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DEI Terms

DEI Terms 2023-03-17T12:11:11+00:00

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Glossary of Terms


To develop a shared language and common understanding of ideas, values, and concepts that inform the Core Team and campus stakeholders on the journey towards realizing diversity, equity, and inclusion at Highline College. Beyond the definition, it is critical that the campus community consider what these words mean in the context of Highline College, the geographic space the campus occupies, and current social and political climate for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).

Glossary of Terms


Accessibility in education gives all people the same access to educational experiences, services, and information, whether a person has a disability or not. Another important element is the ease of access for students who need these features and accommodations. It must be easy for students who need accessibility accommodations or technologies to find and use them.


Accessibility is shaped by what we need to do, our interactions with the environment, and our personal preferences. Educational materials and technologies are “accessible” to people with disabilities if they are able to “acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services” as people who do not have disabilities. As a person with a disability, you must be able to achieve these three goals “in an equally integrated and equally effective manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use” (Joint Letter US Department of Justice and US Department of Education, June 29, 2010).


In the context of racial equity work, accountability refers to the ways in which individuals and communities hold themselves to their goals and actions, and acknowledge the values and groups to which they are responsible. To be accountable, one must be visible, with a transparent agenda and process. Invisibility defies examination; it is, in fact, employed in order to avoid detection and examination. Accountability demands commitment. It might be defined as “what kicks in when convenience runs out.” Accountability requires some sense of urgency and becoming a true stakeholder in the outcome. Accountability can be externally imposed (legal or organizational requirements), or internally applied (moral, relational, faith-based, or recognized as some combination of the two) on a continuum from the institutional and organizational level to the individual level. From a relational point of view, accountability is not always doing it right. Sometimes it’s really about what happens after it’s done wrong.


A powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas. Practicing antiracism requires constantly identifying, challenging, and upending existing racist policies to replace them with antiracist policies that foster equity between racial groups.

Anti-Racism is defined as the work of actively opposing racism by advocating for changes in political, economic, and social life. Anti-racism tends to be an individualized approach, and set up in opposition to individual racist behaviors and impacts.


An anti-racist is someone who is supporting an antiracist policy through their actions or expressing antiracist ideas. This includes the expression of ideas that racial groups are equals and do not need developing, and supporting policies that reduce racial inequity. Person who actively opposes racism and the unfair treatment of people who belong to other races. They recognize that all racial groups are equal (i.e. nothing inherently superior or inferior about specific racial groups) and that racist policies have caused racial inequities. They also understand that racism is pervasive and has been embedded into all societal structures. An anti-racist challenges the values, structures, policies, and behaviors that perpetuate systemic racism, and they are also willing to admit the times in which they have been racist. Persons are either anti-racist or racist. People that say they are not.

Antiracist Action

Action that seeks to dismantle institutionalized practices of racism. It also identifies and confronts racist ideologies which manifest overtly and covertly in institutions, conversations, curriculum, and organizational structures.


Is an inclination, feeling, or opinion, especially one that is preconceived or unreasoned. Biases are unreasonably negative feelings, preferences, or opinions about a social group. It is grounded in stereotypes and prejudices.

Collaborative Community

Working proactively together with students and families to solve challenges in an environment of trust, empathy and openness.

Communities of color

An umbrella term used to refer to people of color often when describing the impacts of systemic racism.

Community-Based Organization

Refers to local-level organizations focused on improving life for residents and making desired improvements to a community’s social health, well-being, and overall functioning. Community organization occurs in geographically, psychosocially, culturally, spiritually, and digitally bounded communities.

Cultural Capital

Distinctions that develop between individuals and groups due to differences in family and cultural background, education, occupation, and wealth. Based on the work of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu who argued that it represents one of the many forms of capital that people can draw on to enhance their lives.

Cultural Competence

Is the ability to honor and respect the beliefs, language, interpersonal styles and behaviors of those receiving and providing services. Individuals practicing cultural competency have knowledge of the intersectionality of social identities and the multiple axes of oppression that people from different racial, ethnic, and other minoritized groups face. Individuals striving to develop cultural competence recognize that it is a dynamic, on-going process that requires a long-term commitment to learning. In the context of education, cultural competence refers to the ability to successfully teach students who come from cultures other than one’s own it entails developing personal and interpersonal awareness and sensitivities, learning specific bodies of cultural knowledge, and mastering a set of skills for effective cross-cultural teaching.

Culturally Responsive (from MVV)

Culturally responsive teaching stems from the culturally relevant teaching philosophy coined by Gloria Ladson-Billings (1994, 17–18), which aimed to “empower students intellectually, socially, emotionally, and politically by using cultural referents to impart knowledge, skills, and attitudes.” Geneva Gay (2002) took the culturally relevant teaching philosophy and created a pragmatic and applicable methodology that centers on the use of cultural experiences and perspectives of ethnically diverse students as tools to reach and teach students more effectively.

Culturally Appropriate

Culturally appropriate education focuses on educational competence needed in a global world and respect for different world views of learners and teachers from different cultural contexts. Education reform should reflect cultural diversity and embed teaching practices into the cultural history of a nation and should promote positive inclusion of minority and indigenous history so as to maximize successful adoption by teachers and parents.

Culturally appropriate care (also called ‘culturally competent care’) is sensitive to people’s cultural identity or heritage. It means being alert and responsive to beliefs or conventions that might be determined by cultural heritage.

Cultural identity or heritage can cover a range of things. For example, it might be based on ethnicity, nationality or religion. Or it might be to do with the person’s sexuality or gender identity.


1. Decolonization may be defined as the active resistance against colonial powers, and a shifting of power towards political, economic, educational, cultural, psychic independence and power that originate from a colonized nation’s own indigenous culture. This process occurs politically and also applies to personal and societal psychic, cultural, political, agricultural, and educational deconstruction of colonial oppression.

2. Per Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang: “Decolonization doesn’t have a synonym”; it is not a substitute for ‘human rights’ or ‘social justice’, though undoubtedly, they are connected in various ways. Decolonization demands an Indigenous framework and a centering of Indigenous land, Indigenous sovereignty, and Indigenous ways of thinking.

Deficit-Minded Language

Language that blames students for their inequitable outcomes instead of examining the systemic factors that contribute to their challenges. It labels students as inadequate by focusing on qualities or knowledge they lack, such as the cognitive abilities and motivation needed to succeed in college, or shortcomings socially linked to the student, such as cultural deprivation, inadequate socialization, or family inadequacies in students. Examples of this type of language include at-risk or high-need, underprepared or disadvantaged, non-traditional or untraditional, underprivileged, learning styles, and achievement gap.


The myriad of ways in which people differ, including the psychological, physical, cognitive, and social differences that occur among all individuals, such as race, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, religion, economic class, education, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, mental and physical ability, and learning styles. Diversity is all inclusive and supportive of the proposition that everyone and every group should be valued. It is about understanding these differences and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of our differences.

Environmentally Sustainable

Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.

Equitable/Equity (from MVV)

The absence of avoidable or remediable differences among groups of people, whether those groups are defined socially, economically, demographically or geographically.


A two-dimensional concept. One axis represents institutional accountability that is demonstrated by the achievement of racial parity in student outcomes. The second axis represents a critical understanding of the omnipresence of whiteness at the institution and practice levels.

The condition under which individuals are provided the resources they need to have access to the same opportunities as the general population. Equity accounts for systematic inequalities, meaning the distribution of resources provides more for those who need it most. Conversely equality indicates uniformity where everything is evenly distributed among people.

The guarantee of fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. The principle of equity acknowledges that certain populations have been excluded from participation, and that fairness regarding these unbalanced conditions is needed to assist equality in the provision of effective opportunities to all groups.

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, resource equity and equity-mindedness. Representation equity: the proportional participation at all levels of an institution. Resource equity: the distribution of educational resources in order to close equity gaps. Equity-mindedness: the demonstration of an awareness of and willingness to address equity issues among institutional.

Equity First

“Equity First” approaches privilege equity as a first priority to support achievement and success for historically marginalized and underserved student populations. They focus on operationalizing deep knowledge of the lived contexts students bring to their educational experiences in order to design and implement equity-minded and culturally responsive pedagogical practices and student supports.

Equity Gaps

Equity gaps refer to disparities in educational outcomes and student success metrics across race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, physical or mental abilities, and other demographic traits and intersectionalities (see persistent)


Is a schema that provides an alternative framework for understanding the causes of equity gaps in outcomes and the action needed to close them. Rather than attribute inequities in outcomes to student deficits, being equity-minded involves interpreting inequitable outcomes as a signal that practices are not working as intended. Inequities are eliminated through changes in institutional practices, policies, culture, and routines. Equity-mindedness encompasses being (1) race conscious, (2) institutionally focused, (3) evidence based, (4) systemically aware, and (5) action oriented.


Refers to the perspective or mode of thinking exhibited by practitioners who call attention to patterns of inequity in student outcomes. There practitioners are willing to take personal and institutional responsibility for the success of their students, and critically reassess their own practices. It also requires that practitioners are race-conscious and aware of the social and historical context of exclusionary practices in American Higher Education.

Historically Marginalized Communities

[These] are groups who have been relegated to the lower or peripheral edge of society. Many groups were (and some continue to be) denied full participation in mainstream cultural, social, political, and economic activities. Marginalized communities can include people of color, women, LGBTQ+, low-income individuals, prisoners, the disabled, senior citizens, and many more. Many of these communities were ignored or misrepresented in traditional historical sources.


Authentically bringing traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into processes, activities, and decision/policy making in a way that shares power.

A state of belonging, when persons of different backgrounds and identities are valued, integrated, and welcomed equitably as decision-makers and collaborators. Inclusion involves people being given the opportunity to grow and feel/know they belong. Diversity efforts alone do not create inclusive environments. Inclusion involves a sense of coming as you are and being accepted, rather than feeling the need to assimilate.

Institutional Racism

Occurs when laws or policies are crafted and put into place through society’s institutions, then disproportionately target oppressed people of color.

Low-Income Communities

An area in which 20% of people live below the poverty line or families whose incomes do not exceed 80 percent of the median family income for the area.


Racial or ethnic microaggressions refer to everyday slights and insults (both conscious and unconscious) that connote or denote racialized meaning—often directed toward people of color by whites. Psychiatrist Chester Pierce, MD, coined the term “microaggression” in the 1970s to label minor insults or inappropriate questions that black people might encounter. Racial microaggressions are thought to occur in one of three forms: verbal, nonverbal, or environmental.

Racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color. Perpetrators of microaggressions are often unaware that they engage in such communications when they interact with racial/ethnic minorities.


Collaborating with each other, and students. Each contributing and sharing information and resources.


Existing for a long or longer than usual time or continuously.


For many people, it comes as a surprise that racial categorization schemes were invented by scientists to support worldviews that viewed some groups of people as superior and some as inferior. There are three important concepts linked to this fact:

  1. Race is a made-up social construct, and not an actual biological fact.
  2. Race designations have changed over time. Some groups that are considered “white” in the United States today were considered “non-white” in previous eras, in U.S. Census data and in mass media and popular culture (for example, Irish, Italian, and Jewish people).
  3. The way in which racial categorizations are enforced (the shape of racism) has also changed over time. For example, the racial designation of Asian American and Pacific Islander changed four times in the 19th century. That is, they were defined at times as white and at other times as not white. Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, as designated groups, have been used by whites at different times in history to compete with African American labor.

Racial Equity

  1. 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.
  2. A mindset and method for solving problems that have endured for generations, seem intractable, harm people and communities of color most acutely, and ultimately affect people of all races. This will require seeing differently, thinking differently, and doing the work differently. Racial equity is about results that make a difference and last.

Racial Inequity

Racial inequity is when two or more racial groups are not standing on approximately equal footing, such as the percentages of each ethnic group in terms of dropout rates, single family home ownership, access to healthcare, etc.

Racial Justice

  1. 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.
  2. Operationalizing racial justice means reimagining and co-creating a just and liberated world and includes:
    • understanding the history of racism and the system of white supremacy and addressing past harms,
    • working in right relationship and accountability in an ecosystem (an issue, sector, or community ecosystem) for collective change,
    • implementing interventions that use an intersectional analysis and that impact multiple systems,
    • centering Blackness and building community, cultural, economic, and political power of Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (BIPOC), and
    • applying the practice of love along with disruption and resistance to the status quo.


Racism = race prejudice + social and institutional power
Racism = a system of advantage based on race
Racism = a system of oppression based on race
Racism = a white supremacy system

Racism is different from racial prejudice, hatred, or discrimination. 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.

Social Justice

Meaning to ensure to open doors and opportunity for everyone but in particular those in greater need (minority and underrepresented community).

Systemic Racism

Includes the policies and practices entrenched in established institutions which result in the exclusion or promotion of designated groups. No “individual intent” is necessary. In other words, we can be a part of this systemic racism without intentionally “doing something racist” because it is embedded in our society.


Bring your whole self holistically is what we thrive to achieve for all.


Characterized by visibility or accessibility of information especially concerning business practices.