As society changes, our language evolves to reflect those changes. Social values and attitudes are reflected in word choice and usage, and the meaning of words and phrases often depends on context.
Because norms respecting language evolve over time, and sometimes there is a lack of consensus about terminology, this list is neither exhaustive nor prescriptive. It aims to describe some commonly used terms that relate to race and ethnicity issues.
- The practice of identifying, challenging, preventing, eliminating, and changing the values, structures, policies, programs, practices, and behaviours that perpetuate racism.
- The practice or act of making distinctions between people on the basis of prejudicial attitudes and beliefs, which leads to the inequitable treatment of individuals or groups.
- The variety of characteristics that all persons possess, that distinguish them as individuals, and that identify them as belonging to a group or groups. Diversity is a concept that includes notions of age, class, culture, disability, ethnicity, family, sex, language, place of origin, race, religion, and sexual orientation as well as other characteristics that vary among people and groups within society.
- Ethnicity is a social and political construct used by individuals and communities to define themselves and others. Specifically, ethnicity refers to a person's cultural background, including his or her language, origin, faith, and heritage. Ethnicity comprises the ideas, beliefs, values, and behaviours that are transmitted from one generation to the next. Ethnicity tends to be perceived in terms of common culture, history, language, or nationality. Ethnicity and ethnic identity are interchangeable terms.
- An intense dislike of, and contempt for, another person or group of people.
- Hate/bias crime
- A hate/bias crime is a criminal offence committed against a person or property which is motivated by the suspect's hate, prejudice, or bias against an identifiable group based on race, national, or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or any other similar factor. Verbal intimidation, assault, and vandalism are the most commonly reported types of hate crimes.
- Multiculturalism refers to a society that recognizes values and promotes the contributions of the diverse cultural heritages and ancestries of all its people. A multicultural society is one that continually evolves and is strengthened by the contribution of its diverse peoples.
While the Canadian government has promoted a policy of multiculturalism for some time, there are those who argue that the concept is rooted in outdated concepts of "minorities," and is insufficient as a framework to understand and challenge systemic racism.
- A preconceived idea or judgment toward a group, based on perceived ethnic or ancestral characteristics that result in a belief that members of that group are inferior.
- Privilege (and racial privilege)
- Privilege encompasses the many unearned advantages of higher status, such as personal contacts with employers, good childhood health care, inherited money, and speaking the same dialect and accent as people with institutional power. Racial privilege is the access to resources, social rewards, and the power to shape the norms and values of society, which white people receive, by virtue of their skin colour, in a racist society.
- Race represents the notion that there are biologically discrete races of human beings that can be ordered in terms of superiority of intelligence, sexuality, or morality. Today, the concept of race is a controversial one, as it is perceived to refer to the genetic, physical characteristics that allegedly are common to certain groups. However, modern science has determined that no such biological distinctions exist among humans and that the term serves no useful scientific purpose. The term is now understood as a social construct in which a group sees itself.
Also note that the term is controversial among those who assert that there is only one race, the human race, and that traditional notions of racial differences are artificial and arbitrary constructs. Proponents of this view prefer the use of the term "racialized groups" to describe people that would be traditionally referred to as visible minorities. This term reinforces the idea that race, or more properly "racialization," is something imposed on a person by outside perception.
- Racial discrimination
- As one of the many signatories to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racism, in 1969, Canada agreed to the following definition of racial discrimination found in Article 1:
"Racial discrimination shall mean any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment, or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, social, cultural, or any other field of public life."
- A set of mistaken assumptions, opinions, and actions resulting from the belief that one group of people categorized by colour or ancestry is inherently superior to another. Racism may be present in organizational and institutional policies, programs, and practices, as well as in the attitudes and behaviour of individuals.
What is Racism?
Written by Amoja Three Rivers (from the book Cultural Etiquette)
Racism doesn't exist is RACISM
Go back to where you came from is RACISM
You people are taking over is RACISM
You people are so exotic is RACISM
Where are you from is RACISM
I don't think of you as "of colour" is RACISM
You're being oversensitive is RACISM
You people are just looking for it is RACISM
You people are dirty is RACISM
You should be more grateful is RACISM
You're such a quaint little people is RACISM
You're taking our jobs away is RACISM
Do you swing from trees is RACISM
You people are good at Math is RACISM
You people have natural rhythm is RACISM
If I get a tan I'll be "of colour" is RACISM
I am a victim of reverse racism is RACISM
- Reverse racism
- This term was created to imply that dominant groups could be the victims of racism. Racism includes having a certain power in society, power which non-dominant groups do not have. It is a term used consciously or unconsciously to blame and place non-dominant groups back in a targeted position. When dominant groups are discriminated against it is simply "discrimination."
- Behaviour and beliefs that rank the sexes (the physical characteristics that define male and female) and genders (cultural and psychological definitions of femininity and masculinity), placing more value on one over the other. As a group in most societies, men have more power and prestige than women.
- A shared idea about the generalized attributes of others with respect to perceived physical or cultural characteristics. These are generalizations about all members of a group. Some stereotypes may seem positive, but they are always negative. It is harmful when individuals are judged according to the perceived norms of their group instead of personal merit.
- Systemic racism
- This type of racism is impersonal, unconscious, unintentional, and hidden. The basis of systemic racism is the consequences (not the intent) of seemingly neutral rules, policies, or procedures.
- Visible minority
- The phrase "visible minority" refers to groups who share physically visible characteristics such as skin colour. This is a term which refers to a certain time and place, when it was true in Canada that people of colour were a minority compared to the majority of the population. The term "visible minority," although remaining in some legislation, is quickly losing its relevance, as it is no longer applicable in our society due to changing demographics. Currently, the phrase should be used with caution because it often excludes groups who commonly experience discrimination. It does not seem to include, for example, many Latin Americans, southern Europeans, and religious groups, such as Jews and Muslims.
"Visible minorities" is a term used in federal legislation to describe persons who are not of the majority race in a given population. Visible minorities are defined under the Employment Equity Act as "persons, other than Aboriginals, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour." The term "visible minorities" is also used as a demographic category by Statistics Canada. In March 2007, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racism denounced the term "visible minorities" and Canada's use of it as racist. A spokesperson for the Committee explained, "the use of the term seemed to somehow indicate that 'whiteness' was the standard, all others differing from that being visible." However, the Committee did not suggest an alternative term.
Source: Strategic Framework for Action, British Columbia Multicultural Council. Download this document, below.