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Northwest Missouri State University

Concepts and Terms


A cluster of particular related beliefs, values, and opinions.
Avoidance rationalization
A response to a social problem – such as injustice toward a minority group – that acknowledges the existence of a problem but avoids confronting the problem by offering partial or false solutions or by using arguments that do not address the situation as in “Yes, but you should have seen how bad it was last year.


Inferences a person makes about reality that take one of three forms: descriptive, evaluative, or prescriptive.
A preference or inclination, favorable or unfavorable, that inhibits impartial judgment.
Extreme negative attitudes leading to hatred of a group and persons regarded as members of the group.
Binary thinking
An either/or way of thinking about concepts or realities that divides them into two mutually exclusive categories (white/black, man/woman, reason/emotion, heterosexual/homosexual.


A body of knowledge and/or scholarly works meant to represent the traditions of a particular academic discipline or area of inquiry.
Chief Diversity Officer (CDO)
An educational leader designated to address diversity initiatives in colleges and universities (Metzler, 2008). CDO professionals serve as change agents, advocating for equity in all areas of minoritized populations.
The act of assigning economic values to land, products, services, and ideas that are bought and sold in marketplaces as commodities (in capitalist political economies).
Confirmation bias
Believing information that reinforces beliefs already held and ignoring information that contradicts these beliefs.
Exercises designed to help individuals or groups become more aware of the workings of political, social, economic, and/or cultural issues in their everyday lives.
Containment strategies
Strategies that aim to silence those who speak out against or in other ways resist oppression (ex. racial segregation and surveillance).


The unseating of those who occupy centers of power, as well as the knowledge that defends their power. Typically applied to elite White male power, the concept of decentering can apply to any type of group-based power.
Derisive labels
Names that reflect attitudes of contempt or ridicule for individuals in the group being named.
Actions or practices carried out by a member or members of dominant groups or their representatives that have a differential and negative impact on a member or members of subordinate groups.
Diversity Learning Environment (DLE)
A theoretical framework that examines the intersection of the individual, organizational, and institutional levels in relation to campus climate for diversity. DLE is the current adopted model for diversity learning at Northwest because of its potential to connect with three major levels that relate to campus climate. Further, the model aligns with the NW Strategic Plan, especially SO3.
The presence of human beings with perceived or actual differences based on a variety of human characteristics (Koppelman, 2014, p. 15).
Concept of Diversity
Includes minority groups as well as groups identified according to differences based on age, marital status, parental status, educational status, geographic location, physical characteristics, and other factors that influence individual personality and behavior (Koppelman, 2014, p. 15).
To accept beliefs one has been taught without questioning them.


Identification of an individual according to his or her national origin and/or distinctive cultural patterns.
Exceptionalistic perspective
Views social problems as private, local, unique, exclusive, and unpredictable, a consequence of individual defect, accident, or unfortunate circumstance, which requires that all proposed remedies be tailored to fit each individual case.
Everyday racism
Practices of everyday lived experience that discriminate against people of color but that, because they are so routine, typically go unnoticed or remain unidentified as racism.


The deliberate and systematic extermination of a particular nationality, or racial, ethnic, or minority group.


Identity politics
A form of political resistance in which an oppressed group rejects its devalued status and claims its difference as positive. Also, a way of knowing that sees concrete, lived experiences as important to creating knowledge and crafting political strategies.
Instruction whose purpose is to force the learner to accept a set of values or beliefs, to adopt a particular ideology or perspective.
Institutionalized racism
The combination of practices whereby people of color as a group or class receive differential treatment within schools, housing, employment, health care, and other social institutions. Unlike bias and prejudice, which are characteristics of individuals, institutionalized racism operates through the everyday rules and customs of social institutions.
Interest theory
People engaging or acquiescing in discriminatory actions based on a desire to protect their power or privilege.
An analysis claiming that systems of race, economic class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nation, and age form mutually constructing features of social organization.


Minority group
A subordinate group whose members have significantly less power to control their own lives than do members of a dominant, or majority, group.


Refers to the nation in which an individual has citizenship status.
Organic intellectual
A thinker who emerges from an oppressed group and reflects its concerns and interests.


Outsider-within locations
Social locations or border spaces marking the boundaries between groups of unequal power. Individuals acquire identities as “outsiders within” by their placement in these social locations.
Non-minority Ally (NMA)
An individual who allies and advocates for an oppressed or minoritized group for which s/he is not a member.


A negative attitude toward a group and persons perceived to be members of that group; being predisposed to behave negatively toward members of a group.


A social concept with no scientific basis that categorizes people according to obvious physical differences such as skin color.
Racially coded language
Language without an explicit reference to race but embedded with racial meaning nonetheless.
Racial profiling
People in authority taking actions against members of racial or ethnic groups based on assumptions that these groups are more likely to engage in criminal activity.
Racial solidarity
The belief that members of a racial group have common interests and should support those interest above the interests of members of other racial groups.
A system of unequal power and privilege in which human beings are divided into group or races, with social rewards being unevenly distributed to groups based on their racial classification. Variations of racism include institutionalized racism, scientific racism, and everyday racism. In the United States, racial segregation constitutes a fundamental organizing principle of racism.
Rhetoric of color blindness
A view of the world that resists talking of race because to do so is believed to perpetuate racism. This rhetoric is necessary for tolerance to emerge as the way people should treat one another across differences.


Scientific racism
A specific body of knowledge about Blacks, Asians, Native Americans, Whites, ad Latinos produced within biology, anthropology, psychology, sociology, and other academic disciplines. Designed to prove the inferiority of people of color.
The power to name one’s own reality.
Social Justice
“The degree to which a society maintains social institutions necessary to oppose oppression and domination (Young, 1990, p. 37).
Standpoint theory
A social theory arguing that group locations in hierarchical power relations produces shared experiences for individuals in those groups, and that these common experiences can foster similar angles of vision leading to a group knowledge or standpoint deemed essential for informed political action.
A positive or negative trait or traits ascribed to a certain group and to most members of that group.
Stereotype threat
The apprehension experienced by members of a minority group that they might behave in a manner that confirms an existing cultural stereotype.
Subjugated knowledge
The secret knowledge generated by oppressed groups. Such knowledge typically remains “hidden” because revealing it weakens its purpose of assisting oppressed groups in dealing with oppression. Subjugated knowledges that resist oppression become oppositional knowledge.
Oppositional knowledge
A type of knowledge developed by, for, and/or in defense of an oppressed group’s interests. Ideally, it fosters the group’s self-definition and self-determination.
SurveillanceA strategy of control whereby people’s words and actions are constantly watched or recorded.


Testimonial discourse (familial, public, or competitive discourses)
The affirmation and/or challenge of values and expectations of listeners/readers/viewers. Similar to narrative and counter-narrative (competitive discourse) story sharing. In DLE instructions, this area falls into the PATHOS area. Visual testimonial discourses might include tattoos (tell me your story – I’ll tell you mine); videos such protest performances by Kendrick Lamar or Beyonce’s Police Protest, while resistance to these performances serve as competitive discourses.


Universalistic perspective
Views social problems as public, national, general, inclusive, and predictable; a consequence of imperfect and inequitable social arrangements that require research to identify their patterns and causes so that remedial institutional action can be taken to eliminate these problems and prevent them from reoccurring.


Combinations of attitudes that generate action or the deliberate choice to avoid action.
Victim-blaming rationalization
A response to a social problem – such as injustice toward a minority group – that identifies the problem as a deficiency in the minority group and not a society


Sources: Collins, P. H. (2000). Black feminist thought. Routledge: New York. Koppelman, K. L. (2014). Understanding human differences. Pearson: Boston