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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A condition in a person’s environment that serves as an impediment.  Some advocates for persons with disabilities urge that this term not be used to refer to a disability.

Hate Crime:
Hate crimes are defined under specific penal code sections as an act or an attempted act by any person against the person or property of another individual or group which in any way constitutes an expression of hostility toward the victim because of his or her race, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, disability, gender, or ethnicity.*  This includes but is not limited to threatening phone calls, hate mail, physical assaults, vandalism, cross burnings, destruction of religious symbols, and fire bombings.

* Elements of crime statutes and protected classifications vary state to state.

Hate Incident:
Hate-motivated incidents are defined as behavior which constitutes an expression of hostility against the person or property of another because of the victim’s race, religion, disability, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.  Hate-motivated incidents include those actions that are motivated by bias, but do not meet the necessary elements required to prove a crime.  They may include such behavior as non-threatening name calling, using racial slurs or disseminating racial leaflets.

For some homosexual persons, the fear or distrust of heterosexuals and anything associated with heterosexuality; often based on negative life experiences. 

Heterosexism is a powerful cultural assumption that everyone is heterosexual or should be, that heterosexuality is the only normal, right, and moral way to be, and that anything else, therefore, is abnormal, unnatural, and wrong. 

Romantic and sexual attraction to and/or behavior with members of other gender.  It’s normal, not an illness, and has no known cause.

Technically refers to Spanish-speaking persons in general, but is most commonly used in the U.S. to designate persons native to, or whose lineage can easily be traced to Central or South America or surrounding islands (rather than to Spain or Portugal).

Homophobia is the irrational fear and intolerance of people who are believed to be lesbian, gay or bisexual.  Homophobia is the problem, not homosexuality.  Even gay people may internal homophobia.

Romantic and sexual attraction to and/or behavior with members of the same gender.  It’s normal, not an illness, and has no known cause.

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