Race/Ethnicity Glossary

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  • "school-to-prison pipeline"
    According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the "school-to-prison pipeline" refers to "the policies and practices that push our nation's schoolchildren, especially our most at-risk children, out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.  This pipeline reflects the prioritization of incarceration over education."
  • "separate but equal"
    The 14th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1868, called for equal treatment under the law. In 1892, a Black man named Homer Plessy was arrested for sitting in a train car designated for Whites. His case, Plessy v. Ferguson, went to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court ruled that as long as facilities were equal, segregation was constitutional. Jim Crow laws, named after a derogatory minstrel show character, began when Reconstruction ended in 1877. While the laws maintained separate services, they were often not equal.
  • "White Man's Burden"
    An 1899 poem written by Rudyard Kipling about the American role in the Philippines, which became an American colony following the Spanish-American War (1898). The poem begins: Take up the White Man's burden-- Send forth the best ye breed-- Go bind your sons to exile To serve your captives' need; To wait in heavy harness, On fluttered folk and wild-- Your new-caught, sullen peoples, Half-devil and half-child. See full text of the poem.  
  • #BlackoutDay, #TheBlackout
    #BlackoutDay is a social media campaign to celebrate Black history and the beauty of Black people. People who identify as Black, (including people from Africa or from the African diaspora and mixed-race or part-Black people) are encouraged to post photos of themselves on social media with the hashtags #TheBlackout, #Blackoutday and/or #Blackout, according to the group's tumblr. The first Blackout occurred on March 6, 2015 and it was repeated on April 3, June 21, Sept. 21 and Dec. 21 that year. In 2016, organizers decided to hold the 24-hour online event every three months on the 6th of the month -- March 6, June 6, Sept. 6 and Dec. 6. The concept was started by Marissa Rei (formerly known as blkoutqueen, now @marissarei), who has since taken on leadership of the movement; T'von (expect-the-greatest) who contributed the original selfie day idea; and nukirk, the curator behind the blog whatwhiteswillneverknow, who promotes the events on social media, according group's tumblr. The movement's FAQ page says the founders were inspired to create #BlackOutDay because of "the lack of representation and celebration of everyday Black people in mainstream spaces such as movies and television, and the need to create a positive space in which Black people could feel welcomed and beautiful."
  • abaya
    A robelike garment worn by some women who are Muslims. It is often black and may be a caftan or fabric draped over the shoulders or head. It is sometimes worn with a hijab and/or a niqab.  
  • ABC
    Slang for American-Born Chinese. Usually refers to a person born in the United States of Chinese ethnic descent. Many are second-generation with parents who immigrated from mainland China, Hong Kong, or Taiwan. Although not necessarily a pejorative term, ABC may imply a lack of connection to Chinese identity or a sense of cultural confusion.
  • ABCD
    Short for “American Born Confused Desi” and many consider it a slur. It refers to children of Indian immigrants in the United States. The expression comes from the cultural adjustment that the second generation might experience when dealing with an Indian culture at home and American culture outside the home. The term can echo derogatory terms applied to other immigrants and should not be used loosely or carelessly.  
  • abolition
    Major American reform movement that sought to end slavery in America using a wide range of tactics and organizations. While abolitionists are commonly portrayed as white people deeply concerned about the plight of enslaved blacks, and epitomized by William Lloyd Garrison and Harriet Beecher Stowe, many were African American, including Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth. Free blacks in the North also were stalwart in their dedication to the cause and provided financial support.
  • affirmative action
    In the United States, affirmative action began under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was a way to address discrimination based on gender and race. Other countries also have affirmative action policies. Rulings expanded the U.S. law to include disability, ethnic origin and age. Affirmative action is used in employment, education, government contracts and more. Since 2000, several suits have been brought challenging the racial dimensions of U.S. affirmative action . One myth is that African Americans are the chief beneficiaries of affirmative action. That is not true. The U.S. Department of Labor has said that white women have been the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action policies.
  • Africa
    The second largest continent in area and population after Asia. It is in the eastern hemisphere, south of the Mediterranean and adjoining Asia on the northeast. The area is 11,677,240 square miles (30,244,050 square kilometers). Sub-Saharan Africa (sometimes called Black Africa)—Region south of the Sahara Desert and used to describe those countries not part of North Africa, the region north of the Sahara. Avoid using Black Africa because it is considered to be politically incorrect or insensitive to some. North Africa—Predominantly Arab or Berber in ethnicity or culture and is mostly associated with the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The sub-Saharan Africa is predominantly black in ethnicity or culture and with few exceptions, such as Mauritius and South Africa, is one of the poorest regions in the world. The exact dividing line between the two regions is not clear. However, according to one classification, sub-Saharan Africa includes 48 nations, 42 of which are on the African mainland. Also, four island nations in the southwest Indian Ocean (Madagascar, The Comoros, Mauritius and Seychelles) and two in the Atlantic (Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe) are considered part of Africa. Central Africa Central African Republic Chad Democratic Republic of the Congo Republic of the Congo Eastern Africa Burundi Comoros Djibouti Eritrea Ethiopia Kenya Seychelles Rwanda Somalia Tanzania Uganda Northern Africa Algeria Ceuta Egypt Libya Melilla Morocco Sudan Tunisia Western Sahara Southern Africa Angola Botswana Lesotho Madagascar Malawi Mauritius Mozambique Namibia Reunion Swaziland South Africa Zambia Zimbabwe Western Africa Benin Burkina Faso Cameroon Cape Verde Cote d'Ivoire Equatorial Guinea Gabon The Gambia Ghana Guinea-Bissau Liberia Mali Niger Nigeria São Tomé and Príncipe Senegal Sierra Leone Togo
  • African American, African-American, Black, black
    People in the United States who share a lineage that can be traced directly or indirectly to Africa. Black and African American do not necessarily mean the same thing and individuals may prefer one term over the other. It’s best to ask. Gallup has found since 1991 that half to two-thirds of African-American and Black respondents have not had a preference. Some Black people do not identify as African American. This lineage, while collective, contains a diverse array of histories, cultures and experiences. This includes, but is not limited to, Black, African-American, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Latino and African immigrants living in the United States. Jesse Jackson popularized the term African American, which had already existed, in the 1980s. It mirrors hyphenated names for other American groups. Some people may identify themselves as African American to resist Black as a socially constructed category. Others may identify this way to assert their American identity. There are many reasons one might identify as African American. Some people may identify as Black because they do not feel connected to the American state. Others may identify as Black because they do not identify with the African continent. There are various historical, social and political reasons why one might prefer to identify as Black. The term has historically connected people of African descent around the world and was revived during the Black Power Movement. Black and then African American replaced older terms such as Colored and Negro imposed by others. Self-identification might reflect feelings about origin, affiliation, colonialism, enslavement and cultural dispossession. Hyphenate when using African American as an adjective, as in African-American churches. [The National Association of Black Journalists advises that for a story in which race is relevant and there is no stated preference for an individual or individuals, media writers should use Black because it is an accurate description of race. The NABJ Style Guide also says, ”Do not use race in a police description unless the report is highly detailed and gives more than just the person’s skin color. In news copy, aim to use Black as an adjective, not a noun. Also, when describing a group, use Black people instead of just Blacks. In headlines, however, Blacks is acceptable.” ] [A NOTE ABOUT CAPITALIZATION OF THE WORD BLACK: There has been much discussion about whether the b in Black should be capitalized. Most journalism style guides, like those of the Associated Press and The New York Times, call for putting both “white” and “black” in all lowercase letters. Others, like The Chicago Manual of Style, allow capitalization if an author or publication prefers. Essence and Ebony magazines, The Chicago Defender  and many other publications serving African-American communities capitalize Black. The National Association of Black Journalists does not capitalize Black in its publications, including the NABJ Style Guide. After much discussion the team that put together 100 Questions & Answers About African Americans decided to capitalize Black, according to editor Joe Grimm. Many of the terms related to Black and African-American people in The Diversity Style Guide come from these two guides. After much research and consideration, the editor of The Diversity Style Guide elected to capitalize Black and White when used in a racial context. For more discussion about whether to capitalize the B in Black see: "Black and White: Why Capitalization Matters" by Merrill Perlman Columbia Journalism Review, 2015 "The Case for Black With a Capital B" by Lori Tharps The New York Times, 2014 "Why the ‘B’ in ‘Black’ Is Capitalized at DiversityInc" by Luke Visconti Diversityinc, 2009 "Black, black, or African American?" by Aly Colón Poynter, 2003]
  • African diaspora
    [Black people of African descent who are scattered throughout the world; refers to Blacks whose ancestors were removed from the African continent through slavery and colonization, and dispersed worldwide, according to the National Association of Black Journalists Style Guide.] The African diaspora is a byproduct of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade, which dispersed millions of people. The TransAtlantic Slave Trade Database estimates that 12.5 million Africans were taken to the Americas and the Caribbean. About 1.8 million died en route. This forced move imposed a negative legacy. Overlaying new locations on African origins changed identities. [In the 20th and 21st centuries many Africans migrated from the continent to other parts of the world for religious, political and economic reasons, continuing the African diaspora. For more about the history of the African diaspora, including the different phases of migration and where Africans settled, read the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy's web page about The African Diaspora.]
  • African Methodist Episcopal Zion
    Black members within the John Street Church in New York City and within American Methodism in general were denied ordination, forced to sit in segregated pews and limited in their access to the Methodist itinerant clergy and the Communion Table. Frustrated by this treatment, two black John Street members, Peter Williams and William Miller, in 1796 founded the African Chapel. The chapel was later renamed Zion Church and its members became known as Zionites. In 1801, with the help of the Rev. John McClaskey a white minister who had opposed the independence efforts of Richard Allen’s African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME) in Philadelphia, the Zion Church was incorporated as the African Methodist Episcopal Church of the City of New York. James Varick was its first pastor, later becoming the first black African Methodist Episcopal Zion bishop. [According to the Religionbook, AME Zion Church is acceptable on second reference.]
  • African Methodist Episocopal (AME) Church
    Independent Methodist organization dedicated to black self-improvement and Pan-Africanist ideals. In 1794, Richard Allen, the first AME bishop, established Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. About 2,000 black Methodists facing persistent discrimination met at Bethel to discuss legal independence from the Methodist church's main body. They voted to organize under the name African Methodist Episcopal Church and the group successfully sued for independence before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. AME is acceptable on second reference and in headlines. See Methodist Episcopal Church.    
  • African-American language
    See Ebonics.
  • Afro-American
    Archaic term to describe a black person. Popular in the 1960s and '70s, the name was overtaken by black and later African American in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Do not use. See African American, African-American, black.
  • Afrocentric, Afrocentrism
    The study of Africa, its history and culture from a non-European perspective. The term Afrocentrism was first coined in 1976 by Molefi Kete Asante and can be defined as rediscovering African and African-American achievement, restoring Africa's rightful place in history, and establishing its importance on par with European history, culture and accomplishment.
  • Alaska Native
    An umbrella term that includes Eskimo (Inupait and Yupik), Alaskan Indians (Athabascan, Haida, Tlingit and Tsimshian) and Aleut. They are culturally distinct and most prefer to be called Alaska Native instead of being grouped as American Indian. [In 2016, President Barack Obama signed legislation (HR 4238) that replaced the term Eskimo with Alaska Native in federal laws. "Although the name Eskimo is commonly used in Alaska to refer to all Inuit and Yupik people of the world, this name is considered derogatory in many other places because it was given by non-Inuit people and was said to mean 'eater of raw meat,' according to Lawrence Kaplan of the University of Alaska Fairbanks' Alaska Native Language Center.  "Linguists now believe that Eskimo is derived from an Ojibwa word meaning 'to net snowshoes.' However, the people of Canada and Greenland prefer other names. Inuit, meaning "people," is used in most of Canada, and the language is called Inuktitut in eastern Canada although other local designations are used also. The Inuit people of Greenland refer to themselves as Greenlanders or Kalaallit in their language, which they call Greenlandic or Kalaallisut.]
  • All-American
    Caution. Not a synonym for white. Refers to the best high school and college athletes of the year.
  • American Indian
    American Indian and Native American are both generally acceptable and can be used interchangeably, although individuals may have a preference. Native American gained traction in the 1960s for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Over time, Native American has been expanded to include all Native people of the continental United States and some in Alaska. Native American and American Indian can be used interchangeably, however, the term is used only to describe groups of Native Americans - two or more individuals of different tribal affiliation. Journalists should always identify people by their preferred tribal affiliation when reporting on individuals or individual tribes. There are millions of people who identify as American Indian or who have Native ancestry, according to 100 Questions, 500 Nations: A Guide to Native America. That does not make them all American Indians in the eyes of tribes or the federal government. The federal government considers someone American Indian if he or she belongs to a federally recognized tribe. Individual tribes have the exclusive right to determine their own membership. Tribal governments formally list their members, who must meet specific criteria for enrollment. Some require a person to trace half or a quarter of his or her lineage, for instance, to the tribe, while others require only proof of descent. [Use native-born to describe someone who is born in the United States but isn't American Indian. [In 2016, President Barack Obama signed legislation (HR 4238) that replaced the term American Indian with Native American in federal laws.]
  • American Indian Movement
    Activist organization known as AIM. Founded in 1968 to promote civil rights for Native Americans. AIM has sought recognition of treaty rights through sit-ins and highly visible protests. In 1972, AIM organized the "Trail of Broken Treaties," converging on Washington, D.C., before the presidential election. AIM has branches across the United States.
  • American Indian or Alaska Native, U.S. Census definition of
    The U.S. Census Bureau, which adheres to the 1997 Office of Management and Budget standards on race and ethnicity, defines American Indian or Alaska Native as "a person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment." The Census Bureau notes: "The racial categories included in the census questionnaire generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country and not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically. In addition, it is recognized that the categories of the race item include racial and national origin or sociocultural groups."
  • Angel Island
    The West Coast counterpart to Ellis Island, N.Y. From 1910 to 1940, the U.S. Immigration Station processed hundreds of thousands of immigrants, the majority from China, at Angel Island. During World War II, Japanese, and German POWs were detained at the station before being sent to facilities farther inland. Angel Island is now a state park run by the California Department of Parks and Recreation. A virtual tour of the island, produced by the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation, is available here.
  • apartheid
    Racial segregation, specifically a policy of segregation and political and economic discrimination enforced by the white minority government against non-white residents in South Africa from 1948 to 1994.
  • Arab
    Refers to nation or people from an Arabic-speaking country. Not synonymous with Muslim. When referring to events in a specific country, name the country, rather than generalizing Arab. Arab is a noun for a person and it can be used as an adjective, as in Arab country. Do not imply in headlines or text that Arab equals Muslim, holy war or terrorist. Note: Iran is not an Arab country. The majority of Iranian people are Persian and the language is Farsi.
  • Arab American, American Arab
    A U.S. citizen or permanent resident who traces his or her ancestry to, or who immigrated from, Arabic-speaking places in the Middle East (southwestern Asia and northern Africa). Not all people who live in this region are Arabs. The U.S. government does not classify Arabs as a minority group for the purposes of employment and housing. Arab American is preferred over American Arab.
  • Arab League
    Formally the League of Arab States, this umbrella organization has 22 members in North Africa, the horn of Africa and Southwest Asia: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros Island, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria (suspended in 2011 because of ongoing uprising and civil war), Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.   The Arab League 22 Countries of the Arab League (year of the country's admittance) Egypt (1945) Iraq (1945) Jordan (1945) Lebanon (1945) Saudi Arabia (1945) Syria (1945) Yemen (1945) Libya (1953) Sudan (1956) Morocco (1958) Tunisia (1958) Kuwait (1961) Algeria (1962) Bahrain (1971) U.A.E. (1971) Oman (1971) Qatar (1971) Mauritania (1973) Somalia (1974) Palestine (1976) Djibouti (1977) Comoros (1993)
  • Arabian
    An adjective that refers to Saudi Arabia, the Arabian Peninsula, or for things, such as an Arabian horse. When ethnicity or nationality is relevant, it is more precise and accurate to specify the country by using Lebanese, Yemeni, or whatever is appropriate.
  • Arabic
    The name of the language spoken in Arab countries; it is generally not used as an adjective.
  • argilah, argeelah
    A water pipe that filters and cools tobacco smoke. The smoke is usually flavored with apple, honey, strawberry, mint, mango or apricot. Such pipes are smoked in many parts of the world and go by several names, including sheesha and hookah.  
  • articulate
    When someone remarks that a black person is articulate, it can imply that this is surprising behavior. This can be insulting for the individual or toward African Americans generally. So, this apparent compliment can meet a negative reaction. Because Standard American English is often seen as “proper” and spoken by white people, noting that someone speaks well can challenge black identity. Authenticity issues arise when someone says that a black person “talks white." This can happen among black people, as well.
  • Aryan
    Derived from the Sanskrit “arya,” or “noble.” In scholarly usage, a member of a people speaking one of a family of Indo-European languages, the presumed predecessor of much later languages spoken in Europe and the Indian subcontinent. In the late 19th century, the term became part of the anti-Semitic ideology that led to Nazism. In the modern usage of white supremacists, an Aryan is a non-Jewish white person, especially of Scandinavian heritage.
  • Asia
    About 60 percent of the world’s population, about 4.3 billion people (2015 estimate), live in Asia. Traditionally, East Asia consists of China, Japan, Korea, Mongolia and, occasionally, the Philippines. South Asia traditionally consists of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Southeast Asia (which is occasionally combined with East Asia) includes Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. In American usage, Asian is generally used to refer to the entire continent of Asia; often, however, Asian is used as shorthand for East Asians, or East and Southeast Asians. British usage generally treats the term Asian as referring to South Asia.
  • Asia, use and abuse of images from
    The AAJA Handbook to Covering Asian America urges caution. The Taj Mahal; the Ganges River; the Great Wall of China; pagodas; the cheongsam (traditional Chinese dress); the conical hat worn in Vietnam and elsewhere; rice paddies; rickshaws; samurais; geishas; Kabuki characters; as well as classical art, such as Hokusai’s “Great Wave” are emblematic of Asia. When used in context, such images are as essential as any other detail of reporting. When they are altered, however, problems can arise. When, for example, white political figures are dressed in a conical hat or depicted in a rickshaw in, say, an editorial cartoon criticizing U.S. dependence on China, they can suggest racial stereotypes.
  • Asian
    Caution. A term as broad as European. In some usage, chiefly British, Asian refers to Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and others. In the United States, such ethnic groups would be known as South Asians, while Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and others would be known as East Asians.  
  • Asian American, Asian-American
    Form the noun without the hyphen, as in French Canadian. In compound phrases, where the term is used as an adjective, a hyphen may be used, as in French-Canadian folklore. So, too, with Japanese American and Pakistani American. A few Asian Americans see a pejorative connotation to Asian-American with a hyphen, in part because of Theodore Roosevelt’s denunciation early in the 20th century of “hyphenated Americans” who do not join the American mainstream.
  • Asian Exclusion Acts
    Laws in which Congress barred or sharply restricted the immigration of Asians to the United States. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 barred Chinese laborers and prohibited Chinese from applying for citizenship; it was repealed in 1943. The 1924 Oriental Exclusion Act banned immigration from Asia. The 1934 Tydings-McDuffie Act imposed an annual quota of 50 Filipino immigrants. Only after 1965, with immigration laws designed to encourage European immigration, did Asian immigration also expand.
  • Asian names
    More complex than European names. Clarify family and surname, as well as use of second reference, with the interview subject will help avoid error. When in doubt, ask the news subject, especially on rules for second reference (such as Mr. Mao, but not Mr. Zedong). Asian pronunciation and transliteration rules are also complex. For example, in Mandarin, Chen is pronounced “chuhn” (rhymes with “one”), Li is “lee” and Yang “yong” (rhymes with “song,” not “sang”). However, many second-generation or later Chinese Americans pronounce their names in an Americanized fashion. Consider including pronunciation explainers in the text, broadcast or graphic. See Vietnamese names, Southeast Asian names.
  • Asian religions
    Caution. Religion is an imprecise term. Faith in Asia can differ sharply from that of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition. Temples, for instance, are typically not used for “worship” but for meditation; meditation is not necessarily “prayer;” and to most, but not all, Buddhists, Buddha is not a god. Confucianism and Taoism, much practiced in East Asia, are ways of and guides to living. They are informal combinations of practical philosophies, values, and folk beliefs. See Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Shintoism, Taoism.        
  • Asian, U.S. Census definition of
    The U.S. Census Bureau, which adheres to the 1997 Office of Management and Budget standards on race and ethnicity, defines Asian as "a person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam." Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander refers to: "a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands." The Census Bureau notes: "The racial categories included in the census questionnaire generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country and not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically. In addition, it is recognized that the categories of the race item include racial and national origin or sociocultural groups."    
  • Asiatic
    Avoid. A vestige of European colonialism and imperialism. A 19th-century adjective used at the time in “scientific” European treatises assuming the superiority of the white race.
  • Aunt Jemima
    Born a slave in 1834, Nancy Green became the advertising world’s first living trademark as Aunt Jemima. Working as a domestic in Chicago, Green was contracted at age 59 to portray a happy cook to promote a pancake recipe by Pearl Milling Co. She died in 1923, but her image as the pancake queen lives on today. Some view the icon as a painful reminder of slavery, and her character as the apron-clad cook with a bandanna tied on her head as a negative stereotype of black women.
  • aunt, uncle
    When not referring to a family relationship, the terms may be insensitive or offensive depending on its context. Historically, whites used the names often for any black person in servitude. Today, the names are used in the black community as terms of endearment or respect for non-family members or close family friends. Traditionally in the South, children are expected to address an adult by an honorific, Miss, Maam, Aunt, Mister, Uncle or Sir. See Aunt Jemima and Uncle Tom.
  • auntie
    In many cultures, this is a term of respect, not necessarily family relationship. An Arab American, for example, might call an older Arab female or male “auntie” (“amty”) or “uncle” (“ammo”). See aunt, uncle.  
  • banana
    A slang term and pejorative reference used by Asian Americans when referring to Asian Americans who identify more with whites than with other Asian Americans. Use only in direct quotes.
  • bindi, or bindhi
    Pronounced “BIN-dhee.” The decoration worn on the forehead by many Hindu women. There are various explanations for the bindi: It can be a blessed symbol that signifies female energy and is believed to protect women and their husbands; a traditional symbol of marriage; a third eye, the eye of inner vision or spiritual wisdom; or simply a decoration like jewelry. It is worn by Indians of all religions.  
  • biracial
    Combination of two races. May be used to describe people or things. Not all biracial individuals self-identify in this manner. Do not used mixed as an alternative.
  • Black Africa
    See Africa.
  • Black church
    Collective noun that refers to the more than 65,000 Christian churches that have a predominance of Black members and clerical leadership. The Black Church has served as a major institutional foundation in the Black community. It generally refers to Protestants, who themselves represent a variety of denominations and sects. It does not generally encompass Catholics, Muslims or others. In some cases the term b\Black churches may be more accurate, but also be mindful that many Black people worldwide belong to churches and to denominations that may not be predominantly Black. [According to the Association of Religion Data Archives, the Black Church “has been composed of seven major denominations.” They are the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, the Church of God in Christ, the National Baptist Convention of America, the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.]  
  • Black Codes
    Statutes curtailing the rights of African Americans during the early years of Reconstruction and instituted by Southern legislative bodies in 1865 and 1866. Also known as Negro Codes, the statutes aimed to restore the political powers and economic structure of slavery by, for example, forbidding Black people from owning or renting farmland.
  • Black diaspora
    See African diaspora.
  • Black leader
    Avoid using the term. It implies that one person is the spokesperson for all Black people. When referring to a local Black person in a leadership position, state the organization that he or she belongs to.
  • Black Lives Matter, #BlackLivesMatter
    [A civil rights movement that started after the July 2013 acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Florida shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin. The Black Lives Matter movement, also written #BlackLivesMatter, was started as a Twitter hashtag by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi as "a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society," according to the Black Lives Matter website. It gained momentum in 2014 after several other young African-American men—Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.; Eric Garner in Staten Island, NY; Freddie Gray in Baltimore—were killed by police in cities around the country.] According to its website, #BlackLivesMatter does not believe Black lives are more important than other lives. In fact, it says it stands with other oppressed peoples and views all lives as important. The campaign opposes police violence against Black people. While the group says all lives matter, not all lives face the same threats. According to Black Lives Matter, once Black people are free from oppression, the benefits will be wide reaching and transformative to society as a whole.
  • Black Muslim
    Black Muslim is a term that became associated with the Nation of Islam but is now considered derogatory and should be avoided. The preferred term is simply member of the Nation of Islam. Also, because of that association, do not use Black Muslim to describe African-Americans who practice traditional Islam, whose tenets differ markedly from the Nation’s. Instead, say African-American Muslims.
  • Black or African American, U.S. Census definition of
    The U.S. Census Bureau, which adheres to the 1997 Office of Management and Budget standards on race and ethnicity, defines Black or African American as "a person having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa." The Census Bureau notes: "The racial categories included in the census questionnaire generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country and not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically. In addition, it is recognized that the categories of the race item include racial and national origin or sociocultural groups."  
  • Black Twitter
    A virtual community on the Twitter social network that focuses on issues of interest to the Black community, particularly in the United States. Black Twitter has been used as a tool for social activism, such as organizing protest rallies and boycotts.
  • black, Black
    See African American, African-American, black, Black.
  • Bollywood
    The Indian movie industry’s equivalent of Hollywood. The name is a combination of Bombay, the city now called Mumbai, and Hollywood. It is a popular term for Hindi cinema and is a vast pop culture industry. It is the largest producer of movies in the world, ahead of Hollywood and France. Bollywood is not the only source of Indian cinema and movies are made in other languages, but Bollywood is the largest. Bollywood movies include several genres, but they are often musicals with singing and dancing.
  • burkini
    A type of swimming suit that covers the arms, legs and hair and is worn by some Muslim women. Burkini is a mix of the words burqa and bikini. Some Muslim women choose to cover these parts of the body to demonstrate modesty and faith. In the summer of 2016, after a series of terrorist attacks on French communities, some towns in France banned women from wearing a burkini on public beaches or in the sea.
  • Burmese names
    Naming rules are complex. Names typically consist of two one-syllable names, but often with another word as an honorific, such as Daw for older women, Maa for younger women; and Naw, Saw, Maung and U (pronounced “oo” as in two) for men.
  • Cajun, Creole
    Cajun is a native of Louisiana originally descended from the Acadian French immigrants. Creole is a person of European parentage born in the West Indies, Central America, tropical South America or the Gulf States.
  • Cambodian names
    Typically family name first, personal name second. Middle names are rare.
  • Cantonese
    Not spoken by all Chinese, it is dialect mainly spoken in the environs of Canton, now known as Guangzhou, near the South China Sea. The dialect of many of the early Chinese immigrants to the United States in the 1840s to 1870s. Also the principal dialect of Hong Kong. Still widely spoken in U.S. Chinatowns. See Mandarin.      
  • caste
    For hundreds of years India had a caste system of social hierarchy. At its root, it was a system referred to in Hindu scriptures that aimed to classify people based on their nature, aptitude and conduct and put them to work in functions that suited their classification. Later interpretations resulted in a hereditary and hierarchical structure that was the basis for centuries of segregation and discrimination in traditional communities. It sharply limited socio-economic mobility. Changes in the law since independence have removed many vestiges of caste-based discrimination. However, it persists in many traditional villages and communities. Caste also forms the basis for a range of quotas and affirmative-action policies enacted by the Indian government aimed at erasing the legacy of discrimination in higher education and government employment. In many instances, these quotas and preferences have exacerbated tensions and resentments between caste groups and deepened caste-based identity and prejudice. Communities or castes can discourage marrying, associating or even dining with people of other groups. Indians in the United States do not use a caste system and freedom from it may encourage immigration.
  • caste system
    The traditional social, economic and religious structure of Indian society, which divided people into four broad groups, or castes (varna in Sanskrit), and multiple smaller groups, or subcastes (jati). While it is believed that the system was once simply a division of labor and guild system, determined by skills and aptitude, it became a rigid hereditary hierarchy in which restrictions were placed on one’s social mobility, job opportunities, marriage prospects and even whom one could eat with. Although caste discrimination is illegal in India and most Hindu leaders stress that it is not sanctioned in Hinduism, it is still practiced among followers of all religions throughout South Asia. An additional group, the untouchables, was created from the lowest caste for people who performed tasks considered “polluting” in a physical or spiritual sense. Since the early 20th century, the Indian government has called this group the “Scheduled Castes.”      
  • Caucasian
    Caution, not a synonym for American. Term for white, or relatively light-skinned, people originally from Europe and adjacent regions of Africa and Asia. Named after Caucasus mountain range between Russia and Georgia. The paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould traced the term to Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752-1840), a German naturalist, who concluded that the Georgian people of the Caucasus region were the most beautiful and therefore most likely the first human beings created by God. See all-American, Aryan, white.
  • Central America
    A tropical isthmus that connects North America to South America. Central America is bordered by Mexico to the north, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Central America consists of seven countries: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama.
  • Chaldeans
    Catholics from Iraq. A religious and ethnic minority there, Chaldeans have some large communities in the United States, the largest in the Detroit and San Diego areas. The Chaldean Catholic Church has had connections with the Roman Catholic Church since 1551 and has been affiliated since 1830. Chaldeans and Assyrians, along with Arabs, are Semite people. Their cultural foundation is similar, but the religious affiliation is different.  
  • Charlie Chan
    Caution. Stereotype. Created by Earl Derr Biggers, a mystery novelist, in 1925. Charlie Chan became the protagonist in many popular Hollywood films from 1926 to 1981. Chan was played by white actors, including Warner Oland, who also played the evil Dr. Fu Manchu. While a skilled detective, Chan spoke “inscrutable” dialogue that often began, “Confucius say…” In “Behind That Curtain,” Chan said, “I fear I am victim of crude philosophy from Orient. Man — what is he? Merely one link in great chain binding past with future. All times I remember I am link.”
  • Chican@
    This post-internet construction simplifies “Chicano/Chicana” or “Chicano and/or Chicana.” Some academic studies departments have put this in their names. According to the University of Wisconsin at Madison Department of Chican@ and Latin@ Studies, “The @ ending (‘a’ at the center of ‘o’) offers a simultaneous presentation of both the feminine and masculine word endings of Chicana, Chicano, Latina, and Latino and allows the reader/speaker to choose the form she or he prefers.” See Latin@.
  • Chicana, Chicano
    People of Mexican descent; Chicano refers to men and Chicana to women. The terms were originally considered derogatory. However the Chicano movement during the 1960s adopted these names in response to discrimination against Mexican Americans working under unfair labor and social conditions. These terms announce pride in indigenous ancestry, which was a significant ideological element of the Chicano movement. See Latina, Latino.  
  • china doll
    Caution. A figurine, usually porcelain. When used metaphorically, the image demeans women of Chinese or Asian heritage because it implies submission, sometimes of a sexual nature. See reverse image of sexual dominance in Dragon Lady. Both images are pejorative.
  • Chinaman
    Avoid. A slur, often applied to anyone of Asian heritage. A term from 19th-century America, specifically for Chinese workers who worked for small wages building the transcontinental railroad. “Chinaman’s chance’’ means no chance at all, and implies injury or death.
  • Chinese laundries
    Caution. Can be racially charged. Legend has it that the first Chinese laundry was opened in 1851 in California by a failed Chinese miner. Inexpensive to open and posing no competition to white-owned businesses, Chinese hand laundries proliferated, peaking in 1940, with more than 5,000 laundries in New York City alone. In California, Chinese were once permitted to own only restaurants and laundries. The Chinese laundry declined sharply with the introduction of coin-operated laundromats.
  • Chinese names
    Typically family name first (as in “Smith”), personal name second (as in “John”). Many Chinese Americans, however, change the word order to conform to Western practice. They also often adopt Western names in addition to traditional names. Personal names consisting of two words (one word is typically a generational name) are sometimes hyphenated. Check to see if the interview subject prefers a hyphen. Rules for married women adopting their husbands’ names are often elaborate. (Taiwan, consisting mainly of ethnic Chinese from the mainland, follows Chinese naming rules.) See South Asian names.
  • ching-chong
    Avoid. A slur. Similar to chink. See chink.
  • chink
    Avoid. A slur. Similar to Chinaman. Avoid phrases such as “chink in the armor” — despite its original non-racial connotation — that call to mind the slur. See Chinaman, ching-chong.
  • Chitlin' Circuit
    The “Chitlin’ Circuit” was a touring route Black entertainers used in the early 20th century. It provided safe venues and reliable lodging for traveling performers during Jim Crow discrimination. From the 1930s into the 1950s, new types of music developed along the circuit. Some emerged from string bands. New genres included the blues and rock ’n’ roll. Performers included Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Ruth Brow, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, James Brown and Lena Horne. The circuit also featured dance and comedy. Besides giving performers a stage, the circuit also helped support Black businesses. The circuit was named after boiled pig intestines, a soul-food staple. The name plays off Jewish entertainers’ Borscht Belt. Listen to rock historian Ed Ward discuss two books about the "Chitlin' Circuit" and play some music from that era on NPR's "Fresh Air."
  • chopsticks
    Chopsticks originated in China around 1200 B.C. when cooks used them to retrieve food from the bottom of pots. Chopsticks moved from stove to table and became popular in China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam. People in Indonesia, Thailand and India don’t traditionally use chopsticks. Some Southeast Asian restaurants run by people who don’t generally use chopsticks offer them to Americans who believe this will help them eat more authentically.
  • Cinco de Mayo
    Cinco de Mayo, which means May 5, is a Mexican holiday recalling victory over France in the 1862 Battle of Puebla, which occurred during the Franco-Mexican War. Cinco de Mayo festivities include parades, street festivals, mariachi music and special foods in both Mexico and the United States. In the United States, Cinco de Mayo is considered a celebration of Mexican culture. Cinco de Mayo is not equivalent to the Fourth of July. Mexico celebrates its independence from Spain on Sept. 16.
  • civil rights movement, Civil Rights Act
    Often used to describe the struggles of black Americans between 1945 and 1970 to end discrimination and racial segregation. Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to guarantee basic civil rights for all Americans, regardless of race, after nearly a decade of nonviolent protests and marches, ranging from the 1955-1956 Montgomery bus boycott to the student-led sit-ins of the 1960s to the March on Washington in 1963.
  • code switching
    Changing the way one speaks depending on the situation at hand. Within the Black community, some people speak differently with their friends than they do with their family. Some African Americans may use Standard English at work and the vernacular in familiar Black spaces. When Black people code switch, they are adjusting their speaking style to fit into a social context and to accommodate the speakers in that space. Code switching is a learned skill. It does not happen automatically. Youth from families where African American Language is the dominant language will enter school speaking African American Language. By the same token, youth from families where Standard English is the dominant language will enter school speaking Standard English. For either group, to master code switching requires dedicated, well-trained teachers and long-term experience and exposure to linguistic varieties other than the home language.
  • colored
    An archaic term for Black. In some African countries, colored denotes those of mixed racial ancestry. Do not use unless referring to official names, historical events or in quotes. See African, African American, Black, black.
  • colorism
    Colorism occurs when someone with lighter skin is favored over someone with darker skin. Colorism occurs within all races, as all have varieties of skin tone and hair color. Although no longer common, the “brown paper bag test” was an example of this among African Americans. With that test, some lighter-skinned or “high yellow” African Americans would exclude people if their skin was darker than a brown paper bag.
  • Copts, Coptics, Coptic Christians
    The word Copt is derived from the Greek word for Egyptian, and Coptic was the native language of Egypt before Arabic prevailed. Today the word refers to Coptic Christians. Although linguistically and culturally classified as Arabs, many Copts consider themselves to be ethnically distinct from other Egyptians.        
  • Creole
    See Cajun, Creole.  
  • cultural misappropriation
    Cultural appropriation occurs in TV and movies, music, cartoons, Halloween costumes and language. It is when people use another group’s cultural elements or artifacts in ways that can ridicule or be negative. Some see appropriation as an assault on culture. Cultural collaboration can lead to respectful sharing and fusion.
  • DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals)
    DACA stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. This program provides temporary relief from deportation and employment authorization for individuals who would be eligible for the DREAM Act were it to become law. DACA was created under the president’s executive authority to grant certain classes of people “deferred action” on their immigration cases. It was announced by President Obama in June of 2012 and can be renewed. It could be terminated at any time by executive action. See DREAM Act.
  • Desi
    Pronounced “THEY-see” or “DAY-see,” it comes from Sanskrit and means "from the country" or "of the country." [It refers to a person of Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi birth or descent who lives abroad] and implies shared values or bonds.
  • dialect
    Language forms, particularly oddities of pronunciation and syntax, that are peculiar to a region or a group. Avoid using dialect if it renders the speaker as ignorant or makes the person a subject of ridicule, even in quoted material. In rare stories, use of dialect may be approved as bringing a sense of atmosphere that could not otherwise be achieved. Such approval should come from the department-head level. Obviously, further exception is made when dialect itself is news, such as in a story in which it is pertinent to the identification of a crime suspect. If dialect is to be used, words are spelled phonetically and apostrophes indicate missing sounds. Be accurate and avoid exaggeration.
  • Dragon Lady
    Caution. A cartoon character from the 1930s comic strip “Terry and the Pirates.” Variations of the Dragon Lady were popularized in adventure movies of the 1940s and later. She was portrayed as sexy and evil in Chinese silk gowns with long sleeves, a cigarette holder in her hand. See china doll, a reverse image.
  • dreadlocks, locks, locs
    See hair, African American or Black.
  • DREAM Act
    The DREAM Act stands for Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors. It is a proposal first introduced in the U.S. Senate in 2001 to provide legal residency to undocumented youth who meet several criteria. Those include arrival in the United States as a minor, completing a high school diploma and completing two years in the military or at a four-year institution of higher learning. Supporters say the DREAM Act would help people and benefit the country economically. Opponents say it rewards people for breaking the law and encourages illegal immigration. See DACA.
  • driving while Black, DWB
    Phrase or acronym describing racial profiling of Black motorists by police, especially while driving expensive cars or in upscale neighborhoods without reason. If used in quotes or copy, define what it means.
  • Ebonics
    Slang or nonstandard form of the English language that is used by some in the Black community. The National Association of Black Journalists Style Guide advises journalists to avoid using the form in news copy. [Dr. Geneva Smitherman, a sociolinguist and Black studies scholar at Michigan State University, identifies African American Language, or Ebonics, as a system of “Africanized semantic, grammatical, pronunciation, and rhetorical patterns” unique to the Black community, according to 100 Questions & Answers About African Americans. Universally embraced words, phrases, and actions such as the “high five" come from Black language and cultural practices. Other names: Black English, African American English, African American Vernacular English. For more about Ebonics, read "What is Ebonics (African American English)?" by John R. Rickford on the website of the Linguistics Society of America.]  
  • Emancipation Proclamation
    In 1863, Lincoln issued a proclamation and executive order encouraging slaves in the South to become contrabands behind Union lines. It applied only in areas of the 10 Southern states that had seceded from the union. Those areas did not recognize his authority. States that had seceded in all or in part were Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. Lincoln’s proclamation did not address slavery in Union border states. Lincoln’s action tied slavery to preserving the union, the major issue in the Civil War. The proclamation set the stage for the 13th Amendment, but it did not end slavery. Some celebrate the end of slavery on Juneteenth, short for June 19th. On that day in 1865, two months after the Civil War, Union troops arrived in Galveston to take control of Texas and enforce the Emancipation Proclamation.
  • eñe, ñ
    In the Spanish alphabet, ñ is an additional letter, not just an n with an accent mark, which is called a tilde. It is called an eñe and is pronounced “enye.” It is used in many words. Substituting a plain n, a whole different letter, can change the word. In speech, this letter sounds like the middle sound in canyon and, in fact, the Spanish word for canyon is cañon.
  • epicanthic fold
    See eye shape.
  • ethnic group
    Caution, vague. A group of people who self-identify with one another because of geographical, linguistic, cultural, religious and other ties. In the 19th and 20th centuries, it was common to refer to ethnic groups as races, e.g. the Hungarian race.  
  • ethnicity, mention of
    A person’s [ethnicity] should not be mentioned unless relevant. This also applies to references to ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion. Derogatory terms or slurs aimed at members of a racial or ethnic group may not be used unless having a direct bearing on the news, and then only with the approval of the senior editor in charge. Avoid stereotypes. Race and ethnicity may be relevant in some stories, including the following: Crime stories – A highly detailed description of a suspect sought by police can contain [skin color]. Be sure the description is properly attributed. Do not use descriptions that include only a few items or are vague, such as tall, dark clothes. [A detailed description might include a person's complexion, facial features, distinguishing marks or tattoos, etc.] Biographical or announcement stories – Be careful about using race or ethnicity to describe a person as the first to accomplish a specific feat. Firsts are important, but race and ethnicity shouldn't be overemphasized. Reserve race or ethnicity for significant, groundbreaking or historic events such as winning a Nobel Prize, being named chief justice or becoming mayor. By overplaying race or ethnicity, one’s achievement may seem dependent on that instead of ability. See race.
  • Executive Order 9066
    A war measure following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Signed Feb. 19, 1942, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, it led to the internment in camps of [117,000 people] of Japanese heritage, two-thirds of whom were U.S. citizens. A divided cabinet recommended the measure to Roosevelt, despite an affirmation by the Office of Naval Intelligence of the loyalty of Japanese Americans. The order was designed to combat sabotage, but Americans of German and Italian heritage were largely exempt. Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and imperial Japan formed the Axis. The United States Supreme Court repeatedly affirmed the constitutionality of the order, but Congress, in 1983, called it “a grave injustice.” Text of Executive Order 9066 See Angel Island; internment, Japanese.
  • exotic
    Avoid.  When describing women of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage, it often implies a departure from a white norm. Swedes, for example, are not described in the United States as exotic.
  • eye shape, reference to
    Misnomer (all human eyeballs have the same shape). The distinctive “Asian” feature is known as an “epicanthic fold” of the eyelid but is found in all races. Not all Asians have the fold. It is unclear what evolutionary advantage is conferred by such a feature. Eyes aren’t “slanted” or “slitty” and such terms are racially derogatory. The relevance of discussing the fold, which might call to mind racial stereotypes, must be explained to the reader or viewer. A discussion of why some Asian women seek plastic surgery to change the shape of their eyelids, for example, is relevant. Whether an Asian basketball player has a reduced field of vision is not.
  • Filipino/Pilipino
    Refers to an inhabitant of the Philippines, the former Spanish possession and American colony. Filipino American refers to those who share its heritage and culture. Some Filipino Americans, often younger, prefer Pilipino because Tagalog (pronounced tuh-GAW-lug), the leading dialect of the Philippines, lacks an “F” sound. The Philippines, claimed by Spanish explorers, was named after King Philip II of Spain (1527-1598). See Tagalog.
  • First Nations
    First Nations is a term used to describe Aboriginal peoples of Canada who are ethnically neither Métis nor Inuit, according to a list of terms compiled by the First Nations Studies Program at the University of British Columbia. "This term came into common usage in the 1970s and ‘80s and generally replaced the term Indian, although unlike Indian, the term First Nation does not have a legal definition. While First Nations refers to the ethnicity of First Nations peoples, the singular First Nation can refer to a band, a reserve-based community, or a larger tribal grouping and the status Indians who live in them. For example, the Stó:lō Nation (which consists of several bands), or the Tsleil-Waututh Nation (formerly the Burrard Band)."
  • flip
    Avoid. Pejorative for Filipino.  
  • fortune cookie
    Origin almost certainly Japanese. There are references to the cookies in Japanese literature and history, including an 1878 image of a man making them in a bakery. China and Japan do not have a tradition of dessert following a meal.
  • Fu Manchu
    Caution. Stereotype. Created by mystery writer Sax Rohmer in 1913 and popularized in 1930s and 1940s films. Fu Manchu was an evil genius. He was portrayed by many actors, including Warner Oland, who also played Charlie Chan. Rohmer described him this way: “Imagine a person, tall, lean, and feline, high-shouldered, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan, a close-shaven skull, and long, magnetic eyes of the true cat-green.” He is also “the yellow peril incarnate in one man.” Later Asian and pseudo-Asian villains — like Flash Gordon’s nemesis, Emperor Ming the Merciless, and James Bond’s Dr. No — were variations of Fu Manchu.
  • genocide
    [The deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic, religious, linguistic, racial or cultural group or nation. Examples of genocide include the Armenian Genocide, the Assyrian genocide, the Greek genocide, the Holocaust, the 1971 Bangladesh genocide, the Cambodian Genocide, the Kurdish Genocide, the Bosnian Genocide, and the Rwandan Genocide.] The term "genocide" did not exist before 1944. It is a very specific term, referring to violent crimes committed against groups with the intent to destroy the existence of the group. Human rights, as laid out in the US Bill of Rights or the 1948 United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, concern the rights of individuals. In 1944, a Polish-Jewish lawyer named Raphael Lemkin (1900-1959) sought to describe Nazi policies of systematic murder, including the destruction of the European Jews. He formed the word "genocide" by combining geno-, from the Greek word for race or tribe, with -cide, derived from the Latin word for killing. In proposing this new term, Lemkin had in mind "a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves." The next year, the International Military Tribunal held at Nuremberg, Germany, charged top Nazis with "crimes against humanity." The word “genocide” was included in the indictment, but as a descriptive, not legal, term. On December 9, 1948, in the shadow of the Holocaust and in no small part due to the tireless efforts of Lemkin himself, the United Nations approved the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This convention establishes "genocide” as an international crime, which signatory nations “undertake to prevent and punish.” It defines genocide as: [G]enocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: (a) Killing members of the group; (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
  • ghetto, inner city
    Terms used as synonyms for sections of cities inhabited by poor people or minorities. Avoid these descriptions because of their negative connotations. Often the name of the neighborhood is the best choice. Section, district or quarter may also be used. Urban is also acceptable.  
  • good name
    Foreigners in India are often confused when asked, "What is your good name?" The questioner is just asking for the person's name. It is a literal translation of the Hindi usage "Aap ka shubhnam?" ("shubh" means "auspicious").
  • Great Migration, the
    This was a post-Reconstruction move within the United States from the South to the North. From about 1916 to 1970, some 6 million African Americans moved out of the rural South to cities in the Northeast, Midwest and West. People fled lynchings and other forms of violence and segregation. They sought opportunity. After moving, they faced some of the same issues and met new forms of segregation in housing, education, employment and more.
  • Gullah
    Creole blend of Elizabethan English and African languages, born of necessity on Africa's slave coast and developed in slave communities of isolated plantations of the coastal South. Even after the Sea Islands were freed in1861, the Gullah speech flourished because of the islands’ separation from the mainland. Access to the islands was by water until the 1950s. See Creole.
  • guru
    Teacher, particularly used in the major Indian religions of Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism. In popular English, it means any sort of knowledgeable guide or mentor.  
  • Gypsy, gypsy, gipsy
    A word used to indicate Romani (also spelled Romany) or Roma people, a traditionally itinerant ethnic group that lives in Europe and has branches in the Americas, Asia and North Africa. The word Gypsy (sometimes capitalized as a proper noun when referring to the ethnic group and sometimes spelled Gipsy) has negative connotations and many Romani people see it as a racial slur. In general, it's best to use Romani or Roma people when referring to the ethnic group unless people self-identify as Gypsies. The term gyp, which means to cheat or swindle, likely comes from Gypsy and is seen as a negative stereotype of Roma as swindlers and thieves.  
  • hair, African American or Black
    When describing a person’s hair in news stories, ask what style the hair is, don't assume. Black hair comes in a variety of styles and textures. A few include: afro – Characterized by or being a style of tight curls in a full evenly rounded shape. bald, shaved – Not synonymous. A bald person has naturally lost some or all of his or hair. A person with a shaved head chose to have his or her hair close to the scalp or completely off, replicating the bald look. braids – Traditional style worn by many African-American girls in which hair is sectioned into parts and then, in each part, three or more strands of hair are intertwined. Also known as plaits. cornrows – Braiding technique close to the head and also known as French braids. dreadlocks, dreds or locks [sometimes spelled locs or loks] – Long, uncombed, twisted or matted locks of hair, a style worn originally by Rastafarians. extensions – Human or synthetic hair used to make a person’s existing hair longer. Often used with braiding. Jheri curl – Chemically treated curly hair resembling Shirley Temple-like tresses. Other names were California curl, S-curl, carefree curl and luster curl. Jheri Redding, a Chicago-based entrepreneur and stylist, created the style in the late 1970s, then produced his own line of hair-care products. twists – Style in which hair is sectioned into parts and then, in each part, strands of hair are twirled. weave – Synthetic or human hair added to existing hair or scalp to give one the appearance of a fuller head of hair. [According to 100 Questions & Answers About African Americans, at certain times in history, Black hairstyles "have been very political. People might wear their hair to suit their style sense, personality, history, comfort or convenience. Some people change their hair often. Black hairstyles have creative varieties from natural to straightened to curled and different kinds of braids. Black hair can be long or short, elaborate or shaved, and worn up or down. It can incorporate weaves, extensions and beads. Some people use questions about hair to open up larger conversations and get to know more about the person." For more information see the video "Five Questions About Black Hair."]
  • hamsa
    Often worn as jewelry, the hamsa is a non-religious, palm-shaped symbol for good luck or protection that pre-dates Islam. It is seen in many cultures, including Latin American, Greek, Ethiopian and Turkish. People from many traditions and religions have adopted it. Some Muslims call it the “hand of Fatima,” referring to the daughter of the prophet Muhammad. [The Arabic word hamsa means "five" and refers to the digits on the hand.]
  • Hapa
    Once considered derogatory, hapa comes from the Hawaiian phrase hapa haole (pronounced “hah-puh how-lee”) meaning “half white/foreigner.” It now describes anyone whose heritage is white plus another racial or ethnic group, but especially Asians and Pacific Islanders. The term is now considered by many to be one of positive self-identification.
  • hate crime
    According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a hate crime is "a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, Congress has defined a hate crime as a 'criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.' Hate itself is not a crime—and the FBI is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties."
  • Hawaiian
    Caution. An ethnic group. Refers to a person who is of Polynesian descent. Unlike a term like Californian, Hawaiian should not be used for everyone living in Hawaii. The distinction is not trivial. If Wales were the 51st state, not everyone living in Wales would be Welsh. [Possible alternative: Hawaiʻi resident.] See Pacific Islander.
  • HBCUs
    Acronym for historically black colleges and universities. There are 105 institutions founded primarily for the education of African Americans, although their charters are not exclusionary. Most HBCUs are 50 to 100 years old. HBCU is acceptable on second reference and in headlines.  
  • henna
    A plant used to make ink or hair dye. To make the ink, leaves are ground to powder and mixed with water and lemon juice or oil. The ceremonial application of henna to make designs on the body, usually hands or feet, is called mehndi. Indian women wear mehndi for special occasions such as weddings. The designs start to fade after about a week.  
  • Hindi
    The primary language of about 30 percent of India’s citizens, and one of almost two dozen major languages spoken around that country. It is derived primarily from Sanskrit, using the Devanagari script. Do not confuse Hindi with Hindu, which is a religious designation. See Hindu.
  • Hindustani
    An unofficial language spoken in northern India, a mixture of Urdu and Hindi. See Indian languages.
  • Hispanic
    An umbrella term referring to a person whose ethnic origin is in a Spanish-speaking country, as well as residents or citizens of the United States with Latin American ancestry, except for those from Brazil, which is not a Spanish-speaking country. Federal policy defines “Hispanic” not as a race, but as an ethnicity; it notes that Hispanics can be of any race. The term Hispanic is more commonly used in the Eastern United States and is generally favored by those of Caribbean and South American ancestry or origin. According to a 2013 Pew Research Center survey of Hispanic adults, 50 percent of respondents said they had no preference for either term. But among those who did express a preference, “Hispanic” was preferred over “Latino” by a ratio of about two to one. Among Hispanic Texans, however, 46 percent said they preferred the term Hispanic, while just 8 percent said they prefer the term “Latino." The U.S. Census Bureau uses terms such as "Hispanic or Latino" and "non-Hispanic or Latino" in its survey questions on ethnicity and race. For more about the Hispanic or Latino question read: "Hispanic Or Latino? A Guide For The U.S. Presidential Campaign," NPR, Aug. 27, 2015 "Which is it, Hispanic or Latino?" CNN, May 3, 2014 "You say Latino," a mini comic by Terry Blas, Aug. 19, 2015 See Chicana/Chicano, Chican@, Hispanic, Latin@, Latina/Latino and Latinx.
  • Hispanic paradox
    The Hispanic paradox refers to studies showing that although Hispanic communities in the United States tend to have a higher risk factor for illnesses, they tend to have a longer life expectancy than non-Hispanics with the same health problems. Several studies have attributed this to family cohesion.
  • Hmong (also Mong or Muong)
    An ethnic group living in southern China, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. Laotian civil war in mid-1970s led to an exodus to the United States.  
  • Hmong names
    Typically family name first, personal name second, often one-syllable names.
  • hookah
    See argilah.
  • implicit bias, unconscious bias
    Attitudes that unconsciously affect [people's] decisions and actions. People often think of bias as intentional, i.e. someone wanted to say something racist. However, brain science has shown that people are often unaware of their bias, and the concept of implicit bias helps describe a lot of contemporary racist acts that may not be overt or intentional. Implicit bias is just as harmful, so it is important to talk about race explicitly and to take steps to address it. Institutions are composed of individuals whose biases are replicated and then produce systemic inequities. It is possible to interrupt implicit bias by adding steps to decision-making processes that thoughtfully consider and address racial impacts.
  • Indian Country
    Indian Country is a legal term used in Title 18 of the U.S. Code. It broadly defines federally and tribal jurisdiction in crimes affecting Indians on reservations. It also has popular usage, describing reservations and areas with Native American populations.
  • Indian languages
    India has 14 officially recognized languages. In addition there are many more fully developed languages. They are distinct and are not merely separate dialects of the same language, there there are many dialects, too. India’s 2001 census found 29 languages with 1 million or more native speakers. The most prevalent, Hindi, was spoken by more than 40 percent of Indians. The next seven languages by popularity were Bengali, Telegu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Guajarathi and Kanada. Combined, those languages were used by another 40 percent of Indians.
  • Indian, Indian American
    Use Indian or person from India to refer to a person with ancestral ties to India. Use Indian American to refer to a U.S. permanent resident or citizen with ancestral ties to India. Do not confuse with American Indian. Do not use to refer to indigenous peoples of the United States. REFERENCE: 100 Questions & Answers About Indian Americans  
  • Indigenous
    While an official definition of Indigenous is not agreed on, the United Nations has developed an understanding of the term based on self-identification, historical continuity to pre-colonial and/or pre-settler societies, links to territories and resources, distinct social, economic and political systems and possession of distinct languages, cultures and beliefs. In the case of the United States, tribal membership or citizenship denotes Indigenous identity. These factors make the words Indigenous and Aboriginal identities, not adjectives, and NAJA urges outlets to capitalize these terms in order to avoid confusion between indigenous plants and animals and Indigenous human beings. Finally, avoid referring to Indigenous people as possessions of states or countries. Instead of Wyoming’s Indigenous people try the Indigenous people of Wyoming. [There are an estimated 370 million Indigenous peoples worldwide, living in 70 different countries, according to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.]
  • Indo
    A modifier used to denote something of Indian origin or with an India connection; similar to "Sino" for China. eg: "Indo-U.S. relations" or "Indo-Americans" (preferred term: Indian-Americans).Also increasingly used to refer to the South Asian diaspora and not just India the country. eg: "Indo-American art" may refer to art by South Asians of all backgrounds, not just India.
  • Indonesian names
    Many have two names, but having only one name is also common. Muslims have complex name rules.
  • inscrutable
    Caution. Synonym for mysterious, but considered a racially charged adjective, particularly when used to describe Asians or Asian Americans.
  • institutional racism
    When policies and practices put people who are not of the dominant race at a disadvantage. This happens in government, business, education at all levels, news and entertainment media and other systems. Housing policies that turn away single parents, parents with more children or people with lower incomes can be forms of institutional racism. Hiring and promotion patterns can reflect institutional racism. It was a factor in a wave of protests on college campuses that began in 2015. School discipline systems that disproportionately send Black students into the criminal justice system have been called “the school-to-prison pipeline.” When people say an institution is racist, they may not be referring to intent, but to the structures and policies of the institution. See systemic racism, White privilege.
  • internment, Japanese
    During World War II, the incarceration of 120,000 men, women and children of Japanese ancestry, two-thirds of them U.S. citizens. They were ordered to sell their homes and businesses, usually at a steep discount, to whites and then move to “relocation centers.” The last internees were released in 1946. Some advocates urge the use of “incarceration” instead of internment as a more accurate depiction. For more information about Japanese American incarceration, see the website of the Japanese American National Museum.  
  • interpreters
    Caution. An interview subject may speak limited or otherwise inadequate English. Use of another member of the family as an interpreter can yield flawed translations. A daughter, for example, may hesitate to completely translate her mother’s words or the daughter’s vocabulary (in English or the parent’s native language) may itself be limited. If deadline permits, have an independent native speaker listen to a recording of the original interview.
  • Iranian names
    A Persian or Iranian name consists of a given name, sometimes more than one, followed by a family name. Many of the names in the Alf Layla wa-Layla, or “The Thousand Nights and One Night” are Persian, including Scheherazade (various spellings).
  • Issei, issei
    Term for Japanese immigrants originating from the Japanese language term for "first generation." In the American context, the term is generally understood to apply to those who migrated prior to the cessation of Japanese immigration to the U.S. under the dictates of the Immigration Act of 1924, the bulk arriving after 1885. The vast majority of Issei were thus middle-aged or older during World War II. Other generational terms include Nisei (second generation) for the American born children of the Issei, Sansei (third generation) for the grandchildren of the Issei and Yonsei (fourth generation) for their great-grandchildren. Postwar immigrants from Japan are understood to be a distinct group sometimes referred to as Shin-Issei, the prefex "shin" being "new" in Japanese. [Some Japanese-American institutions, such as Densho Encyclopedia, the digital educational resource on Japanese American internment and Japanese incarceration,  capitalize the first letter of Issei, Nisei, Sansei, Yonsei, Gosei, etc. Others capitalize the words when they are used in a generational context, but lowercase those same words when referring to an individual. For example, “Nisei soldiers of World War II” has a generational context. However, you might say, “My uncle, a nisei, served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.” Some institutions lowercase the words unless they are part of a proper noun, such as Nisei Farmers League.] See Nisei/nisei, Sansei/sansei, Yonsei/yonsei.
  • Jap
    Avoid, a slur. A legacy of World War II.
  • Japanese names
    In Japan, typically family name first, personal name second. But in the United States, Western word order is common. Women’s names often end in -ko, or “child,” as in Michiko.
  • Jim Crow
    Jim Crow laws enforced strict segregation between black and white people. The laws were enforced primarily in the South and were used to justify segregation for almost 80 years. They restricted African Americans’ access to businesses and public amenities including schools, transportation, housing, retail and restaurants, bathrooms, drinking fountains and more. These laws discouraged interaction between the races, and often cast black people as second-class citizens. Many resisted Jim Crow laws. One was 15-year-old Claudette Colvin, who in March, 1955, refused to give up her seat to a white man and move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Colvin was arrested. Nine months later, Rosa Parks was arrested for doing that, too. [According to the National Association of Black Journalists Style Guide, "Jim Crow was the name of a routine performed by Daddy Rice, a white minstrel show entertainer in the 1830s. Rice covered his face with charcoal paste or burnt cork and sang and danced in caricature of a silly black person. Jim Crow became a racial epithet and synonymous with the brutal segregation and disenfranchisement of African Americans."]
  • Juneteenth
    Oldest known celebration of slavery's ending. From its Galveston, Texas, origin in 1865, the observance of June 19th as black Emancipation Day commemorates freedom and emphasizes education and achievement. It is a day, a week and, in some areas, a month marked with celebrations, speakers, picnics and family gatherings.
  • kafiyyeh
    A checked scarf-like garment worn on the head by some Arab men. It is traditional, not religious; the kafiyyeh shows identity and pride in culture. Different styles and colors of the kafiyyeh can have significance. May also be spelled keffiyeh or kufiya.
  • karaoke
    Karaoke originated in Japan in the 1970s and means “empty orchestra.” In karaoke bars, patrons sing along to recordings of the instrumental parts of popular songs. Karaoke has become a popular way to socialize and relax in other Asian countries, as well. Karaoke came to the United States in the 1990s.
  • keloid
    A raised scar that can develop after skin injury. During healing process, the skin cells overproduce, creating a dense, dome-shaped formation. People of African or Asian descent are more likely to get keloids than those with lighter skin.
  • killing fields
    Massacre of civilians in Cambodia by the Communist Khmer Rouge in mid-1970s. Broadly, any site of mass killing. Coined by Dith Pran (1942-2008), a Cambodian refugee and later a photojournalist for The New York Times. Also the title of an Academy Award-winning film (1984) chronicling Dith’s epic escape from Cambodia.
  • Korean names
    Typically family name first, followed by two-part personal name. But many Korean Americans have adopted Western name order. Rules differ for men and women. In Korea, more than a third of the population comes from three historically large clans: Kim, Lee and Park. Add Choi and Chong and the proportion exceeds half.
  • Ku Klux Klan
    Official name, Knights of the Ku Klux Klan; founded in 1915, a secret organization directed against blacks, Catholics, Jews and other groups. There are 42 separate organizations known as the Klan in America. Some do not use the full name Ku Klux Klan, but all may be called that, and the KKK initials may be used for any on second reference. The two largest Klan organizations are the National Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, based in Stone Mountain, Ga., and the United Klans of America, based in Tuscaloosa, Ala. An Imperial Board, composed of leaders from the various groups, meets occasionally to coordinate activities. Capitalize formal titles before a name: Imperial Wizard James R. Venable, Grand Dragon Dale Reusch. Members are Klansmen or Klanswomen.
  • Kwanzaa
    A celebration of African heritage and principles. It occurs Dec. 26 through Jan. 1. It grew out of the Black Nationalist Movement in the mid 1960s. Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, chairman of Black Studies at California State University. From the Swahili phrase “first fruits of the harvest,” Kwanzaa celebrates seven principles, which are also identified in the East African language. They are: umoja (unity) kujichagulia (self-determination) ujima (collective responsibility) ujamaa (cooperative economics) nia (purpose) kuumba (creativity) imani  (faith) Kwanzaa also has seven symbols. They are fruits, vegetables or nuts; a mat; a candleholder; seven candles (three red, three green and one black); corn; gifts and a communal cup signifying unity. Kwanzaa was intended to be independent of religion, though some families celebrate Kwanzaa with religious holidays. For more information about the holiday, see The Official Kwanzaa Web Site.  
  • Laotian names
    Typically family name first, personal name second, often multi-syllable names.
  • Latin@
    This post-internet construction simplifies “Latino/Latina” or “Latino and/or Latina.” Some academic departments have put this in their names. According to the University of Wisconsin at Madison Department of Chican@ and Latin@ Studies, “The @ ending (‘a’ at the center of ‘o’) offers a simultaneous presentation of both the feminine and masculine word endings of Chicana, Chicano, Latina, and Latino and allows the reader/speaker to choose the form she or he prefers.” See Chican@.
  • Latina/Latino
    Umbrella terms referring to residents or citizens of the United States with Latin American ancestry. Latina is the feminine form of Latino and means a woman or girl. Use Latina(s) for a woman or women; use Latino(s) for a man or men. Latino is principally used west of the Mississippi, where it has displaced Chicano and Mexican American. In 2011, the Los Angeles Times amended its style guide to advise journalists to use Latino over Hispanic in virtually all circumstances "in keeping with the practices and sensibilities of residents of our region." Federal policy defines “Latino” not as a race, but as an ethnicity; it notes that Latinos can be of any race. The U.S. Census Bureau uses terms such as "Hispanic or Latino" and "non-Hispanic or Latino" in its survey questions on ethnicity. See Chicana/Chicano, Chican@, Hispanic, Latin@, and Latinx.
  • lupus
    Chronic disease that affects immunity. Normally, the body's immune system makes proteins called antibodies to protect against viruses, bacteria and other foreign materials. Lupus causes the immune system to attack healthy tissues and organs. It can harm various parts of the body, especially the skin, joints, kidneys, lungs, brain and heart. Lupus most often affects black women.
  • Mahatma
    Sanskrit term for "great soul." Became the honorific for M.K.Gandhi during India's struggle for independence.
  • Malaysian names
    Some Malaysians do not use family names, but, as in Burma, use honorifics. Malaysian Chinese and Malaysian Muslims follow special naming rules.
  • Mandarin
    Caution: important differences from Cantonese. The official language of China and Taiwan, derived from different dialects but not itself a dialect, or regional variety of a language, like Cockney English. The term Mandarin refers to the spoken language. One speaks Mandarin but writes Chinese. While the Cantonese dialect is more prevalent in older American Chinatowns, Mandarin is increasingly spoken in newer Chinatowns. China has one written language using characters understood by anyone who is literate, but many spoken regional dialects such as Shanghainese and Fukienese, which are unintelligible to people from other regions. See Cantonese.          
  • manga
    A type of comic that developed in Japan. Manga have evolved stylistically and have become popular around the world. Today, many manga characters have big heads and large expressive eyes. With their complex story lines and some adult content, manga have a broad appeal among children, teens and adults.
  • manong (mah-nong)/manang (mah-nang)
    Manong is a term of respect that precedes the first name of older Filipino men; manang for older Filipina women.
  • martial arts
    Armed and unarmed fighting sports or skills, mainly of East Asian origin. Unarmed martial arts emphasize striking with the feet and hands or grappling. Influenced substantially by Taoism and Buddhism. Kung fu, judo, karate, kendo and archery influenced American popular culture, including the “Star Wars” films and “The Hunger Games.” Derivatives of the unarmed forms of combat can be seen in parkour, the French sport of scaling urban settings seen in the films “District B13″ and the “Mission Impossible” series. Caution, like other Asian iconography, martial-arts imagery can be abused in contexts such as editorial cartoons. See Asia, use and abuse of images from; Buddhism; stereotypes; Taoism.
  • mass incarceration
    Mass incarceration is increased rates of imprisonment resulting from tougher penalties, especially for drug offenses. Arrests and mandatory minimum sentences have fueled this since the 1970s. During this period, African Americans have been locked up in numbers out of proportion with crime rates. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, “five times as many Whites are using drugs as African Americans, yet African Americans are sent to prison for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of Whites.” Sentences are also longer. In 2013, the U.S. Sentencing Commission reported that sentences of Black men were almost 20 percent longer than sentences of White men convicted of similar crimes. According to the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, the number of women incarcerated has increased 800 percent over the past three decades. Black and Hispanic women have been imprisoned at greater rates than other women. In 2015, some politicians and law enforcement officials began calling for reforms and releases. [For more about racial disparities in incarceration read the NAACP Criminal Justice Fact Sheet.]
  • McCarran-Walter Act
    Officially known as the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, it allowed Asians to apply for citizenship but set immigration quotas from each Asian country at only 100 annually. Liberalization of this law, in 1965, allowed the first large-scale migration of Asians into the United States in the 20th Century.
  • mehndi
    Refers to the traditional Indian and diaspora art of intricate hand and body decoration using dyes from the henna plant. Used mainly by brides during marriage ceremonies, it is now becoming popular as an exotic decoration and a non-permanent "tattoo." In recent years, mehndi has gained attention in the West as a result of its use by Western pop stars and actresses.  
  • Mexican, Mexican-American
    Use “Mexican” when referring to anyone of Mexican citizenship, and use “Mexican American” when referring to those of Mexican ancestry who are permanent residents or citizens of the United States.  
  • microaggressions, racial microaggressions
    Slights and snubs based on racial discrimination. Some are unintentional. Microaggressions can be questions or expressions about a person’s identity or abilities. They can be behaviors. Racial microaggressions include judgments like “You don’t act like a normal Black person,” and “You probably can’t afford that.” They can be actions like locking the car door when a person perceived as a threat walks by. There is evidence these experiences pile up and can hurt mental health and performance at work or school. The term microaggression has been around since the 1970s. According to Columbia University’s Dr. Derald Wing Sue, there have been 5,500 microaggression studies since 2005. [For an interesting discussion of the term microaggression, see The Seattle Times' "Under Our Skin" project.]
  • Middle Passage, the
    The transatlantic voyages between Africa and the Americas that claimed the lives of approximately 1.8 million African slaves over a period of about 350 years. An estimated 12 million slaves were packed into slave quarters in the belly of ships. See slavery.    
  • militant
    Commonly used to describe an aggressive activist working for a cause; a person eager to engage in a struggle to achieve his or her goal; can be used to mean any individual engaged in warfare, a fight, combat, or generally serving as a solider. A militant view sometimes constitutes an extremist position. A militant state denotes being in a physically aggressive posture supporting an ideology or cause. Should not be used in place of terrorist. Militant is deemed to be a neutral term, whereas terrorist indicates reprehensible behavior by an individual or organization regardless of the motivations. Avoid using to describe a black person who is simply hostile, belligerent or controversial.
  • Million Man March
    Washington rally held on Oct. 16, 1995, and organized by Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and the Rev. Benjamin Chavis to draw attention to the social conditions to black men and to urge them to assume control over their lives. Some reports say approximately 900,000 black men congregated on the Washington Mall; march organizers say over a million men were there.  
  • Million Woman March
    Philadelphia march and rally held on Oct. 25, 1997, and organized by community activists Asia Coney and Phile Chionesu and seeking to build coalitions within the black community. An estimated 1.5 million black women gathered on Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway for the event.
  • minority
    Caution. Not a synonym for people of color. Group or groups differing especially in race, religion or ethnicity from the majority of a population. Collective when used as a noun. Does not refer to an individual, so avoid such phrases as: There are three minorities on the council. Also: Women do not constitute a minority, although they may be linked with minorities in various civil-rights contexts. Avoid saying, for example, the program is designed to encourage the representation of minorities if it also encourages the representation of women. Better to say the program is designed to encourage the representation of women and minorities. A better alternative is people of color when referring to a group. See people of color, model minority.
  • mixed
    Sometimes used to describe a person who is biracial. Avoid the term in this context. See biracial.  
  • model minority
    The belief that a particular ethnic, racial or religious group achieves greater success than the population average. In the United States, this myth most often refers to Asians. Concerns are that the myth implies that some people get ahead because of the group they are in, or that group members who do not succeed are inferior. The myth also ignores the history and ongoing experiences of discrimination these groups face and masks socioeconomic diversity within these groups.
  • Mongolian names
    Extremely complex naming rules involving patronymics, matronymics and clan names. Beware second reference.  
  • Montgomery bus boycott
    Yearlong protest in the Alabama city that galvanized the civil-rights movement and led to the 1956 Supreme Court decision declaring segregated seating on buses unconstitutional. See civil rights movement.  
  • Motown
    Formerly black-owned record company that became the most commercially successful and culturally influential of the 1960s, producing a distinct musical style and many singing icons. Motown Records is now part of the Universal Music Group. Can also be used as an adjective to describe the musical style or city in which it originated, Detroit.  
  • mulatto
    A person who has a white parent and a black parent. Avoid using term; considered to be insensitive. Better to use biracial. See biracial.  
  • NAACP
    National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded Feb. 12, 1909 by a multiracial group of activists, who called themselves the National Negro Committee. Its founders were Ida Wells-Barnett, W.E.B. DuBois, Henry Moscowitz, Mary White Ovington, Oswald Garrison Villiard and William English Walling. From its beginning, the NAACP's mission has been to improve the legal, educational and economic lives of black people. It is headquartered in Baltimore. Acronym is acceptable in all references. NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund Inc.: Founded in 1940 under leadership of Thurgood Marshall, the Legal Defense Fund provides legal assistance to poor black citizens. It was originally affiliated with the NAACP, but it has been an entirely separate organization since 1957, with a national office in New York and regional offices in Washington and Los Angeles. Its nearly two dozen staff lawyers are assisted by hundreds of cooperating attorneys across the nation. Use Legal Defense Fund on second reference.
  • nation
    Federally recognized tribes are considered self-governing – or sovereign nations – by Congress. See American Indian, Native American, tribe.
  • Nation of Islam
    A religious and political organization formed in 1930 by Wallace Fard Muhammad with the stated aim of “resurrecting” the spiritual, mental, social and economic condition of Black people in America and the world. Its tenets differ markedly from those of traditional Islam. Elijah Muhammad took over the organization in 1934 and preached separation of Blacks and Whites, in addition to calling for a strong morality. After his death in 1975, Elijah Muhammad’s son, W. Deen Mohammed, assumed leadership. (Note the different spelling of the last name.) Mohammed began moving the Nation toward mainstream Sunni Islam and shunning Black separatist views. He essentially dismantled the Nation and created his own organization. In 1976, Louis Farrakhan left the Nation of Islam, but in 1978 he and his supporters decided to rebuild the original organization. Followers should be referred to as members of the Nation of Islam. The term Black Muslim, once associated with the organization, is now considered derogatory and should be avoided. Nation of Islam clergymen use the title minister, which should be capitalized on first reference before a name. On second reference, use only the person’s last name. See Islam.  
  • National Negro League
    Professional baseball league for blacks founded in 1920 by pitcher Andrew Rube Foster. During Jim Crow era, Major League Baseball excluded blacks so they formed their own teams with blacks in all key roles. The Negro League was widely successful and supported in black communities. Other black leagues followed, including Eastern Colored League and Southern Negro League. Jackie Robinson integrated Major League Baseball in 1947. Last black clubs folded in the early 1960s.
  • Native American, Native
    Native American and American Indian are both generally acceptable and can be used interchangeably, although individuals may have a preference. Native American gained traction in the 1960s for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Over time, Native American has been expanded to include all Native people of the continental United States and some in Alaska. Native American and American Indian can be used interchangeably, however, the term is used only to describe groups of Native Americans -- two or more individuals of different tribal affiliation. Journalists should always identify people by their preferred tribal affiliation when reporting on individuals or individual tribes. The term Native can be used as an adjective to describe styles, for instance, Native fashion, Native music, or Native art. Journalists should exercise caution when using the word, though, as it is primarily used as slang. [For more about how people feel about the terms Native American, Native and American Indian read: "Blackhorse: Do You Prefer ‘Native American’ or ‘American Indian’? 6 Prominent Voices Respond," Indian Country Today Media Network "Native American vs. American Indian: Political correctness dishonors traditional chiefs of old," Native Times] [For more about how people feel about the terms Native American, Native and American Indian read: "Blackhorse: Do You Prefer ‘Native American’ or ‘American Indian’? 6 Prominent Voices Respond," Indian Country Today Media Network "Native American vs. American Indian: Political correctness dishonors traditional chiefs of old," Native Times] There are millions of people who identify as American Indian or who have Native ancestry, according to 100 Questions, 500 Nations: A Guide to Native America. That does not make them all American Indians in the eyes of tribes or the federal government. The federal government considers someone American Indian if he or she belongs to a federally recognized tribe. Individual tribes have the exclusive right to determine their own membership. Tribal governments formally list their members, who must meet specific criteria for enrollment. Some require a person to trace half or a quarter of his or her lineage, for instance, to the tribe, while others require only proof of descent. [Use native-born to describe someone who is born in the United States but isn't American Indian.] [In 2016, President Barack Obama signed legislation (HR 4238) that replaced the term American Indian with Native American in federal laws.]
  • Native Hawaiian
    Known as Kanaka Maoli in Hawaiian, Native Hawaiians trace their lineage and language to Polynesians, including Tahitians, Maoris and Samoans. Starting in 2000, the federal government recognized Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders as a distinct group, including in Census counts.
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, U.S. Census definition of
    The U.S. Census Bureau, which adheres to the 1997 Office of Management and Budget standards on race and ethnicity, defines Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander as  "a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands." The Census Bureau notes: "The racial categories included in the census questionnaire generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country and not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically. In addition, it is recognized that the categories of the race item include racial and national origin or sociocultural groups."
  • Negro
    Use African American or black. Do not use to describe a person of African descent. Do not use Negress. (See African American, black and race.) Term acceptable in organization names and historical references, for example, National Council of Negro Women or Negro National Anthem. The word Negro was adopted from the Spanish and Portuguese and first recorded in the mid-16th century. It remained the standard term between the 17th-19th centuries and was used by prominent black American campaigners such as W. E. B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington in the early 20th century. Since the Black Power movement of the 1960s, however, when black was favored as the term to express racial pride, Negro and related words such as Negress were dropped and now are out of date, even offensive in some cases.
  • Negro Codes
    See Black codes.  
  • Negro National Anthem
    This began as the 1899 poem Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing by James Weldon Johnson. Set to music by Johnson’s brother, J. Rosamond Johnson, this became known as the Negro National Anthem or Hymn. It was presented on Feb. 12, 1900, in Jacksonville, Florida, by 500 schoolchildren at a celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People adopted Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing as its official song. The song represents the resilience and strength of Black people. It begins: "Lift ev’ry voice and sing, Till earth and heaven ring. Ring with the harmonies of Liberty; Let our rejoicing rise …” Listen to the Chicago Community Chorus sing Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing. Audio used courtesy of Keith Hampton, artistic director/founder, the Chicago Community Chorus.  
  • Nepali
    People from Nepal are known variously as Nepalese or Nepali, the latter of which is favored in current usage -- though U.S. press uses Nepalese when referring to those in the United States.. As such,the word Nepali can be both a noun and an adjective. As a noun, it can refer to the people of Nepal as well as the official state language, Nepali. As an adjective, it can be used, for example, to refer to a Nepali hat, or a Nepali sari, or a Nepali government official.
  • niggardly
    Means stingy or miserly. It is sometimes perceived as insulting because it sounds like the offensive word nigger. Be careful with usage.
  • nigger
    Racial slur; a contemptuous term for a black person. The word nigger was first used as an adjective denoting a black person in the 17th century and has had strong offensive connotations ever since. It remains one of the most racially charged words in the language. Ironically, it has acquired a new strand of use in recent years, being used by black people in referring to other black people. Also known as the n-word. Nigga is a variation of nigger that also has gained traction in recent years. It is used frequently in entertainment culture, especially in rap lyrics and comic stand-up routines. Some people consider it altogether different than nigger, considering it a term of affection or just neutral. Many still consider it a slur, no matter the spelling. Do not use unless there is an extremely compelling reason to do so, and a supervisor approves it.  
  • niqab
    A veil worn by some women who are Muslims; it covers all of their face except the eyes.  
  • Nisei, nisei
    Term for the children of Japanese immigrants, originating from the Japanese language term for "second generation." In the American context, the term is generally understood to apply specifically to the American-born—and thus U.S. citizen—children of Japanese immigrants who arrived prior to the cessation of Japanese immigration to the U.S. under the dictates of the Immigration Act of 1924. The bulk of Nisei were thus children or young adults during World War II. "Nisei" also implies being raised in the U.S. and speaking English as a first language, with a separate term—Kibei Nisei or just Kibei—applied to those who were born in the U.S. but mostly raised or educated in Japan. Other generational terms include "Issei" (first generation) for the immigrant generation, "Sansei" (third generation) for the children of the Nisei, and "Yonsei" (fourth generation) for the grandchildren of the Nisei. [Some Japanese-American institutions, such as Densho Encyclopedia, the digital educational resource on Japanese American internment and Japanese incarceration,  capitalize the first letter of Issei, Nisei, Sansei, Yonsei, Gosei, etc. Others capitalize the words when they are used in a generational context, but lowercase those same words when referring to an individual. For example, “Nisei soldiers of World War II” has a generational context. However, you might say, “My uncle, a nisei, served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.” Some institutions lowercase the words unless they are part of a proper noun, such as Nisei Farmers League.] See Issei/issei, Sansei/sansei, Yonsei/yonsei.
  • Oreo
    Disparaging term for someone deemed to have shunned his or her black culture and who acts white. Referring to the cookie, means being black on the outside, but white on the inside; latter-day version of pejorative Uncle Tom. Do not use. See Uncle Tom.
  • Oriental
    Caution. Many Asian Americans liken “Oriental” to “Negro,” a term of condescension. A vestige of European imperialism, the term, at minimum, is vague. In art, it may include countries such as China and Japan, but exclude Turkey. In rugs, it may mean India and China and include Turkey. In food, it may mean China or Japan, but not India, Vietnam or the Philippines. [In 2016, President Barack Obama signed legislation (HR 4238) that replaced the term Oriental with Asian American in federal laws.]
  • Pacific Islander
    U.S. Census term, referring to one of eight groups — Fijian, Guamanian, Hawaiian, Northern Mariana Islander, Palauan, Samoan, Tahitian, and Tongan.
  • Paki
    A derogatory slang word for people of Pakistani origin. Is the South Asian equivalent of Jap or the "N word." Do not use under any circumstances. If you are quoting someone saying this, be sure totreat the word with the same caution you would treat Jap. Used often in England as a racial epithet against South Asians in general (especially by skinheads).  
  • Pakistani languages
    Urdu and English are the official languages of Pakistan. Other languages include: Punjabi, Sindhi, Pashtu and Balochi. Bengali used to be an official language until East Pakistan became the country of Bangladesh in 1971 (Bengali remains the official language of Bangladesh.  
  • Pan-Africanism
    Pan-Africanism is a combination of political ideologies. It stresses the shared origins, economic and social interests held by people of African descent. A basic goal is to unify people worldwide through their African origins and culture. Pan-African unity is seen as essential to economic, political and social progress. The movement goes back to at least the mid 19th century and has roots in Africa, Europe and the Americas. Dr. W.E.B. DuBois convened a Pan-African Congress in 1919 in Paris. According to the Pan-African Alliance, Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association is credited with creating the Pan-African flag in 1920. The flag has horizontal red, black and green stripes. Red represents the blood that links all Black people. Black represents their shared ancestral past. Green represents the unification of Africa. Pan-Africanism has also been represented by green, yellow and red.
  • Parsi, Parsis
    Pronounced “PAHR-see.” An ethnic group in India that follows Zoroastrianism.
  • passing
    This is when someone appears to be and identifies as a member of another race. Historically, some African Americans passed as White to avoid racial injustice. In his novel Black Like Me, white journalist John Howard Griffin underwent treatments to turn his skin black. He wrote about the discrimination he experienced when he appeared to be African American.
  • Patel motel
    Expression that comes from the true stereotype that Indians run a lot of hotels. The Asian American Hotels Owners Association reports that half the hotels in the United States are owned by Indians and 70 percent of all Indian hotels owners are named Patel, a common Indian name.
  • Pearl Harbor
    Use sparingly as metaphor or analogy because it may invite stereotypes.
  • people of color
    The National Association of Black Journalists' Style Guide says, "Acceptable use as a synonym for minorities. May also use to describe groups such as journalists of color or women of color." However, some people feel uncomfortable with the idea of lumping people of different groups together. For an interesting discussion of the term, see The Seattle Times' "Under Our Skin" project, which was published in June 2016. 
  • Pilipino
    Also Filipino, Pinoy (pee-noy)/Pinay (pee-nai). Tagalog, meaning a Filipino man; pinay means woman. The Philippines, claimed by Spanish explorers, was named after King Philip II of Spain (1527-1598).
  • Polock, Polack
    A derogatory word for a Pole or a person of Polish descent. The word derives from Polak, which means a Polish male or a person of Polish nationality, which has a neutral connotation. In the 1970s sitcom "All in the Family," the character Archie Bunker (played by Carroll O'Connor) frequently referred to his son-in-law, Mike Stivic (Rob Reiner), as a "dumb Polack."
  • post-racial
    A controversial term that describes a society that’s devoid of racial preference, discrimination and prejudice.  
  • poverty violations
    Fines and fees for petty violations such as fare-hopping on public transit, playing loud music, speeding, driving with a suspended license or expired registration, zoning violations for unkempt property, wearing "saggy pants,” and failure to appear in court.  
  • powwow
    Use only when referring to the title of a specific American Indian event. Avoid if referring to a general gathering because the term evokes a stereotypical image of American Indians. Comes from the Narragansett word for shaman. It is a celebration and social gathering, honoring sacred American Indian traditions through dancing, drumming, singing and the gathering of people. A powwow may be held to honor an individual or for a special occasion. Most commonly, it is a social event.
  • primitive
    Avoid using potentially insulting term to describe a person or people.
  • projects, the
    Abbreviated slang for housing projects. Do not use either term to describe a persons dwelling. Better to say housing development.
  • Punjabi
    The primary language of Punjab and one of the main regional languages in India. A person from Punjab is referred to as a Punjabi.  
  • quinceañera
    Pronounced "keen-see-nyair-ah." A Hispanic celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday, signifying her transition from youth to adulthood. This is both a social and religious event and, like many other Hispanic traditions, emphasizes the importance of family. A quinceañera typically begins with a mass that is attended by the girl’s parents, grandparents, godparents and family. The mass is followed by a reception with food, family, music, dancing and more. In past times, the quinceañera signified that a girl was prepared for marriage. In contemporary times, it tends to mean that a girl is ready to begin formal dating. Some families will throw a quinceañera for a son.  
  • quotas
    A specific or presubscribed number than must be met to reach a certain goal. A buzzword often used in the affirmative action debate, however, it is not synonymous with affirmative action, which is a practice, activity or program aimed at correcting the enduring effects of discrimination and helping to diversify businesses, organizations and schools.
  • race
    A person’s race should not be mentioned unless relevant. This also applies to references to ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion. Derogatory terms or slurs aimed at members of a racial or ethnic group may not be used unless having a direct bearing on the news, and then only with the approval of the senior editor in charge. Avoid stereotypes. Race and ethnicity may be relevant in some stories, including the following: Crime stories – A highly detailed description of a suspect sought by police can contain [skin color]. Be sure the description is properly attributed. Do not use descriptions that include only a few items or are vague, such as tall, dark clothes. [A detailed description might include a person's complexion, facial features, distinguishing marks or tattoos, etc.] Biographical or announcement stories – Be careful about using race or ethnicity to describe a person as the first to accomplish a specific feat. Firsts are important, but race and ethnicity shouldn't be overemphasized. Reserve race or ethnicity for significant, groundbreaking or historic events such as winning a Nobel Prize, being named chief justice or becoming mayor. By overplaying race or ethnicity, one’s achievement may seem dependent on that instead of ability. See ethnicity.  
  • race card, "play the race card"
    To say someone is “playing the race card” is to say they are injecting race into a discussion. To say someone is doing this can be an attempt to deflect, diminish or discredit race’s effects. Black feminist scholar bell hooks writes that the expression “trivializes discussions of racism, implying it’s all just a game.” She calls this a backlash against talk about race, “more often than not representing it as mere hysteria.”
  • race, U.S. Census definitions of
    According to its website, the U.S. Census Bureau adheres to the 1997 Office of Management and Budget standards on race and ethnicity, which guide the Census Bureau in classifying written responses to the race question: White – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa. Black or African American – A person having origins in any of the Black racial groups of Africa. American Indian or Alaska Native – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) and who maintains tribal affiliation or community attachment. Asian – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of the Far East, Southeast Asia, or the Indian subcontinent including, for example, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippine Islands, Thailand, and Vietnam. Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander – A person having origins in any of the original peoples of Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands. The 1997 OMB standards permit the reporting of more than one race. An individual’s response to the race question is based upon self-identification.
  • Rashomon
    Arguably the most influential work of fiction on modern journalism. Originally called “In a Grove” and written by Ryunosuke Akutagawa, the story was made into the acclaimed movie “Rashomon” (1950). It tells the story of a crime witnessed by different people and their differing memories of the same crime.  Its application to modern journalism was quickly understood. Rashomon (Japanese for “castle gate”) is a dilapidated area in Kyoto, Japan.
  • Rastafarians
    Members of a political and religious movement among blacks in Jamaica and several other countries. This messianic movement dates back to the 1930s. Rastafarians believe that Haile Selassie (originally known as Ras Tafari), a former emperor of Ethiopia, is the only true God and consider him the messiah. They believe that black people are the Israelites reincarnated and have been subjected to the white race in divine punishment for their sins; they will eventually be redeemed by repatriation to Africa. These beliefs, first enunciated in 1953, can be traced to several independent proponents, particularly Marcus Garvey. Some Rastafarian rituals include the use of marijuana, considered a holy weed, and the chanting of revivalist hymns. Reggae music is the popular music of the movement.
  • Reconstruction
    Period after the Civil War in which attempts made to rebuild the South and solve the political, social, and economic problems arising from the readmission to the Union of the 11 Confederate states that had seceded at or before the war. Most historians consider Reconstruction to have taken place 1865-1877. Newly emancipated blacks with the help of government and supporters assisted in reconstructing society.
  • red
    A good-luck color in several cultures, including Indian and Chinese. It is a favored color for weddings in both cultures and it is the traditional color for the bindi worn by Indian women.  
  • redneck
    A derogatory term for whites. Do not use.
  • redskin
    Avoid. An overtly racist term that can be compared to the N-word. Some media organizations no longer use the term when referring to the Washington NFL franchise. The Native American Journalists Association strongly urges news outlets to limit use of racial team names and images. [For more about the history of the term, see this Washington Post article: "A Brief History of the Word ‘Redskin’ and How it Became a Source of Controversy." See Redskins (NFL team).
  • Redskins (NFL team)
    A growing number of  journalists are denouncing the name of the Washington NFL team and limiting the way it is used in stories, according to the Native American Journalists Association. Some news organizations, including the Kansas City Star, San Francisco Chronicle, MMQB, Washington City Paper, The New Republic and Slate, have ceased using the name. NAJA strongly urges news outlets to limit use of racial team names and images and monitors progress toward that goal on its Mascots and Media page. [In a 2016 Washington Post poll, nine in 10 Native Americans said they were not offended by the name of the Washington Redskins. The Post featured some of them in "In Their Words: 12 Native Americans Talk About the Furor Cver the Redskins Name."] See redskin.  
  • reparations
    Reparations are made to right past wrongs. They are often payments. The United States has paid more than $1.5 billion to settle claims made by black farmers in a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The case was called Pigford v. Glickman. It was about discrimination in farm loans and assistance paid between 1981 and 1996. In 1989, U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) began introducing bills to create a commission to study more sweeping reparations for events dating back to slavery. Those bills have not advanced. Japanese Americans interned during World War II have received $1.6 billion in reparations and a formal apology from the U.S. government. Native Americans have received several payments including a $3.4 billion settlement in 2012.
  • reservation
    Indian reservations are areas of land reserved by the U.S. government as permanent tribal homelands. The United States established its reservation policy for American Indians in 1787. In 2015 there were 326 reservations. About 56 million acres are in reservations and trust land. More than 60 percent of American Indians live away from reservations.
  • reverse discrimination, reverse racism
    These phrases are used in lawsuits and in accusations that affirmative action puts men and non-minorities at a disadvantage for college admission, scholarships and jobs. Research shows that this scarcely happens. A 1995 Brandeis University study of 3,000 discrimination suits found that about 100 had charged reverse discrimination. The course ordered relief in six of those cases.
  • Roma, Romany, Romani
    The Roma, or Romani (also spelled Romany) are a traditionally itinerant ethnic group, who live mostly in Europe; branches of the ethnic group live in the Americas, Asia and North Africa. They are often called Gypsies (or Gipsies) but that term has negative connotations of illegal activity and many Roma don't identify with it. They are also known as Gitanos in Spain and Travellers in Scandinavia and Ireland. The group includes many branches and subgroups, including the Iberian Kale in Spain and Portugal; the Finnish Kale in Finland; the Welsh Kale in Wales; the Romanichal in the United Kingdom; the Sinti in Central Europe; and the Manouche (or Manush) or Gitan in France; and the Romanisæl in Sweden and Norway. Romany (with a y) usually refers specifically to Romanichals, the native Romani subgroup in England. Mounting evidence -- genetic as well as linguistic — suggests that the Roma originate from northern India. Many of the words and grammatical rules of the Romani language are similar to those of the Hindi language. The Roma were among the groups singled out for persecution on so-called racial grounds by the Nazis before and during World War II, according to the Holocaust Encyclopedia. They continue to face discrimination in Europe and other parts of the world.  
  • Sambo
    Historically, term was used to describe a happy black slave. Today, it is an offensive term. Do not use in copy.
  • sandsucker
    Avoid. Racial slur. Derogatory term for Arabs.
  • Sansei, sansei
    Term for third-generation Japanese Americans, originating from the Japanese language term for "third generation." In the American context, the term is understood to refer to the grandchildren of Japanese immigrants who arrived prior to the cessation of Japanese immigration to the U.S. under the dictates of the Immigration Act of 1924. The vast majority of Sansei were born after the war, and their generational range parallels that of the baby boomers. Other generational terms include Issei (first generation) for the immigrant generation, Nisei (second generation) for the American-born children of the Nisei, and Yonsei (fourth generation) for the children of the Sansei. [Some Japanese-American institutions, such as Densho Encyclopedia, the digital educational resource on Japanese American internment and Japanese incarceration,  capitalize the first letter of Issei, Nisei, Sansei, Yonsei, Gosei, etc. Others capitalize the words when they are used in a generational context, but lowercase those same words when referring to an individual. For example, “Nisei soldiers of World War II” has a generational context. However, you might say, “My uncle, a nisei, served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.” Some institutions lowercase the words unless they are part of a proper noun, such as Nisei Farmers League.] See Issei/issei, Nisei/nisei, Yonsei/yonsei.
  • Sanskrit
    Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages in the world that is still being used. It is the root for many other languages, including Hindi, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Bengali, Gujarati and Nepali. Sanskrit literature often consists of poetry, philosophical and dharma texts. It is widely used for religion and ceremony. Sanskrit is known for its precise alphabet, compact writing system and complex grammar rules. Some, but not all Sanskrit-based languages use the Devanagari script or variations of it. [To learn more about Sanskrit go to Omniglot, the online encyclopedia of writing systems and languages.]
  • sari (also saree)
    A traditional garment worn by a women in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka. It is essentially a piece of fabric about 6 yards long that is wrapped around the body. It is generally wrapped around the waist and draped over the shoulder, leaving the midriff bare. Types of fabric, styles and prices vary. A sari is sometimes worn with a blouse.
  • Scottsboro
    In 1931, two white women stepped from a train box car in Paint Rock, Ala., and falsely accused nine black teenagers of rape while on the train. The case became a cause celebre and a symbol of racism and injustice in the South; the teenagers came to be known as the Scottsboro Nine or Scottsboro Boys. After several retrials, worldwide protests, two Supreme Court rulings, four of the nine were freed after six years in jail. In 1976, Gov. George Wallace pardoned all nine.
  • sheesha
    See argilah, argeelah
  • sheikh
    Most Islamic clergymen use the title sheikh like a Christian cleric uses the Rev. Sheikh also is used as a secular title. Capitalize it when used before a name, but lowercase otherwise. [According to 100 Questions & Answers About Arab Americans, the term can also be used for the leader of a family, a village or a tribe in Arab and Arab-American communities.]  
  • sickle-cell anemia
    Inherited chronic anemia found chiefly among blacks, characterized by abnormal red blood cells. Unlike normal red cells, which are usually smooth and donut-shaped, sickle-shaped red cells cannot squeeze through small blood vessels. Instead, they stack up and cause blockages that deprive organs and tissues of oxygen-carrying blood. The disease has no cure but can be treated with drugs and or blood transfusions.
  • Singh
    A last name shared by all men who practice the Sikh religion, it means “lion.” The 10th Sikh teacher, Guru Gobind Singh, gave Sikhs the same last names as a sign of equality (traditional last names in 17th-century North India indicated caste).  
  • sister, sista
    Terms used to refer to a family member or an affectionate, respectful name for a church member, sorority member or another black woman. Be mindful of appropriateness in news copy. May use in quotes.
  • slant
    Avoid use to describe eyes, a racial slur.  
  • slavery
    The first black African slaves in the American colonies arrived in the early 1600s. As the colonies grew, the demand for slave labor also increased. By 1750, 200,000 slaves lived in the colonies, the majority of them living and working in the South. Hundreds of thousands of slaves were brought to America during The Middle Passage and millions others died along the way. Slaves were forced to work farms and plantations, enduring brutality, cruelty, abuse and suffering. As injustices of slavery grew, resistance efforts formed, including the Underground Railroad. This secretive system of transporting slaves from safe house to safe house, helping them escape to free states or Canada, operated for years with Harriet Tubman, a former slave, as one of its leading figures. In 1861, the Civil War pitted the South, which favored slavery, against the North, which opposed it. [Several other political and economic factors also caused the conflict.] President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863, declaring an end to slavery. In 1865, the 13th Amendment formally abolished slavery in the country. See Juneteenth, Middle Passage and Underground Railroad.
  • slope
    Avoid use to describe eyes; a racial slur. See eye shape.  
  • soul food
    Items popular originally in the South and traditionally eaten by black people. The cuisine originated during slavery when slaves were given leftovers or undesirable cuts of meat by their owners, which was supplemented by vegetables the slaves grew themselves. Today, the dishes include collard greens, fried chicken, ham hocks, black-eyed peas, yams and cornbread.
  • South Asian
    Term for people who trace their origin to the subcontinent. Preferred to East Indian, which should not be used.
  • South Asian diaspora
    Because of the British colonial legacy and large-scale immigration, there are substantial pockets of people of South Asian heritage outside of South Asia. In some cases — Fiji, Guyana, Mauritius, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago — South Asians make up at least a third of the population. Other countries with large South Asian communities: Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and the United States.
  • South Asian names (India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and others):
    Names currently used in South Asia and the South Asian Diaspora follow dozens of complex rules and vary by community. As a general rule, it is a good idea to ask an interview subject which name is his or her the first name and which is the surname. One Hindu may follow old caste traditions and have what he considers a first name and a last name, but his biological son may have a different name. Similarly, Sikh and Muslim names can vary by generation. Also, names and orders of names that were used in South Asia often get confused when immigrants arrive in the United States, forcing them to adopt names and spellings more “convenient” for mainstream America. Be careful about generalizing about South Asian names, not all of which are Hindu or Muslim names. There are many South Asian Christians, as well as South Asian Jews, and it may not be obvious from their names that they are South Asian. Moreover, there are some South Asians who have a one-word name.
  • Southeast Asia, Southeastern Asia
    A subregion of Asia that consists of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies near the intersection of geological plates, and has heavy seismic and volcanic activity. Southeast Asia consists of two geographic regions: Maritime Southeast Asia, which includes Brunei, Christmas Island, East Malaysia, East Timor, Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore; and Mainland Southeast Asia, also known as Indochina, which includes Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Vietnam, and West Malaysia.
  • Southern Cross
    Confederate battle flag used during the Civil War, which remains offensive to some black Americans because it represents the Confederacy and the era of slavery. The flag has a red background, with two blue stripes in a cross, and 13 white stars inside the stripes. Some have described the Southern Cross as a proud symbol of Southern heritage. The Ku Klux Klan and other racist hate groups have also appropriated it. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, more than 500 extremist groups use the Southern Cross as one of their symbols.
  • Spanglish
    An informal hybrid of Spanish and English. It is used among people who know both languages and who switch between languages when on language describes what they are trying to say better than the other. Linguists call that code switching.  
  • sports stereotypes
    Avoid characterizations of black athletes as naturally being better than athletes of other ethnic backgrounds. Such depictions are reminiscent of slavery, when owners described their male slaves as bucks and tried to breed them with female slaves to produce superior slaves.
  • Sri
    Among some Indians it is a term of respect. Saying Sri before a man’s name is similar to saying “mister.”
  • stereotypes
    The word comes from the ancient Greek for “fixed impression.” Walter Lippmann (1889-1974), an American journalist, popularized the word, a printing-press term, as a metaphor for “a picture in our heads” that could be true or, more often, false. Examples of stereotypes include geisha, delivery boy, manicurist and Samurai (all used metaphorically).  
  • suicide bombing
    Use of explosives carried to a target on the body of the attacker or in a vehicle operated by him or her. Especially fearsome attack because the attacker cannot be bargained with since he or she is determined to die. Similar to the Japanese kamikaze attacks of World War II. Thought to have been invented in the early 1980s by the Tamil Tiger separatists in Sri Lanka.
  • swastika
    It is one of the most popular symbols for Hindus, Jains and Buddhists. The word swastika is derived from Sanskrit words that mean “auspicious,” “luck” and “well-being.” It is also a sign of the Sun-God Surya and his generosity. The swastika is one of the 108 symbols of Lord Vishnu and represents the sun’s rays, without which there would be no life. The swastika is used in religious and civil ceremonies in India, both public and private. The swastika used by the Nazis was a perverted version of the ancient Hindu swastika.  
  • systemic racism
    Social values that support personal and institutional discrimination. As a social concept, systemic racism explains how people of color must adapt to a society not built for them, while white people readily fit in. See institutional racism.
  • Tagalog
    Pronounced tah-GAH-log. The official language of the Philippines, but also one of scores of local and regional dialects.              
  • Taipeng Revolution
    One of the bloodiest conflicts in world history. A continuing theme in modern Chinese history is the central government’s fear of separatist movements leading to catastrophic violence. Perhaps 20 million or more Chinese died in a long civil war, contemporaneous with the American Civil War, in which fewer than 1 million Americans were killed. It was led by a Chinese national who thought he was Jesus’ younger brother.
  • Tejano
    A Texan of Mexican descent. Tejano derives from “Coahuiltejano,” a name given to the citizens of the Mexican State Coahuila y Tejas, now Texas. Tejano culture includes folk music synthesized from European and Mexican styles and contributions to Tex-Mex cuisine. Hispanic and Anglo-Saxon settlers who lived in the area during the 18th century created a bilingualism that later shaped the Tejano language.
  • telenovela
    A type of “limited-run” television drama that is very popular in Latin America and has had success in the United States and elsewhere. Telenovelas are similar to traditional U.S. soap operas but they have distinctive qualities. The run time for telenovelas are a fixed duration, with episodes shown five to six days a week and an average of 120 episodes per telenovela.
  • Thai names
    Typically personal name first, family name second, with long multi-syllable names, especially if Chinese. On second reference, personal name is sometimes used.  
  • Third World
    Originally used to distinguish nations that were aligned with neither the West nor with the East during the Cold War. Commonly used to describe underdeveloped countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. These nations and the people there are often cast as being uncivilized or primitive. Avoid using term because of its negative connotations. Better to say developing countries. Use in quotes only if necessary.
  • Tiananmen Square
    The vast public square at the center of Beijing, capital of China. In 1989, as many as a million protesters, led by students, demonstrated in favor of democracy, prompting a lethal crackdown by the Communist government on June 4. Number of deaths still unknown, but totaling at least in the hundreds. The crackdown is a central event in modern Chinese history.
  • totem
    A representation of a person or likeness such as an animal or plant that is revered by a tribe or group. It is a part of many American Indian and African religious practices.  
  • towelhead
    Avoid; a slur used to describe South Asians.
  • transracial
    Across or crossing racial boundaries. The term is most often used in adoption to describe families where a child is adopted by parents of a different race. In 2015, the term was used to describe Rachel Dolezal, a NAACP chapter president who made international news when she was outed as a white woman who identified herself as black.
  • tribal council
    The governing body of a tribe is usually referred to as the tribal council, and is elected by adult members of the tribe. Heading the council is one elected chairperson, president, chief or governor who is the recognized leader. The council performs legislative aspects of tribal government. See American Indian, Native American, tribe.  
  • tribal warfare
    Avoid. Eurocentric term for ethnic conflict among people of color.Example: The conflict between Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda was called tribal warfare, but the civil war in the former Yugoslavia between Serbs, Croats, and Muslims was "ethnic cleansing." Both are ethnic conflicts or civil wars.
  • tribe
    Use with caution. Use nation or ethnic group except for specific entities like a tribal council on a reservation or when a Native group or other group calls itself a tribe. Within the United States, many Native Americans prefer the term nation because their people have signed treaties with the United States that recognize them as nations. Some Native Americans prefer their national affiliation instead of using the generic term Native American, e.g., Navajo, Hopi, Cherokee. In Africa, avoid referring to different ethnic groups as tribes. Hutu and Tutsi are ethnic groups, just like Serbs, Croats and Muslims in the former Yugoslavia. A federally recognized tribe is an American Indian or Alaska Native tribal entity that is recognized as having a government-to-government relationship with the United States, with the responsibilities, powers, limitations, and obligations attached to that designation, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. See American Indian, Native American, Native.
  • trust land
    Land held by the United States for the use and benefit of American Indian tribes. Virtually all trust land is on reservations. Tribes also can purchase land and petition the federal government to hold it in trust, protecting the land from encroachment or seizure. See reservation.
  • turban
    A head covering in desert or other hot climates that does not necessarily have ethnic or religious significance and is not solely Arab. People wear turbans for different reasons, and there are different types of turbans. Sikh men wear turbans that peak at the forehead to take care of their hair, which they do not cut, and to promote equality among themselves and to declare their identity. Turbans make Sikhs distinctive in India, where they are a minority. In the United States, Sikhs have been attacked by people who assumed the turbans meant they were Muslims. Most Muslims do not wear turbans, though their religious may wear them. It’s typically spherical or conical. The shape of turbans varies by country. See Sikhism.  
  • uncle
    In many cultures, this is a term of respect, not necessarily family relationship. An Arab American, for example, might call an older Arab male uncle (“ammo”). 
  • Uncle Tom
    A term of contempt. Based on the main character, an elderly black man, in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a novel that protested the use of slavery. In today's terms, it means a black person who treats whites as superiors or who is eager to please them. Do not apply it to a person.  
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin (or Life Among the Lowly)
    1852 antislavery novel and controversial bestseller by Harriet Beecher Stowe that increased sentiment against slavery. Main character Uncle Tom is a pious and faithful slave sold by his master to a brutal plantation owner, who later beat Uncle Tom to death. Before dying Uncle Tom prayed for his master’s repentance and salvation. Some historians credit the novel with helping to prompt the Civil War. See slavery.
  • unconscious bias
    See implicit bias, unconscious bias.
  • Underground Railroad
    In the United States before the Civil War, a vast network of people organized to free slaves from the South. It started in the colonial period and reached its peak in the early 1830s. An estimated 100,000 slaves were freed using the secretive system of safe houses and transportation. Slaves often used songs to relay messages of escape. Notable figures include John Fairfield in Ohio, the son of a slaveholding family, who made many daring rescues; Quaker Levi Coffin, who assisted more than 3,000 slaves; and Harriet Tubman, who made 19 trips into the South and escorted over 300 slaves to freedom.
  • United Negro College Fund
    Nation’s largest, oldest and most comprehensive minority higher education assistance organization. UNCF provides operating funds for 37 member historically black colleges and universities, scholarships and internships for students at more than 1,100 institutions and faculty and administrative professional training. May use UNCF on second reference.
  • Untouchables
    Dalit (capitalized) is a more respectful and current term for castes once called “untouchables.” M.K. Gandhi coined the term Harijan (“children of God”) to refer to these castes.  
  • Vietnamese names
    Typically written family name first, personal name last. On second reference, the personal name is sometimes used. But in the United States, Western word order is common.  
  • Voting Rights Act
    Enacted on Aug. 6, 1965, it empowered the federal government to oversee voter registration and elections in communities, especially in the South, that had used tests to determine voter eligibility and or where registration or turnout was less than 50 percent in the 1964 presidential election. It also banned discriminatory literacy tests and expanded voting rights for non-English speaking Americans. The laws effects were wide and powerful. By 1968, for example, nearly 60 percent of eligible blacks were registered to vote in Mississippi. The Voting Rights Act was extended in 1970, 1975, and 1982 and despite some setbacks and debates had an enormous impact by helping elect black lawmakers at the local, state and national levels.  
  • White privilege
    Advantages for people with white skin. This includes advantages they might not even know about. It can be a product of systemic racism. Advantages can be economic, social or educational. One kind of privilege is freedom from barriers, suspicions or expectations that non-White people experience daily. Another can be freedom from judgment or denial surrounding success or aspirations. For example, if two people acquire the same job or car, the White person’s success might be taken for granted while the Black person is asked how he or she managed it. See institutional racism, systemic racism.
  • White, U.S. Census definition of
    The U.S. Census Bureau, which adheres to the 1997 Office of Management and Budget standards on race and ethnicity, defines White as “a person having origins in any of the original peoples of Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.” The Census Bureau notes: "The racial categories included in the census questionnaire generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country and not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically. In addition, it is recognized that the categories of the race item include racial and national origin or sociocultural groups."
  • White, white
    People in the United States who share a lineage that can be traced directly or indirectly to Europe. There has been much discussion about whether the w in White and the b in Black should be capitalized. Most journalism style guides, like those of the Associated Press and The New York Times, call for putting both “white” and “black” in all lowercase letters. Others, like The Chicago Manual of Style, allow capitalization if an author or publication prefers. Essence and Ebony magazines, The Chicago Defender  and many other publications serving African-American communities capitalize Black; some, but not all, capitalize White. The National Association of Black Journalists does not capitalize Black in its publications, including the NABJ Style Guide. Many of the terms related to Black and White people in The Diversity Style Guide come from 100 Questions & Answers About African Americans. The team that put together that guide decided to capitalize Black and White, according to editor Joe Grimm. After much research and consideration, the editor of The Diversity Style Guide elected to capitalize Black and White when used in a racial context, but most would say it's not incorrect to lowercase those words. For more discussion about whether to capitalize the w in White see: “Black and White: Why Capitalization Matters” by Merrill Perlman Columbia Journalism Review, 2015 “The Case for Black With a Capital B” by Lori Tharps The New York Times, 2014 "When to Capitalize ‘Black’ and ‘White’" by Elahe Izadi DCentric, 2011 “Black, black, or African American?” by Aly Colón Poynter, 2003 See Caucasian; White privilege; White, U.S. Census definition of.
  • wigger
    A derogatory term used for a white person who mimics language, dress and mannerisms of blacks; a white person who acts black.
  • yellow journalism
    Archaic, possibly anti-Semitic rather than anti-Asian. Refers to the “Yellow Kid,” a young boy from a cartoon strip popular in New York tabloids of the 1890s and, thus, synonymous with tabloid sensationalism. The boy wore a yellow nightshirt. He was Eastern European, possibly Jewish, and was bald because his hair had been shorn because of lice, a common sight in Lower East Side tenements.
  • yellow peril
    Avoid, a slur. An imagined invasion of the United States at the beginning of the 20th century by Asian “hordes,” specifically Japanese, who had become successful entrepreneurs in California agriculture. Led to racialist pulp fiction.
  • yellow skin, Asian-ness of
    A persistent vestige of the age of scientific racism. Yellow skin is a sign of jaundice, a symptom of various diseases, including hepatitis. Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002), the paleontologist, traced the terminology to Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752-1840), who coined “Caucasian.” Blumenbach, a German naturalist, derived his terminology from Carl Linnaeus (the 18th-century Swedish botanist who developed such classifications as “homo sapiens”) and the medieval theory of physiology that human temperament arises from the presence of various fluids, or “humors.” (“Sense of humor” comes from this theory.) Linnaeus said the black, or relaxed, humor  dominated in Africa and the white, or muscular, humor in Europe. Linnaeus wrote that the “luridus, melancholicus, rigidus.”
  • Yonsei, yonsei
    Term for fourth-generation Japanese Americans, originating from the Japanese language term for "fourth generation." In the American context, the term is understood to refer to the great-grandchildren of Japanese immigrants who arrived prior to the cessation of Japanese immigration to the U.S. under the dictates of the Immigration Act of 1924. The vast majority of Yonsei were born a generation or more after the World War II, and given the boom in intermarriage rates among Japanese Americans starting in the 1960s, many are of mixed race heritage. Other generational terms include Issei (first generation) for the immigrant generation, Nisei (second generation) for the American born children of the Nisei, and Sansei (third generation) for the children of the Nisei and parents of the Yonsei. [Some Japanese-American institutions, such as Densho Encyclopedia, the digital educational resource on Japanese American internment and Japanese incarceration,  capitalize the first letter of Issei, Nisei, Sansei, Yonsei, Gosei, etc. Others capitalize the words when they are used in a generational context, but lowercase those same words when referring to an individual. For example, “Nisei soldiers of World War II” has a generational context. However, you might say, “My uncle, a nisei, served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.” Some institutions lowercase the words unless they are part of a proper noun, such as Nisei Farmers League.] See Issei/issei, Nisei/nisei, Sansei/sansei.