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Equity and Race Relations

Definitions of Racism
The systematic subordination of members of targeted racial groups who have relatively little
social power in the United States (Blacks, Latino/as, Native Americans, and Asians), by the
members of the agent racial group who have relatively more social power (Whites). The
subordination is supported by the actions of individuals, cultural norms and values, and the
institutional structures and practices of society.

Individual Racism:
The beliefs, attitudes, and actions of individuals that support or perpetuate racism. Individual racism can occur at both an
unconscious and conscious level, and can be both active and passive. Examples include telling a racist joke, using a
racial epithet, or believing in the inherent superiority of whites.

Active Racism:
Actions which have as their stated or explicit goal the maintenance of the system of racism and the oppression of those in
the targeted racial groups. People who participate in active racism advocate the continued subjugation of members of the
targeted groups and protection of “the rights” of members of the agent group. These goals are often supported by a belief
in the inferiority of people of color and the superiority of white people, culture, and values.

Passive Racism:
Beliefs, attitudes, and actions that contribute to the maintenance of racism, without openly advocating violence or
oppression. The conscious or unconscious maintenance of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that support the system of
racism, racial prejudice and racial dominance.

Cultural Racism:
Those aspects of society that overtly and covertly attribute value and normality to white people and Whiteness, and
devalue, stereotype, and label people of color as “other”, different, less than, or render them invisible. Examples of these
norms include defining white skin tones as nude or flesh colored, having a future time orientation, emphasizing
individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology, defining one form of English as standard, and identifying only
Whites as great writers or composers.

Institutional Racism:
The network of institutional structures, policies, and practices that create advantages and benefits for Whites, and
discrimination, oppression, and disadvantages for people from targeted racial groups. The advantages created for Whites
are often invisible to them, or are considered “rights” available to everyone as opposed to “privileges” awarded to only
some individuals and groups.

Source: Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice, 1197 eds. Adams, Bell & Griffin

A pseudobiological category that distinguishes people based on physical characteristics (e.g., skin color, body shape/size,
facial features, hair texture). People of one race can vary in terms of ethnicity and culture.

A group whose members share a common history and origin, as well as commonalities in terms of factors such as
nationality, religion, and cultural activities.

The way of life of a group of people including the shared values, beliefs, behaviors, family roles, social relationships,
verbal and nonverbal communication styles, orientation to authority, as well as preferences and expressions (art, music,
food). “What everybody knows that everybody else knows.”

A dynamic process that occurs when members of one culture (culture of origin) come into contact with another culture
(host/dominant culture) over a long period of time. The process involves exposure to, reaction to, and possible adoptions
of aspects of the other groups culture. Adapting to the characteristics of the larger or dominant culture, while retaining
some of one’s unique cultural traits.

The process of giving up connections to and aspects of one’s culture of origin and blending in with the host/dominant
culture. Also, the wholesale adoption of the dominant culture at the expense of the original culture.

An attitude or opinion that is held in the absence of (or despite) full information. Typically it is negative in nature and based
on faulty, distorted or unsubstantiated information that is over generalized and relatively in-flexible. Prejudices can be
conscious or relatively unconscious.

Treatment of a group of people within a society that results in the systematic denial of equal access to civil rights,
freedoms, and power within that society. It involves a devaluing and non-acceptance of the target group and can be
manifested economically, politically, socially, and/or psychologically. Individuals, through their values and behavior, can
collude with a system of oppression which contributes to its maintenance in a society.

"In any given circumstances, people who are the same in those respects relevant to how they are treated in those
circumstances should receive the same treatment" (p. 45). Equality defined in this way, looks at the individual and the
circumstances surrounding him or her. It does not focus on group differences based on categories such as race, sex,
social class, and ethnicity. This view is one of assimilation because it assumes that individuals, once socialized into
society, have the right "to do anything they want, to choose their own lives and not be hampered by traditional
expectations and stereotypes" (Young, 1990, p. 157).

"…. deals with difference and takes into consideration the fact that this society has many groups in it who have not always
been given equal treatment and/or have not had a level field on which to play. These groups have been frequently made
to feel inferior to those in the mainstream and some have been oppressed. To achieve equity, according to Young (1990),
"Social policy should sometimes accord special treatment to groups" (p. 158). Thus, the concept of equity provides a case
for unequal treatment for those who have been disadvantaged over time. It can provide compensatory kinds of treatment,
offering it in the form of special programs and benefits for those who have been discriminated against and are in need of

Equitable Access
Equitable access provides groups of people access to resources, services and programs that would not otherwise be
available to them due to disadvantages created over time resulting from many factors including marginalization, racism,
discrimination, and oppression. In essence, equitable access attempts to create a level playing field between the have
and have nots.

Equity and Equality Definitions came from Krause, J. K, Traini, D. J., & Mickey, B. H. (2001). Equality versus equity. In J.
P. Shapiro & J. A. Stefkovick (Eds), Ethical leadership and decision making in education (76-90). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence

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