Starting the Conversation

Race Terminology

Race Terminology

Firstly, we would to thank the participants of the Race Equality Forum for their massive contribution to informing this section of the Guide. While participants of the Forum had varying preferences with regard to race related terminology, this section was developed by consensus whilst acknowledging its limitations and the ever-evolving nature of language on this important topic.

Talking about race and race equality can be complex and sometimes uncomfortable. What is needed is the confidence to become familiar with the appropriate language and commitment to engage with colleagues respectfully. In this section we share some definitions for terms that are widely used when discussing race and race equality. The intention of this Guide is to support organisations and individuals to engage in meaningful dialogue on race and racial equality.

Top Tips

Terminology

The terminology listed below is not exhaustive. No terms are agreed by everyone and the contradictions and conflicts that the use of language creates must be acknowledged. The English language is forever evolving. We must acknowledge the continual changes in terminologies and interpretations and the need to explore the issues around language and reflect the fact that the debate about race and culture is ongoing.

Ally

An ally takes action to support people outside of their own group and actively and consistently advocates for people from underrepresented groups. Allyship includes activism, inclusive use of language, and combating prejudice such as racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination. Allyship is the practice of advocating for social justice, inclusion, and human rights.

Anti-Racism

Anti-racism is a process of actively identifying and opposing racism. Anti-racism is rooted in action that challenges all forms of racism including systemic racism. An anti-racist supports anti-racist practices through their actions and actively calls out and challenges racist behavior.

BAME and BME

BAME is an acronym for Black, Asian, minority ethnic and BME stands for Black and minority ethnic. Both acronyms refer to specific ethnic groups and this can be divisive and exclusionary. They can be perceived as convenient labels that are placed on under-represented groups of people, rather than identities with which people have chosen to identify. It is generally perceived that these terms refer only to non-White people, which does not consider White minority ethnic groups such as Gypsy, Roma and Traveller of Irish Heritage.

Culture

Culture is an umbrella term that describes the characteristics and knowledge created by human societies, encompassing language, religion, food, social habits, music and arts.

Cultural Racism

Cultural racism is a powerful force in maintaining systems of internalised supremacy and internalised racism. Cultural racism shows up in advertising, movies, history books, definitions of patriotism, and in policies and laws.

Diversity

Diversity in the workplace is a term that is used to describe our individual differences. Diversity is about recognising difference. It’s acknowledging the benefit of having a range of perspectives in decision-making and the workforce being representative of the organisation’s customers and communities.

Ethnicity

Every person has an ethnicity. Ethnicity refers to an individual’s identification with a group sharing some or all of the same culture, lifestyle, language, religion, nationality, geographical region and history.

Ethnic Minority

Everyone has an ethnicity, whether it is in the majority or the minority. An ethnic minority is a group of people who are different in race or colour and cultural origin from the dominant group of the country in which they live (often the majority population). Some people find the term ‘minority’ problematic as it implies being less than.

Ethnocentrism

Ethnocentrism relates to the viewing or interpreting the world from the perspective of a particular ethnic group. ‘Eurocentrism’ is, for example, viewing the non-European world from a European perspective.

Inclusion

Inclusion at work is where peoples differences are valued and all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully. An inclusive workplace is one where all people have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organisation’s success.

Implicit Bias

An implicit bias can be described as an unconscious association, belief, or attitude toward a social group. Due to implicit biases, people may often attribute certain qualities or characteristics to certain members of a particular group which is often known as stereotyping.

Microaggressions

The verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages aimed at an under-represented person or group.

Multiracial

Many terms exist for people of various multiracial backgrounds; biracial, multi-ethnic, multiracial. Individuals of multiracial backgrounds make up a significant portion of the population in many parts of the world.

Multi-Cultural

Multiculturalism is an acceptance and positive attitude towards the cultural varieties in our societies. However, multiculturalism may simply provide ammunition to reinforce racism unless there is recognition of the structural racism that exists in society.

People of Colour – POC

A POC is used to describe someone who does not consider themselves to be White. Never use the term ‘Coloured People’ as this is considered extremely racist.

Race

The word race is an inherently controversial term. The word comes from historical categorisation of people according to their skin colour and physical characteristics. There is no scientific basis for divisions into biologically determined groups. Individuals, not nations or ‘races’, are the main sources of human variation.

Racial Equality

Racial equality occurs when equitable and equal opportunities are afforded to people of all races and ethnicities. Where workplace policy and practices uphold the values and beliefs that racial groups are equal, with none being inherently superior or inferior.

Racial Inequality

Is when a racial group is not treated equally or the same way as another racial group. This results in an unequal balance of power, opportunity and resources.

Racial Prejudice

Racial prejudice refers to an opinion or attitude about racial groups based on false or mis-information. It refers to a tendency to judge people in a particular way, usually negative.

Racial Stereotyping

Racial stereotyping is the categorisation of a whole racial group of people because of the actions or behaviour of a single person/a few people, or as the result of racial prejudice.

Racism

Racism is all practices, procedures and behaviours that discriminate against people because of their colour, culture and or race or ethnic background. It includes racial prejudice, discrimination, stereotyping, exclusion, harassment, microagressions, institutional and structural racism and ethnocentrism.

White Fragility

Refers to a number of responses including defensiveness to complete dismissal by White people in reaction to racism. This can include an outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and may lead to the White person becoming argumentative. Other responses include silence and avoidance of dialogue which results in further racial inequity.

White Privilege

Refers to the unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices on people solely because of their skin colour. Many White people are not aware of their privilege as it is built into the structure of society. When the system is set up to advantage white people, this is known as structural racism.

Ally

An ally takes action to support people outside of their own group and actively and consistently advocates for people from underrepresented groups. Allyship includes activism, inclusive use of language, and combating prejudice such as racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination. Allyship is the practice of advocating for social justice, inclusion, and human rights.

Anti-Racism

Anti-racism is a process of actively identifying and opposing racism. Anti-racism is rooted in action that challenges all forms of racism including systemic racism. An anti-racist supports anti-racist practices through their actions and actively calls out and challenges racist behavior.

BAME and BME

BAME is an acronym for Black, Asian, minority ethnic and BME stands for Black and minority ethnic. Both acronyms refer to specific ethnic groups and this can be divisive and exclusionary. They can be perceived as convenient labels that are placed on under-represented groups of people, rather than identities with which people have chosen to identify. It is generally perceived that these terms refer only to non-White people, which does not consider White minority ethnic groups such as Gypsy, Roma and Traveller of Irish Heritage.

Culture

Culture is an umbrella term that describes the characteristics and knowledge created by human societies, encompassing language, religion, food, social habits, music and arts.

Cultural Racism

Cultural racism is a powerful force in maintaining systems of internalised supremacy and internalised racism. Cultural racism shows up in advertising, movies, history books, definitions of patriotism, and in policies and laws.

Diversity

Diversity in the workplace is a term that is used to describe our individual differences. Diversity is about recognising difference. It’s acknowledging the benefit of having a range of perspectives in decision-making and the workforce being representative of the organisation’s customers and communities.

Ethnicity

Every person has an ethnicity. Ethnicity refers to an individual’s identification with a group sharing some or all of the same culture, lifestyle, language, religion, nationality, geographical region and history.

Ethnic Minority

Everyone has an ethnicity, whether it is in the majority or the minority. An ethnic minority is a group of people who are different in race or colour and cultural origin from the dominant group of the country in which they live (often the majority population). Some people find the term ‘minority’ problematic as it implies being less than.

Ethnocentrism

Ethnocentrism relates to the viewing or interpreting the world from the perspective of a particular ethnic group. ‘Eurocentrism’ is, for example, viewing the non-European world from a European perspective.

Inclusion

Inclusion at work is where peoples differences are valued and all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully. An inclusive workplace is one where all people have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organisation’s success.

Implicit Bias

An implicit bias can be described as an unconscious association, belief, or attitude toward a social group. Due to implicit biases, people may often attribute certain qualities or characteristics to certain members of a particular group which is often known as stereotyping.

Microaggresions

The verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages aimed at an under-represented person or group.

Multiracial

Many terms exist for people of various multiracial backgrounds; biracial, multi-ethnic, multiracial. Individuals of multiracial backgrounds make up a significant portion of the population in many parts of the world.

Multi-Cultural

Multiculturalism is an acceptance and positive attitude towards the cultural varieties in our societies. However, multiculturalism may simply provide ammunition to reinforce racism unless there is recognition of the structural racism that exists in society.

People of Colour – POC

A POC is used to describe someone who does not consider themselves to be White. Never use the term ‘Coloured People’ as this is considered extremely racist.

Race

The word race is an inherently controversial term. The word comes from historical categorisation of people according to their skin colour and physical characteristics. There is no scientific basis for divisions into biologically determined groups. Individuals, not nations or ‘races’, are the main sources of human variation.

Racial Equality

Racial equality occurs when equitable and equal opportunities are afforded to people of all races and ethnicities. Where workplace policy and practices uphold the values and beliefs that racial groups are equal, with none being inherently superior or inferior.

Racial Prejudice

Racial prejudice refers to an opinion or attitude about racial groups based on false or mis-information. It refers to a tendency to judge people in a particular way, usually negative.

Racial Inequality

Is when a racial group is not treated equally or the same way as another racial group. This results in an unequal balance of power, opportunity and resources.

Racial Stereotyping

Racial stereotyping is the categorisation of a whole racial group of people because of the actions or behaviour of a single person/a few people, or as the result of racial prejudice.

Racism

Racism is all practices, procedures and behaviours that discriminate against people because of their colour, culture and or race or ethnic background. It includes racial prejudice, discrimination, stereotyping, exclusion, harassment, microagressions, institutional and structural racism and ethnocentrism.

White Fragility

Refers to a number of responses including defensiveness to complete dismissal by White people in reaction to racism. This can include an outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and may lead to the White person becoming argumentative. Other responses include silence and avoidance of dialogue which results in further racial inequity.

White Privilege

Refers to the unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits and choices on people solely because of their skin colour. Many White people are not aware of their privilege as it is built into the structure of society. When the system is set up to advantage white people, this is known as structural racism.

We would like to thank the participants of the Race Equality Forum and the Migrant Council of Ireland for their insights, comments and feedback in relation to this section.

Menu