BFW Dictionary: Shared Terms for an Equitable and Anti-Racist Framework

terms for an equitable and anti-racist framework


Adjective. Fair and impartial.


Adjective. Opposing racism and promoting racial tolerance.

— Oxford Dictionaries online

The following terms and definitions are intended to serve as building blocks towards an equitable and anti-racist framework. The majority of this text was provided to Birthing From Within by Aimée Brill of Village Birth International. If you are struggling with these ideas, check out our resources list for further education and support.

Accomplice. A person who stands in solidarity with the aim to dismantle and abolish colonial systems while simultaneously recognizing their own privilege and position within a shared struggle toward liberation for all human beings.

Ally. A member of a privileged/oppressor group who works to end a form of oppression that gives them privileges.

Allyship. The lived practice of being an ally. This is not an identity or a status, but rather a lifelong commitment. It cannot be self-appointed and is dependent on a relational framework of organizing and trust building.

Anti-oppression. Strategies, theories, actions and practices that actively challenge systems of oppression on an ongoing basis in one’s daily life and in social justice/change work. Anti-oppression work seeks to recognize the oppression that exists in our society and attempts to mitigate its effects and eventually equalize the power imbalance in our communities. Oppression operates at different levels (from individual to institutional to cultural) and so anti-oppression must as well. (Simmons University)

BIPOC. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

Cisgender/cis. Term describing someone who exclusively identifies as their sex assigned at birth.

Classism. The cultural, institutional and individual set of practices and beliefs that assign value to people according to their socio-economic status.

Culturally relevant. Communication/teaching methods, texts, and materials are said to be culturally relevant if they take into account and/or emerge from the history, lived experiences, needs, and goals of their target audience(s).

Diversity. The inclusion of different types of people (such as people of different races or cultures) in a group or organization (Merriam-Webster)

Equity. The absence of avoidable or remediable differences among groups of people, whether those groups are defined socially, economically, demographically, or geographically. Health inequities therefore involve more than inequality with respect to health determinants, access to the resources needed to improve and maintain health or health outcomes. They also entail a failure to avoid or overcome inequalities that infringe on fairness and human rights norms. (©World Health Organization)

Implicit bias. Also known as implicit social cognition, implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.  These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control.  Residing deep in the subconscious, these biases are different from known biases that individuals may choose to conceal for the purposes of social and/or political correctness.  Rather, implicit biases are not accessible through introspection. (Ohio State University, Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity)

Intersex. A term used for people who are born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy and/or chromosome pattern that does not seem to fit typical definitions of male or female. Intersex conditions are also known as differences of sex development (DSD). (Trans Student Education Resources)

Institutional racism. Also known as systemic racism. A form of racism expressed in the practice of social and political institutions. It is reflected in disparities regarding wealth, income, criminal justice, employment, housing, health care, political power and education, among other factors. (Wikipedia)

Neo-colonialism. The foreign economic exploitation or coercive political domination of states by other states or world powers. As with formal colonialism, the core of neo-colonialism is infringement upon others’ sovereignty and self-determination. Further, neo- colonialism, like formal colonialism, involves the oppression of people, the exploitation of their labor and resources, and the acquisition of wealth and power by the colonizer (by rendering the colonized impoverished, powerless and dependent upon the colonizing forces). Additionally, justification for intervention and domination stem from a belief that the colonizers are superior to the colonized, and that the colonizers are altruistically bringing civilization — or, in the neo-colonial model, capitalism and democracy — to the colonized.

Non-binary. Preferred umbrella term for all genders other than female/male or woman/man, used as an adjective (e.g. Jesse is a non-binary person). Not all non-binary people identify as trans and not all trans people identify as non-binary. Sometimes (and increasingly), non-binary can be used to describe the aesthetics/presentation/expression of a cisgender or transgender person.

Non-Profit Industrial Complex (NPIC). A system of relationships between, the State (or local and federal governments), the owning classes, foundations, and non-profit/NGO social service organizations that results in the surveillance, control, derailment, and everyday management of political, grassroots, and social justice movements.

Oppression.An unjust system that maintains power and control, intentionally and unintentionally, on an individual, institutional, and cultural level.

Power. The ability to decide who has access to resources; the capacity to direct or influence the behavior of others, oneself, and/or the course of events.

Privilege. A set of unearned benefits given to people who fit into a categorized social group. While privilege can be individualized, it is important to recognize that privilege also operates both institutionally and systemically. Privilege and oppression can be experienced simultaneously but they do not negate each other.

Race. A construct created to keep human beings divided. Race is a false classification of people that is not based on any real or accurate biological or scientific truth. Race is a political construction. A political construction is something created by people; that is not a natural development; it is constructed or created for a political purpose.

Reproductive justice. A paradigm shift beyond demanding gender equality or attaching abortion rights to a broader reproductive health agenda. All of these concepts are, in fact, encompassed by the Reproductive Justice framework. RJ is an expansion of the theory of intersectionality developed by women of color and the practice of self-help from the Black women’s health movement to the reproductive rights movement, based on the application of the human rights framework to the United States. Reproductive justice is in essence an intersectional theory emerging from the experiences of women of color whose multiple communities experience a complex set of reproductive oppressions. It is based on the understanding that the impacts of race, class, gender and sexual identity oppressions are not additive but integrative, producing this paradigm of intersectionality. For each individual and each community, the effects will be different, but they share some of the basic characteristics of intersectionality – universality, simultaneity and interdependence. (Loretta Ross, SisterSong)

Tokenizing/Tokenism. The practice of making only a perfunctory or symbolic effort to be inclusive to members of minority groups, especially by recruiting a small number of people from underrepresented groups in order to give the appearance of racial or sexual equality within a workforce. The effort of including a token employee to a workforce is usually intended to create the impression of social inclusiveness and diversity (racial, religious, sexual, etc.) in order to deflect accusations of discrimination. (Wikipedia)

Transgender/Trans. A term encompassing any gender identities of those who do not identify or exclusively identify with their sex assigned at birth. The term transgender is not indicative of gender expression, sexual orientation, hormonal makeup, physical anatomy, or how one is perceived in daily life.

Whiteness. A social construct with its origins teaching back to the early 19th century. The purpose was to keep power among the European elite and wealthy European immigrants in the Americas. The aim was to dominate class and power by making sure enslaved African and indigenous Native Americans would not organize against and overturn the wealthy class. “Whiteness,” like “color” and “Blackness,” are social constructs applied to human beings rather than objective truths that have universal validity. The power of Whiteness, however, is manifested by the ways in which racialized Whiteness becomes transformed into social, political, economic, and cultural behavior. White culture, norms, and values in all these areas become normative natural. They become the standard against which all other cultures, groups, and individuals are measured and usually found to be inferior. (Alberta Civil Liberties Research Center

White fragility. A state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium. Racial stress results from an interruption to what is racially familiar. (Robin DiAngelo)

White supremacy. A historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of the exploitation and oppression of continents, nations, peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent, for the purpose of maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power, and privilege. (Elizabeth Martinez)

Anti-racism. Beliefs, actions, movements, and policies adopted or developed to oppose racism. (Wikipedia)

White savior. A white person who acts to help non-white people for self-serving reasons, in order to boost their self-esteem, image, brand, profits, etc.

About the Birthing from Within Team

Birthing From Within is blessed to have a team of bloggers that includes childbirth educators, doulas, and birth story listeners who, in addition to being deep thinkers and skilled writers, are dedicated to the amplification of the BFW mission and philosophy. Birthing From Within is a collective creation, always evolving to reflect the new layers of understanding and unique approaches to the childbirth experience. Our goal is to change the conversation about birth in our culture, and to uphold the possibility of growth and transformation for birth professionals and birthing people.

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