the least possible resistance from those it exploits. White supremacy and misogyny are codified into the state apparatus and ideological framework. 

Feminism: “Feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. Feminist politics aims to challenge and change patriarchy.” -bell hooks

Hegemony: Domination that is so thorough, deep-rooted, pervasive and long-standing that it is no longer seen as domination but simply as the way things are.

Heteronormative: Attitudes, codes, and social structures that purport that heterosexuality is the only normal, preferred, and natural expression of sexuality.

Imperialism:  A policy or ideology of extending a country’s rule over foreign nations, often by military force or by gaining political and economic control of other areas. More broadly, the philosophy that a country’s culture, values, way of life, economic system, or other systems are superior and that it is right to impose them in other parts of the world.

Indigenous Genocide: The 500-year-long mass murder of 99% of the indigenous populations of the Americas.

Internalize: To absorb a culture’s views (stereotypes, biases, lies, and misconceptions) of oneself and others.  

Internalized Dominance: When members of a dominant group internalize the system of oppression, becoming agents of that system; they “learn to look at themselves, others, and society through a distorted lens in which the structural privileges they enjoy and the cultural practices of their group are represented as normal and universal” (Adams, Bell, & Griffin, 2007, p. 12).  Confronting internalized dominance may provoke feelings of self-consciousness, guilt, fear, projection, and denial.

Internalized Oppression:  The manner in which an oppressed group comes to use against itself the methods and mentalities of the oppressor. Members of a marginalized group can hold an oppressive view toward their own group, or believe in negative stereotypes of themselves. Historically, colonization has sown seeds of self hatred manifesting itself in generational trauma affecting the physical, psychological and spiritual well being of individuals and communities. (Unsettling Ourselves)

Intersectionality: Introduced by Kimberlé Crenshaw, Intersectionality is a framework for understanding the ways that the multiple systems of oppression, influence one another, and compound to create unique manifestations of oppression for those who exist at their intersections. Colloquially, the concept is regularly used to describe the ways that societal privilege and oppression is complicated by the different parts of our identity that are marginalized or privileged in society. Crenshaw describes intersectionality as a way of framing the various interactions of race and gender in the context of violence against women of color. It’s a way to articulate the interaction of racism and patriarchy generally. 

Islamophobia: A fear or hatred of Muslims and Islam.

LGBTQIA2S+: Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Two Spirit

Liberation: To live one’s own way of life. To gain autonomy. The act of freeing from control or domination by an external power, force or entity. Having the ability to make decisions and having the power and agency to act upon them.

Male Gaze (White Male Gaze): The “male gaze” invokes the sexual politics of the gaze and suggests a sexualized way of looking that empowers men and objectifies women. In the male gaze, woman is visually positioned as an “object” of heterosexual male desire. Her feelings, thoughts and her own sexual drives are less important than her being “framed” by male desire. (Janice Loreck)

Male Privilege: The benefits afforded to men within patriarchal societies that grant them more voice, control and power. 

Managerial/Professional Class: The organizations and people (paid and volunteer) that the ruling class relies on to serve its needs are run (or managed) by members of this class. They are the non-ruling-class large business owners, corporate managers, foundation directors, corporate lawyers, doctors, architects, elite university professors, diplomats, politicians, and others who are generally paid a lot to carry out policies that benefit the ruling class. It is not their occupation, but their high income and wealth and access to other resources that define these people and their families as members of the managerial class. This group consists of the next 19 percent of the population. The managerial class includes families with incomes above $250,000 and net financial worth of at least $400,000. The wealth part of this definition is the important part. (Paul Kivel)

Masculinity/Masculinities: Sets of behaviors, norms, attitudes, and ways of presenting oneself that are culturally assumed to be the normal way that men should/can behave. While there are many commonalities, often, these norms shift over time, are different across and even within cultures, and individuals can enact multiple sets of masculine behaviors in different contexts. Within patriarchy, a popular depiction of so-called “toxic masculinity,” is the way that (mostly) European and American men behave within an implicit and explicit set of manly “codes,” which restrict what is acceptable, and provide a script for children to learn to “achieve” manhood (e.g., men don’t cry in public, an “alpha” man should dominate any room he is in, it’s manly to muscular, being emotionally aware isn’t cool for men, a man should be able to provide for his family, etc.). This is alternatively described using the teaching tool, the “Man Box.”

Mass Incarceration: The unique way the U.S. has locked up a vast population in federal and state prisons, as well as local jails. The US comprises 5% of the global population, but has 25% of the global prison population with 2.3 million people in prison. One in every three Black men born today can expect to go to prison at some point in their life, compared with one in every six Latino men, and one in every 17 white men, if current incarceration trends continue. The war on drugs and broken windows policing has been fundamental to the development of mass incarceration. 

Middle Class: Middle Class people often experience the following: 4 year college degree or more; Securely housed in owned home(s), ability to upgrade housing, renters by choice and not necessity; Able to control work, select job fields; Economically secure, but must remain employed (SURJ). The next 20% of the population after professional/managerial class with a family income between $62,500 and $94,000, average net worth $161,000, primarily in home and savings for education and retirement. (Paul Kivel)

Middle Passage: The Middle Passage was the stage of the triangular trade in which millions of people from Africa were shipped to the New World as part of the Atlantic slave trade. “The triangular trade system was so named because of the route it took.  The ships embarked from European ports, and stopped in Africa to gather captives. After this, they set out for the “New World” (North America, South America, and the Caribbean) to deliver their kidnapped victims, and then returned to the point of origin. The transport conditions were horrendous and millions of enslaved people died on these voyages. (Sons & Daughters of the US Middle Passage)

Militarism:  Militarism can be defined as a political and ideological orientation where the use and threat of military power is a central strategy of international policy; the military plays a pervasive role in the economic and political life of a country; military strength is the highest priority of government policy. Emma Goldman argues that “the military machine is not directed only against the external enemy; it aims much more at the internal enemy… the nation which is to be protected by a huge military force is not that of the people, but that of the privileged class.” A strong military is necessary in order for a ruling class to pursue an aggressive and expansionist foreign policy in order to defend its economic interests globally. Capitalist militarism (or the military industrial complex) promotes the development of a specially favoured group of companies which includes “all those engaged in the manufacture and sale of munitions and in military equipment for personal gain and profit.”

Mutual Aid: a voluntary mutually beneficial and reciprocal exchange of goods, resources, and services within a network of community support based on cooperation. Mutual aid agreements, relationships, and networks are non-hierarchical, horizontal, and use collective decision making. Mutual aid is model where everyone has something to offer–it is not top-down or authoritative or paternalistic. Mutual aid pragmatically shares resources and is a revolutionary form of social organization that operates outside of the state and capitalist system.

Misogyny: Hatred of women and female-labeled qualities such as femininity.

Nonbinary: Refers to individuals who identify as neither man or woman, both man and woman, or a combination of man or woman. It is an identity term which some use exclusively, while others may use it interchangeably with terms like genderqueer, gender creative, gender noncomforming, gender diverse, or gender expansive. Individuals who identify as nonbinary may understand the identity as falling under the transgender umbrella, and may thus identify as transgender. Sometimes abbreviated as NB or Enby. (Adapted from PFLAG)

Neoliberalism: A societal mindset, political theory, and set of practices that aim to deregulate capitalism in order to maximize private gain and minimize social welfare including personal human dignity. (Adapted from A bold vision forward: a framework for the strategic imperative for racial justice and decolonization)

Nurturance Culture: The opposite of masculine rape culture is masculine nurturance culture: men increasing their capacity to nurture, and becoming whole. Compassion for self and compassion for others grow together and are connected; this means that men finding and recuperating the lost parts of themselves will heal everyone. If a lot of men grow up learning not to love their true selves, learning that their own healthy attachment needs (emotional safety, nurturance, connection, love, trust) are weak and wrong – that anyone’s attachment, or emotional safety, needs are weak and wrong – this can lead to two things. 1. They may be less able to experience women as whole people with intelligible needs and feelings (for autonomy, for emotional safety, for attunement, for trust). 2. They may be less able to make sense of their own needs for connection, transmuting them instead into distorted but more socially mirrored forms. To heal rape culture, then, men build masculine nurturance skills: nurturance and recuperation of their true selves, and nurturance of the people of all genders around them. (“The Opposite of Rape Culture is Nurtance Culture” Nora Samaran) 

Oppression/Systems of Oppression: The combination of prejudice and institutional power which creates a system that discriminates against some groups (often called “target groups”) and benefits other groups (often called “dominant groups”). Examples of these systems are racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, classism, ageism, and anti-Semitism. These systems enable dominant groups to exert control over target groups by limiting their rights, freedom, and access to basic resources such as health care, education, employment, and housing. Four Levels of Oppression/”isms” and Change: 1) Personal: Values, Beliefs, Feelings; 2) Interpersonal: Actions, Behaviors, Language; 3) Institutional: Rules, Policies, Procedures; 4) Cultural: Beauty, Truth, Right

Patriarchy: A social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family in both domestic and religious functions. Patriarchy is characterized by male domination and power. “Patriarchy is 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 terror and violence.” -bell hooks, The will to change (p. 18)

Poor/Welfare Class: A subset of working class people who chronically can’t get income sufficient to cover all their basic needs. Signs that someone might belong to this class can include: substandard housing or homelessness; long-time use of public benefits, such as welfare, or charity; chronic unmet needs for health care, food, or other necessities; frequent involuntary moves, chaos and disruption of life. Poor/welfare class people are varied in race, culture, values and political beliefs —although they are vastly disproportionately Black, Indigenous and other people of color, women and children (Class Matters). Bottom 20% of population with a family income between $0-$24,000, average net worth minus $8,900. (Paul Kivel)

Praxis: Simultaneous “reflection and action directed at the structures to be transformed” (Freire, 1997)

Prison Industrial Complex: The prison industrial complex (PIC) is a term we use to describe the overlapping interests of government and industry that use surveillance, policing, and imprisonment as solutions to economic, social and political problems. (Adapted from Critical Resistance)

Queer: Can be used as an umbrella term for people outside of the heterosexual norm, or for people who challenge the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans) “mainstream.” It can also be a way of challenging norms around gender and sexuality through different ways of thinking or acting.  Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele, QUEER: AGRAPHIC HISTORY

Rape Culture: How society trivializes, normalizes and excuses sexual violence and blames the victims for their assault. A cultural mindset that is frequently demonstrated in pop culture (music, movies, online), peer groups, language, and other social domains (including the military and sports), which accept that sex, sexual gratification, and sexual dominance of (mostly) feminine or feminized bodies is the ultimate goal that boys and men should pursue. Language like “pipe,” “destroyed,” “smash,” “get it,” abstracts sex away from the process of a person, couple, or people engaging in a pleasurable activity, and re-defines sex as impersonal violence. This cultural mindset sets up sex as something to be gained, won, or taken, as opposed to a mutually desirable activity that should be discussed and negotiated in the context of a consent-based relationship. As a result, people of all genders can participate in perpetuating rape culture. 

The main way that rape culture persists is via “rape myths,” which include, among other notions: 

  • that all women/feminized people like being dominated or demeaned during sex, 
  • that it’s not sexy or “masculine” to check in with your sexual partner, 
  • that many reports of rape are made up by women to get back at men,
  • that most rape is strangers jumping out of the bushes with a knife,
  • that men can’t really be raped by women,
  • that rape “isn’t really that bad,”
  • that if a person didn’t fight back it wasn’t really rape,
  • or that men can’t control their sexual urges and rape is just men being men, or sex that went too far.

Race: “A specious classification system created by Europeans and people in their colonies to place themselves at the top of a hierarchical social structure” – People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond

Ruling/Owning Class: A ruling class is the segment that dominates society through its control of power and wealth. It influences and often determines the distribution of and control over resources; who has access to political power; which groups benefit and which do not from social policy; which groups are central to the life, considerations, and attention of a society, and which groups are relegated to the margins. Besides “ruling class,” other words used to describe the richest and most powerful segment of society are “the elite”, “the upper class”, “the haves”, “the dominant class”, “the rich and powerful”, “the decision-makers”, “the owning class”, and “the 1%”. The ruling class in the United States is about 1 percent of the population, or approximately 3.7 million men, women, and children. These families have incomes starting at about $500,000/year (2013) and/or net worth of at least $4,000,000. Most of the ruling class is white and it is predominantly Christian. (Paul Kivel)

Racism/Structural Racism: A pervasive and deep-seated system of oppression, often called white supremacy which is based on white dominance and operates on interpersonal, institutional, structural, and cultural levels. 

Reparations:  The redistribution of wealth from the white majority to Black and Indigenous peoples to redress historic and currents exploitation and theft of land and labor. Also includes structural changes to the political and socio-economic system to end the oppression and exploitation of Black and Indigenous peoples. 

Self Determination: The principle that people groups have the capability, power and knowledge to choose their own destiny without external force or interference. People groups should be able to choose their own political status and to determine their own form of economic, cultural and social development. 

Social Construct: A concept or perception of something based on the collective views developed and maintained within a society or social group; a social phenomenon or convention originating within and cultivated by society or a particular social group, as opposed to existing inherently or naturally.

Solidarity: Solidarity means associating together as equals in order to satisfy common interests and needs. It is the coming together of individuals for the wellbeing of all, and of all for the wellbeing of each individual, which results in the freedom of each not being limited by, but complementing the freedom of others. Solidarity means treating each other as equals, refusing to treat others as means to an end and creating relationships which support freedom for all rather than a few dominating the many.

Transformative Justice: Transformative justice is a way of addressing an individual act of harm that relies on community members instead of the police, the law, or the government (also known as the state). It is a response to the racism and gender-based oppression that shape life for many Black, Indigenous and other people of color. Though models differ, all reject the involvement of the criminal-justice system, choosing instead to rely on community support networks and mediators. (Kim Tran)

Two Spirit: A term that refers to historical and current First Nations people whose individual spirits were a blend of male and female. This term has been reclaimed by some in Native American LGBT communities to honor their heritage and provide an alternative to the Western labels of gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

Unlearning: Noticing when and how systems of oppression operate in our thinking and acting, and intentionally interfering with that operation

White Fragility: A concept coined by Dr. Robin DiAngelo, white fragility is a concept that denotes the resistance that white people exhibit when confronted about racist issues and how they center themselves and their own emotions.

White Privilege: A historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of benefits including preferences for and better treatment of white people, and exemptions from racial oppression; and costs including the loss of unique histories and cultural expressions, and dehumanization that disconnects white people from people of color’s humanity and violent experiences of racism. – Paul Kivel

White Supremacy:

  • “White Supremacy is an historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation of continents, nations, and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent, for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power, and privilege.” Definition from “White is white supremacy?” by Elizabeth ‘Betita Martinez’  
  • “A political, economic and cultural system in which whites overwhelmingly control power and material resources, conscious and unconscious ideas of white superiority and entitlement are widespread, and relations of white dominance and non-white subordination are daily reenacted across a broad array of institutions and social settings.” – Frances Lee Ansley
  • Zeus Leonardo (2004) reminds us that white supremacy is “constantly reestablished and reconstructed by whites from all walks of life” (p. 143) and that it “benefits every white individual, albeit in different degrees” (p. 145).

Whiteness: The system of racial values developed as part of the creation of the idea of race, as well as the assertion that the White race is superior.

Working Class: People who have some or all of these class indicators, and their family members: little or no college education; in particular no BA from a 4-year college; low or negative net worth (assets minus debts); rental housing, or one non-luxury home long saved for and lived in for decades; occupations involving physical work and/or little control in the workplace. Working-class people are varied in race, culture, values and political belief. They are majority white, but compared with the composition of the whole population, they are vastly disproportionately Black, Indigenous and other people of color and women (Class matters). Comprises the next 40% of the population after the middle class with a family income between $24,000 and $62,500, primary net worth, if any, is in home. (Paul Kivel)