Ohio University

Key Terms

While it is useful to have shared working definitions of terms and concepts relevant to diversity and inclusion, it is equally important to understand that language, definitions, and understandings are both situational and subject to constant change. Thus, the following represents no exhaustive or final list but rather a framework for conversations about diversity and inclusion in our OHIO community. We hope that you find the following list helpful for: continuing your own educational journey; providing trainings, programming; incorporation of diversity and inclusion initiatives within your classrooms, workplaces, community organizations, and student groups.


ALAANA+, stands for African American/African/Black, Latina/Latinx, Asian American/Asian, Arab/Middle Eastern, Native American, and all multicultural folks.


Typically understood as someone from “outside” a marginalized community and their choice to be an advocate for (or with) those who are marginalized and oppressed. Allyship may take many forms, including interrupting “isms” and using their voice to influence change on behalf of (or alongside) those groups. Allyship requires ongoing commitment, and cannot be done as a “performance” alone – meaning that allyship requires not just saying you are an ally or acting as an ally when it is easy, but doing the difficult, and meaningful, work of advocating for social justice. Bettina Love, author of We Want To Do More Than Survive, challenges allies to think about how they can use their privilege in higher risk situations, terming this type of ally a co-conspirator.

It is equally important to understand allyship from "within." In what ways can members of marginalized communities also affirm, support, and be allies to others who are also marginalized?  For example, how can a white gay cisgender man be an ally to a trans woman of color?

It is important to consider how privilege plays a role in our effectiveness as an ally. For example, allyship should not be, and is not, speaking for others or assuming that you know others’ lived experiences. Because of how certain identities may be privileged, we may find that some people’s voices are listened to, or validated, more than others. As you navigate your role as an ally, work to ensure that you are not speaking for communities, but amplifying their voices.

Next Steps: Start by completing SafeZone training, Inclusive Faculty Advocates, and Bystander Intervention training (through Better Bystanders or diversity and inclusion specific trainings through the Division of Diversity and Inclusion). These trainings are initial steps, and allyship requires actualizing what you have learned and applying it in your daily life.


A person actively engaged in not being racist. To learn more, including next steps towards anti-racism, visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s page on Being Anti-Racist.

Cultural competence is the set of skills, behaviors, and attitudes that demonstrates an understanding and appreciation of cross-cultural difference (Cross, et al., 1989). The image below describes a cultural competency continuum, which is useful in demonstrating the growth and individual transformation one experiences as they move along the continuum from cultural destructiveness to cultural proficiency.


Colorism/Shadism is a prejudice or discrimination, usually from members of the same race, in which people are treated differently based on the social implications from cultural meanings attached to skin color. Colorism/Shadism is an example of internalized oppression, and stems from a history of slavery and colonialism.

Examples of colorism include showing preference for a black person with a lighter skin tone than a darker skinned person.

Content or Trigger Warnings

Content or trigger warnings are used to denote that a topic could potentially cause someone to relive trauma. For example, a syllabi or educational program may introduce the topics that will be discussed through a “content warning,” thus acknowledging that some material, like suicidal ideation or sexual violence, may be uncomfortable or traumatic.

Cultural Humility

In order to underscore the need for continued, on-going education and development in one’s understanding of cross-cultural diversity and minimization of bias, Tervalon & Murray-Garcia (1998) introduced the concept of cultural humility. This approach was originally utilized within healthcare fields in order to foster an understanding of cultural humility as a process that does not include fixed knowledge. Debates around the usage of cultural competence versus cultural humility are well-documented (Campinha-Bacote 2019).


Diversity describes who we are, the many visible and invisible differences between and among individuals, groups, and cultures that make up our communities.

Diversity signifies difference between and among individuals, groups, and cultures. Specifically, diversity is inclusive of all ages, races, ethnic groups, genders, gender identities, sexualities, national origins, cultures, socioeconomic classes, abilities, ways of thinking, lived experiences, geographic regions, and religions.

For our learning environments to be successful in educating engaged global citizens, we celebrate this broad notion of diversity as a means to build resiliency, diversify thought and critical thinking skills. However, we also must pay particular attention to the ways in which some identities have been marginalized within higher education and our society more generally. Our broad definition of diversity cannot be an excuse to water down the need for a nuanced understanding of the ways in which privilege and oppression have operated, at the expense of many. Therefore, diversity is also about creating space for a multitude of voices that have been excluded due to identity-based discrimination.  

Horizontal Hostility

This term, coined by Florynce “Flo” Kennedy in 1970, describes situations when people facing similar oppression direct their anger towards each other rather than at their oppressors and/or systems of oppression at large.

Implicit Bias

Unconscious associations that rely on stereotypes, which cause us to make snap judgments about others. Implicit bias is assuming women intrinsically cannot perform as well as men in STEM, which may result in women not being supported within those fields. It can also result in employers not calling people for interviews who they (subconsciously or consciously) have identified as people of color or women. Bias is not one dimensional, and it is important to recognize that implicit bias can be about gender OR race, or gender AND race (as well as other marginalized identities). Having implicit bias does not mean that you have to act on that bias, as there are strategies you can take to minimize bias. Your first step should be learning your own biases and the Harvard Implicit Bias tests are a helpful resource to do so!


If diversity is what is, inclusion is what can be. Inclusion describes practices that affirm, encourage, and empower all members of our campus community in order to keep them feeling engaged, valued, and affirmed in their lived experiences.

Inclusion at Ohio University means that we have responsibility to not only challenge racism, sexism, homophobia, bigotry and discrimination, but to create an environment in which diversity within our community is not only welcomed, but celebrated. This is operationalized by: building allyship across our campus and community; challenging bias and the impact it has on who occupies leadership positions (informally or formally) and who feels a sense of belonging both at OHIO and in the Athens community; and, holding ourselves accountable to our values of diversity and inclusion.

Internalized Oppression

Internalized oppression occurs when a member of a group which is a target of oppression assumes an oppressive attitude towards their own group. Examples of internalized oppression include young women who believe they cannot be great at math or science or students living in poverty who believe they are not qualified for advanced classes. See also: Colorism/Shadism


Intersectionality is a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989) in an analysis of the ways in which the courts lacked an understanding of the multidimensional experiences of Black women. Intersectionality is useful to make sense of the intersections of identities and oppression. On an individual level, intersectionality represents the ways in which identities overlap – as one does not experience the world as a single identity, but rather through all of their intersecting identities. Intersectionality also represents the ways in which oppressions intersect. Inequities are never the result of single, distinct factors. Rather, they are the outcome of intersections of different social locations, power relations and experiences. For example, there are unique stereotypes assigned to Black Women as a result of them being both Black and women.  You can learn more by listening to Crenshaw’s podcast on intersectionality at https://aapf.org/podcast.


An acronym describing individuals and communities who claim identities including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, agender/asexual, and genderfluid. Once used predominately as a homophobic slur, the term “queer” has been reclaimed by some LGBTQ+ individuals and communities as an umbrella term encompassing all non-heterosexual and non-cisgender identities. In a scholarly context, “queer” denotes radical opposition to established norms of identity more broadly. For educators, affirming their students’ LGBTQ+ identities, by embracing gender-inclusive language or highlighting LGBTQ+ representation, is a powerful tool to foster increased engagement and sense of belonging. As a reclaimed word, it is not universally accepted and care and understanding should be taken when using, or being asked not to use, the word (Collins 2019).


When Dr. Derald Wing Sue, author of Microaggressions in Everyday Life, spoke at Ohio University in April 2020, he “defined microaggressions as the slights, indignities, put downs, insults and invalidations that marginalized people in our society experience in their day-to-day interactions with well-intentioned individuals who are unaware of their demeaning and offensive behavior” (Mauzy 2020). His presentation is available for streaming online. Microaggressions can happen to any marginalized population and include forms of racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and other forms of oppression.

Examples of environmental indignities include food deserts, water pollution (e.g. Flint, Michigan), gentrification, and red lining.

Examples of a verbal microaggression include complimenting non-white students on their use of “good English” and continuing to misgender a student.
Examples of a behavioral microaggressions include excluding students from accessing student activities due to high financial costs and expecting students of any particular group to “represent” the perspectives of others of their race, gender, etc. in class discussions or debates.


Ongoing and unjust treatment, actions or control that place members of certain identity groups at a structural disadvantage over others. This functions on both individual and institutional levels and emerges from historical power dynamics on the basis of race, gender, class, sexuality, ability, and other identities. For example, people of color are at a disproportionately higher risk of experiencing violence at the hands of police (Santhanam 2019), being suspended or expelled from school (Balingit 2018), and maternal mortality (CDC 2019). And compared to their white peers, transgender and gender nonconfirming women of color are at a much high risk to become victims of deadly anti-trans violence (HRC 2020). In the context of higher education, systemic oppression is a useful concept to understand how students with marginalized identities enter the classroom with histories and experiences of personal and communal discrimination.


Privilege is the unearned status by virtue of one’s identity. Privilege does not mean that you always had it easy or didn’t work hard. In fact, we can experience privilege and oppression simultaneously – as we may be privileged by our race, but experience disadvantage because of bias against our sexuality. However, privilege does mean that there are some obstacles that we didn’t have to face that others did. For example, you are in a large stadium style classroom, with steps that would take you to the front of the class. If the room is not accessible, and doesn’t have a ramp, someone who uses a mobility aid may be required to sit in the very back at the top of the lecture hall; whereas others would have a choice as to where to sit. This may result in various disadvantages, including not being able to read the screen clearly, not sitting with your group in discussions, or your professor not connecting with you in the same way that they would the person who always sits in the front row. See also: White Privilege

Rape Culture

A rape culture is one in which sexual violence (and other forms of interpersonal violence, like sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence and stalking) is considered to be a normal part of the culture and those from privileged identities who are perpetrators of violence are excused. Rape culture is manifested in statements like “boys will be boys” to justify harassment, jokes about sexual violence (e.g. regarding violence in prisons), or through victim blaming.

Safe Space vs. Brave and Contested Space

“Safe space” may have origins with the women’s movement (anti-sexual and domestic violence) and LGBTQ+ movement (Ali 2017) (spaces in which one could be safely out about their sexuality at a time in which anti-sodomy laws were the norm). Safe space has continued to be used within higher education to support students who are marginalized, and is also, at times, construed as environments in which all conflict and triggers will be avoided. Both “contested space” and “brave space” have been offered as alternatives to “safe space” in order to represent respect and consideration of others within learning environments. Both encourage intellectual risks, which requires high trust environments and perspective taking. You may be introduced to safe, brave, or contested spaced within your classroom when a professor works with students to create guidelines for engagement, including how to have constructive disagreements. See also: Content or Trigger Warnings

Social Capital

The aggregate of actual or potential access to resources as a result of relationships including but not limited to lineage. For example, if one’s father holds the position of President of a corporation and their child applies, the likelihood of obtaining the position increases as a result of the social capital. The child can qualify but will have access to knowledge and resources to prepare for the interview etc. “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

White Privilege

White Privilege is the inherent advantages possessed by a white person on the basis of their race in a society characterized by racial inequality and injustice. White privilege is codified in many of our institutions, with law, education, and healthcare just a few examples. White people benefit from this system, but can also use their privilege to uplift the voices of others (see Ally).


Ali, Diana (2017). NASPA Policy and Practice Series, Safe Spaces and Brave Spaces: Historical Context and Recommendations for Student Affairs Professionals. https://www.naspa.org/images/uploads/main/Policy_and_Practice_No_2_Safe_Brave_Spaces_DOWNLOAD.pdf
Balingit, Moriah (2018). Racial disparities in school discipline are growing, federal data show. Washington Post. April 24. https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/racial-disparities-in-school-discipline-are-growing-federal-data-shows/2018/04/24/67b5d2b8-47e4-11e8-827e-190efaf1f1ee_story.html
Campinha-Bacote, J . Cultural competemility: a paradigm shift in the cultural competence versus cultural humility debate—part I. Online J Issues Nurs. 2019;24(1).

CDC (2019). Racial and Ethnic Disparities Continue in Prengancy-Related Deaths: Black, American Indian/Alaska Native women most affected. September 5. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2019/p0905-racial-ethnic-disparities-pregnancy-deaths.html

Collins, Cory (2019). Is Queer OK to Say? Here’s Why We Use It. February 11. Teaching Tolerance. https://www.tolerance.org/magazine/is-queer-ok-to-say-heres-why-we-use-it

Crenshaw, Kimberle. 1989. “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics.” University of Chicago Legal Forum 1989:139–67.

Cross, T., Bazron, B., Dennis, K., & Isaacs, M. (1989). Towards a culturally competent system of care (Vol. 1). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Child Development Center, CASSP Technical Assistance Center.

HRC/Human Rights Campaign. “Violence Against the Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Community in 2020.” 2020. https://www.hrc.org/resources/violence-against-the-trans-and-gender-non-conforming-community-in-2020

Mauzy, George E. (2020). Spotlight on Diversity at OHIO: National expert speaks on microaggressions during Virtual Diversity Leadership Institute. April 23. https://www.ohio.edu/news/2020/04/spotlight-diversity-ohio-national-expert-speaks-microaggressions-during-virtual

National Museum of African American History & Culture. Being Antiracist. https://nmaahc.si.edu/learn/talking-about-race/topics/being-antiracist.

Santhanam, Laura (2019). After Ferguson, black men still face the highest risk of being killed by police. PBS. August 9. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/health/after-ferguson-black-men-and-boys-still-face-the-highest-risk-of-being-killed-by-police

Tervalon, M. & Murray-Garcia, J. (1998). Cultural humility versus cultural competence: A critical distinction in defining physician training outcomes in multicultural education. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 9(2), 117-25.