A to Z

A-Z of Anti-Racism

This page provides explanations of key terms and concepts related to anti-racism. It is based on a document developed by the Welsh Government and co-produced and agreed by authors of the Anti-Racist Wales Action Plan, The Minority Ethnic Staff Network (MESN) and Welsh Government HR colleagues.

Key terms and concepts

Actively identifying and eradicating the systems, structures and processes that produce radically differential outcomes for ethnic minority groups.  It involves acknowledging that even when we do not regard ourselves as ‘racist’ we can, by doing nothing, be complicit in allowing racism to continue. In the workplace this can include challenging publicly or privately racist comments, ensuring Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic People are included as speakers, ensuring Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic organisations apply for grants. An ant-racist approach also puts emphasis on White people educating themselves about racism rather than expecting Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people to do this for them.

Welsh Government has adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism which is “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”  Jewish identity is defined as a protected characteristic on the basis of ethnic (as well as religious) identity under the Equality Act 2010

What is antisemitism? | IHRA (holocaustremembrance.com)

Includes people whose heritage is from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, China, Japan and other Asian countries.

Refers to a minority community taking on all aspects of the culture of the majority community. It’s often used when talking about immigration and can refer to a loss of language, customs and religion of the “minority” groups and so suggesting that it is less important and valuable.

People of African descent. However some Asian people identify as Black; a political stance that signals that they will not be separated on the basis of different colour tones and stand together to fight racism.

BAME or BME: ‘Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic.’ Widely contested terms to describe and categorise mostly non-White groups by government and other official institutions. Initially BME was the more popular term but because this ignored people of Asian heritage, BAME became more widely used. After discussions with WG staff and with stakeholders during the development of ‘An Anti-racist Wales- A plan for Wales’, Welsh Government no longer uses the acronym ‘BAME’ in its communications and content. Instead, the full phrase ‘Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic’ is required. For any subsequent references within the same communication ‘ethnic minority’ or ‘ethnic minority people’ is then used.

Abbreviation of Black Lives Matter. The UK Black Lives Matter movement defines “we stand together as a social civil rights movement in solidarity in the UK and across the globe to change the world. We kneel together for peace and unities asserting Black lives matter, and that Black people are treated as humanely and as fairly as White people”. Some people argue that using the term and hashtag Black lives matter demonstrates support for the US organisation of the same name which has been said to have links with Marxism but the UK organisation is clear that it has no links with the US organisation.

Using different dialects, accents, language combinations, and mannerisms within different social groups in order to project a particular identity.

Prejudice or discrimination against someone because of the darkness of their skin tone.

Refers to racial and ethnic groups who are in a minority in the population. This term may be a noun phrase (eg “She belongs to an ethnic minority”) or an adjectival phrase (eg “He belongs to an ethnic minority community”). In the UK this includes Gypsies and Travellers who are White.  This term differs from minority ethnic which signals that the groups that may be considered to be minorities in the UK are actually majorities at a global level. “Minority ethnic” can only be an adjectival phrase (eg “He belongs to a minority ethnic community”). Note that in Welsh, it is recommended that the adjectival phrases “minority ethnic” and “ethnic minority” are translated in the same way (“ethnig lleiafrifol”; eg “Mae’n perthyn i gymuned ethnig leiafrifol”), which emphasises ethnicity rather than minority status. The noun phrase “ethnic minority” has a different translation (“lleiafrif ethnig”).

Refers to long shared cultural experiences, religious practices, traditions, ancestry, language, dialect or national origins (for example, African-Caribbean, Indian, Irish and Traveller).

Refers to ensuring that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people have equal opportunities and equal outcomes and the culture of a community is one which draws on diverse traditions.

Refers to the fact that people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic groups also have other protected and personal characteristics (e.g. gender, sexual orientation, migration status, religion/faith, disability) which influence their experience, needs and outcomes. The concept was introduced by Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw to articulate the ways in which multiple, disadvantaged identities, namely race and gender, simultaneously converge, and negatively impact upon lived experiences.

This values the experience of people above those who have a theoretical knowledge of an experience. For example when developing policy (e.g. a scheme to encourage more ethnic minority people to take up cycling as a form of exercise) we need to test it with a variety of ethnic minority people who will have lived experience of the barriers and issues which have prevented many ethnic minority people (from cycling). It’s important to engage with a number of people with lived experience as we shouldn’t expect one person to represent people of different genders, ethnicities and ages (for example).

Refers to small, apparently innocuous ways in which Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people can be treated differently e.g. incorrectly pronouncing a name, not including ethnic minority people in conversation, asking someone where they are ‘really’ from. Being on the receiving end of micro-aggressions has a cumulative effect over time which can impact on an ethnic minority person’s mental health.

See the earlier definition for ‘ethnic minority’. Some people prefer the term ‘minority ethnic’ because it recognises that everyone has an ethnicity and that in terms of the population of the world they are in the majority. “Minority ethnic” can only be an adjectival phrase (eg “He belongs to a minority ethnic community”). Note that in Welsh, it is recommended that the adjectival phrases “minority ethnic” and “ethnic minority” are both translated in the same way (“ethnig lleiafrifol”), which emphasises ethnicity rather than minority status.

Recognises that groups have been minoritised through social processes of power rather than just existing in distinct numerical minorities. It also reflects the fact that ethnic groups which are in the minority in the UK are in the majority in the global population.

Can refer to encouraging different cultures to keep their own values and cultures on the one hand and denying the experience of racism on the other. This can have positive outcomes of tolerance and diversity and negatives outcomes of racism, separation, segregation and intolerance. Alternatively it can mean promoting a culture in which different communities share and borrow from each other to transfer both resulting in positive, vibrant communities. Historically simply celebrating different cultures and traditions – sharing food, cultures and arts for example, has not improved the lives of ethnic minority people.

A term popular in the USA and increasing in popularity in the UK. Some see it as a more positive phrase than using BAME or BME but others see it as generalising people in the same way that BAME and BME do.

A pre-conceived opinion/view about someone which can affect how an individual treats someone who is from a different ethnic background.

Anyone who is able to influence others, either formally or informally. A definition of racism first published in 1970 and used by recent anti-racism authors is that ‘racism= prejudice plus power’

Refers to a way of categorising people on their appearance. It is a social construct based on White supremacy and efforts to prove biological supremacy. In the Equality Act 2010, the protected characteristic of ‘race’ is defined as including colour, ethnic or national origin, or nationality.

Refers to equal opportunities and equal outcomes for people, regardless of their race. This approach also has not historically benefitted ethnic minority people as it has been seen to focus on opportunity more than outcomes and is not active in the way anti-racism is.

This can mean treating someone differently because of the colour of their skin or because their ethnicity is different to yours. There can be racism against white people. For example Gypsies, Roma, Travellers and Jews can be white and can also suffer racism It is also worth noting that racism continues to have overt as well as covert manifestations, and can be violent. “An Anti-racist Wales, a plan for Wales” highlights that while we must continue to stand against overt and violent forms of racism, we must also be aware of subtle everyday behaviours which are pernicious in their impact.”

Has to do with the specific histories of domination and subordination of groups in any given society. Different societies have different histories of conquest and domination, and so patterns of racialisation are distinct, if overlapping. In the US, the specific history of people of African descent means that to this day African Americans experience a distinct form of racialisation from Native Americans, from Roma in Europe and from Asians in Britain, for example. These histories impact on the position of groups in societies today because they continue to be reflected in the structures and institutions of those societies, in their laws and legacies, and in the language and cultural attitudes which persist.

Refers to the way institutions discriminate against certain groups, whether intentionally or not, and to their failure to have in place policies that prevent discrimination or discriminatory behaviour. It can be found in processes, attitudes and behaviours which lead to discrimination through unintentional prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness, unconscious bias and racist stereotyping which disadvantages ethnic minority people.  It can also refer to the failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin. The McPherson report of 1999 defines institutional racism as “the collective failure of an organization to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their colour, culture, or ethnic origin”.

Sometimes called societal racism, refers to the fact that society is structured in a way that excludes Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic people from having equal life outcomes in for example health, education, death rates, infant mortality rates, rates of being in prison, arrest rates, employment rates etc.

A phrase coined by Dr Robin DiAngelo in 2011 which refers to the range of emotional responses White people can feel when taking part in conversations about race. These can range from discomfort, guilt, anger and defensiveness. It can be demonstrated by getting emotionally upset by conversations about race or by thinking that only ‘bad’ people are racist and that White people with progressive views couldn’t possibly be racist. If a White person reacts in any of the ways listed it can have the effect of shutting down the conversation on race and effectively this means the status quo continues. Avoiding the topic of racism means the racism continues.

Inherent advantages possessed by a White person which means that during their day to day life, they do not have to consider their race. Having White privilege only refers to race – it does not mean that  you are privileged in other aspects of your background, for example you could be disabled or be experiencing poverty and still have white privilege.  In other words white privilege  is an advantage that protects white people against any form of discrimination related to their ethnicity and race.

The tendency by White people to feel that they, and only they have the knowledge and experience to   ‘fix’ the problems facing ethnic minority people without enabling and respecting ethnic minority people to be in control of their own destinies. It puts the White person in the role of ‘hero’ or ‘rescuer’ and the ethnic minority person as powerless.

Zero-tolerance of discrimination. Refers to an organisational approach which makes it clear that all allegations of discrimination and bullying will be taken seriously and investigated. The organisation will have processes in place to ensure its policies and practices are not discriminatory. It’s an essential first step for all organisations to take but on its own it will not prevent racism. It needs to go alongside an active and proactive anti-racist approach.