What do we mean when we say…?

Below is a selection of definitions for terms you’ll see throughout k+r’s website, and encounter in our work. This is a non-exhaustive list, but we hope it gives you a better idea of k+r’s orientation to our work.

Anti-Blackness is defined by The Council for Democratizing Education as being a two-part formation that both voids Blackness of value, while systematically marginalizing Black people and their issues. The first form of anti-Blackness is overt racism. Beneath this anti-Black racism is the covert structural and systemic racism which categorically predetermines the socioeconomic status of Black people in this country. The structure is held in place by anti-Black policies, institutions, and ideologies.

The second form of anti-Blackness is the unethical disregard for anti-Black institutions and policies. This disregard is the product of class, race, and/or gender privilege certain individuals experience due to anti-Black institutions and policies. This form of anti-Blackness is protected by the first form of overt racism. (The Movement for Black Lives)

Anti-Indigeneity, like antisemitism, has its foundation in historic stereotypes, and relies on negative bias toward Indigenous people. It assumes that Indengenous people are incapable of managing their own affairs, and that they are corrupt, lawless, and “savage.” Anti-Indigeneity is also present in the ongoing invisibilization of Indigenous communities. For example, the assumption that contemporary Indigenous people simply don’t exist, or don’t live outside of reservations (in fact, Urban “Indian” populations are not insignificant, particularly given the U.S.’s disappointing Urban Relocation Program in the 1950s), and the U.S. government’s consistent undermining of Indigenous communities’ right to political and cultural autonomy throughout history leads to dangerous “othering” of Indiegenous people in this country.

Anti-oppression is action that seeks to provide equitable approaches and practices to mitigate the effects of oppression. This could be: sexism, racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, classism, ageism, sizeism (the list goes on). k+r uses “antiracism and anti-oppression” when talking about our work as a means of distinguishing racism as an oppression that upholds, undergirds, and further complicates so many others. We cannot lose sight of the disease of racism in the fight against other types of oppression.

Antiracism, according to Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, is the act of “supporting antiracist policies through actions or expressing antiracist ideas.” k+r generally agrees with Dr. Kendi in the sense that antiracism is not a “permanent tattoo,” or something to be applied in perpetuity to an organization or person. Instead, we move towards becoming more antiracist, changing behaviors and ideas, and implementing structural and/or political changes. Further, the National Museum of African American History and culture defines antiracism this way: “Being antiracist results from a conscious decision to make frequent, consistent, equitable choices daily. These choices require ongoing self-awareness and self-reflection as we move through life. In the absence of making antiracist choices, we (un)consciously uphold aspects of white supremacy, white-dominant culture, and unequal institutions and society. Being racist or antiracist is not about who you are; it is about what you do.”

Antisemitism begins with prejudiced or stereotypical views about Jewish people, and is the belief that Jewish people are inferior. This belief results in hostile behavior toward Jews solely based on their Jewish identity. 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 be expressed more subtly in media and culture, by representing Jewish people in a demeaning or sinister manner. The roots of antisemitism stretch back to antiquity, and its contemporary forms (including mass genocide of the Jewish people during the Holocaust) are woven into many other expressions of bigotry (including white supremacy). Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong” or characterize Jews as a group that secretly “controls” national or international institutions.

Bias is a prejudice in favor or against something or someone, etc. Everyone holds at least some biases, and biases are not necessarily negative or positive. An “implicit bias” (or inherent bias) is one that always exists, and is generally unquestioned or unexplained. WIth respect to racial equity work, the term bias or implicit bias is used to describe bias toward socially advantaged racial groups (in the U.S., this means white people). Systemic racism is upheld by unexamined implicit bias, and denying its existence creates increased opportunities for harm against marginalized groups (much more than the perceived harm done in situations in which said bias is explicitly named and acknowledged).

Bias is prejudice in favor or against something, someone, etc. which we all have an inherently aren’t negative or positive; an implicit bias (or inherent bias) is one that is always there without question or explanation; in terms of racial equity work, the term bias or implicit bias is used to describe our bias toward societally preferred racial groups–in the U.S. this means white people; systemic racism is upheld by implicit biases and denying these biases exist and/or are at play is often causes more harm in situations when racial injustice is named. 

Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). The use of this acronym is imperfect, at best. In general, k+r prefers to use racial and ethnic identifiers that are chosen and embraced by the communities and people they represent. However, when faced with the need to generalize, particularly when talking about the impact of racism and subsequent marginalization, we use this acronym, which separates and therefore calls attention to the specific legacy of harm that has happened to Black and Indigenous people in the United States. For a nuanced discussion of the use of this acronym (and others), check out “Is it time to say R.I.P. to POC?” an episode of NPR’s Code Switch podcast.

Black (we capitalize the “B”). For k+r, this is about attributing power and agency. Kwame Anthony Appiah wrote in The Atlantic: “black…is not a natural category but a social one—a collective identity—with a particular history. (‘Race is psychology, not biology’ is a formulation Du Bois once offered.) What’s more, the very label “black” plays a role in generating that identity….Social identities aren’t reducible to a label, but labels play a role in generating and sustaining them.”

Culture is “the cumulative deposit of knowledge, experience, beliefs, values, attitudes, meanings, hierarchies, religion, notions of time, roles, spatial relations, concepts of the universe, and material objects and possessions acquired by a group of people in the course of generations through individual and group striving” (Larry A Samovar & Richard E. Porter via dismantlingracism.org)

Discrimination comes from discriminate, which is the act of distinguishing or notice differences–something we all do. Discrimination is to notice and act upon differences between people and, as a result of their differences, deny them dignity, access, and rights.

Equity, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “fairness or justice in the way people are treated.” Equity is different from diversity, which is about variety or range; and from inclusion, which refers originally to whether something is or is not part of a whole. While diversity and inclusion are important components of a racial justice strategy, they are insufficient in their ability to capture the fullness of what we are seeking for the world, and particularly for marginalized and vulnerable communities. k+r works with organizations who describe their initiatives in a variety of ways (“EDI,” “DEI,” “IDEA,” “JEDI,” etc) but leans and pushes toward equity in our strategy.

Justice is “fair treatment.” We are living in an unjust, unbalanced society, and we are seeking to balance the scales through a variety of methods and strategies.

LGBTQIA2S+ is one of many acronyms referring to the spectrum of both human sexual orientation and gender identity. It stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, and Two-Spirit. The acronym breaks out multiple identities related to sexuality and gender identity.  We use this acronym for how it highlights queer identities that are often marginalized, even within the queer community, which includes Intersex, Asexuality and Two-Spirit identities. “Two-spirit” refers to a person who identifies as having both a masculine and a feminine spirit, and is used by some Indigenous people to describe their sexual, gender and/or spiritual identity. It is important to note that Two-Spirit identity is an Indigenous identity. 

Positional Power is the relative power you wield within the context of your organization’s hierarchy or structure. It is dependent on a variety of factors, including how many direct reports you have, how much access you have to information, your ability to make “final” decisions, your ability to access and determine what to do with the financial resources of your organization, your ability to make hiring and firing decisions, your relationship to your Board of Directors (or your position ON the Board of Directors) etc. k+r is consistently aware of the way positional power is employed (subconsciously or consciously) to oppress those whose access to it is relatively limited.

Prejudice is a pre-judgment or predetermined opinion (or an adverse opinion), formed without just grounds, before sufficient knowledge is gained. In the context of oppression, prejudice is mostly negative and based on stereotypes or unsupported generalizations about individuals or groups of people. They are then passed on consciously and unconsciously, covertly and overtly, which leads to discrimination – interpersonal, institutional/organizational, and systemic.

Privilege is benefits and/or access to resources that are given to members of a social group without those benefits or access being earned; privilege is unearned; the term can be traced to W.E.B. DuBois who wrote about the “psychological wage” that permitted white people living in poverty to feel superior to blacks; “privilege” came into the mainstream with Peggy McIntosh’s “invisible knapsack” which she originally wrote about for white and male privilege; privilege is the opposite side of the coin from oppression so where someone experiences oppression someone else is experiencing privilege–privileged groups are in power.

Racial equity is the condition that would be achieved if one’s racial identity no longer predicted, in a statistical sense, how one fares. When we use the term, we are thinking about racial equity as one part of racial justice, and thus we also include work to address root causes of inequities, not just their manifestation. This includes elimination of policies, practices, attitudes, and cultural messages that reinforce differential outcomes by race or that fail to eliminate them. (Center for Assessment and Policy Development)

Racism is prejudice and discrimination based on race + social and institutional power. Dr. Ibram X Kendi, in How to be an Antiracist, says that “Racism is a marriage of racist policies and racist ideas that produces and normalizes racial inequities.”

Social Power/Identity is sometimes discussed in the context of “privilege.” These are the areas in which our identities align with that of the dominant culture. Being socially marginalized in one area (say, you identify as BIPOC) does not prevent you from aligning with social power in another (maybe you are cisgender, or non-disabled). In general, the more areas of our identity that align with the dominant culture, the more unearned advantages and benefits we will receive. 

Systemic Oppression “The term ‘systems of oppression; helps us better identify inequity by calling attention to the historical and organized patterns of mistreatment. In the United States, systems of oppression (like systemic racism) are woven into the very foundation of American culture, society, and laws. Other examples of systems of oppression are sexism, heterosexism, ableism, classism, ageism, and anti-Semitism. Society’s institutions, such as government, education, and culture, all contribute or reinforce the oppression of marginalized social groups while elevating dominant social groups. (National Museum of African American History & Culture)

White Supremacy: “The idea (ideology) that white people and the ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions of white people are superior to People of Color and their ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions. While most people associate white supremacy with extremist groups like the Ku Klux Klan and the neo-Nazis, white supremacy is ever present in our institutional and cultural assumptions that assign value, morality, goodness, and humanity to the white group while casting people and communities of color as worthless (worth less), immoral, bad, and inhuman and ‘undeserving.’ Drawing from critical race theory, the term ‘white supremacy’ also refers to a political or socio-economic system where white people enjoy structural advantage and rights that other racial and ethnic groups do not, both at a collective and an individual level.” (Racial Equity Tools)