DEI Glossary

Dismantling Racism

A Glossary of Shared Terminology and Meaning

Created by: Jacqueline Barnett, Kirsten Simmons, Kenyon Railey and revised by Brigit Carter

As we seek to dismantle racism across the broader Duke community it is vital for our community members to understand the shared meanings of various words and terminology that we will use as we engage and execute this vital work together.


Definition/Shared Meaning


An advocate is an individual who stands up for oneself, a group or cause, and is especially someone who fights for the rights of others. 

- Advocates work/lobby to enact public policy, laws, and programs to address the harm experienced by people of color and others who have been oppressed.


An individual who recognizes their privilege and commits effort to work with oppressed groups in the struggle for justice.

 -Allies acknowledge the oppression and disadvantage of other groups, take risk and supportive action, and commit to efforts to reduce their own complicity or collusion in oppression of those groups.

Bias (Explicit)3

Explicit biases are the conscious attitudes and beliefs that individuals hold about a person or group of people and expressions of these biases are deliberate.

 -Explicit or conscious bias in the extreme form may be demonstrated by “overt negative behavior” such as “physical and verbal harassment or through more subtle means such as exclusion.”

Bias (Implicit)4,5

Implicit Biases are unconscious attitudes that individuals hold which often affect their understanding of, judgments about, and behaviors and actions toward others.

 -Implicit biases may influence -the speed and likelihood of shooting an unarmed person based on race, and the rate of referring black and white patients for thrombolysis who present similarly with acute coronary symptoms.

*Brave Space

Brave spaces encourage dialogue. They encourage the participant to enter the space knowing learning and growth will occur. The space recognizes differences and holds each person accountable to do the work of sharing experiences and coming to new understandings, an achievement that may be hard and even uncomfortable.

Critical Race Theory 6,7,8

Critical Race Theory (CRT) is a theoretical framework and movement that examines how the appearance of race and racism is expressed across the dominant culture. CRT scholars note that the social construction* of race and racism is a regular component of American society; it is embedded in structures such as law, culture, and economics, which supports the interests of white people. 

-A key focus of critical race theorists is that the regime of white supremacy and privilege continues despite the rule of law and the constitutional guarantee of equal protection of the laws. This has resulted in negative tangible effects on African Americans and people of color especially as it relates to economic resources, educational and professional opportunities, and experiences with the legal system. 


The characteristics and social system of meanings and customs created by groups to assure their adaptation and survival. These groups are distinguished by a set of unspoken rules that shape values, beliefs, habits, patterns of thinking, behaviors, languages and styles of communication that cross generations.


The unjust and prejudicial treatment of people, especially when based on race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion and other categories.


“The intentional incorporation of practices that foster a sense of belonging by promoting meaningful interactions among persons and groups representing different traits, perceptions, and experiences (p. 5)”.2

The authentic commitment to bringing traditionally excluded individuals and/or groups into processes, activities, and decision/policy making in a way that shares power.

*Institutional Racism

Institutional racism is racial inequity within institutions and systems of power, such as places of employment, government agencies and social services. It can take the form of unfair policies and practices, discriminatory treatment and inequitable opportunities and outcomes.

A school system that concentrates people of color in the most overcrowded and under-resourced schools with the least qualified teachers compared to the educational opportunities of white students is an example of institutional racism.

*Internalized Racism

Internalized racism describes the private racial beliefs held by and within individuals. The way we absorb social messages about race and adopt them as personal beliefs, biases and prejudices are all within the realm of internalized racism.

For people of color, internalized oppression can involve believing in negative messages about oneself or one’s racial group. For white people, internalized privilege can involve feeling a sense of superiority and entitlement, or holding negative beliefs about people of color.


The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group. Intersectionality impacts the ways in which a person can experience both privilege and oppression. "Intersectionality is simply a prism to see the interactive effects of various forms of discrimination and disempowerment. It looks at the way that racism, many times, interacts with patriarchy, heterosexism, classism, xenophobia — seeing that the overlapping vulnerabilities created by these systems actually create specific kinds of challenges”- Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw,

For example, in America, Black women experience gender inequality differently than white women.


Macroaggressions are large‐scale systematic oppression of a target group by society's institutions, such as government, education, and culture, which can all contribute or reinforce the oppression of marginalized social groups while elevating dominant social groups.


Microaggressions are every day intentional or, usually, unintentional subtle interactions or behaviors that communicate some sort of bias that is highly experienced by historically marginalized groups.

They are often so automatic in conversations that they are often dismissed and glossed over as being innocent and innocuous. It is usually clear when someone’s behavior is discriminatory, such as when they use a racial slur. A microaggression, however, may be harder to identify, and the person may not realize that their behavior is harmful.

Macroaggression vs. Microaggression 12,13,25,26

Microaggressions occur on an interpersonal level, whereas macroaggressions occur on a systemic level.


Microassaults are intentional, deliberate, conscious, explicit/blatant, and racist. They are mean to hurt the intended recipient.


Microinsults convey insensitivity, are rude or demean and individual’s identity or heritage. They clearly convey a hidden insulting message to the recipient but are usually unknown to the person delivering the microinsult.


Exclude, negate, or nullify an individual’s thoughts, experiences, or feelings or experiential reality.


The systematic subjugation of one social group by a more powerful social group for the social, economic, and political benefit of the more powerful social group.

-Rita Hardiman and Bailey Jackson state that oppression exists with the presence of these four conditions: 1) The oppressor has the power to define reality for themselves and others 2) Targeted group internalizes negative messages/cooperate with self-destructive thoughts and behaviors 3) Genocide, harassment and discrimination are institutionalized 4) The oppressor and targeted group are socialized to play these roles are “normal”

Performative Allyship

Actions that look good on a superficial level, but ultimately make no real difference in the lived experience of those they purport to help.

Power 2

Access to resources that enhance one's chances of getting what one needs or influencing others to lead a safe, productive, fulfilling life. Often Institutional racism manifest itself in access to power.

 -Examples of access to power include differential access to information and resources including wealth and organizational infrastructure and having a voice/representation.

Prejudice 2

A pre-judgment or unjustifiable, and usually negative, attitude of one type of individual or groups toward another group and its members. Such negative attitudes are typically based on unsupported generalizations that deny the right of individual members of certain groups to be recognized and treated as individuals with individual characteristics.

Race 2,14

A social construct that artificially divides people into distinct groups based on characteristics such as physical appearance (particularly color), ancestral heritage, cultural affiliation, cultural history, ethnic classification, and the social, economic and political needs of a society at a given period of time.

-Important to remember: Race does not have a genetic or scientific basis, but the concept of race is important and consequential. Societies use race to establish and justify systems of power, privilege, disenfranchisement, and oppression.

Racial Equity9

Refers to the phenomena that the distribution of resources and opportunities would neither be determined nor predicted by race, racial bias or racial ideology. 

-Racial equity efforts would require a societal commitment to dismantle the false narratives of white supremacy and address the legal, political, social, cultural and historical contributors to inequity.

Racial Justice

Racial justice is the systematic fair treatment of people of all races that results in equitable opportunities and outcomes for everyone. All people are able to achieve their full potential in life, regardless of race, ethnicity or the community in which they live.

Racism 14, 27, 28

Racism is an ideology that either directly or indirectly asserts that one group is inherently superior to another. It can be openly displayed in racial jokes and slurs or perpetration of hate crimes but it can be more deeply rooted in attitudes, values and stereotypical beliefs.

Racism Assaults on the human spirit in the form of actions, biases, prejudices, and an ideology of superiority based on race that persistently cause moral suffering and physical harm of individuals and perpetuate systemic injustices and inequities..28

-Racism operates at a number of levels, in particular, individual, systemic/institutional and societal.

A common definition is racial prejudice + power = racism.

Racism (Individualized)2

The beliefs, attitudes and actions of individuals that support or perpetuate racism. Individual racism can occur at both a conscious and unconscious level and can be both active and passive.

-Examples include telling a racist joke, using a racial epithet or believing in the inherent superiority of whites.

Racism (Institutional) 2,20

Institutional racism occurs when policies and practices within and across institutions produce outcomes that favor whites and/or disadvantages racial groups or people of color. It is a system of power and privilege based on race that is perpetuated through normal events and occurrences. Institutional racism has perpetuated policies that have disadvantaged racialized groups in employment, housing, education, healthcare, government and other sectors.

Examples include, restrictive housing contracts and lending policies, racial profiling by law enforcement, and barriers to employment or professional advancements based on race.

Racism (Internalized) 2,19

Internalized racism occurs when a racial group that is oppressed by racism supports the supremacy and dominance of the dominating group by maintaining or participating in the set of attitudes, behaviors, social structures and ideologies that supports the dominating group's power. It is suggested that Internalized racism is not just a result of racism, but a system that creates this internalization.

Donna Bivens writes “Not only is there a system in place that upholds the power of white people, there is a system in place that undermines the power of people of color and teaches us to fear our own power and difference.”

*Safe Space

A place or environment in which a person or category of people can feel confident that they will not be exposed to discrimination, criticism, harassment, or any other emotional or physical harm. Safe space does not pass judgement based on identity or experience, where the expression of both can exist and be affirmed without fear of repercussion and without the pressure to educate a person in the group that may not know what a person who is a member of a marginalized group may be experiencing. The goal is to provide support.

Sense of Belonging29

Sense of belonging and identification involves the feeling, belief, and expectation that one fits in the group and has a place there, a feeling of acceptance by the group, and a willingness to sacrifice for the group. (Macmillan & Chavis, 1986 p. 10).

Social Construct30

Concepts created from prevailing social perceptions without scientific evidence.

*Social Justice31, 32

Justice in terms of distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society. Promotes fairness and equity across society.

“Justice at the level of a society or state as regards the possession of wealth, commodities, opportunities, and privileges”

Social justice [is a] form of justice that engages in social criticism and social change. Its focus in the analysis, critique and change of social structures, policies, laws, customs, power, and privilege that disadvantage or harm vulnerable social groups through marginalization, exclusion, exploitation, and voicelessness.


A feeling of unease or awkwardness


Whiteness is viewed as the norm, the standard for universal human values by which all others are viewed and to which they are compared

White fragility 15,16

White fragility refers to feelings of discomfort a white person experiences when they witness or engage in discussions around racial inequality and injustice. Their engagement in conversations about racism may trigger a range of defensive actions, feelings, and behaviors, such as anger, fear, and silence. These behaviors function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.

White Nationalism

A concept born out of white supremacy. Key difference is a focus on nationhood. White nationalist in the US advocate for a country that is only for the white race due to feelings of entitlement and racial superiority and believe that the diversity of people in the US will lead to the destruction of whiteness and white culture.

White privilege 2

Refers to the 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.

Statements that highlight white privilege:

"I can walk around a department store without being followed.”

"I can take a job without having co-workers suspect that I got it because of my racial background."

 "I can send my 16-year old out with his new driver's license and not have to give him a lesson how to respond if police stop him."

White supremacy culture 17,18

White supremacy culture is the idea (ideology) that white people and the ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions of white people are superior to People of Color and their ideas, thoughts, beliefs, and actions.

In the workplace, white supremacy culture explicitly and implicitly privileges whiteness and discriminates against non-Western and non-white professionalism standards related to dress code, speech, work style, and timeliness. Some identifiable characteristics of this culture includes perfectionism, belief that there’s “only one right way, power hoarding, individualism, sense of urgency and defensiveness.


*Revisions made by Brigit Carter

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4.    Effland, K.J., Hays, K., Ortiz, F.M. and Blanco, B.A. (2020), Incorporating an Equity Agenda into Health Professions Education and Training to Build a More Representative Workforce. Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health, 65: 149-159. doi:10.1111/jmwh.13070
5.    Rachel D. Godsil, Linda R. Tropp, Phillip Atiba Goff, John A. Powell. The science of equality, Volume 1: Addressing implicit bias, racial anxiety, and stereotype threat in education and health care. November, 2014
6.    Jones, Camara. Levels of racism: A theoretical framework and a gardener’s tale. AM J Public Health. 2000;90:1210-1215.
7.    Ford C., & Airhihenbuwa C,  Critical Race Theory, race equity, and public Health: Toward antiracism praxis. Am J Public Health. 2010;100: S30–S35. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2009.171058
8.  Purdue - literary_theory_and_schools_of_criticism - critical_race_theory
12.    Levchak C.C. (2018) Microaggressions, Macroaggressions, and Modern Racism. In: Microaggressions and Modern Racism. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
13.    Reaching Teens: The Traumatic Impact of Racism and Discrimination on Young People and How to Talk About It. Strength-Based Communication Strategies to Build Resilience and Support Healthy Adolescent Development.2nd Edition, Svetaz et al. Edited by Kenneth R. Ginsburg, 2014
16.      Di Angelo, Robin. (2011). White Fragility. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy 3(3): 54– 70.
19.    Donna Bivens. Internalized Racism: A Definition.
21.    Fawcett J. (2019). Thoughts About Social Justice. Nursing science quarterly, 32(3), 250–253.
22.    American Nurses’ Association (ANA). (2015). Code of ethics for nurses with interpretative statements Silver Spring, MD: Author. Retrieved from
23.    Carter, Brigit M. PhD, RN, CCRN; McMillian-Bohler, Jacquelyn PhD, RN, CNM, CNE Rewriting the Microaggression Narrative, Nurse Educator: 3/4 2021 - Volume 46 - Issue 2 - p 96-100

24.    Lindsay Pérez Huber & Daniel G. Solorzano (2015) Racial microaggressions as a tool for critical race research, Race Ethnicity and Education, 18:3, 297-320, DOI: 10.1080/13613324.2014.994173

25.    Adamakos F. What are gender micro- and macroaggressions in medicine and what are the solutions? AEM Educ Train. 2021 Aug 1;5(4):e10615. doi: 10.1002/aet2.10615. PMID: 34485801; PMCID: PMC8393186.

26.    Sue, D. W., Alsaidi, S., Awad, M. N., Glaeser, E., Calle, C. Z., & Mendez, N. (2019). Disarming racial microaggressions: Microintervention strategies for targets, White allies, and bystanders.American Psychologist, 74(1), 128–142.

27.    National Commission to Address Racism in Nursing. (2021).…

28.    Defining Racism. American Nurses Association. (2021).…;

29.    Chavis, D. M., & McMillan, D. W. (1986). Sense of community: A definition and theory. Journal of Community Psychology, 14(1), 6-23.

30.    Witzig R. The medicalization of race: scientific legitimization of a flawed social construct. Ann Intern Med. 1996 Oct 15;125(8):675-9. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-125-8-199610150-00008. PMID: 8849153.

31.    Fawcett J. Thoughts About Social Justice. Nursing Science Quarterly. 2019;32(3):250-253. doi:10.1177/0894318419845385
32.    ANA Code of Ethics, p. 64,…;
33.    Dictionary;  
34.    Roediger, David (1991) The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class

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