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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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White:
The most commonly used designation for Europeans and for Americans descended from them.  The terms Anglo and European American are also used, but much less often.  Non-white or persons of color are sometimes used in contrast to white in attempts to divide U.S. society into two groups, based not only on skin color but also and more importantly on historic social power.  It is worth noting that Hispanics and Asians are generally not considered “white” no matter how light their complexion, while southern Europeans are generally considered “white” no matter how dark their complexion.  This hints at the term’s usage as both a racial and cultural label.

The term is most often not capitalized (although it is always capitalized in some publications, such as the Harvard Educational Review).  Some writers use “European American” to capture the cultural designation and then use “white” only in reference to race.     


White Privilege:
White Privilege is the spill over effect of racial prejudice and White institutional power.  It means that a White person in the United States has privilege, simply because one is White.  It means that as a member of the dominant group a White person has greater access or availability to resources because of being White.  It means that White ways of thinking and living are seen as the norm against which all people of color are compared.  Life is structured around those norms for the benefit of White people. 

White privilege is the ability to grow up thinking that race doesn’t matter.  It is not having to daily think about skin color and the questions, looks, and hurdles that need to be overcome because of one’s color.  White Privilege may be less recognizable to some White people because of gender, age, sexual orientation, economic class or physical or mental ability, but it remains a reality because of one’s membership in the White dominant group.

 

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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