Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Social Justice Dictionary

Ableism - Discrimination or prejudice towards people who are differently-abled, such as those who use a wheelchair or cane to get around, or who experience a developmental or mental challenges.  Ableism often serves to isolate able-bodied people and people who experience physical and developmental challenges from one another.

Cis-gender - When a person's gender identity matches her/his/their perceived physical sex.

Civil Disobedience - A form of direct action, protest, or activism that directly challenges the status quo by breaking a rule or law, usually in a non-violent manner.  Civil disobedience is often used to prevent something unwanted from occurring, or to draw attention to an injustice by prompting the mass arrest of those participating in the action.  Civil disobedience has been used by social justice groups in the United States for many years.  Examples include lunch counter sit-ins to end segregation in the South, anti-war activists blocking traffic or railways to stop delivery of military equipment or to otherwise disrupt regular life, or people occupying buildings or urban space to preserve things like affordable housing.

Colorblindness - Colorblindness is a dominant cultural ideology in the post-Civil Rights era that denies the significance of race in our lives.  Some people point to the passage of the Civil Rights Act in the 1960s, the legal de-segregation of the South, and more recent events like Obama's election to the presidency as evidence that race no longer matters in the United States.  When people say things like "I don't see race," they are engaging in colorblindness.  This is problematic because both structural and inter-personal racism continue to be facts of life.  Colorblindness prevents us from being able to meaningfully engage the problem of racism and come up with real solutions.

Heteronormativity - The assumption, either systemic or personal, that all people are heterosexual.  Asking a male acquaintance about his wife, or a doctor asking a female patient how she's preventing pregnancy without finding out if her partner is male are examples of heteronormativity.  Queer folks are likely to encounter heteronormativity at work, school, at the grocery store, while walking down the street, while planning a wedding, at the doctor's office, on the phone with utility service providers, while looking to rent or purchase housing, and while traveling.

Inclusive Language - Use of language in a way that fully reflects a diversity of human experiences and the contributions of many kinds of people to society.  Examples of inclusive language include the use of "firefighter" or "mail carrier" instead of "fireman" or "mailman"; referring to children as "kids" rather than "boys and girls"; saying "parents" in place of "mom and dad"; the use of "spouse" as a general term for married partner rather than "husband" or "wife" and the use of gender neutral terms like "people," "folks," or "friends" in place of "ladies" or "you guys."  In the context of religion, inclusive language can also mean referring to god using a mix of female and male pronouns, or without gendered pronouns at all.

Intersectionality - The idea that people have multiple identities and thus intersecting experiences of oppression and marginalization.  For instance, African-American women may experience sexism differently than Caucasian women because black and white women have different experiences of racism and race privilege, and as a result, may have different experiences of being female.  Intersectionality is important to acknowledge because posing situations as "women" versus "blacks," for instance (as was frequently the case during the Democratic primary campaign between Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton in 2007 and 2008), serves to erase the experiences of women of color.


Labor Union - A labor union is a collective group of workers employed by the same company or organization who join together to improve or protect their working conditions, pay, and benefits.  This is also called democracy in the workplace.

LGBTIQQA - An acronym that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer, Questioning, and Allies.  This acronym is more frequently used in its shortened versions, typically LGBT or GLBT.  


Love - That which binds us and simultaneously propels us forward to seek peace, justice, and community.

Pansexuality -  Refers to attraction to individuals of any gender expression and/or physical sex.

Privilege - Un-earned advantages accrued to people in positions of relative power.  Common examples include white privilege, male privilege, cis-gender privilege and heterosexual privilege.  Peggy McIntosh's "Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" is a standard read for those wishing to better understand white privilege.  Similar lists have been generated by others to illustrate the effects of male privilege, heterosexual privilege, and so on.  Like oppression, privileges can intersect.  For example, a queer male person of color will experience male privilege differently than a white, straight male (see above re: "Intersectionality").

Queer - A term used by some gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and gender non-conforming people to describe their sexual and social identity.  Some prefer "queer" over "gay" or "lesbian" because it is not tied to the gender binary.  "Queer" can refer to both sexual orientation and gender expression.  In the past, "queer" used as a derogatory term, but has since been reclaimed by many LGBT folks.

Reverse-racism - This is not actually a thing.  Racism is both inter-personal and structural and is intimately tied to power, privilege, and oppression.  All people are capable of bias and prejudice, but because white privilege still means that whites disproportionately hold political office, high-paying professions, college degrees, and personal wealth in the United States, prejudices held by whites towards people of color carry different meaning than prejudices held by people of color against whites.

Transgender - A person whose gender identity or expression differs from her/his/their perceived sex or sex assigned at birth.  Alternatively, a person who transcends gender boundaries.

Xenophobia - Fear or hatred towards people of different national origins or ethnicity than oneself.







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