Home Anti-Oppressive Practice – Part 1 Some Helpful Terms in Anti-Oppressive Practice

Some Helpful Terms in Anti-Oppressive Practice

(not an exhaustive list)


Two Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer (or Questioning), Intersex, Asexual. The placement of Two Spirit (2S) first is to recognize that Indigenous people are the first peoples of this land and their understanding of gender and sexuality precedes colonization. The ‘+’ is for all the new and growing ways we become aware of sexual orientations and gender diversity.


A person with particular privileges who is guided by oppressed communities and learns how best to fight oppressions, like ableism, ageism, audism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexism, etc.


An active, consistent [and arduous] practice of unlearning and re-evaluating, in which a person in a position of privilege and power seeks to operate in solidarity with a marginalized group.


A belief, policy, practice, object, or environment that prevents or limits people’s access to opportunities, benefits, or advantages available to other members of society.


An opinion formed without reasonable justification that limits a person’s ability to make fair judgements.

Cultural Competence

A person’s ability to interact effectively with people of different cultures. Cultural competence comprises four components: (a) Awareness of one’s own cultural worldview; (b) Attitudes towards cultural differences; (c) Knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews; and (d) Cross-cultural skills. Developing cultural competence results in an ability to better understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures.


The removal or undoing of colonial elements. In post-secondary, and more broadly, there is not a consensus about what the end goal of decolonization should be. The important point to remember is that decolonization is a process and not an end point (continuous work to be done).


Consciously or unconsciously treating someone else unfairly or holding them to different standards based on conscious or unconscious prejudiced beliefs, and not because of individual merit.


Differences in the lived experiences and perspectives of people that may include race, ethnicity, colour, ancestry, place of origin, political belief, religion, marital status, family status, physical disability, mental disability, sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, class, and/or socio-economic situations. It is a concept meant to convey the existence of people’s unique combinations of differences and how those contribute to their experiences, both positively and negatively.


Communities that identify barriers to equal access, opportunities, and resources due to disadvantage and discrimination, and actively seek social justice and reparation. This marginalization could be created by attitudinal, historic, social, and environmental barriers based on characteristics that are not limited to sex, age, ethnicity, disability, economic status, gender, gender expression, nationality, race, sexual orientation, and creed.


Equity-seeking groups are communities that experience significant collective barriers in participating in society. This could include attitudinal, historic, social, and environmental barriers based on age, ethnicity, disability, economic status, gender, nationality, race, sexual orientation, and transgender status, etc. Equity- seeking groups are those that identify barriers to equal access, opportunities, and resources due to disadvantage and discrimination and actively seek social justice and reparations.

This is a great example of changing language. Currently moving from equity- seeking to equity-deserving (the idea is that fundamentally, people should get [i.e., they deserve] equitable treatment, they should not have to seek it out/ask for it).


Inclusion is an active, intentional, and continuous process to address inequities in power and privilege and build a respectful and diverse community that ensures welcoming spaces and opportunities to flourish for all.


The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. This term was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989.


Excluding whole groups of people from meaningful participation and confining them to the outer edges of society.

Mental Health

A state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. Mental health is fundamental to our collective and individual ability as humans to think, emote, interact with each other, earn a living and enjoy life.


One’s ability to influence or control people, events, processes, or resources. We each have different levels of power in different situations depending on our personal combination of privileges and oppressions.


A negative opinion formed about a person without looking at all the facts.


Advantages given to some people, but not others, based on their identity or position in society. People are not always aware of the privileges they have until they learn that someone else does not have that same privilege.

Social Determinants of Health

The social determinants of health (SDH) are the non-medical factors that influence health outcomes. They are the conditions in which people are born, grow, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and systems shaping the conditions of daily life.

Social exclusion

It refers to the ways in which certain groups of people in society are pushed to the margins and not included (is a social determinant of health).

Social location

The combination of factors including gender, race, social class, age, ability, religion, sexual orientation, and geographic location. This makes social location particular to each individual; that is, social location is not always exactly the same for any two individuals.


Assumptions about a person based on untrue and harmful tropes. These can sometimes seem positive or complimentary but are harmful because they are generalizations about a person or entire group of people not based on actual experience.

Guide: PDF Version