30 Terms Mixed Folks Should Know (and everybody else too)

(Most definitions are taken from Wikipedia or Urban Dictionary & tweaked by me). 


1. Assimilation

What it means: the process whereby a minority group gradually adapts to the customs and attitudes of the prevailing culture and customs.
Why it’s important: If you move to Canada, you are expected to do this. Generally a result of colonialism and leads to internalized racism.
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2. Colonialism

What it means: the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory.
Why it’s important: Translation – “I’m coming to take everything and wan’t you to do the work but also don’t get in my way when I’m done (ie exist)”. Mostly leads to the destruction of entire ethnic groups, cultures, civilizations, natural resources etc. (and still continues today).

3. Cultural Appropriation

What it means: the adoption of some specific elements of one culture by a different cultural group and implies a negative view towards acculturation from a minority culture by a dominant culture.
Why it’s important: As an example, this is why dressing up as Pocahontas, a Rasta, a geisha etc is not totally not cool. Translation – “While most aspects of Indigenous (inclusive) cultures are considered ‘primitive’, we’ll borrow what seems cool at the moment (without acknowledging the history of where it came from in any respectable way).”
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4. Dehumanization

What it means: efforts to undermine one’s access to basic human rights (e.g., physical autonomy, food, water, opportunities for self-sufficiency).
Why it’s important: Translation – “We can’t legally kill you, so we’ll just take away the things you need to live instead.”

5. Discrimination

What it means: the prejudicial treatment of an individual based on his or her membership – or perceived membership – in a certain group or category.
Why it’s important: Translation – “We don’t like you & ‘your kind’ (and probably for super crazy stereotyped reasons)“.
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6. Ethnicity

What it means: a group of people whose members identify with each other through a common heritage, consisting of a common culture, including a shared language or dialect.
Why it’s important: Often confused with race and a slightly more tangible social construction (ie the Celts, Romani, Bedouin etc would be considered ethnic groups as opposed to the monolithic terms like “Asian” or “Black”).

7. Eurocentricity

What it means: is the practice of viewing the world from a European perspective.
Why it’s important: An enormous part of internalized racism and why many people seem to think the only place with “culture” worth travelling is Europe, why skinny blondes are the most beautiful, why all things WASPy are “normal” etc.

8. Exotification

What it means: “the charm of the unfamiliar.” (puke)
Why it’s important: This makes you not “normal” (read WASPy) and is why you may not like being called exotic 300 times a day.
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9. Fetishization

What it means: the viewer meditates over the Otherness of the person, an Otherness which makes them untouchable or super desirable.
Why it’s important: Related to exotification & positive stereotypes, it is generally dehumanizing, and sounds like “all mixed people are: pretty/good looking/hot” etc.
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10. Half-breed

What it means: frst appeared in the 1876 Indian Act in Canada under the list of non-Indians.
Why it’s important: To protect whiteness and Indian-ness from mixed-race people, colonizers created the racialized category of ‘half-breed’.
(taken from Race, Space & the Law by Razack, 2002)

11. Hapa

What it means: in the Hawaiian language, hapa is defined as: portion, fragment, part, fraction, installment; to be partial, less.  However, in Hawaiian Pidgin (the language spoken by many Hawaii residents), hapa has an extended meaning of “half-caste” or “of mixed descent”.
Why it’s important: For the reasons above, not everyone feels so great about it, but it is very popular these days.

12. Horizontal hostility

What it means: the result of people of targeted groups believing, acting on, or enforcing the dominant system of discrimination and oppression. Can occur between members of the same group or between members of different, targeted groups.
Why it’s important: While racism works pretty darn well if you are the oppressor, the oppressed do not actually gain anything from this form of divide & conquer.
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13. Internalized racism/oppression

What it means: the manner in which an oppressed group comes to use against itself the methods of the oppressor.
Why it’s important: It is super tragic because it can be so difficult to identify & fight. Generally a result of colonization & Eurocentric standards of everything.

14. Institutionalized racism

What it means: describes any kind of system of inequality based on race. It can occur in institutions such as public government bodies, private business corporations (such as media outlets), and universities (public and private).
Why it’s important: This is one of the reasons affirmative action programs started (which worked wonders if you were a white woman) and why reverse racism is impossible.
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15. Métis

What it means: The advent of the fur trade in west central North America during the 18th century  was accompanied by a growing number of mixed  offspring  of Indian women and European fur traders .  As this  population established  distinct  communities separate from those of  Indians and Europeans and married among themselves,  a new Aboriginal people emerged  – the Métis people – with their own unique culture, traditions, language (Michif), way of life, collective consciousness and nationhood.
(Taken from the Métis Nation site)
Why it’s important: Canada’s first recognized group of mixed-identified people ought to be recognized in all conversations about mixed-race identity.

16. Mulatto

What it means: the term derives from the Spanish and Portuguese word mulato, which is itself derived from mula (from old Galician-Portuguese, from Latin mūlus), meaning mule, the hybrid offspring of a horse and a donkey.
Why it’s important: Need I say more?
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17. Objectification

What it means: refers to the practice of regarding or treating another person merely as an instrument (object) towards one’s sexual pleasure, and a sex object is a person who is regarded simply as an object of sexual gratification or who is sexually attractive.
Why it’s important: Related to Positive Stereotypes & Fetishization, this is why you may feel nauseous when people say “Half-black guys are so hot” or “I’m so into Hapa girls”.

18. Oppression

What it means: the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner.
Why it’s important: Related to dehumanization (read slavery, genocide, reservations etc), & is why people of colour/Indigenous people (and other marginalized communities) are over-represented living under the poverty line, in jail, missing & deceased in Canada.
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19. Privilege

What it means: a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by few beyond the advantages of most (and generally undeserved).
Why it’s important: The only way to enjoy privilege is if someone else is oppressed & therefore a very bad thing. Having said that, it is important to acknowledge & deconstruct the privileges you may enjoy (see a list of mixed privileges created by the MIC community here).
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20. Racialization

What it means: It signifies the extension of dehumanizing and racial meanings to a previously racially unclassified relationship, social practice, or group. Aka a group of people is seen as a “race”, when it was not before.
Why it’s important: Pretty solid evidence of the construction of race.

21. Race

What it means: a classification system used to categorize humans into large and distinct populations or groups by heritable phenotypic characteristics, geographic ancestry, physical appearance, ethnicity, and social status.  Frequently criticized for perpetuating an outmoded understanding of human biological variation, and promoting stereotypes (in other news, water is wet).
Why it’s important: While we definitely experience the effects of race/racism, race is actually pretty made up. As a quick mental test, define “white/Caucasian”…does it include people from “Ireland”, “Italy”, “India”, “Afghanistan” or “Algeria”? (The answer of course is none of the above because races (including white) are made up.)

22. Racial Passing (Active & Passive)

What it means: Active: a person classified as a member of one racial group attempting to be accepted as a member of a different racial group; & Passive: when you are read as a different racial group despite how you identify.
Why it’s important: Very much related to privilege and colonialism, it shows how much we perceive racial cues visually.

23. Racism

What it means: behavior or beliefs motivated by racial stereotypes, it generally includes practices of racial discrimination, and ideologies of racial supremacy and hierarchy.
Why it’s important: Pretty self-explanatory, but will never fully convey the experiences of real people.

24. Registered/Status Indian

What it means: An individual recognized by the federal government as being registered under the Indian Act is referred to as a Registered Indian (commonly referred to as a Status Indian).
(Taken from the Canadian government)
Why it’s important: There’s nothing like having to have a peice of paper to prove your ancestral validity on your land.

25. Reverse racism

What it means: Something whiteness made up to deflect racism & continue being racist.
Why it’s important: There is no such thing (see “How To Be A Reverse-Racist: An Actual Step by Step List For Oppressing White People”).
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26. Shadeism/Colourism

What it means: refers to a form of prejudice or discrimination in which human beings of the same race are treated differently based on the social meanings attached to skin colour.
Why it’s important: Related to horizontal hostility & Eurocentricity, it is a really painful reality for all people of colour. Translation – “Light is good, dark is bad” for example.

27. Stereotype (Positive & Negative)

What it means: a belief that can be held by anybody about specific types of individuals or certain ways of doing things, but that belief may or may not accurately reflect reality. Can include “positive” traits like “intelligence”, “sexual prowess”, or “attractiveness” or “negative” traits like the lack of “intelligence”,”ability”, or “morals”.
Why it’s important: Don’t need to say much here, however positive stereotypes are still very socially acceptable and make me totally bonkers.
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28. Tokenism

What it means: the policy or practice of making a perfunctory gesture toward the inclusion of members of minority groups. Classically, token characters have some reduced capacity compared to the other characters and may have bland or inoffensive personalities so as to not be accused of stereotyping negative traits. Alternatively, their differences may be overemphasized or made “exotic” and glamorous.
Why it’s important: Why being “the black/Asian/Native/mixed etc friend” typically sucks.
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29. Visible Minority

What it means:  a term used primarily in Canada and defines a person who is visibly not one of the majority race in a given population.
Why it’s important: You get the opportunity to decide if you are ‘visible’ or not on government forms. *Fun* 
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30. WASP

What it means: (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) is an informal term for a closed group of high-status Canadians mostly of British Protestant ancestry. This group wields disproportionate financial and social power.
Why it’s important: See all the above.
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Kindly edited by the Brown Grrlz Project!

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