Cultural Information Index

The goals of the index include education and increasing awareness of the diverse groups we have on campus. It is intended for members of the Fredonia campus community, and those outside the community, to build knowledge about cultural diversity.

This cultural information index is a collaboration between the Intercultural Center, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Council, and a variety of other Fredonia students and staff members.  

The index has been carefully researched and reviewed so that it may be as inclusive, informative, and accurate as possible.  Where viable, we have included web links to original definitions, most of which were adapted for use in this index. We welcome you to explore these links to learn more about these topics. It is hoped that the index, by fostering respectful conversation, will reduce the likelihood of misunderstandings and misinterpretations between members of the campus community. In the index, you will find information related to many culture-related terms, organized by broad categories. The categorization is intended to assist the reader in finding definitions to specific terms of interest, and to also provide education about diversity within identities. We encourage you to submit any feedback on terms and definitions that might increase the index accuracy and completeness.  You can do so by using this Google form.  

There are a few important points to consider when reading this index. First, many of the terms in this index relate to one’s identity. It may be that one self-identifies in a particular way, but is identified by others in a different way. Additionally, individuals vary in their self-preferred labels, and not all labels may be listed in this index. It is frequently the case that individuals identify with multiple different groups, and therefore intersectional identities should also be considered. Last, it is important for Fredonia students, faculty, and staff also to stay informed of culture-related definitions included in local campus and SUNY policies. 

Accountability: In the context of diversity, equity, and inclusion work, accountability refers to how individuals and communities hold themselves to their goals and actions, and how they acknowledge the values and groups to which they are responsible. Accountability in the context of cultural sensitivity also includes acknowledging when one has behaved in an oppressive manner (Racial Equity Tools, 2020).

Ally / Allyship: Someone who makes an active commitment and effort to recognize their privilege (based on gender, class, race, sexual identity, etc.) and works in solidarity with oppressed groups in the struggle for justice. Although the definition varies, allyship is typically not a self-defined identity but one that is given to an individual who is recognized by oppressed individuals or groups for their work (Racial Equity Tools, 2020).

Code-Switching:  Adjusting one’s style of speech, appearance, behavior, and expression in ways that will optimize the comfort of others, to adapt to different sociocultural norms and/or to avoid prejudice or discrimination. Code-switching is also something very commonly done by multilingual people when switching between languages, i.e., changing dialects or accents (McCluney et al., 2019).

Cultural Appropriation: The theft of icons, rituals, aesthetic standards, and behavior from one culture or subculture by another. This “appropriation” often occurs without any real understanding of why the original culture took part in these activities, often bringing culturally significant artifacts, practices, and beliefs into pop culture or giving them a significance that is completely different/less nuanced than their original meaning. Cultural appropriation often reinforces stereotypes regarding identity groups (Racial Equity Tools, 2020).

Culture: A social system of meaning and custom that is developed by a group of people to ensure its adaptation and survival. Cultural groups are distinguished by a set of unspoken rules that shape values, beliefs, habits, patterns of thinking, behaviors, and styles of communication (Racial Equity Tools, 2020).

Culture Shock:  Refers to feelings of uncertainty, confusion, or anxiety that people experience when they are transplanted into a society that's different from their own. Culture shock sets in when people move to another city or country, but can also occur when individuals move to attend a new school or work in a new business. The experience of culture shock arises from an individual's unfamiliarity with local customs, language, and acceptable behavior (Segal, 2019).  

Discrimination: A term used to describe the unequal treatment of individuals or groups based on race, gender, social class, sexual orientation, physical ability, religion, national origin, age, physical or mental abilities, and additional categories that may result in differences (ONGIG, 2021).

Diversity: Includes how people differ, and it encompasses all the different characteristics that make one individual or group different from another. A broad definition includes not only race, ethnicity, and gender, but also age, national origin, religion, disability, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, education, marital status, language, and physical appearance.  It also involves different ideas, perspectives, and values (Racial Equity Tools, 2020).

Equality: Concept which argues that every individual should have an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents. It is also the belief that no one should have less favorable life chances because of the way they were born, where they come from, what they believe, or whether they have a disability. Equality-oriented change efforts recognize that certain groups of people, due to their race, sex, disability, and/or sexual orientation, have historically experienced discrimination (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2018).

Equity: The fair treatment, access, opportunity, and advancement for all people, while at the same time striving to identify and eliminate barriers that have prevented the full participation of some groups. The principle of equity acknowledges that there are historically underserved and underrepresented populations and that social justice efforts are often needed to remedy previous unequal opportunities (University of Washington, 2021).

Feminism: The belief that all individuals, regardless of gender, should have equal rights, protections, and opportunities. It relates to respecting diverse women’s experiences, identities, knowledge and strengths, and striving to empower all women to realize their full rights. It is ensuring that diverse women and girls have the same opportunities in life that are available to boys and men (International Women's Development Agency, 2021).

Gaslighting: Refers to a specific type of manipulation where the manipulator is trying to get an individual or a group to question their own reality, memory or perceptions, such as, “You’re just being overly sensitive”, or “Oh come on, I never said that” (NBC News, 2018).

Identity-First Language:  A type of language born from the disability pride movement which emphasizes the unique characteristics of a person while still recognizing their personhood. Rather than defining individuals primarily as people, identity-first language prioritizes naming the disability (e.g., a blind person) in order to support the idea that disabilities are not something to be ashamed of (National Aging and Disability Transportation Center, 2020).

Inclusion: A term used to refer to the process of bringing people that are traditionally excluded into decision-making processes, activities, or positions of power. Inclusion, also called inclusiveness, allows individuals or groups to feel safe, respected, motivated, and engaged (ONGIG, 2021).

Intersectional / Intersectionality: An approach arguing that classifications such as gender, race, class, and others cannot be examined in isolation from one another; they interact and intersect in individuals’ lives, in society, in social systems, and are mutually constitutive. Recognizing one’s various identities can help clarify how a person can simultaneously experience privilege and oppression (Pacific University Oregon, 2021).

Microaggression(s): A statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination, prejudice, or stereotypes against members of a marginalized group (e.g., race, gender, sexual/romantic orientation). Even if it is unintentional, microaggression can still cause considerable discomfort to people in underrepresented groups.  Microaggressions are defined from the perspective of the individual experiencing them, not by the perpetrator, and focuses on the impact of the words or behavior, rather than the intent (Quinsigamond Community College, 2021).

People-First Language:  A type of language which emphasizes the individuality, equality, and dignity of people with disabilities. Rather than defining people primarily by their disability, people-first language conveys respect by emphasizing the fact that people with disabilities are first and foremost people. This includes people with both visible and hidden disabilities (Employer Assistance and Resource Network, 2021).

Prejudice: A bias, inclination or preference, especially one that interferes with impartial judgment and can be rooted in stereotypes, that denies the right of individual members of certain groups to be recognized and treated as individuals with individual characteristics (University of Washington, 2021).

Privilege: Unearned social power accorded by the formal and informal institutions of society to all members of a dominant group (e.g., white privilege, male privilege). Privilege is usually invisible to those who have it because they are not taught to see it, but it nevertheless puts them at an advantage over those who do not have it. It is important to note that an individual may have privilege related to one or more identities but lack privilege in others (Racial Equity Tools, 2020).

Scapegoating: The action of blaming a marginalized individual or group for something when, in reality, that person or group is not responsible. Scapegoating targets another person or group as responsible for problems in society (Pacific University Oregon, 2021).

Sexual Consent: Agreement or permission expressed through affirmative, voluntary words or actions that are mutually understandable to all parties involved, to engage in a specific sexual act at a specific time. This agreement or permission can also be withdrawn at any time for any reason (Indiana University, 2021).

Stereotypes: Blanket beliefs and expectations about members of certain groups that present an oversimplified opinion, prejudiced attitude, or uncritical judgment. They are typically negative, based on little information, and highly generalized (Pacific University Oregon, 2021).

Veteran:  A person who served in the active military, naval, or air service and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable, according to the United States Code of Federal Regulations (VA.org, n.d.).

Birthright Citizenship: The legal concept that any individual born within the territory of a country is entitled to citizenship in that country (Bipartisan Policy Center, 2021).

DACA: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a type of administrative relief from deportation. The purpose of DACA is to protect from deportation eligible immigrant youth who came to the United States when they were children (Washington University in St. Louis, 2021). 

DREAMer: In the last few years, the term “DREAMer” has been used to describe young undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, who have lived and gone to school here, and who in many cases identify as American (Anti-Defamation League, 2019).

Immigrant: A person who has come to a different country in order to live there permanently (Cambridge University Press, 2021).

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): Conducts enforcement and removal operations pertaining to immigration violations, under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security, as well as investigating crimes that involve the crossing of the U.S. border (Bipartisan Policy Center, 2021).

International Student:  An individual who is enrolled for credit at an accredited higher education institution in the U.S. on a temporary visa, and who is not an immigrant (permanent resident with an I-51 or Green Card), an undocumented immigrant, or a refugee (William Paterson University, n.d.).

Naturalization: The process by which U.S. citizenship is granted to a lawful permanent resident after meeting the requirements established by Congress in the Immigration and Nationality Act (U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services, 2020).

Refugee: Someone who has been forced to flee their country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. This term is often used interchangeably with asylum seeker, which refers to an individual seeking safety in another country (USA for UNCHR, 2021).

Undocumented Worker: In the United States, an undocumented worker or undocumented immigrant is a foreign-born person who is not a permanent resident and is not a U.S. citizen. "Undocumented immigrant" may refer to a person whose immigration status is not resolved. Due to the unresolved status, the worker does not have permission to work in the United States (Workplace Fairness, n.d.).

Ableism: The discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior. At its heart, ableism is rooted in the assumption that disabled people require “fixing”and defines people by their disability (Eisenmenger, 2019).

Ageism: The stereotyping and discrimination against individuals or groups on the basis of their age. Ageism can take many forms, including prejudicial attitudes, discriminatory practices, or institutional policies and practices that perpetuate stereotypical beliefs (World Health Organization, 2020). 

Anti-Black: The name of the specific kind of racial prejudice directed towards Black people. Anti-Blackness devalues Blackness, while systematically marginalizing Black people (Gamblin, 2020).

Classism: The institutional, cultural and individual set of practices and beliefs that assign differential value to people according to their socioeconomic class; this results from an economic system that creates excessive inequality and causes basic human needs to go unmet (National Conference for Community and Justice, 2021).

Colorism / Shadeism: A practice of prejudice or discrimination within communities of color by which those with lighter skin are treated more favorably than those with darker skin. This practice is a product of racism in the United States, in that it upholds the white standards of beauty, and benefits white people in institutions of oppression such as the media and medical field (National Conference for Community and Justice, 2021).

Deadnaming: The act of using one’s birth name, both intentionally or unintentionally, when an individual no longer identifies with their birth name. Deadnaming is often used as a form of oppression against individuals of the transgender community (Lakshmi, 2020; Snider, 2021). 

Environmental Racism: The concept that members of certain groups are deliberately located in less‐desirable geographic areas or that undesirable business activities are deliberately located in range of or within neighborhoods of certain groups, particularly racial minorities and the urban poor (Quinsigamond Community College, n.d.).

Ethnocentrism: The belief that the people, customs, and traditions of one’s own race or country are better than those of other races or countries (Cambridge University Press, 2021). 

Heterosexism: The assumption that heterosexuality is the social and cultural norm as well as the prejudiced belief that heterosexuals, or “straight” people, are socially and culturally superior to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, Two-Spirit, and queer (i.e., LGBTQ spectrum) people (Rainbow Resource Centre, 2012).

Homophobia: Culturally-produced fear of or prejudice against gay and lesbian individuals that sometimes manifests itself in legal restrictions or, in extreme cases, bullying or even violence against homosexuals.  Homophobia is sometimes referred to as “gay-bashing” (Anderson, n.d.).

Internalized Homophobia: Refers to people who are homophobic while also experiencing same-sex attraction themselves. This may mean that they feel discomfort and disapproval with their own same-sex attractions, never accept their same-sex attractions, or never identify as anything other than straight. This term can also refer to homophobia that exists within the LGBTQ spectrum community toward the self, or toward other subgroups within the community (Planned Parenthood, 2021). 

Institutional Racism / Systemic Racism: The ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes for different racial groups. The institutional policies may never mention any racial group, but their effect is to create advantages for white people, as well as to cause oppression and disadvantages for people from groups classified as people of color (Racial Equity Tools, 2020). 

Internalized Racism: The situation that occurs in a racist system when a group oppressed by racism comes to believe in the supremacy and dominance of the majority group, by maintaining or participating in the set of attitudes, behaviors, social structures, and ideologies which make up the dominating group’s power (Racial Equity Tools, 2020).

Linguistic Prejudice: A form of prejudice in which people hold implicit biases about others based on the way they speak. While the majority of Americans speak English,  the English language exhibits substantial variation across different communities, generations, and ethnic groups (Yale University, 2021). 

Misgendering: An act that most often affects people who identify within the transgender spectrum.  It is the act of using an incorrect pronoun or term for the person, thus invalidating their identity, and by extension, their humanity (Lakshmi, 2020).

Misogyny: An extreme form of sexism that is often defined as the hatred of women. A person with misogynistic beliefs may not be aware that they are demonstrating a hatred towards women, or even believe that they hate women, but their behavior and words expose prejudice, disdain of, or hostility toward women (Blackburn Center, 2019).

Nativism: The political idea that people who were born in a country are more important than immigrants, i.e., people who have come to live in the country from another part of the world (Cambridge University Press, 2021).

Outing: The act of sharing or disclosing someone else’s LGBTQ spectrum status (i.e., their sexual orientation or gender identity) without that person’s permission (teensource.org, n.d.).

Racial Colorblindness: The belief that we do not see people for their color or race, but instead we see people as all the same. Although this belief is widely held by well-intentioned people, racial colorblindness oppresses people of color. When an individual fails to see color, they fail to acknowledge the systems of injustice that non-white people experience (Perez-Isiah, 2018).

Racism:  Racism involves one group having the social power, relative to another racial group or groups, to carry out systemic discrimination through the institutional policies and practices of the society, and by shaping the cultural beliefs and values that support those racist policies and practices (dRworksBook, 2021).

Rape: The term is often used as a legal definition to specifically include sexual penetration without consent. For its Uniform Crime Reports, the FBI defines rape as penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the survivor.  It is important to note that definitions of rape may vary on federal, state, and local levels (RAINN, 2021).

Rape Culture: An environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence is tolerated, normalized, and excused. Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of individuals who are female-identifying, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards the rights and safety of women and girls, as well as other marginalized groups (Marshall University, 2021).

Religious Prejudice / Discrimination: When a person is viewed or treated aversely because of their religion or belief, or lack thereof. The treatment can be an action or a result of a rule or policy. Examples include anti-Semitism and Islamophobia (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2020).

Sexism: Any act, gesture, visual representation, spoken or written words, practice, or behavior based upon the idea that a person or a group of persons is inferior because of their sex, which occurs in the public or private sphere, whether online or offline. Sexism is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women, which leads to discrimination and prevents the full advancement of women in society (Global Citizen, 2019).

Sexual Assault: The term sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without consent of the survivor. Some forms of sexual assault include attempted rape, fondling or unwanted sexual touching, forcing a victim to perform sexual acts such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s or survivor’s body, also known as rape. It is important to note that definitions of sexual assault may vary on federal, state, and local levels (RAINN, 2021).

Sexual Force / Coercion: Force does not always refer to physical pressure. Perpetrators may use emotional coercion, psychological force, or manipulation to coerce a survivor into non-consensual sex. Some perpetrators will use threats to force the other person to comply, such as threatening to hurt the survivor or their family, or use of other intimidation tactics (RAINN, 2021).

Sexual Harassment: Includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature in the workplace or learning environment, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Sexual harassment does not always have to be specifically about sexual behavior or directed at a specific person. For example, negative comments about women as a group may be a form of sexual harassment.  It is important to note that definitions of sexual harassment may vary on federal, state, and local levels (RAINN, 2021).

Sizeism: Discrimination or prejudice based upon a person's physical size, including but not limited to height and/or weight. Fatphobia is a term sometimes used to refer to one example of sizeism (Definitions.net, n.d.).

Transphobia: Thoughts, feelings, or actions based on fear, dislike, judgment, discomfort or hatred of transgender individuals, those thought to be transgender, or those whose gender expression does not conform to traditional gender roles. Transphobia exists within the LGBTQ+ community as well.  For example, some who identify as lesbian and gay can be as transphobic as straight people (Blackburn Center, 2019).

White Supremacy: A term used to characterize various belief systems central to which are one or more of the following key tenets: 1) white people should have dominance over people of other backgrounds, especially where they may co-exist; 2) white people should live by themselves in a whites-only society; 3) white people have their own "culture" that is superior to other cultures; and 4) white people are genetically superior to other people (Anti-Defamation League, 2021).

Xenophobia: Xenophobia, or fear of strangers, is a broad term that may be applied to any fear of someone who is different from the individual. Xenophobia often overlaps with forms of prejudice including racism and homophobia, but there are important distinctions. Whereas racism, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination are based on specific characteristics, xenophobia is usually rooted in the perception that members of the outgroup are foreign to the ingroup community (Verywell Mind, 2021).

GENERAL TERMS:

Coming Out: When a person of the LGBTQ spectrum community declares and affirms both to oneself and others one’s identity, either sexual/romantic orientation or gender.  This may be a continuous, even daily, process for individuals within the LGBTQ spectrum community (Urban Dictionary, n.d.).

Drag Queen / King: A person of any gender who emphasizes the theatrical nature of femininity (queens) or masculinity (kings) through stylized performances. While some drag queens/kings are cisgender (non-trans) gay men and lesbians, drag has historically also been a space for trans people as well (Halberstam, 1988; Snider, 2021). 

Gender Inclusive Pronouns: A gender-neutral or gender-inclusive pronoun is a pronoun that does not associate a gender with the individual who is being discussed. People who are limited by languages that do not include gender-neutral pronouns have attempted to create them, in the interest of greater equality. They/Them/Their are the most common gender-inclusive pronouns in the English language. However, some individuals may prefer to refer to the self with other pronouns such as hir or ze (Colon, 2021; University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, n.d.).

Queer: An umbrella term that refers to all people who identify and/or express outside of majority culture gender and sexuality norms. The word is not always preferred by individuals who identify as part of the sexual minority community, as the term was used for many decades in the twentieth century as a slur (Iovannone, 2021).

Questioning: An individual who is unsure of and/or exploring their gender identity and/or sexual orientation (Vanderbilt University, 2021).

SEXUAL/ROMANTIC ORIENTATION:

Aromantic: A person who experiences little or no romantic attraction to others and/or has a lack of interest in romantic relationships/behavior (Vanderbilt University, 2021).

Asexual: A person who experiences little or no sexual attraction to others and/or a lack of interest in sexual relationships/behavior. They may or may not experience emotional, physical, or romantic attraction. Asexuality differs from celibacy in that it is a sexual orientation, not a choice. People who are asexual may call themselves ace (Vanderbilt University, 2021).

Bisexual: A person who experiences sexual, romantic, and physical attraction to more than one gender, not necessarily at the same time, in the same way, or to the same degree (Vanderbilt University, 2021).

Gay: Used in some cultural settings to represent men who are attracted to men in a romantic, erotic, and/or emotional sense. The term also may be used as an umbrella term to refer to individuals who do not identify as heterosexual (Vanderbilt University, 2021).

Lesbian: Usually refers to a woman who has a romantic and/or sexual orientation toward women (Vanderbilt University, 2021).

Pansexual / Pan: A term for people who experience attraction to members of more than one gender or regardless of gender (Iovannone, 2021).

Polyamory: Polyamory, or consensual non-monogamy, is the practice of having multiple intimate relationships, whether sexual or just romantic, with the full knowledge and consent of all parties involved. Polyamory is generally not gender-specific; an individual can have multiple partners of any gender (Psychology Today, 2021).

GENDER SPECTRUM:

Agender: A person with very little to no connection to gender, no personal alignment with the concepts of either man or woman, and/or someone who sees themselves as existing without gender (Vanderbilt University, 2021).

Androgyny / Gender Bending:  The individual expresses both, or neither, of the two culturally-defined genders, and/or presents merged culturally/stereotypically feminine and masculine characteristics, or mainly neutral characteristics. The individual may or may not express dual gender identity (Western Oregon University, n.d.).

Cisgender: A term that describes persons who primarily identify with the gender they were assigned at birth (in other words, persons who do not identify within the trans identity spectrum). From the Latin prefix "cis," meaning on the same side of (Iovannone, 2021).

Gender: Identities or social categories that are generally organized around some or all of the following facets: sex assigned at birth, legal sex, physical sex (anatomy), gender identity, and gender expression (Serano, n.d.; Snider, 2021).

Gender Dysphoria: Distress, which can range from mild to severe, caused by feelings that one’s gender identity does not align with how they are socially perceived (Iovannone, 2021).

Gender Expression: External presentation of one's gender identity, usually expressed through behavior, clothing, haircut or voice, and which may or may not conform to socially-defined behaviors and characteristics typically associated with being either masculine or feminine (Human Rights Campaign, n.d.).

Gender Fluid(ity): Refers to change over time in a person’s gender expression or gender identity, or both. That change might be in expression, but not identity, or in identity, but not expression. Additionally both expression and identity might change together (Katz-Wise, 2020).

Gender Identity: A person's internal or psychological understanding of their gender, whether it be male, female, a blend of both, or neither. One's gender identity is not determined by their sex assigned at birth (Human Rights Campaign, n.d.; Snider, 2021).

Gender Non-Conforming / Non-Binary: An umbrella term that refers to people or identities that fall outside of the gender binary, i.e., male/female; man/woman (Serano, n.d.).

Genderqueer: An identity label used by many people who view their gender as falling outside of the male/female or man/woman binaries. It is sometimes used as an umbrella term for non-binary-identifying people (Serano, n.d.).

Gender Transition: The process by which some people strive to more closely align their internal experience of gender and identity with their gender expression, which can, but does not always, involve medical intervention or surgery (Iovannone & Snider, 2021). 

Intersex: An umbrella term that describes people who are born with sex characteristics, such as chromosomes, gonads, or genitalia, which are not typically male or female, or are a blend (Viloria, 2017).

Polygender: A gender identity which can be literally translated as “many genders.” Polygender people experience multiple gender identities, either simultaneously or varying between them. These can be male, female and/or any non-binary identities. Polygender people may also identify as multigender, non-binary and/or transgender. If a polygender person feels that their identity changes over time or depending on circumstance, they may also identify as genderfluid, which describes any person whose gender identity varies over time (Wikia.org, 2021).

QTPOC:  An acronym that stands for “queer and transgender (trans) people of color.” Sometimes the abbreviation will be written as “QPOC” if only referring to “queer people of color.”  People of color is a term sometimes used to refer to people of racial minority status, i.e., non-White in the United States.  QTPOC is a term that is usually used when discussing issues that specifically, and disproportionately, affect queer and transgender communities of color (HER Team, 2020).

Sex Assigned at Birth: Refers to the label a medical professional gives to a baby when it is born. A medical professional may say a baby is male, female, or intersex, depending on what the medical professional observes about the baby’s sex organs/genitalia (Amaze, n.d.).

Transgender: Umbrella term for people whose sense of personal or gender identity defies majority culture social norms. It is also commonly used by individuals whose gender does not correspond to the sex they were assigned at birth. Sexual orientation varies and is not dependent on gender identity (Serano, n.d.).

Two-Spirited: “Two-Spirit” refers to a person who identifies as having both a masculine and a feminine spirit, and is used by some Indigenous people to describe their sexual, gender and/or spiritual identity. As an umbrella term, it may encompass same-sex attraction and a wide variety of gender variance, including people who might be described in Western culture as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, transgender, genderqueer, or those who have multiple gender identities. Two-spirit can also include relationships that could be considered polyamorous (University of Toronto, 2021).

Accessibility: When a person with a disability is afforded the opportunity to acquire the same information, engage in the same interactions, and enjoy the same services as a person without a disability in an equally integrated and equally effective manner, with substantially equivalent ease of use (American Consortium for Equity in Education, n.d.).

American Sign Language (ASL / Signing): A complete, typical language that has the same linguistic properties as spoken languages, with grammatical differences from English. ASL is expressed by movements of the hands and face. It is the primary language of many North Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing and is used by many hearing people as well to communicate with people of the deaf community (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 2019).

Autism Spectrum Disorder / ASD: A complex developmental condition that involves persistent challenges in social interaction, speech and nonverbal communication, and restricted/repetitive behaviors. The effects of ASD and the severity of symptoms are different in each person, leading some people to refer to autism as a spectrum (American Psychiatric Association, 2018).

Blindness: The inability to see due to injury, disease or genetic condition. There are varying degrees of blindness, as an individual can be legally blind and still have some ability to see, or may be totally blind, i.e., have a complete loss of vision (Industries for the Blind and Visually Impaired, n.d.).

Deaf: The lowercase deaf is used to refer to the audiological condition of not hearing. The uppercase Deaf is used to refer to a particular group of deaf people who share both a language, such as American Sign Language (ASL), and a culture (National Association of the Deaf, n.d.).

Disability: Having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more everyday life activity. This may include people who have a record of such an impairment, even if they do not currently have a disability. It also includes individuals who do not view themselves as having a disability but are regarded by others as having a disability (ADA National Network, 2021).

Functional Needs: Refers to the needs of individuals who have physical, sensory, mental health, cognitive, and/or intellectual disabilities affecting their ability to function independently.  An individual with functional needs may also be referred to as an individual with a disability. The term may also be used to refer to the needs of individuals with short-term physical challenges such as pregnant women (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2020).

Hard of Hearing (HoH): Describes someone with a mild-to-moderate loss of hearing. It can also refer to a deaf person who doesn’t have/want any cultural affiliation with the Deaf community (National Association of the Deaf, n.d.).

Hearing Loss: Describes situations in which the individual has any degree of hearing loss ranging from mild to profound, encompassing both people who are deaf and people who are hard of hearing (Hearing Loss Association of America, n.d.).

Intellectual Disability: A disability characterized by having significant difficulties in intellectual functioning, which involves actions such as communicating, learning, and problem solving, as well as adaptive behavior, which involves actions such as everyday social skills, routines, and hygiene (American Academy of Pediatrics, 2015).

Learning Disability: A disability characterized by having differences in brain functioning which negatively affects cognitive processes like learning. These neurological differences can interfere with learning basic skills such as reading, writing or math.  They can also interfere with higher level skills such as organization, time planning, abstract reasoning, long or short term memory and attention (Learning Disabilities Association of America, n.d.).

Limited Vision: Challenges in the ability to see to the degree that it causes problems not fixable by usual means, such as glasses. There are varying degrees of limited vision, which may be referred to as having low vision or being partially sighted (Industries for the Blind and Visually Impaired, n.d.).

Mental Illness: Common health conditions involving changes in emotion, thinking or behavior (or a combination of these). Mental illnesses are associated with distress and/or problems functioning in social, work or family activities (American Psychiatric Association, 2018).

Neurodivergent / Neurodiversity: Used to describe individuals who live with autism, are on the autism spectrum, or who have other developmental differences, such as individuals with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or learning disabilities (Healthline, 2017).

Neurotypical: Used to describe individuals of typical developmental, intellectual, and cognitive abilities (Healthline, 2017).

Physical Disability: A disability characterized by a physical condition that affects a person’s mobility, physical capacity, stamina, or dexterity (Achieve Australia, n.d.).

African: People who are directly from the African continent, but also referring to the customs and languages of Africa (Joseph, 2021; Pacific University Oregon, n.d.).

African American:  Relating to the ethnic group of Americans tracing their ancestry back to the African continent or tracing their ancestry back to black enslaved Africans (Joseph, 2021; Pacific University Oregon, n.d.).

African American Vernacular English (AAVE): A dialect of American English spoken by a large proportion of the Black and African American community. Also known as Ebonics (Joseph, 2021).

African Caribbean: Also referred to as Afro-Caribbean.  The ethnic group of Caribbeans who trace their full or partial ancestry back to the African continent (Joseph, 2021).

Anti-Racism: The active process of identifying and eliminating racism by changing systems, organizational structures, policies and practices and attitudes, so that power is redistributed and shared equitably (Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre, 2021).

Asian: The continent of Asia, people directly from Asia, or the customs and languages of Asia. A person who views themself as Asian typically is either native to or inhabits Asia, or has Asian ancestry (Lindberg, 2021).

Asian American:  Relates to the ethnic group of Americans tracing their ancestry back to any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam (Kambhampaty, 2020).

BIPOC: BIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous, and people of color. Pronounced “bye-pock.” The term “BIPOC” is more descriptive than people of color or POC. It acknowledges that people of color face varying types of discrimination and prejudice. Additionally, it emphasizes that systemic racism continues to oppress, invalidate, and deeply affect the lives of Black and Indigenous people. BIPOC aims to bring to center stage the specific violence, cultural erasure, and discrimination experienced by Black and Indigenous people (YWCA, 2019).

Black: Any various populations that have a dark pigmentation of skin who identify as Black, including those in the African Diaspora and within Africa. Should be capitalized (Pacific University Oregon, n.d.).

Black Lives Matter: #BlackLivesMatter was founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation, Inc. is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. Goals include combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy (Racial Equity Tools, 2020).

Caucasian: Often used interchangeably with “White” - a term created in the 18th century when a German anatomist deemed the people of Caucasus to be created perfectly in God’s image. The term Caucasian began to be used as one of five racial classifications, which was given to light-skinned people as a way to justify them as the superior race.  This term may also be used to refer to people of East Asian origin (Moses, 2017).

Defunding the Police: “Defund the police” means reallocating or redirecting funding away from the police department and towards other government agencies funded by the local municipality.  Due to policy brutality toward people of color and other marginalized communities, this idea has received increasing attention (Racial Equity Tools, 2020).

Ethnicity: A social construct that divides people into smaller social groups based on shared cultural heritage. This includes characteristics such as shared sense of group membership, values, behavioral patterns, language, political and economic interests, history, and ancestral geographical base (Racial Equity Tools, 2020).

European: Refers to the continent of Europe, people directly from Europe, or the customs and languages of Europe. A person who is European is either native to or inhabits Europe (Lindberg, 2021).

Hispanic, Latin(a/o), & Latinx:  Terms which may be at times used interchangeably, referring to individuals who trace their origin to Latin American countries and are also Spanish-speaking.  The term Hispanic is related to language use, whereas the term Latino/a/x refers to being of Latin-American origin.  It is important to note that generally the U.S. tends to confuse these two terms.  The use of “x” at the end of Latin is intended to remove a specific gender identity connotation from the use of the adjective.  Notably, individuals may also self-identify as a member of a specific ethnic group such as Mexican-American or Honduran-American (Colon, 2021; Lopez et al., 2020).

Indigenous / Native: Indigenous, or Native individuals are people who are historically linked to territories and natural resources in pre-colonial times. These individuals both self-identify as and are accepted by the community as a member of a Native group. These groups are characterized by distinct social, economic, or political systems, have their own cultures and beliefs, and may speak distinct languages. Notably, the terms Indigenous and Native are used interchangeably here, as individuals from these groups may be more comfortable with one term or the other. This list of preferred terms for the self or group is not exhaustive (United Nations, n.d.).

Multiethnic: Of or having to do with society, community, or individuals who identify with multiple ethnic backgrounds (Collins Dictionary, n.d.).

Multiracial: Refers to the concept of consisting of or involving people of many different races. This can also refer to an individual identity, i.e., having a mixed racial identity (Collins Dictionary, n.d.).

Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander:  Sometimes referred to as NHOPI, this term relates to persons having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands (National Endowment for the Humanities, n.d.)

People of Global Majority (PGM):  Also referred to sometimes as the emerging majority.  The phrasing is at times used interchangeably with "black, indigenous, and people of color" (BIPOC), since black, indigenous, and other people of color represent over 80% of the world’s population. The specific phrasing of “People of Global Majority” points out the demographic inaccuracy of the term "minority."  People of Global Majority are still considered part of minority populations because of the relative lack of privilege and power they have (People of the Global Majority in the Outdoors, Nature, and Environment, 2020).

Race: A social construct subject to change created to divide groups of people, with related concepts of superiority and inferiority. These groups are created based on genetic characteristics, such as skin color, hair, facial features, etc. It is important to both consider that individuals self-identify in terms of race, and are also defined by others as members of particular racial groups, which can lead to stereotyping and other forms of oppression (Missouri State University, n.d.; Racial Equity Tools, 2020).

Second Language / Bilingual: A bilingual person is someone who speaks two languages. A person who speaks more than two languages is called “multilingual,” although the term “bilingualism” can be used for both situations.  Multilingualism is not unusual; in fact, it is the norm for most of the world's societies. It is possible for a person to know and use three, four, or even more languages fluently (Linguistic Society of America, 2021). 

White: Any various populations that have a light pigmentation of skin, predominantly those of European descent (Lindberg, 2021). 

Whiteness: Whiteness and white racialized identity refer to the way that white people, their customs, culture, and beliefs operate as the standard to which all other groups are compared. Whiteness is also at the core of understanding race in America. Whiteness and the normalization of white racial identity throughout America's history have created a culture where nonwhite persons are seen as inferior or abnormal (Lindner, 2018).

White Privilege: Refers to the unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits, and choices bestowed on people solely because they are white. Generally, White people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it (Racial Equity Tools, 2020).

Atheism: The proposition that God does not exist or that there are no gods (Stanford University, 2017).

Agnosticism: The proposition that there is a God, combined with the belief that this can not be shown to be either true or false (Stanford University, 2017).

Buddhism: One of the major world religions, founded by Siddhartha Gautama (“the Buddha”) more than 2,500 years ago in India. Buddhism does not have a supreme god or deity, instead focusing on achieving enlightenment or nirvana, a state of inner peace and wisdom. Other beliefs include karma (the law of cause and effect) and reincarnation, which is the continuous cycle of rebirth (History, 2020).

Christianity: Being the most widely practiced religion in the world, the Christian faith centers on beliefs regarding the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus is believed to be God’s son and the messiah who was sent to save the world. Christians believe in one God who consists of three parts: the father (God himself), the son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit. The symbol of Christianity is the cross, and their sacred text is called the Holy Bible (History, 2020).

Confucianism: An ancient Chinese belief system which focuses on the importance of personal ethics and morality. Confucius was a philosopher and teacher who believed in ancestor worship and human-centered virtues for living a peaceful life.  There are no gods in Confucianism, and there are many books which serve as an ethical guide to life and living with strong character (National Geographic, 2020).

Hinduism: A religion which originated in Central Asia and the Indus Valley; it is also known as the "eternal order" or "eternal path." It is understood that the scriptures from the Vedas have always existed, and so has Brahman, the Supreme Over Soul from whom all of creation emerges. Brahman is the First Cause which sets all else in motion but is also that which is in motion, that which guides the course of creation, and creation itself (World History Encyclopedia, 2020).

Islam: The second largest religion in the world, Islam is a monotheistic faith which worships Allah, who allows all things to happen through him. Muslims believe that Allah’s word was revealed to the prophet Muhammad, and their major holy text is the Quran, or Koran. Muslims often follow the Five Pillars of Islam (History, 2019).

Judaism: The world’s oldest known monotheistic religion in which followers believe in one God who has established a special agreement with his people. Jewish people believe God communicates through prophets and rewards good deeds while also punishing evil. The symbol of Judaism is the Star of David, and their sacred text is called the Tanakh or the “Hebrew Bible” (History, 2021).

Monotheistic: The belief in a single all-powerful god, as opposed to the belief that there are multiple gods (Vocabulary.com, n.d.).

Polytheistic: The belief in multiple gods, as opposed to the belief that there is only one god (Lindberg, 2021).

Religion / Belief: A concept which is highly debated with regard to its definition, religion generally refers to a set of beliefs and customs which are practiced in regard to spirituality. Not all belief systems are recognized or considered to be a religion, and instead they may be recognized as a simple belief (Lindberg, 2021; Portland State University, n.d.).

Sikhism: A monotheistic religion originating in part of South Asia in which it is believed that one’s actions are important and that one should lead a good life. Sikhism is based on the teachings of the founder of the religion, Guru Nanak, and other teachers known as Sikh Gurus who followed after him. The Sikh Khalsa, or “Community of the Pure”, must follow the Five Ks and their holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib. The Sikh symbol is the Khanda (British Broadcasting Corporation, n.d.).

Spirituality: A broad concept which generally refers to a sense of connection to something bigger than oneself, and it typically involves a search for meaning in life. Spirituality is a universal human experience which may be described as sacred, transcendent, or simply a deep sense of aliveness and interconnectedness (University of Minnesota, n.d.).

Unitarian Universalism: A spiritual faith, sometimes referred to as Unitarian, which welcomes people of many different beliefs and backgrounds, embracing the unique experiences of each person and emphasizing the importance of making positive differences in the world towards love, justice, and peace. Unitarian Universalism promotes seven guiding Principles and is based on six philosophical sources, all of which come from different teachings which are considered to be wise and spiritual (Unitarian Universalist Association, n.d.).

Low Income: Refers to those who earn less than or around the poverty level, so that they have less disposable income than others and may struggle to meet their needs. People with low income often have low job security and may also have low education levels. Some people with low income may qualify for government assistance programs (Farlex Financial Dictionary, 2012).

Professional Class / Upper Middle-Class: Refers to those whose income is greater than the majority of individuals. People from the professional-middle class often have professional careers, for which they may have earned some degree in higher education (Lindberg, 2021).

Poverty: Refers to a state of lacking enough resources to provide the necessities of life, such as food, clean water, shelter, clothing, access to health care, education, and transportation. The federal government defines poverty as having income below a specified level, with consideration of family size (World Vision, 2021).

Socioeconomic Status: The social standing or class of an individual or group, which often includes variables such as education, income, and occupation. The lower the socioeconomic status, the more likely there have been or will be both inequities in access to resources and issues related to privilege, power, and control (American Psychological Association, n.d.).

Social Class: Hierarchical divisions in society based on socioeconomic status. People in the same social class typically share a similar level of wealth, educational achievement, job type, and income (ReviseSociology, 2016).

Social Mobility: A shift in an individual’s social status from one standing to another, which can be higher, lower, intergenerational (the change of the position of a person or a household as compared with previous generations), or intragenerational, i.e., the change of the position of one person or a household over time (Corporate Finance Institute, n.d.).

Working Class: Refers the social class in which people, when they go to work, have comparatively little power or authority. They are the people who do their jobs typically under close supervision and who have little control over the pace or the content of their work (Demos, 2018).

The cultural information index was created (i.e., curated and written) initially by Tim Snider (class of 2021), Samara Lindberg (class of 2021), and Dr. Andrea Zevenbergen (Psychology department) in the Spring 2021 semester. Collaborators on the index content and design have included:  Anthony Alterio, Allison Angell, Andrea Colon, Julie Crowell, Jacob Czelusta, Melena DeBoe, Dr. Jennifer Hildebrand, Allyson Hineman, Khristian King, Dr. Jeff Iovannone, Ithamare Joseph, Dr. Saundra Liggins, Dr. Dani McMay, Abby Nunn, Angela Pucciarelli Rice, Jennifer Ruhland, Dr. Susan Spangler, Dale Stevenson, David White, Simon Williams, Xi Yek (Zach), and Matthew Zevenbergen.

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