Skip to main content Skip to local navigation
Home » Addressing Anti-Black Racism » Glossary of Terms

Glossary of Terms

This glossary lists and defines some of the common terms used in Black Studies and in anti-racist scholarship. Its goal is to increase understanding of these terms and to support research,  teaching, and study in anti-racism work.

Key Terms for Teaching Against Anti-Black Racism

Anti-Black Racism:the unique set of practices and beliefs that constitute the historical and contemporary nature of systemic racism against people of African descent, including both those who are descendants of chattel slavery and those who are newer arrivals from the African continent.
Anti-Racism:policy or practice of actively working to oppose all forms of racism through social, political, educational and economic advocacy for change.
Chattel Slavery:the practice of enslaving and owning human beings and their offspring as property that could be bought and sold. Chattel slavery was the defining characteristic of the post-Columbus enslavement of Africans in the Americas.
Criminalize:construction of certain behaviours and individuals as criminal, such as the construction of Black men as innately criminal and dangerous.
Critical Race Theory:(CRT) is a scholarly movement and legal analysis network that brings a race-conscious lens to the examination of various legal, cultural and social matters in order to expose structural racism and offer solutions for greater justice.
Cultural Appropriation:the theft of elements of another group’s culture, such as, art, language, clothing, and customs for commodification, personal use, or monetary gain without respect, understanding or value of the culture of origin.
Decolonization:involves exposing the colonial histories of settler colonial states and the ongoing subjugations of Indigenous Peoples, resisting colonial constructs and powers, and restoring Indigenous lands, languages and knowledges.
Democratic Racism:Frances Henry and Carol Tator define democratic racism as “an ideology in which two conflicting sets of values are made congruent to each other. Commitments to democratic principles such as justice, equality and fairness conflict but coexist with attitudes and behaviours that include negative feelings about minority groups, differential treatment, and discrimination against them.” See The Colour of Democracy: Racism in Canadian Society (fourth ed.).Toronto: Nelson Education, 2009, p. 10.
Diaspora:forced or self-willed exile of a people from their original homeland in large numbers over a long period of time and their effort to recreate a cultural memory of “home” in new geographic spaces.
Discourse of Denial:the refusal to accept the belief that racism can exist in a democratic society, despite widespread evidence of racism and its effects on racialized peoples.
Diversity:the ways that people differ from one another including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, age, gender, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, disability, and language.
Equity:recognition that the society we live in is not a level playing field and that some people have easier access to social capital and enjoy greater protection and freedom because of their race, class and gender.
Enslaved:replaces the word “slave”to mark the humanity and agency of enslaved Africans, and to designate slavery as an imposed condition of life rather than as a core aspect of the enslaved person’s identity or being.
Enslaver:replaces the terms “slave owner” and “slave master” to disrupt the logic of property and ownership, as well as the assumptions of white superiority and Black inhumanity, on which chattel slavery was built.
Inclusion:practice of respecting and valuing diversity by involving all groups and individuals in full educational, political, social and cultural participation in their societies, and in the creation of policy and decision making.
Institutional Racism:also referred to as systemic racism, is the form of racism that exists in societal or organizational regulations and laws. This form of racism is deeply entrenched in the legal and criminal justice system, housing, health care, all levels of education, and employment.
Intersectionality:an analytical framework conceptualized by Kimberlé Crenshaw and used to understand how different aspects of one’s sociopolitical identity can combine to create various modes of privilege and oppression.
Microaggression:intentional or unintentional everyday insults and slights that are hostile, inappropriate, or derogatory toward a person based on their belonging to a marginalized group.
Misogynoir:acts of contempt and hate directed against Black women as a specific result of the unique intersection of their race and gender.
Prison Abolitionist Movement:seeks to expose the historical and contemporary violence and harm of policing and prisons on Black, Indigenous and other racialized people and calls for a complete dismantling of these systems of surveillance and punishment.
Race:a social construct that relies on the notion of biological difference to regulate power in a society, and preserve and perpetuate the dominance of whiteness and the continued subjugation of Black and other racialized people.
Racial Capitalism:term coined by Cedric Robinson to analyze the way in whichcapital accumulation and expansion during and after transatlantic slavery grew out of and relied on existing patterns of “inequality among human groups.” See Cedric J. Robinson, On Racial Capitalism, Black Internationalism, and Cultures of Resistance.
Racialized:emphasizes race as a social construct and designates the process by which Black and other non-white peoples are inscribed into a racial hierarchy to designate their difference from white people.
Settler Colonialism:system of colonialism that violently replaces the population that is Indigenous to a territory through land theft and conquest, and ongoing legal, political, and educational subordination.

This glossary was created by Jellisa Ricketts as part of the summer 2021 Dean’s Award for Research Excellence project, “Teaching Against Anti-Black Racism and Toward Black Inclusion,” supervised by Professor Andrea Davis.