Some common terms & definitions

Some common terms and definitions


Anti-Blackness describes racism specifically targeted at Black individuals or communities. Anti-blackness can be enacted and upheld by non-Black minority groups, as well as by white individuals, communities and institutions. 

Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME)  

These umbrella terms and acronyms are frequently used to describe non-white individuals and communities (although both terms also include white ethnic minorities such as Roma and Traveller communities).  However, individuals rarely use the terms BME or BAME to describe themselves. BME and BAME are also seen by some as creating a false sense of homogeneity between diverse ethnic groups.  

Colonisation, Colonialism and Decolonisation 

Most broadly, colonisation refers to the subjugation of one group by another. However, it is mostly widely used to describe European colonisation which occurred between the 16th and 20th centuries. During this period, Western European countries sought to control other nations, most notably in African, Asia, Australasia and the Americas. While colonisation is largely driven by a desire to increase the colonising state’s power and wealth, it is often justified through white supremacist ideology which frames whiteness as desirable and colonisation as beneficial for the people being colonised.  

Most colonised states have gained independence; however, the legacy of colonialism’s exploitation continues to impact communities around the world. Decolonisation refers to the dismantling of colonial empires but also undoing of colonialism’s impacts, for example by de-centring whiteness, Western Europe and the Global North in the curriculum. 


Rooted in white supremacy, colourism is the belief that light skin tones are more desirable than dark skin tones, within the same racial or ethnic group. This prejudice and the discrimination that stems from it has resulted in individuals with darker skin being under-represented in the media, cosmetic companies being less likely to produce makeup that suits dark skin tones, and an industry of skin-lighteners whose marketing targets individuals with darker complexions. 

Cultural Appropriation and Cultural Misappropriation  

Cultural appropriation describes the way in which majority or privileged ethnic groups will take elements – including clothing, hairstyles, and language – from minority and oppressed ethnic groups and begin using them, often with little understanding of their history or cultural significance.  

While the intent behind cultural appropriation may not be malicious – for example, an individual may choose a particular item because they appreciate its aesthetic and have an interest in the culture it originates from, the impact is often negative.  The communities being appropriated from may feel a loss of ownership over their own culture. This is particularly problematic when individuals or companies go on to profit from the production of appropriated cultural items when the communities in which they originated continue to experience financial hardship.  

When white people appropriate cultural elements, they are often protected from the negative connotations those elements may hold in their original context. For example, Black people who wear protective hairstyles such as braids may be characterised as looking unprofessional, while white people with similar styles might be described as cool or original. 


Indigenous peoples, also known in some regions as First peoples, First Nations, and Aboriginal peoples, are the original or earliest known inhabitants of an area. The term is used to differentiate them from groups who later settled in an area, often through colonisation or occupation. Colonisation has often had a negative impact on indigenous communities who experienced displacement, exploitation and violence at the hands of settlers. Many indigenous communities continue to face social challenges including access to housing, healthcare, and education. 


Islamophobia describes prejudice and hostility towards the Islamic faith and Muslim individuals and communities.  While islamophobia is based on religion rather than race, individuals from certain ethnic groups are more likely to be profiled as being Muslim, meaning islamophobia often intersects with racism. 

Race and Ethnicity 

Both race and ethnicity are social constructs designed to categorise people into groups. That is not to say these categories are meaningless – they represent shared history, heritage and culture, and shape individuals’ experiences of the world – but they are not defined by genetics and are not static.  

In the UK, race and ethnicity are often used interchangeably and sometimes considered to be synonymous. However, race is generally understood to represent a small number of general categories e.g. Black, Asian and White while ethnicity is more linked to shared cultural expression, identity, heritage and often nationality e.g. Black British, Korean, Cherokee and Puerto Rican. 


Racism is a structural and systemic issue, with inequalities embedded in many of our institutions. Tackling racism therefore requires large-scale and long-term commitment to action. However, sometimes individuals and organisations will choose to take small, symbolic actions – for example, releasing a statement, taking part in a social media action, or changing their logo temporarily – without making these larger commitments. This is referred to as tokenism or performative allyship and is often criticised as having little impact. In some cases, it is also seen as an attempt to distract from wider issues which – if addressed – would have a far more positive impact on marginalised communities. 

White Supremacy 

White supremacy refers to a range of ideologies which hold that whiteness is superior, and that white communities should hold power over other racial and ethnic groups. While many of us associate white supremacy with hate groups like the KKK, it has also played a role in colonialism, and continues to shape the value placed on the lives and cultures of communities of Colour.