Skip to content

Race Equity Glossary

The terms presented here are used in race and education equity discourse. We invite you to use this as a tool to develop a stronger understanding and vocabulary. In the future, we will invite you to help us improve the definitions with your personal experiences of the terms. Stay tuned.

Academic Language

The oral and written language used for academic purposes. AL is the “language of the discipline” used to engage students in learning and includes the means by which students develop and express content understandings.


Anti-racism in education is the active process and in-depth analysis of identifying and dismantling racist attitudes, systems, structures, policies, and practices to build equity between groups and advance a more racially just future where the humanity of everyone is valued and uplifted.

MnEEP equips educators and education leaders with culturally-specific tools and resources for addressing and dismantling racist structures and practices in Minnesota schools, and empowers them to create new, anti-racist relationships and systems that honor POCI students and the unique talents and lived experiences they bring to education.

Colorblind Racism

A contemporary racial ideology that holds the belief that people, institutions and policy makers should try to ignore race in order to claim a desire to treat all persons equally but having the effect of justifying contemporary racial oppression. Color-blindness uses a set of ideas, phrases, and stories to discount racial oppression. Furthermore, color-blindness plays on the myth that the social realities of race and racism have all but disappeared as a factor shaping the life chances of all Americans.

Critical Consciousness

Learning to perceive social, political, and economic contradictions and to take actions against the oppressive elements of reality

Critical Race Theory

Recognizes that racism is ingrained in the fabric and system of the American society. The individual racist need not exist to note that institutional racism is pervasive in the dominant culture. CRT identifies that these power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color. CRT also rejects the traditions of liberalism and meritocracy. Legal discourse says that the law is neutral and color blind, however, CRT challenges this legal “truth” by examining liberalism and meritocracy as a vehicle for self-interest, power, and privilege.

Cultural Competence

The ability to understand, appreciate and interact with people from cultures or belief systems different from one’s own.

Cultural Humility

Maintaining a willingness to suspend what you know, or what you think you know, about a person based on generalizations about their culture. Rather, what you learn about others’ culture stems from being open to what they themselves have determined is their personal expression of their heritage and culture. 

Culturally Relevant Pedagogy

Lessons and teaching where students accept and affirm their cultural identity while developing critical perspectives that challenge inequities that schools and other institutions perpetuate.

Culturally Responsive Teaching

A pedagogy that recognizes the importance of including students’ cultural references in all aspects of learning.

Some of the characteristics of culturally responsive teaching are:

  1. Positive perspectives on parents and families
  2. Communication of high expectations
  3. Learning within the context of culture
  4. Student-centered instruction
  5. Culturally mediated instruction
  6. Reshaping the curriculum
  7. Teacher as facilitator


The shared patterns of behaviors and interactions, cognitive constructs, and affective understanding that are learned through a process of socialization. These shared patterns identify the members of a culture group while also distinguishing those of another group.


Decolonization is the meaningful and active resistance to the forces of colonialism that perpetuate the subjugation and/or exploitation of our minds, bodies, and lands. Its ultimate purpose is to overturn the colonial structure and realize Indigenous liberation. First and foremost, decolonization must occur in our own minds. 


The process by which American Indians and people of color have been stripped of their language and culture through intentional schooling practices (e.g., boarding schools, English-only policies) designed to enforce White supremacy.

Disaggregated Data

Disaggregating data means breaking down information into smaller subpopulations. For instance, breaking data down into racial/ethnic categories. Disaggregating student data into subpopulations can help schools and communities plan appropriate programs, decide which evidence-based interventions to select (i.e. have they been evaluated with the target population), use limited resources where they are needed most, and see important trends in behavior and achievement. 


Includes all the way in which people differ, and it encompasses all the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another.  It is all-inclusive and recognizes everyone and every group as part of the diversity that should be valued. A broad definition includes not only race, ethnicity, and gender—the groups that most often come to mind when the term “diversity” is used—but also age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, and physical appearance.  It also involves different ideas, perspectives and values. 

Dual Language Learner

Children, age birth to five years, who are learning two or more languages; acknowledges that very young children are still actively developing their home language(s) along with an additional language. 

Education Debt

The sum of all previously incurred deficits or opportunity gaps in education for American Indians communities and communities of color. The education debt includes four aspects: 

1) the historical lack of access to formal public education for certain groups of people (historic debt);t

2) historical and contemporary inequities in school funding, income disparities related to different levels of education, and general wealth disparity (economic debt);

3) the disenfranchisement of people of color at local and national levels (sociopolitical debt); and

4) the disparity between what we know is right and what we actually do (moral debt)

Educational Excellence

Educational excellence involves achieving the skills and knowledge needed to prosper in Minnesota’s diverse and rapidly evolving social and economic context. It embraces the various career aspirations present among all students ranging from science to the humanities and from the public to the private.

In this context, Minnesota Education Equity Partnership (formerly MMEP) understands its work as addressing the “opportunity gap” .

This means systemically reforming how we deliver education as opposed to trying to “fix” students. The change Minnesota Education Equity Partnership (formerly MMEP)  seeks is to have educators and policy makers challenge themselves to align schools, colleges and universities with the gifts that exist in students of color and American Indian students.

Minnesota Education Equity Partnership (formerly MMEP) believes that collaborative action offers the best way to align our education system with communities of color. A multi-cultural, multi-racial society requires building dynamic relationships between students, their parents and educators. MNEEP therefore constructs public engagement activities that bring them together into collaborative dialogue and planning leading to student and parent empowerment.

Race Equity in turn requires an understanding of racism and how it impacts the lives of all citizens and especially of students of color and American Indian students. That understanding informs the need to provide these students with the correct kind and level of resources, delivered in the most appropriate manner, that may well at times differ among various student groups.

Emerging Multilingual Learners (EML)

Through school and through acquiring English, these children become bi- or multi-lingual, able to continue to function in their home language(s) as well as in English, their new language and that of school.

English (Language) Learner

(1) the pupil, as declared by a parent or guardian uses a language other than English; and

(2) the pupil is determined by a valid assessment measuring the pupil’s English language proficiency and by developmentally appropriate measures, which might include observations, teacher judgment, parent recommendations, or developmentally appropriate assessment instruments, to lack the necessary English skills to participate fully in academic classes taught in English.


Ethnocentrism is characterized by or based on the attitude that one’s own group is superior.

Historical Trauma

Experiences–shared by communities such as genocide, slavery, forced relocation, and destruction of cultural practices–can result in cumulative emotional and psychological wounds that are carried across generations. 

Implicit Bias

Implicit bias is a mental process that stimulates nega­tive attitudes about people who are not members of one’s own “in group.” Implicit racial bias leads to discrimination against people who are not members of one’s own racial group. Implicit bias affects the way that we think about “out groups” and it influences the way that we react to and interact with out group members. Implicit bias operates in what researchers call our “implicit mind,” the part of the brain that we commonly call the “subconscious” or the “unconscious.” This means that implicit bias can operate in an individual’s mind without a conscious awareness of this process.

Individual Racism

Individual racism can include face-to-face or covert actions toward a person that intentionally express prejudice, hate or bias based on race.

Institutional Racism

Institutional racism refers to the policies and practices within and across institutions that, intentionally or not, produce outcomes that chronically favor, or put a racial group at a disadvantage. Poignant examples of institutional racism can be found in school disciplinary policies in which students of color are punished at much higher rates that their white counterparts, in the criminal justice system, and within many employment sectors in which day-to-day operations, as well as hiring and firing practices can significantly disadvantage workers of color. 

Long-term English Learner

English language learners who have attended U.S. schools for seven years or more and have not exited from English Language Development services/programs.

Opportunity Gap

The culmination of the many inequalities that can impact people and their ability to succeed academically. 


Unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power

Post-Colonial Theory

Analyzes the tensions and contradictions inherent in the relationship between colonizer and colonized, oppressor and oppressed. In particular, discusses how the colonized/oppressed internalize the ways and language of the colonizer/oppressor, in order to survive within extant social structures. 

Race Consciousness

Explicit acknowledgment of the workings of race and racism in social contexts or in one’s personal life. An understanding of white privilege, owning the realities of racism in our contemporary society and taking responsibility for them, is crucial. 

Race Equity Framework

A race equity framework is the application of new policy, practice, and public narratives for building race equity.

Race Equity Lens

A Race equity lens is an essential tool for analyzing policies, power, relationships, outcomes, and solutions for building a race equity framework. It asks key questions centered on the realities and perspectives of those harmed by the current designs of our social systems and how those systems deliver services to them.

Racial Equity

Race equity is a path from hope to justice— where People of Color and Indigenous people (POCI) use their personal agency to build systems of healing and liberation that uplift and value the human dignity of all people.

Race equity in education means the humanity of POCI students is honored and celebrated in all education spaces, and the racial predictability and disproportionality of student achievement is eliminated.

To that end, race equity in education is not merely a value or the absence of racial inequities or disparities. It means that all education systems and structures are just and inclusive, and every student uses their power to shape the world and who they want to be in it.


Racism is a doctrine or teaching, without scientific support, that does three things. First, it claims to find racial differences in things like character and intelligence. Second, racism asserts the superiority of one race over another or others. Finally, it seeks to maintain that dominance through a complex system of beliefs, behaviors, use of language and policies. Racism reflects and enforces a pervasive view, in white dominated U.S. culture that people of color are inferior to whites. 

Restorative Justice

A theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behavior. It is best accomplished through cooperative processes that allow all willing stakeholders to meet, although other approaches are available when that is impossible. This can lead to transformation of people, relationships and communities. 

Scientific Racism

Employs anthropology (notably physical anthropology) and other disciplines or pseudo-disciplines, in proposing anthropological typologies supporting the classification of human populations into physically discrete human races that might be asserted to be superior or inferior. Scientific racism was common during the period from 1600s to the end of World War I. Since the second half of 20th century, scientific racism has been criticized as obsolete and discredited, yet historically has persistently been used to support or validate racist world-views, based upon belief in the existence and significance of racial categories and a hierarchy of superior and inferior races.


The separation or isolation of a race, class, or ethnic group by enforced or voluntary residence in a restricted area, by barriers to social intercourse, by separate educational facilities, or by other discriminatory means. The separation for special treatment or observation of individuals or items from a larger group.

Structural Racism

A system in which public policies, institutional practices, cultural representations, and other norms work in various, often reinforcing ways to perpetuate racial group inequity. It identifies dimensions of our history and culture that have allowed privileges associated with “whiteness” and disadvantages associated with “color” to endure and adapt over time. Structural racism is not something that a few people or institutions choose to practice. Instead it has been a feature of the social, economic and political systems in which we all exist. 

Students with Limited or Interrupted Formal Education (SLIFE)

The Minnesota Learning English for Academic Proficiency and Success (LEAPS) Act defines SLIFE as an English learner with interrupted formal education who:

  1. Comes from a home where the language usually spoken is other than English, or who usually speaks a language other than English.
  2. Enters school in the United States after grade 6.
  3. Has at least two years less schooling than the English learner’s peers.
  4. Functions at least two years below expected grade level in reading and mathematics.
  5. May be preliterate in the English learner’s native language.

Systemic Racism

In many ways “systemic racism” and “structural racism” are synonymous. If there is a difference between the terms, it can be said to exist in the fact that a structural racism analysis pays more attention to the historical, cultural and social psychological aspects of our currently racialized society. 

White Fragility

A state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.

White Privilege

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.

Structural White Privilege: A system of white domination that creates and maintains belief systems that make current racial advantages and disadvantages seem normal. The system includes powerful incentives for maintaining white privilege and its consequences, and powerful negative consequences for trying to interrupt white privilege or reduce its consequences in meaningful ways. The system includes internal and external manifestations at the individual, interpersonal, cultural and institutional levels.

The accumulated and interrelated advantages and disadvantages of white privilege that are reflected in racial/ethnic inequities in life-expectancy and other health outcomes, income and wealth and other outcomes, in part through different access to opportunities and resources. These differences are maintained in part by denying that these advantages and disadvantages exist at the structural, institutional, cultural, interpersonal and individual levels and by refusing to redress them or eliminate the systems, policies, practices, cultural norms and other behaviors and assumptions that maintain them.

  • Interpersonal White Privilege: Behavior between people that consciously or unconsciously reflects white superiority or entitlement.
  • Cultural White Privilege: A set of dominant cultural assumptions about what is good, normal or appropriate that reflects Western European white world views and dismisses or demonizes other world views.
  • Institutional White Privilege: Policies, practices and behaviors of institutions — such as schools, banks, non-profits or the Supreme Court — that have the effect of maintaining or increasing accumulated advantages for those groups currently defined as white, and maintaining or increasing disadvantages for those racial or ethnic groups not defined as white. The ability of institutions to survive and thrive even when their policies, practices and behaviors maintain, expand or fail to redress accumulated disadvantages and/or inequitable outcomes for people of color.

White Supremacy

White supremacy is a historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent; for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power and privilege. 

Back To Top