Recognizing that anti-racist terminology is constantly changing and evolving, SEARA has provided you with terminology to aid you in navigating anti-racist practices.
Click on a term in order to view its expanded definition.
“BIPOC” is an acronym that stands for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour. It is a term that intentionally separates “Black” and “Indigenous” in order to highlight the unique relationship to whiteness that Black (African/Caribbean Canadians) and Indigenous people have, which shapes the experiences of and relationship to white supremacy for all people of colour.
As opposed to using “POC” as an umbrella term for all non-white groups, “BIPOC” is intended to centre the experiences of Black and Indigenous people within the POC population, recognizing that under colonialism Black and Indigenous people suffer disproportionate injustice in North America, that calls for particular focus and solidarity within those groups. When we look at Canadian history and North American history as a whole, this consists of, but is not limited to acknowledging Indigenous genocide and African enslavement (Canada’s best kept secret), that led to this country’s very existence.
In addition, the deeply entrenched anti-Black racism and Native invisibility that has levelled against Black Canadians and Indigenous populations is unparalleled. Those two legacies of violence and oppression cannot, and should not, be erased or forgotten. To attempt to represent so many different identities in a single term is a product of colonialism.
The first use of “BIPOC” appeared in 2013, however became more widespread in June 2020 as people began to pay more attention to long-standing police brutality against Black people and call for systemic change.
SEARA uses this iteration “BIPOC” to recognize its Black origins as a term, and to show respect to the widespread Black community who have contributed in surplus to activism as a whole, and who potentially view other iterations of the term as appropriation and/or anti-Black.
Fawn Sharp, president of the National Congress of American Indians, also believes the term provides a foundation of unity:
“Many of our communities have a common foundation of civil rights challenges. While we do have strength in our individual identities, as Native people, as Black people, we also have within our communities a unity of our citizenry. Some of our citizens face challenges, both as an Indigenous person and as a Black person and that intersection of challenges, presents a unique position.”
Intersectionality refers to the overlap of various social identities such as race, gender, sexuality, class, and other individual characteristics. How they “intersect” with one another contributes to the specific type of systemic oppression and discrimination experienced by an individual. It serves as a framework for understanding how aspects of a person’s social and political identities combine to create different modes of discrimination and privilege.
Intersectionality is living at the intersections of overlapping systems of privilege and oppression, identifying advantages and disadvantages that are felt by people due to a combination of factors. Acknowledging intersectional forms of oppression is an attempt at demolishing racial hierarchies altogether.
This term was coined in 1989 by a Black female law professor named Kimberlé Crenshaw.
Supporting, upholding and/or expressing policies, stereotypes, ideas, beliefs and social behaviours directly towards an individual and/or group based on their racial and ethnic background. Racism occurs when there is an action to uphold these ideas, in turn negatively impacting individuals and/or groups based on their racial background.
Ideologies that foster these policies, stereotypes, ideas, beliefs and social behaviours are either rooted in direct historical hatred for certain racial groups that have been passed down through generations, or a product of one’s unconscious bias learning from and navigating life within a white colonial landscape.
These actions are not always overt and violent; covert forms of racism take the form of microaggressions, and social behaviours that devalue and dehumanize individuals and/or groups based on their race. Believing that racism is always so direct blinds us from recognizing and examining our own biased beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours.
Racism can also occur on an institutional level. See Systemic Racism below.
Refers to both legalized and non-legalized discrimination based on race and ethnicity that takes many forms on an institutional level. Individuals and/or groups are continuously disadvantaged solely on the basis of their physical appearance (race), as these institutional forms of racism are embedded as normal practice within society or an organization.
Past examples include the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, Jim Crow laws, Residential Schools, and prohibitions on voting or owning land.
Current examples include disproportionately affecting Black, Indigenous and Racialized groups through every stage of the criminal justice system, employment, housing, health care inequalities, political power, education, etc. This includes but is not limited to economic wealth gaps, employment, housing discrimination, government surveillance, incarceration, police brutality, drug arrests, immigration arrests, and infant mortality.
Anti-racism is a process of actively identifying and opposing racism. It takes the form of challenging and actively changing policies, stereotypes, ideas, beliefs and social behaviours that perpetuate racist actions and produce harmful outcomes. Anti-racism is rooted in action; it is about taking steps to eliminate racism at the individual, institutional, and structural levels, rather than passively claiming to be non-racist.
The goal of anti-racists is to work towards ultimately cultivating a much more egalitarian, emancipatory society. This can only be achieved from a collective, historical understanding how years of federal, provincial, and local policies have placed Black, Indigenous and Racialized communities in the crises they face today, and rightfully identifying those policies for what they are: racist.
People often mistakenly believe that simply being “not racist” is enough to eliminate racial discrimination. The problem with this perspective is that white people are often unaware of their own unconscious biases. People often don’t fully understand the institutional and structural issues that uphold white supremacy and contribute to racist behaviours, attitudes, and policies.
Saying “but I’m not racist” also allows people to avoid participating in anti-racism. It’s a way of saying “that’s not my problem” while failing to acknowledge that even people who are not racist still reap the benefits of a system that is biased against other people.
As Ibram X. Kendi, director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Centre at American University, notes in his book How to Be an Antiracist:
“One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates the roots of problems in power and policies, as an anti-racist. One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an antiracist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist’ ; the claim of ‘not racist’ neutrality is a mask for racism.”
“The opposite of racist is not ‘not racist’, it’s anti-racist”.
Action: Start by being open to educating yourself, and viewing anti-racist education and action as an on-going process. It is important however to remember that it is not the job of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour to always be educating you, as the problem does not exist within them, but rather within the system that white people benefit from.
Anti-racism requires looking at your own beliefs and actions critically. Research has shown that even people who support racial equality often unknowingly hold racist attitudes. This discrepancy is often explained by the existence of implicit biases, or attitudes that are largely unconscious but nevertheless influence behaviour.
Anti-racist resources for White people.
The belief that white people are superior to those of other races and thus should dominate them. Its purpose is the maintenance and defence of a system of wealth, power, and privilege.
As a political ideology, it imposes and maintains social, political, historical, or institutional domination by white people. This ideology has been put into effect through socioeconomic and legal structures such as the Trans Atlantic slave trade, Indigenous genocide on Turtle Island, Jim Crow laws in the United States, the White Australia policies from the 1890s to the mid-1970s, and Apartheid in South Africa.
White supremacy is a belief system that perpetuates notions of upholding white dominance over people of other backgrounds, especially in instances where they may co-exist, and maintaining a “white culture” that is superior to other cultures. It also implies on a scientific level that white people are genetically superior to other races. This has historical roots in Eugenics, Darwinism which claimed evolutionary superiority amongst only white Europeans against other races, and even instances of Freudian psychoanalysis theories.
As a full-fledged ideology, white supremacy is far more encompassing than simple racism or bigotry. Most white supremacists today further believe that the white race is in danger of extinction due to a rising “flood” of non-whites.
Recognizing the negative effects of colonialism in all forms, and in response making long-term commitments and processes to dismantle these effects. It can look like bureaucratic, cultural, linguistic and psychological divesting of colonial power.
Decolonization engages with imperialism and colonialism at every level. It means challenging how higher education, research and publishing are complicit in and vital to the colonial oppression of Black, Indigenous and Racialized peoples around the globe.
Decolonization restores the Indigenous world view, culture and traditional ways.
This term encompasses all people that are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in skin colour. It is the act of characterizing, differentiating or dividing according to race. It can also take the form of ignorantly ascribing ethnic or racial identities to a relationship, social practice, or group that did not identify itself as such. These acts most often arise out of the interaction of a group who deems their racial identity superior over another racial group, with the intention of maintaining their domination.
Also synonymous with the outdated term “visible minorities”.
Unceded Traditional Territories
Unceded means that First Nations people never ceded, surrendered, sold, or legally signed away their lands to the Crown or to Canada. A traditional territory is the geographic area identified by a First Nation as the land they and/or their ancestors traditionally occupied and used.
When Indigenous Nations entered into treaties with the Queen, they never intended to transfer the land to Canada. There was never the legal consideration from Indigenous Nations (i.e., a land transfer offer) required for the land to be given to Canada. Treaties allowed settlers to occupy lands, and both sides promised to work in harmony and to be peaceful with one another. Indigenous Nations have held up their side of the bargain for over 300 years, whereas the successor state of Canada continuously fails to honour the treaties. This includes relying on the legal fiction that the land could be “owned” by Canada.
An on-going political movement and fight for Indigenous peoples and nations to reclaim land across Turtle Island that is defined as their home, mother, and caregiver. “Land Back” is about Indigenous peoples confronting colonialism at the root, fighting for the right to their manifold relationship with the earth. This can encompass the literal restoration of rightful land ownership, a return to Indigenous languages, elders and knowledge keepers’ stewardship, healing practices and protection of mother earth, or Indigenous political leaders alluding to comprehensive land claims, traditional familial and governing systems, and self-governing agreements. All forms are a natural, rightful urge for Indigenous nations to reconnect with their land in meaningful ways.
Action: What is needed next is for non-Indigenous peoples to work on their relationship and reaction to giving land back, and being aware that the settler claim to their land was stolen and acquired through colonial violence. Petition your government and call your elected representatives and ask for Canada to honour the treaties. Demand the inclusion of Indigenous Peoples at the table to make decisions alongside the (mostly) non-Indigenous governments that make decisions over our lands, waters, and resources.
This term refers to Indigenous peoples not commonly being represented in various facets, or living a complete unacknowledged existence, despite being the original inhabitants of this country and surviving removal, forced assimilation, and attempted genocide.
This is a more modern form of racism that negates the existence entirely of Indigenous peoples, ironically even in conversations involving racism. Forms of Native Invisibility include being omitted from the media– even in instances of racism/incarceration, violence, etc., education, pop culture, entertainment, social media, the judicial system, data collection etc. It even takes the form of harmful stereotypes such as various tribes and their cultures being grouped into a single entity representational of negative attributes (i.e. uneducated, alcoholics, etc.).
There is very minimal mention of any contemporary issues experienced by Indigenous peoples. Even the issues rooted in colonial history are incomplete, misguided and told from a white colonial perspective that leaves out the violence and genocide that took place.
These omissions and prevailing ignorance are a product of Indigenous systemic erasure, allowing for stereotypes to be perpetuated that create a framework for real damaging effects from the judicial system to the workplace.
Anti-Blackness is an overt form of racism that strips Blackness of value, dehumanizing and marginalizing Black people both socially and systemically. It is a disregard for Black culture, creation, and communities. Beneath this anti-Black racism is the covert structural and systemic racism which predetermines the socioeconomic status of Blacks in their countries, and is held in place by anti-Black policies, institutions, and ideologies.
Anti-Blackness is also the disregard for anti-Black institutions and policies, and the vocalizing of these experiences by Black people. This disregard is the product of class, race, and/or gender privilege certain individuals experience due to anti-Black institutions and policies.
While the most common form of anti-Blackness occurs within white communities, however non-Black people of colour can also perpetuate notions of anti-Blackness. Examples from @ogorchukwuu on Instagram:
– Trying to compete with Black people
– Silence when Black people experience racism
– Inability to give Black people credit
– Being condescending towards Black people
– Practicing colourism within own community
– Perpetuating stereotypes about Black people
– Enforcing anti-Black dating preferences
– Culturally appropriating Black people
– Feeling Black people are less capable
– Confusion when Black people are successful
– Inability to celebrate Black accomplishments
Prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically amongst people of the same ethnic or racial group, stemming from internalized racism. The prejudice or discrimination can also come from an external group, most often white people who show a preference for lighter skin people of colour based on white supremacy ideologies.
The history of colourism is rooted in colonialism, specifically the Trans Atlantic Slave trade. Writer and author Kaitlyn Greenidge explained its historical roots in an article for The Guardian, titled “Why Black People Discriminate Among Ourselves: The Toxic Legacy Of Colorism”, writing:
“In the U.S., unlike in other systems of slavery in other time periods, to be a slave meant you were legally a nonperson—unable to enter into legal contracts like marriage or land ownership, and not considered a citizen. Whiteness meant that blackness meant a person was property. Slavery was inherited, and whether or not you were considered a slave was dependent on the status of your mother. This system ensured that white male slave owners who had children with the black women they enslaved contributed to their own wealth. Under this system, proximity to whiteness could increase your chances for freedom. If you had a white father, and more importantly, if you ‘looked’ white, the easier you could potentially claim some sort of freedom.”
Colourism causes trauma at a systemic level, ensuring those with darker skin who are already “othered” because of their race, are further discriminated against and face more obstacles, only to receive less, than their light skin counterparts. Numerous studies have found extensive evidence that this manifests across income, education, criminal justice sentencing, housing, and even the marriage market, at an international level. Consequently, it gives those with lighter skin of the same race a level of privilege that is not afforded to their darker skin counterparts, and this can have life or death consequences.
It is important for bi-racial/mixed individuals– who tend to have lighter skin or are white passing due to their mixed heritage– to acknowledge that while they are still racialized, hold a level of privilege that is not afforded to their darker skin counterparts. It is also important for other POC groups to recognize this amongst BIPOC communities as a whole.
It is not possible to talk about racism or work towards anti-racism without acknowledging colourism.
“Colourism is the daughter of racism in a world that rewards lighter skin over darker skin”. –Lupita Nyong’o
Discomfort and defensiveness on the part of a white person when confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice. This type of behaviour suggests an unwillingness to engage or recognize racial hierarchies and/or experiences rooted in racism.
It is a refusal to recognize that our Western society is set up to insulate whites from racial discomfort, thus allowing them to react in a fragile manner at the first application of stress.
Racial hierarchies perpetuate the notion that white people are entitled to peace and deference. This allows for the unwillful desire or inability to hold “racial stamina” to engage in difficult conversations. As a result, white people will respond to racial triggers with emotions such as anger, fear and guilt, and behaviours such as argumentation, silence, and withdrawal from the stress-inducing situation. White people may even attempt to take on the role of “White Referee” or “White Saviour”, trying to mitigate the severity and ultimate outcome of these conversations.
White fragility holds racism in place.
Action: Read “White Fragility” by author Robin DiAngelo.
Racial solidarity is akin to community; it is a stance of unity, support or agreement of feeling or action against oppressors rooted in racial injustice. This can be cross-cultural, and/or amongst individuals with a common interest.
This term heavily depends on the Canadian government, society, and institutions as a whole repairing relations with marginalized groups that have deep rooted historical oppression at the hands of colonialism, with the ultimate goal of achieving solidarity.
Within a Canadian context, reconciliation most often refers to Indigenous peoples fighting for acknowledgement as the original inhabitants of this country, and all legal and social reclaiming that follow suit. The Canadian government since occupying unceded territories have bestowed horrendous terrors on Indigenous peoples. This includes but is not limited to 150,000 Indigenous children enduring terror within the Indian residential schools over a period of more than 100 years.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proclaimed April 2nd as National Day of Reconciliation in 2018. He has also pushed his Indigenous rights recognition framework and stirred debate on ending or “decolonizing” the 1876 Indian Act, which gave Ottawa control over most aspects of Indigenous life, from health and education to land.
Action: It is the responsibility of every Canadian citizen to maintain:
– Honouring treaties
– Acknowledging and respecting Indigenous rights and title
– Acknowledging and letting go of negative perceptions and stereotypes
– Acknowledging the past and ensuring that history never repeats
– Continue to actively learn about Indigenous history
– Support demands for reparations