CSJ Terms

Glossary of Social Justice Terminology:

A Guide for the Perplexed

____ (Environmental, Reproductive, Research, Restorative) Justice means dismantling barriers to resources and opportunities in society so that all individuals and communities can live a full and dignified life. It suggests the indisputability of a cause. 

Ally is someone who makes the commitment and effort to recognize their privilege and work in solidarity with oppressed groups in the struggle for justice. A more recent term is Co-conspirators, which emphasizes action in solidarity rather than just words. 

Anti-Black or anti-Blackness is behavior that voids Blackness of value and systematically marginalizes Black people and their concerns (systemic racism aimed specifically at Black people).

Anti-racism is opposing racism by advocating for changes in political, economic, and social life. Anti-racism tends to be an individualized approach and opposes individual racist behaviors and impacts.

BIPOC (Black and indigenous people of color) refers to “Black and/or Indigenous People of Color.” While “POC” or People of Color is often used as well, BIPOC explicitly leads with Black and Indigenous identities, which helps to counter anti-Black racism and the invisibility of Native communities.

Black Lives Matter is a political movement that addresses systemic and state violence against African Americans. 

Bigotry is prejudice that denigrates minority groups.

Bodies (Black and Brown, Female) is a play on words used by social justice activists on how black and brown people and women are objectified by a white supremacist and patriotically society

Cultural appropriation is the theft of cultural elements for one’s own use, commodification, or profit without understanding, acknowledgment, or respect for its value in the source culture.

De-centering is displacing from a central position. It’s often used to suggest that certain efforts divert the focus from the centrality of Black lives. Centering, by contrast, means bringing back into a central focus.  

Cis Normativity is the discourse based on assumption that cisgender is the norm and privileges this dominant gender identity over any other form of gender identity.

Cisgender are people whose gender identity, expression, or behavior aligns with those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth. Cis- is the Latin prefix, meaning ‘on the same side, to Trans- which means ‘across from.’ It is the accepted term for people who are “not transgender.”

Critical Consciousness is the ability to recognize oppressive social forces shaping society and to take action against them

Critical Race Theory (CRT) (or Critical Theory) is the theoretical framework that holds that Western law and legal institutions are inherently racist. The theory holds that race itself is a socially constructed concept used by white people to further their interests at the expense of people of color. Unlike a traditional civil rights perspective, Critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and constitutional law. 

Critical Social Justice (CSJ) is an umbrella term that includes critical race and gender ideologies that utilize a specific theoretical approach to addressing issues of prejudice and discrimination on the grounds of characteristics like race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, dis/ability and body size.It holds that knowledge is culturally constructed to maintain oppressive systems of power. 

Decolonizing ______ (eg. curriculum, data, math, global health ) is the active resistance against perceived colonial power. Activist and theorist hold that Western institutions are designed to maintain a power hierarchy in institutions that is still predominantly white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, male, and European/American. Decolonizing seeks to remove (neo)colonial-(neo)colonized processes, practices, and policies of funding, partnerships, and program/project development that replicate colonial dynamics of extraction and exploitation.

Diversity Equity and Inclusion [Justice] [Belonging]  (DEI or DEIJ or DEIB or JEDI Belonging is a collection of policies and processes that ensure a diverse workforce in terms of ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. Equity ensures that those processes and programs result in equal outcomes. Inclusion is the practice of ensuring people feel they belong in the workplace or institution. Justice is dismantling barriers to resources and opportunities in society so that all individuals and communities can live a full and dignified life.  

Emotional Labor is the process of managing feelings and expressions to fulfill the emotional requirements of a job. It is often used to suggest that marginalized people bear the additional emotional burden of discriminatory practices, racism, and sexism and should thus be compensated for their labor.  

Equity is the allocation of resources and opportunities to reach an equal outcome among different groups of people.

Erase/erasure is the practice of collective indifference that renders certain groups/individuals invisible.

Implicit bias, also known as unconscious or hidden bias, are negative associations that people unknowingly hold. They are expressed automatically, without conscious awareness, and hold real-world implications.

Inclusion is bringing traditionally excluded individuals and groups into processes, activities, and decision-making in a way that shares power.

Institutional racism see systemic racism.

Intersectionality is a framework to view the interactive effects of various forms of discrimination and disempowerment. It looks at the way racism interacts with patriarchy, heterosexism, classism, xenophobia, noting that overlapping vulnerabilities create specific and compound problems. 

Microaggressions are the everyday verbal and nonverbal slights or insults, intentional or not, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to marginalized groups and individuals.

Model minority is when institutions and people point to “successful” minority groups (Asian Americans are often cited) with the cultural values for success while others do not. It’s thus viewed as a form of anti-Blackness. 

Non-binary a spectrum of gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or exclusively feminine—identities that are outside the gender binary. 

Performative activism is a pejorative term referring to activism done for the sake of performance rather than authentic devotion to a cause. 

Privilege refers to societal privilege that benefits dominant groups and white people over minorities and non-white people, particularly if they are otherwise under the same social, political, or economic circumstances.

Problematizing is a method of questioning the common usage of language and suggesting that specific language perpetuates systems of power. 

Racial Justice is the systematic fair treatment of people of all races, resulting in equitable opportunities and outcomes for all. Racial justice goes beyond “anti-racism,” calling for a deliberate effort to achieve racial equity.

Racism (in contrast to racial prejudice, hatred, bigotry or discrimination) involves a dominant group carrying out systematic discrimination through the institutional policies and practices of the society. A common formulation is Racism=Prejudice+Power. 

Reparations seek to address the harms caused by oppression and affirm that victims are entitled to redress. They can take the form of compensation for the losses, instituting rehabilitative efforts, or fixing the underlying causes of abuse. 

Structural racism see systemic racism.

Standpoint Theory or Epistemology emphasizes that the “lived experience” of marginalized people should be a primary source of understanding in describing social problems. 

Systemic racism is systems and structures that have procedures or processes that disadvantage people of color and advantage whites. 

Virtue Signaling is the action or practice of publicly expressing opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one’s good character or the moral correctness of one’s position on a particular issue.

White (Asian, Jewish, etc.) complicity/ adjacency is the idea that dominant classes are unknowingly advancing dominance and power over marginalized people. Adjacency implies a more active, conscious role in supporting the dominant power structure.   

White fragility describes the disbelieving and defensiveness that white people exhibit when their ideas about race and racism are challenged and particularly when they feel implicated in white supremacy. Brown fragility describes the same phenomenon among non-black ethnic minorities. 

White nationalism espouses white separatist ideologies, often focusing on the alleged inferiority of nonwhites. Note that this term is not interchangeable with White supremacy, which has gained a new meaning.

White Passing When a person of color is perceived to be white or “appears” to be white

White Privilege refers to an unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits, and choices bestowed on people solely because they are white. Generally, white people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it.

White supremacy is the idea that advantages for whites are woven throughout our institutions and social practices, making people of color vulnerable to exploitation, domination, and violence. Alternatively (and more traditionally) it is the belief that white people are superior to those of all other races and should therefore dominate society.

Whiteness refers to the specific dimensions of racism that elevate white people and white dominant culture over people of color, going beyond naming specific privileges.

Woke or wokism or wokeness is a colloquial, sometimes controversial, description of Critical Social Justice. (see Critical Social Justice)

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