In order to have conversations about making our organizations more equitable, we need to come to some agreement about the concepts and language we are using in these conversations. Below are some resources to help us do that. 

Language/Concepts Defined

Psychological, physical, and social differences that occur among any and all individuals; including but not limited to race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, age, gender, sexual orientation, mental or physical ability, and learning styles.

Dominant culture in a society refers to the established language, religion, values, rituals, and social customs on which the society was built. It has the most power, is widespread, and influential within a social entity, such as an organization, in which multiple cultures are present.

Treating everyone the same, even if they start at different places and have different needs. It’s an attempt at fairness but tends to be used as cover when inequity is revealed. “We’re all being treated the same!”

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 there are historically underserved and underrepresented populations.

  • Individual & Interpersonal Racism: How white people think, feel, and act alone and with people of color based on their conscious and unconscious feelings (implicit bias) about race and people of color.
  • Institutional Racism: Policies, practices, and norms within institutions and systems of power such as places of employment, government agencies, and social services that produce inequitable outcomes against people of color.
  • Systemic Racism: Similar to Institutional Racism, except it is policies, practices, and norms across institutions and systems of power that produce inequitable outcomes against people of color. It does not rely on racist people in order to be perpetuated. Educating people about racism does not eliminate systemic racism.
  • Structural Racism: Similar to Systemic Racism, except it is the accumulation and incorporation of long-standing (over time) policies, practices, and norms across institutions and systems of power that produce inequitable outcomes against people of color and their historical, cultural, and psychological aspects.

Discomfort and defensiveness on the part of a person with power in a situation when confronted by information about inequity and injustice.

Also known as unconscious or hidden bias, implicit biases are negative associations that people unknowingly hold.

The act of creating environments in which any individual or group can be and feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate and bring their full, authentic selves to work.

The private racial beliefs held by and within individuals.  For people of color, internalized oppression can involve believing in negative messages about oneself or one’s racial group.

Systemic devaluing, undermining, marginalizing, and disadvantaging of certain social identities.

Power is unequally distributed globally and in U.S. society; some individuals or groups wield greater power than others, thereby allowing them greater access to and control over resources.

Unearned social power accorded by the formal and informal institutions of society to all members of a dominant group (e.g. white privilege, male privilege, etc.).

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.

Racial equity is the condition that would be achieved if one’s racial identity no longer predicted, in a statistical sense, how one fares.

A system of advantage and oppression based on race. A way of organizing society based on dominance and subordination based on race.

Why We Are Doing This Conference: Systemic Change

Alternate Conversations for Creating Whole-System Change around Diversity and Inclusion By Frank Golom, from the Association of American Colleges & Universities’ 2018 “Diversity & Democracy” issue

White Supremacy Culture

This resource by Temo Okun ( outlines 15 characteristics of white supremacy culture that show up in our organizations and make it really difficult to move forward.

Applying a Racial Equity Lens

Report: What Does It Take to Embed a Racial Equity and Inclusion Lens? From Hafizah Omar and Nadia Owusu, Living Cities

Video On Applying a Racial Equity Lens

Driving Toward Equity – Using Racial Equity Tools (12:04 minutes) from Urban Sustainability Directors Network

Racial Equity Impact Assessments (REIA)

Racial Equity Impact Assessment PDF from Race Forward

Strategic Planning Through a Racial Equity Lens

  1. Strategic Planning Equity Lens PDF from Portland State 20/20  
  2. Protocol for Culturally Responsive Organization from Center to Advance Racial Equity, Portland State University (Starting on page 56)

Organizational Assessment

  1. Continuum on Becoming an Anti-Racist Multicultural Organization PDF via Crossroads Ministry, Chicago, IL
  2. Racism in Our Communal Structures: A Community Assessment Tool PDF adapted from “Dismantling Racism” from the Western States Center; this worksheet is part of a book project, Recipes for the Beloved Community, and Jenny Truax’s contact info appears at the bottom
  3. AWAKE to WOKE to WORK: Building a Race Equity Culture PDF by Equity in the Center, a project of ProInspire

The Impact of Power in our Organizations and Power Mapping

Tips for Naming, Intervening, and Addressing Systemic Power: This tip sheet from Anti-Oppression Resource and Training Alliance (AORTA) includes a section on “things you can do as a workplace”