Glossary

THIS GLOSSARY IS A WORK IN PROGRESS.  Please feel free to suggest additions via the comments, remembering that this blog focuses on Whiteness, allyship, and anti-racism.


Ally (verb) - To a) recognize and b) work to change the balance of one’s privilege and dominance over marginalized groups.
Note:  Ally is not a noun.  It is not something you are, it is something you do.


Bigotry (noun) - Individual and interpersonal acts of intolerance of another’s race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender expression, or any other aspect of identity.
Note: Racism and bigotry differ in that racism is structural and systemic where bigotry is individual and interpersonal.


Columbus (verb) - To take possession of, or credit for, “discovering” something that was already possessed or known by others.


Culture (noun) - Common elements of a specific heritage or community, such as language, recipes, and a sense of connection.  In becoming White, many communities sacrifice their cultures.


First/Native Nations (noun/adjective) - Distinct and sovereign nations that existed in the United States pre-European invasion, or a person from a First Nations heritage or community.  There are currently more than 500 federally-recognized tribes in the United States, each with its own form of governance.
Note: Although we use First/Native Nations on this blog, others may use “American Indian” and/or “Native peoples” to mean the same thing.  When referring to individuals, we will name specific tribes whenever possible.


Microaggression (noun) - A tiny act of bigotry.  Viewed individually, these acts are almost negligible; taken as a whole, they constitute an evolution of the very nature of bigotry, from overt, conscious and public bigotry to a more nebulous form that is hard to identify and even harder to acknowledge.  Examples include being surprised that a Black person is articulate, saying “what type of Asian are you?” or “No, but where are you REALLY from?”, or escaping from discussions about race and racism by turning them into discussions about other -isms or -ias.


Person of color (noun) - A person living in the United States who identifies as a person of color, be it Black, Asian, Latino/a, South Asian, Polynesian, or multiracial.
Note: Native people often do not identify as people of color because First Nations are distinct from the United States.  See this informative post from American Indians In Children’s Literature for more information.


Protectionism (noun) - The act of protecting an empowered person from knowing the extent of their (usually unconscious) racism, or the harm said racism has caused.  Examples of protectionism include saying “it’s OK, I’m _________ and you didn’t offend me” in response to a racist statement, defending or comforting someone whose racism has been pointed out to them, or agreeing that anyone who points out another’s racism is an “attacker”.
Historically and currently, those who protect White people are often rewarded with things like jobs and connections.  Those who regularly choose not to engage in protectionism are often labeled “attackers” or “troublemakers” and may face punishments such as being fired or ostracized.
It is the responsibility of White people to know and understand when they are being protected.  However, it may not always be appropriate for White people to tell people of color and First/Native Nations people to stop protecting them, since White people are responsible for creating and perpetuating a world in which protectionism is rewarded and failure to protect is punished.


Race (noun) - A specious classification of human beings created by Europeans, which assigns human worth and social status using "White" as the model of humanity and the height of human achievement, for the purpose of establishing and maintaining privilege and power.  (credit: Ronald Chisolm and Michael Washington, The People’s Institute For Survival and Beyond)


Racism (noun) - Race-based prejudice coupled with access to systemic, structural power.  (credit: The People’s Institute For Survival and Beyond)
Note: Racism and bigotry differ in that racism is structural and systemic where bigotry is individual and interpersonal.


White (adjective) - One of several specious racial classifications of human beings, “White” was created by slavers and colonialists in 17th-Century Virginia to replace terms like “Christian” and “Englishman”.  (credit: Margo Adair & Sharon Powell, The Subjective Side of Politics. SF: 1988. p.17.)  The definition of White has changed and continues to change every time the empowered group fears it will soon be outnumbered by unempowered people; Irish, Italian, and Jewish identities are examples of identifiers that used to, but no longer, preclude one from being White.


White fragility (noun) - A state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. (credit: Robin DiAngelo, “White Fragility”, International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, Vol 3 (3) (2011) pp 54-70, available here)

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