Equity Assistance Center

Race Equity and Desegregation Terminology

Assimilation – a process in which persons of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds come to interact, free of constraints, in the life of the larger community. It is a one-way process, through which members give up their original culture and are absorbed into the host culture.

Culture – the learned, shared and transmitted social activities of a group that satisfies all basic needs for survival.

Discrimination – an act of exclusion prompted by prejudice. It is prejudice in action.

Ethnic group – a group of people within a larger society that is socially distinguished or set apart, by others and/or by itself, primarily on the basis of race and/or cultural characteristics.

Minority group – a group of people who, because of their physical or cultural characteristics, are singled out from others in the society in which they live for differential and unequal treatment, and who therefore regard themselves as objects of collective discrimination.

Pluralism – a process of compromise characterized by mutual appreciation and respect between two or more ethnic groups, such that members of different groups are permitted to maintain their cultural ways, as long as they conform to those practices deemed necessary for the survival of the society as a whole.

Predilection – the preference of an individual of one culture, skin color or language as opposed to another.

Prejudice – a rigid, inflexible, exaggerated predilection. An attitude in a closed mind.

Race – an anthropological concept used to divide humankind into categories based upon color of skin and other physical characteristics.

Racism – the belief that one’s own race is superior to another. This belief is based on the erroneous assumption that physical attributes determine the social behavior and intelligence of a group. Ultimately, the racist believes that the inferiority of others is a basis for inferior social treatment. Racism exists on a personal and institutional level. It is both covert and overt. It is intentional and unintentional.

Scapegoating – full fledged discrimination in action. It is unleashed aggression in word and deed.

Sociotype – accurate characterizations of social groups. These descriptions tend to be narrower categories and more specific than stereotypes.

Stereotype – a mental category that is based upon exaggerated and inaccurate generalization about a group of people that tend to be unfavorable.

Suppression – a process where one culture is kept in check because it is viewed as inferior.