Diversity & Equity Glossary

Understanding the power of language and using it effectively and appropriately is vital to anti-racist action and education. Because language (and our learning) around equity, diversity, and inclusion is continuously evolving, we welcome opportunities for dialogue on this topic. Some language may be triggering and can evoke an emotional response, please utilize support tools, resources and networks if it feels necessary.

These definitions are adapted from the following sources:
Pulling Together: A Guide for Indigenization of post-secondary institutions. 
Gov. BC: Addressing Racism Glossary 


The practice of identifying, challenging, preventing, eliminating and changing the values, structures, policies, programs, practices and behaviours that perpetuate racism.


A way of thinking or operating based explicitly or implicitly on a stereotype or fixed image of a group of people.

Cultural Humility

Is a process of self-reflection to understand personal and systemic biases and to develop and maintain respectful processes and relationships based on mutual trust. Cultural humility involves humbly acknowledging oneself as a learner when it comes to understanding another’s experience.

Cultural Safety

Is an outcome based on respectful engagement that recognizes and strives to address power imbalances inherent in the health care system. It results in an environment free of racism and discrimination, where people feel safe when receiving health care.


Refers to a group’s shared set of beliefs, norms and values. It is the totality of what people develop to enable them to adapt to their world, which includes language, behaviours, tools, customs and traditions that define their values and organize social interactions. Human beings are not born with culture – they learn and transmit it through language and observation.


The process of deconstructing colonial ideologies of the superiority and privilege of Western thought and approaches. Involves valuing and revitalizing Indigenous knowledge and approaches and rethinking Western biases or assumptions that have impacted Indigenous ways of being.


Discrimination is an action or a decision that treats a person or a group badly for reasons such as their race, age, ability or gender identity.

Epistemic Racism

Refers to positioning the knowledge of one race or cultural group as superior to another, including a judgment of not only which knowledge is considered valuable, but is considered to be knowledge.


Equity is the absence of avoidable, unfair or remediable differences among groups of people, whether those groups are defined socially, economically, demographically or geographically or by other means of stratification.


Refers to groups of people who share cultural traits that they characterize as different from those of other groups. An ethnic group is often understood as sharing a common origin, language, ancestry, spirituality, history, values, traditions and culture. People of the same race can be of different ethnicities.


Judging another culture solely based on the standards and values of one’s own culture. Also, a belief in the inherent superiority of one’s own culture or ethnic group.


The process of naturalizing Indigenous knowledge systems and making them evident to transform spaces, places, and hearts. In the context of post-secondary education, this involves bringing Indigenous knowledge and approaches together with Western knowledge systems. It is a deliberate coming together of these two ways of being.

Interpersonal Racism

Also known as relational racism, refers to specific acts of racism that occur between people, and/or may include discriminatory treatment, acts of violence and micro-aggressions.


Refers to discrimination that occurs and is supported through the power of public systems or services, such as health care systems, educational systems, legal systems and/or other systems or services; discrimination backed up by systemic power. Full oppression usually involves all three; health, education, and justice.


Refers to a negative way of attitude and thinking toward a socially defined group and toward any person perceived to be a member of the group. Like bias, prejudice is a belief and based on a stereotype.


Refers to the grouping of people based on physical characteristics such as skin tone, hair texture and facial features. Race is a socially constructed way to categorize people and is used as the basis for discrimination by situating human beings within a hierarchy of social value.


The system of oppression that marginalizes, subjugates, and makes invisible the lives and experiences of individuals or groups based on their actual or perceived racial identity.


A process of addressing past wrongs done to Indigenous Peoples, making amends, and improving relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to create a better future for all.


Refers to a fixed and exaggerated belief, image or distorted truth about a person or group; a generalization that allows for little or no individual differences or social variation.

Systemic Racism

Also known as structural or institutional racism, systemic racism is enacted through routine and societal systems, structures and institutions such as requirements, policies, legislation and practices that perpetuate and maintain avoidable and unfair inequalities across ethnic or racial groups.