Skip to main content

Language is Powerful

The Sisters of Charity Foundation believes that language has power. Inclusive language acknowledges diversity, conveys respect to all people, promotes equitable opportunities and leads to everyone having a sense of belonging. Below is a glossary of common DEI&B terms.


This can refer to either individual or institutional actions and language that disadvantage or disempower people with disabilities, people experiencing disabilities, or disabled people. Ableism includes mental, physical, and emotional disabilities.

Affinity Bias

Unconscious preferences we have for people who are more like us.

Affirmative Action

Any action taken or required to correct effects of past discrimination, to eliminate present discrimination or to prevent discrimination in the future.


A lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people.


Work that seeks to recognize the oppression that exists in our society and attempts to mitigate its affects and eventually equalize the power imbalance in our communities.

Anti-Racism (anti-racist)

Anti-racism is a process of actively identifying and opposing racism. The goal of anti-racism is to challenge racism and actively change the policies, behaviors, and beliefs that perpetuate racist ideas and actions. Anti-racism is rooted in action. It is about taking steps to eliminate racism at the individual, institutional, and structural levels.


Bias is a tendency to be in favor or against a thing, person, or group compared to another. This favor is typically implied to be unfair or prejudicial. Bias can be innate or learned. Implicit bias is usually expressed unconsciously or automatically and can be oppositional to a person’s expressed beliefs or values. Explicit bias, by contrast, is an intentional expression of bias.


The experience of being a full member of The Sisters of Charity Foundation community, as individuals and organizations.  Community members are supported, accepted, and included.  They are free to be their authentic self, having confidence their voice will be heard and their views respected.  Belonging leads to increased and better collaborations, better problem solving, better decision making and greater transparency.


A person whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth. (i.e. a person assigned female at birth identifies as female).


The expectation that people will and should identify with the gender assigned at birth.


Class refers to how much wealth you have access to through property, inheritance, family support, investments, or other wealth not directly associated to wage earning. It is different than socioeconomic status.


The practice of altering behavior, appearance, and language to fit in. Code- switching happens for many reasons, but in the DEI context, code-switching typically refers to the practice by people with marginalized identities changing their behavior, appearance, and language to assimilate to the dominant culture and gain access to advantages experienced by people with dominant identities.


The violent taking of land, wealth, labor of indigenous peoples through domination and conquest leading to their diminishment, oppression and or extermination.


The process by which a person attempts to ignore the existence of race or skin color in service of seeing past race and just seeing the person. This de-emphasizing of race, however, ignores the real, lived experience of people of color in the US and ignores their experience. We often shy away from using this term when possible because it is also ableist in that it diminishes the experiences of people who are actually blind or experience visual impairments.

Confirmation Bias

Our tendency to interpret information based on a way that confirms our own previous beliefs and experiences.

Critical Race Theory (CRT)

A decades-old branch of learning that analyzes the role of race in American society. It tells us that racism is not simply a matter of individual prejudices or attitudes, but something structural and systemic, underpinned by institutions. Work that is informed by critical race theory asks us to hold broader systems accountable for the historical legacy of slavery in the United States and understand how laws were created to maintain racial division and inequality.

Cultural Competence(y)

A process of learning about and becoming allies with people from other cultures thereby broadening our own understanding and ability to participate in multicultural process. Cultural competence is what we need to be inclusive. It requires (1) being self-aware of your own culture, assumptions, values, styles, biases, attitudes, privilege, etc.; (2) understanding others’ cultures, assumptions, values, styles, biases, attitudes, privilege, etc.; and (3) based on this knowledge, understanding your potential impact on others and interacting with them in a situationally appropriate way.


A set of shared ideas, customs, traditions, beliefs, and practices shared by a group of people that is constantly changing, in subtle and major ways.


A mental, emotional, or physical difference that limits a person in everyday activities. Increasingly, disability is being discussed as a social construct, meaning that the mental, emotional, and physical norms from which we then determine what is different or what is a disability are arbitrary.


Includes all the ways in which people are different, encompassing the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another. While diversity is often used in reference to race, ethnicity, and gender, we embrace a broader definition of diversity that also includes age, national origin, religion, ability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, and physical appearance. Our definition also includes diversity of thought: ideas, perspectives, and values. We also recognize that individuals affiliate with multiple identities.


Treating everyone the same way, often while assuming that everyone also starts out on equal footing or with the same opportunities.


The fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. Improving equity involves increasing justice and fairness within the procedures and processes of institutions or systems, as well as in their distribution of resources. Dealing with equity issues requires an understanding of the root causes of disparities within our society.


A group of people who identify with one another based on shared culture.


The study of how to arrange reproduction within a human population to increase the occurrence of heritable characteristics regarded as desirable. Developed largely by Sir Francis Galton as a method of improving humans, eugenics was increasingly discredited as unscientific and racially biased during the 20th century, especially after the adoption of its doctrines by the Nazis to justify their treatment of Jews, disabled people, and other minority groups.

Gender Binary

The false assumption that there are only two genders, male and female.

Gender Essentialism

The belief that any single characteristic determines what it means to be a man or a woman.

Gender Expression/Presentation

The way that someone outwardly displays their gender through clothing, style, demeanor, and behavior.

Gender Identity

Refers to how a person self identifies on the gender spectrum. There are countless ways in which people may identify themselves.

Gender Nonconforming, Genderqueer

People whose gender expression differs from the conventions traditionally associated with their assigned gender. May or may not identify as transgender, queer, or LGBTQ+.


The belief that heterosexuality is the default sexual orientation, and the expectation that people will and should identify as heterosexual.


System of advantage based on sexual orientation.


The act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate. An inclusive and welcoming environment embraces differences and offers respect in words and actions for all people. It’s important to understand that while an inclusive group is by definition diverse, a diverse group isn’t always inclusive. Increasingly, recognition of unconscious or implicit bias helps organization to be deliberate about addressing issues of inclusivity.


Also known as first peoples, aboriginal peoples, native peoples, or autochthonous peoples, indigenous people are ethnic groups who are descended from and identify with the original inhabitants of a given region, in contrast to groups that have settled, occupied, or colonized the area more recently.

Institutional Racism

The systematic distribution of resources, power, and opportunity in our society to the benefit of people who are white and the exclusion of people of color. Present-day racism was built on a long history of racially distributed resources and ideas that shape our view of ourselves and others. Institutional racism has been responsible for slavery, settlement, Indian reservations, segregation, residential schools (for American Indians), and internment camps. While most of these institutions no longer exist, they have had long-term impacts on our society. As a result of institutional racism, racial stratification and disparities have occurred in employment, housing, education, healthcare, government and other sectors.

Internalized Racism

Describes the private racial beliefs held by and within individuals. The way we absorb social messages about race and adopt them as personal beliefs, biases and prejudices are all within the realm of internalized racism. For people of color, internalized oppression can involve believing in negative messages about oneself or one’s racial group. For white people, internalized privilege can involve feeling a sense of superiority and entitlement or holding negative beliefs about people of color.

Interpersonal Racism

Is how our private beliefs about race become public when we interact with others. When we act upon our prejudices or unconscious bias – whether intentionally, visibly, verbally, or not – we engage in interpersonal racism. Interpersonal racism also can be willful and overt, taking the form of bigotry, hate speech, or racial violence.


A term coined by feminist legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, intersectionality originally was created to account for the ways in which black women experience both racism and sexism. The term has now expanded to account for the ways that an individual can experience multiple forms of oppression based on multiple marginalized identities.


Justice involves dismantling systems of oppression and privilege that create systemic disadvantages and barriers to people’s ability to access resources and opportunities (e.g., the “isms”) or based on which people experience systemic mistreatment. Whereas equity is about reapportioning or redistributing resources so people can access opportunities, justice is about dismantling barriers to those opportunities.


Social process making a group/class of people less important or relegated to a secondary position.

Marginalized Communities

Groups of people who face systemic disadvantages, exclusion, and barriers to opportunities, resources and power based on their identities, including but not limited to black, indigenous, and people of color, immigrants, refugees, undocumented Americans, people with disabilities, women, anybody who identifies outside or beyond the gender binary or not as cisgender, anybody who is not heterosexual, poor and/or low-income communities.


Unconscious everyday behaviors that often unintentionally disempower someone based on a marginalized identity (real or perceived). They can feel small or subtle to the person engaging in the microaggression, but the impact can be large for the recipient.


Conscious and deliberate forms of discriminatory practice, biased attitudes or behaviors that are intended to harm or oppress a marginalized group.


Snubs, gestures, and verbal slights, typically outside of one’s awareness, communicate rudeness and insensitivity to a marginalized group (e.g., “You speak so well”).


Exclude, negate, or nullify the psychological thoughts, feelings, or experiential reality of certain groups (e.g., “I do not see color; people are people to me”).


Those who identify as neither male nor female.


The flip side of privilege, oppression constitutes mistreatment we experience or barriers and disadvantages we encounter by virtue of one or more of our identities, called “marginalized” or “disadvantaged” identities. Systems of oppression refer to systems of power in society that advantage certain groups over others, and include ideologies such as racism, sexism, cissexism, heterosexism, elitism, classism, ableism, nativism, colonialism, ageism, and sizeism. (collectively “the isms”).

People of Color

This term is a blanket term to include those who do not identify as only white or Caucasian. This is the preferred and most inclusive term, currently.


The flip side of oppression, privilege constitutes advantages we receive, consciously or not consciously, by virtue of one or more of our identities, called these “dominant identities”. These advantages are upheld by systems of power that advantage certain groups over others, and include ideologies such as racism, sexism, cissexism, heterosexism, elitism, classism, ableism, nativism, colonialism, ageism, and sizeism. (collectively “the isms”). Privilege is the freedom from stress, anxiety, fear of harm related to your identity.


An umbrella term, of or relating to people who identify neither as cisgender or heterosexual.


(Versus Ethnicity): is a socially constructed system of categorizing humans largely based on observable physical features (phenotypes) such as skin color and on ancestry. There is no scientific basis for or discernible distinction between racial categories. The ideology of race has become embedded in our identities, institutions, and culture and is used as a basis for discrimination and domination.


The concept of racism is widely thought of as simply personal prejudice, but in fact, it is a complex system of racial hierarchies and inequities.

A belief that race is a fundamental determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race. It is also the systemic oppression of a racial group to the social, economic, and political advantage of another.

Reparative Justice

An approach to justice that focuses on the needs of victims and offenders.

Sex or Biological/Natal Sex

A term used to classify individuals as male, female, or intersex (often at birth or based on an ultrasound) based on their chromosomal, hormonal, and anatomical characteristics.

Socioeconomic Status

The amount of money you earn in wages each month or year. This can change rapidly.

Stereotypes (versus Norms)

Stereotypes refer to the widely held, oversimplified ideas we hold about a person based on their identities (real or perceived). Usually, stereotypes are based on assumptions, popular opinion, or misinformation, are generally negative, are sweeping and simple, and are often characterized by words such as “always” and “never.” Norms, on the other hand, are based on observable experiences within a community, are not necessarily negative, are helpful and intended to guide people in their actions, are complex, and are often qualified by words such as “often,” “sometimes,” and “may.”

Structural Racism

In the U.S. is the normalization and legitimization of an array of dynamics – historical, cultural, institutional, and interpersonal – that routinely advantage whites while producing cumulative and chronic adverse outcomes for people of color. It is a system of hierarchy and inequity, primarily characterized by white supremacy – the preferential treatment, privilege, and power for white people at the expense of Black, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Arab and other racially oppressed people.


Systems of power maintained at the structural level of society. Something is referred to as systemic when it is deeply embedded in a given system such that its presence may be subtle as opposed to explicit.


A person whose gender identity (and sometimes expression) is different from the sex they were assigned at birth. Trans* is an umbrella term that refers to various ways that people identify differently than their biological sex.

White Fragility

The defensive reactions many white people have when their racial worldviews, positions, or advantages are questioned or challenged. (as defined by Robin DiAngelo, author of White Fragility)

Unconscious Bias

Unconscious, subtle, involuntary assumptions, or judgments we make every day based on our prior experiences and culture.

Leave a Reply

© 2024 Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina. All Rights Reserved.
The Sisters of Charity Foundation is a ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System.

Read similar articles


14 May, 2024

Ways Philanthropy Can Respond to Attacks on DEI

Ways Philanthropy Can Respond to Attacks on DEI The Sisters of Charity Foundation remains committed to supporting and advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.  We believe that this commitment is...

Read More


14 May, 2024

Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina Distributes $1.3 Million in Grants

Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina Distributes $1.3 Million in Grants SOUTH CAROLINA - (May 14, 2024) The Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina has announced its Cycle...

Read More


28 March, 2024

“Poverty, By America” Community Read Information

"Poverty, By America" by Dr. Matthew Desmond Statewide Community Read Join the Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina in reading Poverty, By America. The Sisters of Charity Foundation of South...

Read More

Systems Change Journey

21 February, 2024

Facing the Past to Improve the Future: Why Leaning into DEIB Is So Important

Facing the Past to Improve the Future: Why Leaning into DEIB Is So ImportantBy Dr. Tracy Bailey and Ericka Wooten Examining the Foundation’s journey to uplifting diversity, equity, inclusion, and...

Read More


25 January, 2024

Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina Announces New Trustees for 2024

Sisters of Charity Foundation of South Carolina Announces New Trustees for 2024 Foundation announces new members and officers to serve on Board of Trustees. SOUTH CAROLINA - (January 24, 2024)...

Read More