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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Ableism is prejudice and/or discrimination against people with mental or physical disabilities.

It is considered vitally important in multicultural education that differences between persons and cultures be accepted as significant and not something to be resolved.  Some consider “acceptance” the second step toward multiculturalism: after “tolerance” and before “respect, affirmation, solidarity, and critique.”

The general phenomenon of persons learning the nuances of or being initiated into a culture.  The term is sometimes used simply to acknowledge that culture is indeed something persons learn.  Acculturation may also carry a negative connotation when referring to the attempt by dominant cultural groups to inculturate members of other cultural groups into the dominant culture in an assimilationist fashion.

Some critics have noted that in many cases multicultural education was conceived as:

1)      having to do with minorities, and

2)      having assimilation into the norms of the majority as its eventual goal. 

Most proponents of multicultural education at present disparage the casting of multicultural education in terms of acculturation into a dominant culture.  Yet some do wish to argue that the creation/celebration of a common culture is a legitimate aspect of multicultural education.

Affirmative Action:
The creation of policies intended to redress existing imbalances in representation or power according to sex, sexual orientation, race, class, ethnicity, physical, emotional or mental abilities.  Taking positive measures to “advantage” members of a previously “disadvantaged” or suppressed group.

Ageism is prejudice and/or discrimination against people because of their age.

Although technically and literally this term ought to refer to any resident of the American continents (South, Central, or North), it is largely assumed in the U.S. to refer to residents, or citizens of the U.S.

Anti-bias is an active commitment to challenging prejudice, stereotyping and all forms of discrimination.

“A conscious intentional effort to eradicate racism in all its forms – individual, cultural, and institutional.”

Anti-Semitism is a prejudice and/or discrimination against Jews.  Anti-Semitism can be based on hatred against Jews because of their religious beliefs, their group membership (ethnicity) and sometimes on the erroneous belief that Jews are a “race.”

Recent Asian immigrants to the U.S. and second- and third-generation U.S. Americans of Asian descent are typically referred to collectively as “Asian” by many writers.  Others are careful to designate U.S. Americans of Asian descent as Asian Americans.  Groups of U.S. Americans with a common Asian heritage, however, are typically delineated as Korean American, Chinese American, and so forth.

A process by which outsiders (persons who are others by virtue of cultural heritage, gender, age, religious background, and so forth) are brought into, or made to take on and then live out of, as much as possible, the existing identity of the group into which they are being assimilated.

The term has a decidedly negative connotation in recent educational literature, implying a coercion and a failure to recognize and value diversity.  However, this term is viewed quite neutrally in sociological and psychological literature, where adaptation and assimilation are simply understood as survival techniques for individuals and groups.


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