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10+ Must-Know Terms to Navigate the Black Lives Matter Movement

Written by: Natalie C.

Following worldwide protests in the summer of 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement has gained an
enormous amount of momentum. While many were able to contribute by donating or protesting, others
– including millions of teenagers like you and me! – had to turn to online activism. This form of advocacy
proved just as needed asitsmore traditional counterpart as it led to thousands of incrediblyimportant discussions on race, accountability and allyship to be had, forming a core pillar of the BLM
movement as a whole.
With that being said – and while you can still support this cause in a myriad of ways – it is integral
that these conversations surrounding so-called “taboo” subjects are not only had but are taken seriously
both online and IRL!
I hope this list of common terms – while farfromcomprehensive –will not only help you learn
something new and encourage you to do more research on this topic, but also allow for these oh-soimportant discussions to continue to accompany us throughout our daily lives so we can grow, both as
more sympathetic individuals and a more just society.
1. Ally
According to Racial Equity Tools, an ally is “someone who makes the commitment and effort to
recognize their privilege…and work in solidarity with oppressed groups in the struggle for justice.”An
ally will also “commit to reducing their own complicity…in oppression of those groups and invest in
strengthening their own knowledge and awareness of oppression” (“Racial Equity Tools Glossary”).
By simply reading this article, you are further educating yourself on how to be a better ally to Black
individuals fighting for justice.
A Glossary of Terms list compiled by the organization AWARE-LA Class Committee
defines BIPOC (pronounced buy-pock) as an acronym that stands for “Black, Indigenous, and People of
Color” in which “Indigenous” collectively refers to people native to since-conquered land (such as Native
Americans in the United States and First Nations people in Canada) and “People of Color” collectively
refersto all non-White racial groups(2).
While this umbrella termis frequently used in conversations surrounding the Black Lives Matter
movement, its vagueness can cause issues when discussing experiences and struggles that are specific to
Black individuals, pointed out in a recent Twitter thread by social justice and anti-racist educator, Marie
Beecham(@mariejbeech). Because of this, Beecham emphasizes the importance of using this term to
refer to groupsrather than individuals and to always “earnestly listen” if someone online or IRL corrects
you on your use of this acronym, concluding her thread with the reminder to always “be respectful &
thoughtful with your words” (@mariejbeech).
3. Cultural Appropriation (vs. Appreciation)
Racial Equity Tools defines cultural appropriation as “theft of cultural elements—including symbols, art,
language, customs, etc.—for one’s own use, commodification, or profit, often without understanding,
acknowledgement, or respect for its value in the original culture.”With the rise of social media and
celebrity culture, appropriation of Black culture continues to rear its ugly head in a multitude of ways,
from non-Black content-creators on TikTok being called out for using AAVE (AfricanAmerican Vernacular English) in their videos, to non-Black celebrities being criticized for
wearing hairstyles that are quintessential to Black culture – such as box-braids or cornrows – to public
By educating yourself and others on the difference between cultural appropriation
versus cultural appreciation (when someone “seeks to understand and learn about another culture in
an effort to broaden their perspective”), you can help combat the normalization of
this offensive practice (Loveless).
4. Defund (vs. Abolish)
Calls to defund the police ask to “redirect fundstraditionally allocated for police to social service
agencies” such as “programsthat address addiction, mental illness, homelessness and employment
training” (Henry). In contrast, calls to abolish the police seek “an end or elimination of the institution of
policing, once and for all” in favor of “community care workers … and restorative justice models to
respond to crime in ways that do not involve locking people into dehumanizing prison cells ” (Henry).
It is important that these two approaches to solving police brutality are distinguished and understood in
order to combat misinformation that continues to spread about the BLM movement’s goals.
5. Erasure
Erasure refers to “the practice of collective indifference that renders certain people and groups invisible”
and can go as far as determining “whose stories are taught and told” (Sehgal). According to students
interviewed by PBSNewsHour, a lack of representation (the depiction/portrayal of a group of people) in
the mediaexacerbates this practice and can have a harmful impact on the mental health and selfesteem of young members of under-represented groups.
Because of this, it is encouraging to see more BIPOC individuals tell their own stories in all forms of
media – one example being the worldwide spike in demand for stories written by Black authors – and it
is integral that their work continue to be highlighted and celebrated untilerasure –one day! – becomes
a thing of the past.
6. Intersectionality
Simply put, intersectionality is a “a prism to see the interactive effects of various forms of discrimination
and disempowerment,”and examines the way in which “racism, many times, interacts with patriarchy,
heterosexism, classism, xenophobia”and “overlapping vulnerabilities created by these systems actually
create specific kinds of challenges” (“Racial Equity Tools Glossary”).
While there are numerous ways in which different systems of oppression overlap, misogynoir(the
manners in which sexism and racism intersect) is one example of an extensive history of discrimination,
specifically against Black women.
7. Microaggression (vs. Macroaggression)
Microaggressions are the “everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults,
whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to
target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership” (“Racial Equity Tools
Glossary”). In contrast, macroaggressions are more large-scale and overt examples of aggression against
a particular group of people.
Despite the fact that commonmicroaggressions against Black individuals –such as making stereotyped
assumptions on a Black person’sspeech orbehavior –may seem insignificant compared to more
violent acts,these microaggressions are still aggressions –no matter how “micro”– and it is vital that
they are taken seriously in all discussions on racism.
8. Privilege
Privilege refers to the “unearned social power accorded by the formal and informal institutions of
society to ALL members of a dominant group”; while privilege is “usually invisible to those who have it
because we’re taught not to see it” it “nevertheless…puts them at an advantage over those who do not
have it” (“Racial Equity Tools Glossary”).
Even though privileges are afforded to the dominant groups of allsystems of oppression, white
privilege specifically benefits people “solely because they are white”and has wormed its way into every
facet of modern-day society, from the way in which individuals interact amongst themselves to the
way in which entire institutions or nations work with and view one another (one example of white
privilege being the difference between a white person’s interactions with a police officer in comparison
to a Black person’s). Recognizing one’s white privilege is the first step in being an ally in the fight against
racism as it acknowledges the existence of this invisible force and exposes its insidious grip on
oursociety as a whole.
9. Racism
Racism, simply put, is “race prejudice + social and institutional power” (“Racial Equity Tools Glossary”).
The rule of thumb that racism always comes back to these two ideas – prejudice and power –causes
concepts such as reverse racism (oranti-white discrimination) to be considered nothing but myths
(while one can have racial prejudices against a white person, they do not have the social or
institutional powerthat would define these prejudices as “racist”).
10. Restorative Justice
Finally,restorative justice is “justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by crime and
conflict…plac[ing] decisions in the hands of those who have been most affected by a wrongdoing,
and giv[ing] equal concern to the victim, the offender, and the surrounding community” (“Racial Equity
Tools Glossary”).
While the term itself does not appear in online conversations on race as much as the
other aforementioned terms, it is an essential concept to understand and acknowledge as it is at
the crux of the Black Lives Matter movement: demanding reparations and justice for Black individuals in
order to create a better and more inclusive society for all.
To view the Works Cited for this article, please click here:




February 22nd, 2021


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