As identified in the Equality Act 2010, race is one of the nine protected characteristics. It refers to a group of people defined by their colour, nationality (including citizenship), ethnic or national origins.149

With regard to our work around race equality in general, the University agrees with the position outlined by AdvanceHE, which approaches race equality from the assumption that 'race' is a social construct. 

For more information about race and racism, please see the full 'race' definition below, as well the University’s Let’s talk about Race and Racism webpages

You can also find our guidance on using appropriate language when referring to race and ethnicity which explains the complexity of terminology, including the use of 'BAME' in the UK.

 149 Equality and Human Rights Commission

Content warning

Some of the terminology and definitions used in this glossary relate to subject matter that may be upsetting or triggering for some people.


Anti-Racism is defined as the work of actively opposing racism by advocating for changes in political, economic and social life that would dismantle racist processes and attitudes. An anti-racist is someone who actively supports anti-racist policies, processes, practices, ideas and attitudes via their actions. Racism is a powerful collection of racist policies that lead to racial inequity and are substantiated by racist ideas. Antiracism is a powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity and are substantiated by antiracist ideas.141

141 How To Be an Antiracist - Ibram X. Kendi

Someone who has asked to be recognised as a refugee from another country and is waiting for the government to make a decision about their request. They have made themselves known to the authorities and are part of an ongoing legal process.142

142 City of Sanctuary UK

BAME is an abbreviation for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic. BME is an abbreviation for black and minority ethnic. Both are umbrella terms used to refer to groups of people who identify as being from ethnic groups of non-white descent, particularly those who are viewed as having experienced racism or who are marginalised in some way, as well as being in the minority (in a particular country or part of the world) because of their skin colour and/or ethnicity. 

The University’s use of BAME and BME for data reporting purposes also includes white ethnic minority groups such as Traveller, Roma and Gypsy communities.

The University uses both BAME and BME for statistical purposes, BME when reporting staff data to HESA and BAME when reporting student ethnicity data to the OfS. This is in line with sector-wide practices and consistent with other public bodies, and enables the University to benchmark its data with other institutions. 

While both acronyms are still used widely in the UK, it is important however to note that both are problematic and are not fully representative. Not all black, Asian or minority ethnic groups or individuals identify with or choose to refer to themselves as ‘BAME’ or ‘BME’ and may reject both terms. Increasingly the use of both terms is also being rejected by UK organisations (as has been the case in other countries for some time) with a general view that it is better to use words than acronyms to describe people.143 

As highlighted by AdvanceHE, both BME and BAME have their limitations for the following reasons:

  • They imply that BME/BAME individuals are a homogeneous group.
  • Both BME and BAME single out specific ethnic groups, this can be divisive and exclusionary.
  • They can be perceived as convenient labels that are placed on minority ethnic groups of people, rather than identities with which people have chosen to identify.
  • It is generally perceived that these terms refer only to non-white people, which does not consider white minority ethnic groups.144

The University is aware of the limitations of the abbreviations ‘BAME' and ‘BME’, as highlighted above, and tries wherever possible to put information into its proper context, as well as disaggregating available ethnicity data. 

Due to what is often viewed as the overuse of the abbreviations BAME and BME, in both speech and writing, it is often thought that both abbreviations have become terms in and of themselves and that the issues with both, as outlined above, are not adequately highlighted as part of their common usage. It is therefore advised that when referring to individuals or groups by use of either BAME or BME, in order to be more inclusive, you might want to state either “black, Asian and minority ethnic” or “black minority ethnic” in full.

An alternative to this, when using the abbreviations in writing, could be to add inverted commas around both ‘BAME’ and ‘BME’ so as to indicate the issues associated with the terms.

It is important to reiterate that the context around the use of ED&I terminology rapidly evolves over time and the University of York’s position in relation to ED&I language is based on being as inclusive as possible, and therefore our use of specific terminology either in this glossary or elsewhere will change over time.

143 Beyond ‘BAME’: What does the public think? - British Future

144 AdvanceHE

An abbreviation that stands for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour and is increasingly used when discussing race and ethnicity; however, as with BAME/BME/POC, it is important to note that not all individuals choose to identify with this term.

Of or related to persons having ethnic origins in the African continent, persons belonging to the African Diaspora.145

145 University of Washington - School of Public Health - ED&I Glossary

Originally a political movement established to address systemic and state violence against African Americans, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has since become an international movement. For more information about the University’s response to the issues raised by the BLM movement, resources, information about how to be a white ally and much more, see the Let’s talk about race and racism webpages.

In an ED&I context, this is thought to be part of a racial ideology that suggests the best way to end discrimination is by treating individuals as equally as possible, without regard for their race, culture, or ethnicity. However, many believe that the term “colourblind” de‐emphasises, or ignores, race and ethnicity, which is a large part of one’s identity, and it therefore fails to address the impact of racism on the individual, as a result of their race or ethnicity. It is often used as part of a ‘post-racial’ ideology that fails to take account of the importance of a person’s race and ethnicity for that individual, along with the impact that structural racism has on people.

Refers to racist ideas, attitudes or beliefs expressed in a subtle, hidden or secretive way. Covert racism is similar to micro-aggressions in that it often represents a form of racism that remains unchallenged due to it being harder to identify and not always appearing to be racist by intent. Covert racism can manifest via indirect and less blatant comments or behaviours that are seemingly unrelated to an individual’s race or ethnicity. For more on this see the University’s Anti-racism for Allies webpage. Also see the ‘Microaggressions or Microincivilities or Microinvalidations’ definition.

An approach to analysing sociological issues that challenge the dominant discourse on race and racism by examining how educational theory, policy and practice are used to subordinate certain racial and ethnic groups. Critical race theory places issues that disproportionately impact different racial groups “ a broader perspective that includes economics, history, and even feelings and the unconscious.”146

146 Critical Race Theory (Third Edition) An Introduction by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic

Culture can be defined as the patterns of daily behaviour and thought that are learned both consciously and unconsciously by a group of people. These patterns can be seen in language, customs and practices, beliefs, art, food, religion and clothing.

Cultural appropriation, also known as ‘cultural misappropriation’, is the adoption of an aspect or aspects of one culture by members of another culture. This can be controversial when members of a dominant group appropriate or take from disadvantaged or marginalised cultures. Debates around what does and does not constitute cultural appropriation often try to consider a broad historical context and evaluate whether there are elements of a cultural or interpersonal power imbalance that may be at play, whether subtle or overt.

Often used in reference to the African Diaspora, this is a term that refers to the voluntary or forcible movement of peoples from their homelands into new regions.

This term is used to refer to an individual who has parents from different ethnic and/or cultural backgrounds, and it is increasingly used instead of the term ‘mixed race’.

Decolonisation is a term often used in reference to the teaching curriculum across all levels of education within Western society. The decolonisation or diversification of the curriculum, seeks to broaden the scope of teaching and learning to include and take account of a more diverse range of individual and collective identities and cultures that are often not considered, while seeking to challenge and dismantle established notions that lack diverse perspectives.

For more information see the University’s statement of approach to decolonising and diversifying the curriculum.

Race and ethnicity are often used interchangeably but it is useful to be clear about the difference.

Race is a socially constructed term without biological or scientific merit that has historically been used to categorise different groups of people based on perceived physical differences. Ethnicity on the other hand refers to the following shared traits within a particular group of people: 

  • a long shared history of which the group is conscious as distinguishing it from other groups and the memory of which it keeps alive
  • a cultural tradition of its own including family and social manners, often but not necessarily associated with religious observance
  • a common, however distant, geographical origin
  • a common language and literature

It is important to remember that everyone has an ethnicity and 'white British' is an ethnic group. Bhavnani et al (2005, p. 213) point out that it is common in British culture for 'ethnic' to be wrongly used as synonymous with non-white or not-western, for example with 'ethnic clothes' or 'ethnic restaurants'. For more information see the AdvanceHE guidance on Race and Ethnicity. Also see the related definition of ‘Race’.

The biased and often discriminatory belief that one’s own ethnic group is centrally important and to measure all other ethnic groups using the standards and customs of their own.

Indigenous is used in reference to descendants of native people from a particular region.

Institutional racism also known as ‘structural racism’, institutional racism refers specifically to the ways in which institutional policies and practices create different outcomes for different racial groups. The institutional policies may never mention a particular racial group, but their effect is to create proportionate advantages for some ethnic groups, most often white, and oppression or disadvantage for people from minoritised ethnicities.147

147 University of Washington - School of Public Health - ED&I Glossary

The joining together of different ethnic or racial groups and the creation of a free and equal association.

Minority ethnic refers to individuals and groups who are in the minority within a larger population based on certain characteristics and who are often subject to differential treatment.

‘Minority ethnic’ or ‘ethnic minority’? The term 'ethnic minority' is said to place the emphasis on ethnicity as the main issue leading to discrimination or being minoritised. There can be a tendency in Western media and language to see 'ethnic' as synonymous with not-white and so the term can be perceived as implying the issue is with people being not-white, or non-white people being the issue. As a consequence the term tends to be reversed to refer to 'minority ethnic groups' in order to highlight the fact that everyone has an ethnicity and the issues being referred to when race and racism are discussed tend to relate to minority groups in a UK context and the discrimination and barriers they face.148

148 AdvanceHE

The concept whereby stereotypes and harmful narratives are sometimes perpetuated in relation to particular groups of people, based on their ethnicity, race and/or religion. The model minority myth posits that each member of a particular group holds certain characteristics, abilities and privileges, making them successful in certain areas of life, such as education and income generation, which is a false assertion that can create unrealistic expectations and breed resentment within and between different groups. The model minority myth homogenises groups of individuals based on their race or religion and can be used to suggest there is no need for government intervention in socio-economic disparities, therefore proposing that all individuals belonging to the group are equally privileged, capable or successful. 

The model minority myth has been used in relation to multiple groups of people, but is most commonly associated with Asian and Chinese people. Like all stereotypes and unconscious biases, such narratives can and do lead to discrimination and harassment, and so it is extremely important that we challenge these perceptions and false narratives wherever they arise.

The practise of acknowledging, respecting and promoting the peaceful coexistence of all identities, such as religions, languages, races, ethnicities, attitudes and opinions, of individuals and groups occupying a shared environment or community.

The term ‘People of Colour’ is an American import that is now used more commonly in the UK, and is used to refer to racial groups and individuals who are non-white.

It is important however to note that the term People of Colour is problematic and is not fully representative of all minority ethnic groups and individuals, who for instance would not necessarily choose to identify with this term and may instead reject it.

Also see the ‘BAME and BME’ definition.

A theoretical term that is sometimes used to describe an environment free from racial preference, discrimination and prejudice. Also, see the ‘Colourblind(ness)’ definition.

As identified in the Equality Act 2010, race is one of the nine protected characteristics. It refers to a group of people defined by their colour, nationality (including citizenship), ethnic or national origins.149

With regard to our work around race equality in general, the University agrees with the position outlined by AdvanceHE, which approaches race equality from the assumption that 'race' is a social construct. It has been found that genetic differences within ethnic groups are actually greater than the genetic differences between different ethnic groups. Therefore there is no biological basis for defining differences by race.

‘'Race' is a social construct. Its changing manifestations reflect ideological attempts to legitimate domination in different social and historical contexts. Racism is therefore not about objective measurable physical and social characteristics, but about relationships of domination and subordination.’

Tackling the roots of racism

Bhavnani, R., Mirza, H. S., Meetoo, V. 2005. The Policy Press (p.15)

Consequently, many organisations put the word ‘race’ in inverted commas to emphasise the fact that it is a social construct. While the University agrees with the rationale for this approach, it uses the terms race and ethnicity so frequently that it has chosen not to use inverted commas.150

For more information about race and racism see the University’s Let’s talk about Race and Racism webpages.

149 Equality and Human Rights Commission

150 AdvanceHE

The University defines racism as discrimination, prejudice or malicious acts towards individuals or communities because of skin colour, ethnicity, nationality, language, customs or practices and place of birth.151 For more information about the University’s response to the issues raised by the Black Lives Matter movement, resources, information about how to be a white ally and much more, see the Let’s talk about race and racism webpages.

151 UoY Dignity at Work and Study Policy - definitions

The use of a person’s perceived race or ethnicity, along with the colour of their skin, as grounds for suspecting them of having committed an offense. This is often, but not exclusively, linked to ‘stop and search’ government policies.152

152 Pacific University Oregon ED&I Glossary

Someone who is in need of protection and would be at risk of persecution if they returned home. Under international law the word “refugee” has a very precise meaning and refers to someone who: “…owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of their nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country…” (United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees, 1951).153

The University is proud of its status as a University of Sanctuary and seeks to provide a welcoming and safe environment for refugees, asylum seekers and other people who have been forced to migrate; and, among other important initiatives, we provide Equal Access scholarships and York Refugee Bursaries for sanctuary seeking students. You can find out more information about this work on the University of Sanctuary webpage.

153 City of Sanctuary UK

A term coined by Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, respectability politics refers to attempts by marginalized groups to police their own members and to show their social values as being consistent with mainstream or majority values. It is the idea that in order for a group to gain more rights, they must act and appear “respectable”. Originally used to refer to the policing of African American women’s behaviours, the concept can be applied in other situations. It is similar to ‘horizontal hostility’.154

Respectability politics has been widely criticised as it “...puts all of its faith in racist gatekeepers, suggesting to black people that they must change in order to appeal to the inherent good nature of white racists, and puts none of its faith in black people living under the weight of poverty and discrimination. Poverty is narrow and limiting, people work within the confines of it, that they have to do this is not the problem, poverty itself is the problem."155

154 Yale Diversity glossary

155 The Good Immigrant - Renni Eddo-Lodge

Also referred to as ‘reverse discrimination’, reverse racism is the perceived racism or discrimination that is said to occur against a dominant group or political majority, resulting from policies and practices that are intended to level the playing field and remove barriers for minority ethnic groups. This term is commonly used by detractors of positive or affirmative action, who believe that these policies cause members of traditionally dominant groups to be discriminated against.156

156 University of Washington - School of Public Health - ED&I Glossary

Roma is an umbrella term used to describe groups of people with similar cultural characteristics including those who describe themselves for example as Roma, Sinti, Gypsies and Kalé. Roma have lived in Europe for over 1,000 years since originally migrating from India and are the largest minority group in Europe.157

157 City of Sanctuary UK

The UK government defines ‘Gypsy/Roma/Traveller’ as “persons of nomadic habit of life whatever their race or origin, including such persons who on grounds only of their own or their family’s or dependants’ educational or health needs or old age have ceased to travel temporarily, but excluding members of an organised group of travelling showpeople or circus people travelling together as such”.

Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers are recognised in law as distinct minority ethnic groups and are legally protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.

This is a relatively new term, coined by Robin DiAngelo, white fragility is described as the conscious or unconscious discomfort and defensiveness on the part of a white person when confronted by information about racial inequality and injustice, including when a white person receives feedback regarding their own behaviour and privilege. It is described as “a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves…[including]...outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviours such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviours, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.” White fragility is therefore said to result from the “insulated environment of racial protection” within which many white people exist.158

158 White Fragility - by Robin DiAngelo

White privilege has been described in the following way, “as a member of the dominant ethnic group, a white person in Western culture has inherited privilege simply because they are white. It suggested that a white person has greater access to available resources because they are white and that white ‘ways of thinking’ and living are seen as the norm, forming a standard against which all people of colour are compared. It is described as an ‘absence of the consequences of racism, absence of structural discrimination, an absence of your race being viewed as a problem first and foremost.’”159

159 Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race - by Reni Eddo-Lodge

This has been described as “a culture that positions white people (and all that is associated with them), whiteness, as ideal. White supremacy is more than the idea that whites are superior to people of colour, it is the deeper premise that supports this idea, the definition of whites as the ‘norm’ or standard for human, and people of colour as a deviation from the norm.”160

160 White Fragility - by Robin DiAngelo

An acronym for Women of Colour. This is intentionally separate from the term Person of Colour (POC) as it highlights the intersection between race and gender identity.