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Building a Bridge Toward a 21st Century Multi-Racial Multi-Cultural Society: 
Tearing Down Walls of Hate, Ignorance and Fear
Developing a Common Language for All to Access

Glossary of Terms and Definitions 

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Mestizo:
Literally “mixed” or “hybrid,” this term is increasingly used to identify “the origination of a new people from two ethnically disparate parent peoples.”  The primary reference is to the Spanish and Native American cultural heritage of Mexico, but it has also been used to identify Hispanics in the United States.

Minority:
A group or subgroup, or a member of such, which has limited access to positions of power and therefore little influence upon the larger group, institution, or society.

Since women (who are roughly fifty percent of the population) are often, but not always, referred to as a minority group (some use the phrase “minorities and women” to reference those outside the dominating “majority”), and African Americans and Hispanics retain their “minority” status even if they constitute over fifty percent of the population of an area, it is clear that “minority” is not determined numerically.

The term is considered by some to have derogatory connotations, and some writers seek to avoid the term altogether by using positive designations such as persons of color or “primarily Black” schools and so forth.

Multicultural:
This term is used in a variety of ways and is less often defined by its users than terms such as multiculturalism or multicultural education.

One common use of the term refers to the raw fact of cultural diversity:  “multicultural education … responds to a multicultural population.”

Another use of the term refers to an ideological awareness of diversity: “[multicultural theorists] have a clear recognition of a pluralistic society.”

Still others go beyond this and understand multicultural as reflecting a specific ideology of inclusion and openness toward “others.”

Perhaps the most common use of this term in the literature is in reference simultaneously to a context of cultural pluralism and an ideology of inclusion or “mutual exchange of and respect for diverse cultures.”

When the term is used to refer to a group of persons (or an organization or institution), it most often refers to the presence of and mutual interaction among diverse persons (in terms of race, class, gender, and so forth) of significant representation in the group.  In other words, a few African Americans in a predominantly European American congregation would not make the congregation “multicultural.”

Some, however, do use the term to refer to the mere presence of some non-majority persons somewhere in the designated institution (or group or society), even if there is neither significant interaction nor substantial numerical representation.

Multiracial:
Designating a context or ideology of racial pluralism:  “Black, White, Asian, Latino/a, Native American persons.”  Multicultural generally intends wider diversity, implying recognition also of gender, economic, and political differences.

“Multiracial education” is preferred over multicultural education by some since it conceptually addresses the issue of institutionalized racism more directly.

 This list is compiled from a variety of sources by the Office of Racial Justice and Multi-Racial, Multi-Cultural Transformation, United Church of Christ, Cleveland Based Team, Fall 2006

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