Common Language

Imagine trying to work on a project with a group of people who speak five different languages. Everyone may have the same ideas and goals, but you’d never know because there’s not a common language to unify the team.

Having a common language allows us to dismantle oppressive systems, piece by piece, in a collective effort. We’ve adapted the Common Definitions from (an allyship organization), which is modeled after the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond. This is the language our founder was trained on.

If at any point you struggle with our language used throughout the project please revisit these definitions. It may take multiple reads, reflection, and dialogue with others to digest these definitions.


Privilege (i.e. white/class/gender/ability privilege): unearned advantages granted to members of a group by prejudicial and powerful social, institutional, and cultural systems that allocate resources and designate value.

Racism: race prejudice + institutional power [=misuse of institutional and social power]. A system of oppression maintained by institutions and cultural “norms” that exploit, control, and oppress people of color groups in order to maintain a position of social and material supremacy and privilege for white people, (particularly the powerful and wealthy elite.)

Oppression: prejudice + institutional power (=misuse of institutional and social power). Historical, entrenched, adapts to maintain its hold over time. That system continues to grant power to people with certain privileges in four main areas:

  • The power to make and enforce decisions.
  • The access to resources, broadly defined.
  • The ability to set and determine standards for what is considered appropriate behavior.
  • The ability to define reality and have other people accept it.

Read more about the 5 faces of oppression here.

Whiteness: being white and having white privilege. A constructed racial identity that has solidified in the U.S. over time and which has worked to maintain racist systems for access to resources and power. Having been racialized and socialized to live life as a white person in the context of US racism. This involves having learned a “white” worldview, a sense of entitlement, and internalized racial superiority over People of Color. Whiteness is a social group identity and a shared experience of people racialized white by our current racial classification system in the U.S. Being conscious of my whiteness (and where it places me in a racist system) means I claim responsibility for working to dismantle both my own learned racism and the racism that operates in society and institutions (in an anti-racist way).

White Supremacy: our current of social and institutional, and cultural power and control that maintains benefits for white society, keeping whiteness at the center, and continues to oppress and otherize People of Color groups. White supremacy doesn’t just mean KKK members or the conditions under historical Jim Crow law, but the current systems that continues to define and maintain supremacy for whiteness in the U.S. (and on the global level as well, through Western imperialism.)

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