WEC Staff put together this glossary of Racial and Social Justice terms that we use in our day-to-day work. This glossary accompanies our Racial Equity Action Plan to provide clarity to similar and commonly used terms. It is not intended to be a comprehensive list, but a grounding place to start.
Someone who makes the commitment and effort to recognize their privilege (based on gender, class, race, sexual identity, etc.) and work in solidarity with oppressed groups to elevate their voices above their own in the struggle for justice.
Environmental justice is the fair and equitable involvement of – and outcomes for – all people in environmental policies, practices, attitudes, and actions. Due in large part to the environmental movement being historically white-led, there have been unequal benefits of environmental protection with most benefits felt by white communities. This has led to a present-day landscape of environmental injustice where communities of color, indigenous communities, and low-income communities bear the most burden of pollution and environmental degradation. Communities of color and tribal nations often lead environmental justice work, while historically white-led organizations have an important role to play.
Refers to any environmental policy, practice, or directive that differently affects or disadvantages (whether intended or unintended) individuals, groups, or communities based on race or color. Environmental racism is one form of environmental injustice and is reinforced by government, legal, economic, political, and military institutions. For example, government funding for cleanup of toxic waste sites is frequently directed toward wealthier, white communities while these sites are disproportionately located in communities of color and low-income communities.
Equity vs. Equality
Equity: Working to understand and give people what they need to enjoy full, healthy lives.
Equality: Ensuring that everyone gets the same things in order to enjoy full, healthy lives. Like equity, equality aims to promote fairness and justice, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same things. Once everyone enjoys a similar level of health and well-being, we can focus on preserving fairness by giving everyone the same things: this is equality. As the Pan-American Health Organization puts it, “equity is the means, equality is the outcome.”
Refers to the interconnected and overlapping nature of different systems of oppression such as race, class, nationality, gender, etc.
The inequitable distribution of social, political, and economic power and the subsequent creation of inequitable systems and living conditions.
A level at which someone lacks income, resilience, and access to resources and services.
The work to uproot historically racist systems and replace them with fair, just, and equitable policies and practices.
Providing everyone what they need to be successful by taking race and the impacts of racism into account. This is distinct from racial equality, which is treating everyone the same.
Discrimination or prejudice pointed at an individual or group of individuals from a position of systemic power, based on the assumption that their race is inferior, or the belief that all individuals of a race maintain a specific characteristic or carry out specific actions.
The union arising from common responsibilities and interests. Standing in solidarity means embracing the common responsibility and leveraging our privilege to reform the inherent racism worldwide.
The unquestioned and 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.
White Supremacy shapes everything about life in the United States of America and is the system within which we operate as an organization. It structurally, culturally, and morally positions white people (Europeans and European descendants) as the epitome of human achievement, centering them as normal, worthy, safe, intelligent, and good, and all others as deviant. The system determines who has access to resources, power, and safety. White supremacy successfully endures through ongoing investment in racist and colonialist systems, institutions, and laws, and through the ignorance, inaction, silence, and complicity of white people and their reluctance to break with white solidarity.
The culture upholding white supremacy, characterized by white comfort, white superiority, and the invisibility of white privilege to white people.