Amplifying the Unheard Voices: A Statement & Conversation With Sarah Herfurth & Dalís Pacheco

During the last tumultuous year, the echoes of the Black Lives Matter movement found intense resonance within the UdK. Primarily it was the students who collectivized to speak up about the injustices in their study environment and beyond. Sarah Naira Herfurth and Dalís Pacheco, two of the students who have been working laboriously on the demands and strategies for a proper engagement with intersectional anti-discrimination work at the university, talked to us about their work and the progress so far.

The interview was conducted in December 2020. It is a follow-up to our latest podcast episode, in which Dalís Pacheco presents the statement she wrote and recorded in July 2020 based on the students’ demands, and as a reflection on the responses to the related conversations in the university.

Sarah Naira Herfurth studies Architecture at the UdK as well as African Art History at the FU Berlin. She is active in various student groups, always pursuing approaches pertaining to intersectionality, diversity, and anti-discrimination. At present, she is an active member of I.D.AStuPa, the Committee for Intercultural Diversity, Anti-Discrimination and Empowerment, and the AG Critical Diversity. Until recently, she functioned as the student representative at AStA’s Anti-Discrimination and Intercultural Affairs Department. Furthermore, she was involved in policy matters within the Klasse Klima and the AG Klima. In the department of architecture, she is a member of the student council. She initiated the AG Intersectional Anti-Discrimination with the aim to gather all UdK student-led initiatives working on the same matter in order to draw up a cohesive strategy, including a list of demands addressed to the UdK administration.

Dalís Pacheco is an interdisciplinary artist and student from Peru, based in Berlin, pursuing her degree at the UdK Medienhaus. She is an active member of Interflugs, StuPa, the Committee for Intercultural Diversity, Anti-Discrimination and Empowerment, as well as the AG Intersectional Anti-Discrimination.


Can you tell us about the context in which your statement was created? 


We have been part of the StuPa since 2019 and progressively working around anti-discrimination topics. When the Black Lives Matter movement started this year, we felt the need to say something openly, to show solidarity, and call for awareness, also of the local issues. We presented another previous statement in the StuPa meeting in July 2020 that the UdK president attended. We asked some questions to understand how the university was positioning itself around this topic.

After that first approach, we realized how we needed to structure our work to see some progress. That first statement brought many student initiatives together, but we recognized that it was difficult to work due to the lack of bridges between us, there are different group initiatives as well as personal efforts from different faculties and generations. That is how the AG Intersectional Anti-Discrimination started – as an emergency group for initiatives such as Interflugs, I.D.A, AStA, and the student councils to communicate better. It is becoming a meeting ground, a network, and a community to channel our ideas, concerns, feelings, and to support each other. But, on the other hand, we realized that the StuPa is a space that is not very accessible to everyone due to its language barriers and the need for some political and bureaucratic knowledge to understand the dynamics, and that also requires time and dedication. This keeps many students apart from being more active in student politics or from being truly represented. This was one of the main reasons to create the AG – to work as an accessible space open to all students whenever they need it, and for them to feel supported to start regular dialogues, share concerns and proposals, and learn collectively. Therefore the StuPa members could better represent the actual student body in their diversity.

When this was happening, we came together and wrote the demands for intersectional anti-discrimination in the UdK, and for its presentation, this statement was created. 


From experience, when talking about everyday and systemic discrimination, oftentimes the entire issue gets downplayed. To prevent that, we began our meetings with the head of the university by reading out statements. Through the statement, we wanted to, firstly, establish a common basis and, secondly, make clear that there are some things that are simply non-negotiable.


How was the statement received so far? Were there any developments in terms of what you demanded back in summer?


These expressions were created to generate some awareness and empathy before we started the discussion. There is a lot of emotional weight behind this work which needs to be acknowledged in the conversation about solutions. For us, it was also important to summarize our thoughts and feelings and express our position. To start with a clear path. 

Around that time the student protest #exitracismUdK at the Rundgang 2020 happened and 50 reports collected from students who experienced racist discrimination at the university were released. Our demands were presented there as well. I had the feeling that a lot of people were not really understanding what we were talking about and why with such urgency. We end up needing to explain systemic racism over and over again.

I guess the official reaction was meant to be careful but avoided some in-depth subjects. There is some small progress but we are still waiting for a concrete response. The reception among the students has been positive, many identified with it and were glad that we could finally speak about it out loud. Others would like to learn more about it.


During the summer, the topics of anti-discrimination in the university started getting more and more attention. The demands and the statements, the #exitracismUdK action, articles in the magazine Eigenart, the hanging of banners on the UdK facade, discussions inside and outside of classes, the growing networks of students and teachers, and last but not least, the media presence of BLM have all led to it. Now, we need to be careful about these topics not being brought up just because they were momentarily fashionable but that they are dealt with in a serious and sustainable manner.

Our list of demands has had an impact. Thanks to great efforts by the International Office,  three anti-racism workshops for the academic staff were offered. All of these workshops were fully booked. Perhaps it is worthwhile noting that the majority of the teaching staff that registered for these workshops were predominantly from the “Mittelbau” and women*. Another positive outlook is that German courses will become less expensive. We have been told that the steep price of around 700 EUR will be decreased to a smaller triple-digit range. To us, that still is too expensive. German courses should be free and part of the core course catalog. Only then can UdK students actively and diligently pursue their academic pathway without having to fear the loss of their visa and residence permit. in comparison, an equivalent course at the Humboldt University in Berlin costs 40 EUR. It is vital that the UdK adapts its German language course structures to the conditions upon enrollment in order to prevent discrimination based on origin and class. It needs to focus on creating more equal opportunities for its students. 


How do you feel about all of this now, having a few months’ distance and more mental and emotional space to process everything? Have you felt the need to expand this list of demands? 


There are definitely things missing on the list of demands. We are currently discussing whether we should put them in a new structure and make priorities. To give an example, we are thinking of expanding the topic of accessibility for people with visual and acoustic impairments. In addition, we are considering requesting the realization of a prayer room. 

To come to your first part of the question, in the past year a lot has happened. Worldwide, in Germany, in Berlin, on an institutional level at the UdK, as well as on an individual. I’m thinking of February 19, the Hanau shootings, the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and many more victims of racist police brutality around the world, the atrocities committed against the Armenians during the Azeri-Armenian war, the attack on LGBTQIA+ rights in Brazil, the heatwave in Siberia, the fires in the Amazon and Australia, the explosion in Beirut, the US exit from the WHO, the abortion ban in Poland, the “Querdenker” demonstrations in Berlin, the house clearance of Liebigstraße 34 in Berlin, and unfortunately the list could go on. All these occurrences have in common that they amplify the suppression of the already marginalized. It might feel far-fetched but there is a direct connection between these developments and the work we do in the AG Intersectional Anti-Discrimination. We think it’s important to draw attention to these social conflicts and injustices that are undeniably rooted in discrimination. So during our meetings, as in our statements, we address these incidents. It is not rare that our members are personally affected by these developments. I, therefore, believe that the arts and thus also the UdK should act as a catalyst and seismograph, drawing attention to these injustices.

But with all worries I also see hope. I’m thinking of the many great, important, and progressive movements and achievements connected to all this. These include the Black Lives Matter movement, the protests in Belarus, Peru, and Poland, the #endsars movement in Nigeria, the newly introduced first German state Anti-Discrimination Law (Berliner Landes-Antidiskriminierungsgesetz), the mobile anti-discrimination app for Berlin (AnDi), the #exitracismUdK demonstration, the UdK declaration of the climate emergency, the UdK signing the declaration of Die Vielen, the gradual implementation of toilets for all genders at the UdK, and the options “diverse” and “not specified” in all forms, certificates, and statistics of the UdK Berlin, to name a few. Here we shouldn’t forget that most of these accomplishments were initiated from the bottom up. 

Anti-discrimination work at the UdK is mostly done by students affected by different and intersecting forms of discrimination. This is the unfortunate situation we are in. After the turmoil of 2020, all of us working on anti-discrimination badly needed a break. We are studying during a pandemic. At the same time, we are affected by social and environmental injustices on different levels. We are trying to bring these issues forward in the university context. Simultaneously, we have to prove that these issues concern us all. All of this is draining. This is why one of our most pressing demands is the establishment of a professional anti-discrimination body with external experts following an intersectional approach. Anti-discriminatory matters should no longer depend on the students’ capacity.  We are hopeful that, following the January 2021 meeting with the head of the university, we will generate common goals and solutions.  


I am trying to trace the feelings that arose at that moment. I think I have learned a lot since then and feel more confident to talk further. But I am also very exhausted. For example, I have been doing this work and being present in many actions from afar and thanks to the internet. Around that time I was under strict lockdown and facing other complications for survival for around seven months in South America where the current pandemic hit tragically.

I also ask myself why we needed to wait until now. These issues in general have been happening for so long and were so normalized. This year it was just clear that we cannot avoid them anymore. We talk about things this way not to exaggerate, but because it has been ignored for so long and we don’t have any more patience. It is currently all connected to a lot of issues that are happening globally. And still, there are people being able to ignore these things or treating them as if they were not important when it really concerns us all. For some, this is just an interesting topic, talking about racism or discrimination is like picking up a book from the library and leaving it aside when they get bored. But for others, that is not possible, it’s a matter of existence.

It is work that, as art students, we’re not prepared for and we do not receive support to be able to continue doing it sustainably. It goes over hours, non-stop, and it is not paid. Something also to acknowledge is that there are a lot of people currently behind the anti-discrimination work, in student politics but also each one from their disciplines and initiatives and that there were people before us doing this work and paving the path for us, and hopefully there will be others in the future.

And of course, the list of demands will need adjustments while we move forward. After I read the testimonies in the student’s protest during the Rundgang and talked to some of the people involved, I was shocked. And yet, until now there have been no reparations. No one asked how they or we were dealing with this. It is a lot of emotional work, mostly for those who are also affected by it. This problem is rooted in the society here and everywhere and the struggle doesn’t aim to victimize anyone. It is about respect and requires holding accountable those who are in power to change things.


Here we are also thinking of the Berlin Senate. In our demands we refer to the Berlin Landesantidiskriminierungsgesetz and the Gleichbehandlungsgesetz, which state that 1. discrimination has to be recognized, 2.  active action against it needs to happen, 3. the awareness of these problems needs to be strengthened, 4. measures and strategies need to be developed, and 5. programs for those affected need to be established. We want what is defined in these legislative papers to get carried out in practice. Unfortunately, we are not there yet. This is the situation in and outside the UdK. 


How should the university and generally society respond to the fact that the anti-discrimination efforts involve much more than what people can see and that there is a lot of invisible labor going on?


In an academic setting, people typically want numbers to prove something. With discrimination, there are no numbers. Hence, we need policy-oriented research. If you look at the performance reports from the UdK, it’s apparent how things have been looked at. In the last UdK “Leistungsbericht 2018” it becomes clear that there is only a distinction between “women” and “foreigners”. Thus, there is close to no evidence of an intersectional approach. In addition, the category “foreigner” raises questions. And just having the category “women” is evidently insufficient. Our data needs to be looked at much more profoundly. We need this data to prove the persisting lack of representation of marginalized groups at the UdK. 

One of the main questions driving us is: how accessible and inclusive is our university, and to whom? To whom is access denied, willingly or unwillingly? If you ask me, the UdK is a place where predominantly people with a privileged background study. Most of the UdK students come from academic and higher-than-average income families. This is interesting because the UdK does not implement a grade point average. Unlike in many other universities, one doesn’t need a certain grade for most courses. Even a high school diploma isn’t an essential requirement for most of the programs at the UdK. This theoretically means that the UdK is open to people without a specific educational background, and is open to people from the so-called working class. However, it comes to show that the socio-cultural backgrounds of the UdK students are less diverse than those of the TU Berlin, for example.

To make our university more equitable, we are proposing several measures. These include awareness training for members of big decision-making committees, such as admission or appointment committees. Another measure we are suggesting is a permanent seat for a qualified anti-discrimination expert in each committee, similar to the equal opportunities officer, the “Frauenbeauftrage”.


There are many things left out of sight. I think what happens is that there is a feeling of being democratic and treating everyone the same when we are in fact not all the same. Everyone comes from different backgrounds and realities, which is very positive but needs to be treated accordingly. I think this is because the university avoids the emotional level which is impossible to go around. That’s why it is so uncomfortable and difficult – it hurts to acknowledge that they have been part of this dynamic that negatively affects some people or leaves some behind. When talking about anti-racism/discrimination, some people can even take it very personally and react defensively or aggressively. Constantly dealing with indifference or denial makes the work heavier. Instead, the university should be more receptive, engaging, and open to solutions. We need to change the way we perceive everything. We need to leave behind the colonial structure that we drag to this very day. The healing process will never start if we are not going to the roots of it.


Exactly. Students will mirror these social dynamics further in life and it’s important that people and institutions learn how they are part of the problem. Based on your experiences and observations, what is the role of an art university in the shaping of society in the anti-racist, anti-discriminatory direction? Why is it important that the university prioritizes this kind of work?


There is a beautiful clip where Nina Simone talks about the artist’s duty. I think it is transferable to the role of the university, especially the art university, and more precisely to the UdK as one of the largest art schools in Europe. Simone says that the artist’s duty is to reflect on the times in which we live. We all should know what’s happening right now and has been going on for so many years. We shouldn’t look away any longer. We need to not only reflect on the times we live in, but think of measures, strategies, and solutions on how to make education, its access, its methods, and its contents more equitable and inclusive. 


I agree that social dynamics in learning environments reflect later in society. This was the reason we were so interested in doing this work inside the university. If we are not able to make at least some progress here, how can we expect the progress to happen outside? It was nice to see that many joined this initiative, but there are many who don’t care. When we criticize the university it sounds like we hate it, when in fact this comes from a place of care for it. We know how important those spaces are. We just want to protect people from experiencing harm and make sure that the unfair things we personally experienced or heard of don’t happen anymore. 

Having more sincere diversity in the university, meaning content (curriculum) and who represents it, is crucial. If you are only learning one side of history, it is difficult to understand your position in it. We are all connected and the things that happen here have an impact somewhere else. This is something we’re also seeing during this pandemic more clearly. Having a wider and inclusive approach is how empathy could grow and organically these topics would make more sense. It is often mistaken that discrimination is an issue of people who experience it. Instead, we need to see what causes it and, when it’s the whole system, what can we do about it.

I don’t think we will be able to change the university or society that fast. It’s a long way,  but just knowing how things work, what our position is, what we could do about it, and how we could support our communities really makes a change. The consciousness is empowering. To know each other, to work together towards a collective dream and share among us, gives us the knowledge we didn’t have before, and this alone is for me super valuable. To be able to recognize it and name it also helps to release some weight that has been historically put on some of us and which doesn’t really belong to us. How many times have we felt isolated, powerless, and insecure because it is how the system works. We will eventually leave the university and stop doing this work in this way, but the awareness and openness to keep learning will remain with us and reflect later on how we function professionally.

Experiencing discrimination or being discriminated against systematically distracts us from the reason we are here in the first place – to learn, to create, and to exchange our feelings and ideas. And that would not be possible without setting some ground rules first.

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Ableism is the discrimination of and social prejudice against people with differing physical and mental abilities and needs. It typically involves a negative assessment of a person’s body and mind due to skills and abilities, based on a supposed biological (physical and/or mental) norm of what an able-bodied, neurotypical person should be. Ableism can intersect with other forms of oppression such as racism and sexism. 

Adultism is the discrimination found in everyday life and law based on unequal power relationships between adults, on the one hand, and children, adolescents, and young people on the other. 

The General Equal Treatment Act (AGG), enforced since 2006, is the uniform central body of regulations in Germany for the implementation of four European anti-discrimination directives. For the first time, a law was created in Germany that comprehensively regulates protection against discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnicity, gender identification, religion or belief, ability, age, or sexual orientation.

Antisemitism is a belief system based on hatred/hostility towards or discrimination against Jewish people as a religious or racial group, Jewish institutions or anyone/anything that is perceived Jewish. Antisemitism varies over time and between cultures, with antisemitism intensifying in different historical moments.   

Accessibility names the extent to which a product, service, or environment can be used and accessed by as many people as possible. Inclusive accessibility therefore assesses the needs and desires of all possible people—including those who are neurodivergent or who have varying abilities—and incorporates these into its design and function. Changes to enable those with different abilities to have equal opportunity and participation are often referred to as accommodations.  

Harassment is undesired and non-consensual conduct that violates the dignity of another person. Harassment can often create intimidating, hostile, humiliating, or offensive environments, and can be based on someone’s sexual orientation, religion, national origin, disability, age, race, gender, and more. Harassment can take a variety of forms, including verbal, physical, and/or sexual. 

The gender binary is the classification of gender into two distinct and opposite categories of man/masculine and woman/feminine. This belief system assumes that one’s sex or gender assigned at birth will align with traditional social constructions of masculine and feminine identity, expression, and sexuality. Assignment beyond the gender binary is typically viewed as a deviation of the norm. 

Sex refers to a person’s biological status and is typically assigned at birth, usually based on external anatomy. Sex is typically categorized as male, female, or intersex. 

Cisgender, or simply cis, refers to people who identify with the gender assigned to them at birth. Cis comes from the Latin prefix which means “on this side of.” 

This concept, according to Birgit Rommelspacher, assumes that there is a system of hierarchies, rule and power in which the various racist, sexist, classist, and other forms of governance intertwine. In this interconnectedness, a dominant group maintains power, which is socially negotiated again and again. In a given society, the dominant group achieves their role by being perceived as pertaining to a majority of the population and having a significant presence in societal institutions. 

The prison-industrial complex (PIC) is a term that describes the complex and interrelated dependencies between a government and the various businesses and institutions that benefit from practices of incarceration (such as prisons, jails, detention facilities, and psychiatric hospitals). Based on the term “military-industrial complex,” PIC urges a more comprehensive analysis of how imprisonment is used in a society, noting all the interest groups that prioritize financial gain over keeping people out of prisons. 

Gender-expansive is an adjective that can describe someone with a more flexible and fluid gender identity than might be associated with the typical gender binary. 

Gender is often defined as a social construct of norms, behaviors, and roles that vary between societies and over time. Gender is often categorized as male, female, or nonbinary. 

Gender transition is a process a person might take to bring themselves and/or their bodies into alignment with their gender identity. This process is not a singular step nor does it have a definite end. Rather, it can include any, none, or all of the following: telling one’s family and social circles; changing one’s name and pronouns; updating legal documents; medical interventions such as hormone therapy; or surgical intervention, often called gender confirmation surgery. 

Gender expression is how a person presents gender outwardly, most typically signalled through clothing, voice, behavior, and other perceived characteristics. Society identifies these cues and performances as masculine or feminine, although what is considered masculine or feminine varies over time and between cultures.  

Gender dysphoria refers to psychological distress that results from the incongruence between one’s sex assigned at birth and one’s gender identity. People of all genders may experience dysphoria at varying levels of intensity, or not at all. 

Gender identity is one’s own internal sense of self and their gender. Unlike gender expression, gender identity is not externally visible to others. 

Heteronormativity is the concept that heterosexuality—romantic and/or sexual attraction between people of the “opposite” gender—is the normative or acceptable sexual orientation in a society. Heteronormativity assumes the gender binary, and therefore involves a belief in the alignment between sexuality, gender identity, gender roles, and biological sex. As a dominant social norm, heteronormativity results in discrimination and oppression against those who do not identify as heterosexual.   

Hormone therapy, sometimes called gender-affirming hormone therapy (GAHT) or hormone replacement therapy (HRT), is the process by which sex hormones or other hormonal medications are administered. These hormone changes can trigger physical changes, called secondary sex characteristics, that can help better align the body with a person’s gender identity.

Institutional discrimination refers to prejudiced organizational policies and practices within institutions – such as universities, workplaces, and more – such that an individual or groups of individuals who are marginalized are unequally considered and have unequal rights. 

Inter*, or intersex, is an umbrella term that can describe people who have differences in reproductive anatomy, chromosomes, or hormones that do not fit typical definitions of male and female. The asterisks (*) emphasizes the plurality of intersex realities and physicalities. 

Intergenerational trauma refers to the trauma that is passed from a trauma survivor to their descendent. Due to violent and terrifying events—such as war, ethnic cleansing, political conflict, environmental catastrophe, and more—experienced by previous generations, descendants may experience adverse emotional, physical, and psychological effects. As the original sources of trauma are structured by forms of discrimination such as race and gender, intergenerational trauma also occurs along intersectional axes of oppression. For example, Black communities have brought to light the intergenerational trauma of enslavement. 
Intergenerational trauma is sometimes called historical trauma, multi- or transgenerational trauma, or secondary traumatization. 

Intersectionality names the interconnected nature of systems of oppression and social categorizations such as race, gender, sexuality, migratory background, and class. Intersectionality emphasizes how individual forms of discrimination do not exist independently of each other, nor can they be considered and addressed independently. Rather, addressing oppression should take into account the cumulative and interconnected axes of multiple forms of discrimination. 

Islamophobia is a belief system based on hatred/hostility towards or discrimination against Muslim people as a religious or racial group, muslim institutions or anyone/anything that is perceived Muslim. Islamophobia varies over time and between cultures, with Islamophobia intensifying in different historical moments.

Classism is a term that describes discrimination based on the belief that a person’s social or economic status determines their value in society. Classism, as a form of discrimination and stigmatization, is based on actual or assumed financial means, educational status, and social inclusion. “Inferior” classes in the hierarchy are problematised and stereotyped, and often receive unequal access and rights within society. 

Colonialism is the control and dominance of one power over a dependent area or people. In subjugating another people and land, colonialism entails violently conquering the population, often including mass displacement of people and the systematic exploitation of resources. Beyond material consequences, colonialism also includes processes of forcing the dominant power’s language and cultural values upon the subjugated people, thereby effecting cultural, psychological, and intergenerational trauma. 

Culturally argued racism is directed against people based on their presumed cultural or religious background. This form of discrimination can occur regardless of whether they actually practice one culture or religion and how religious they are (e.g. anti-Muslim racism and anti-Semitism). 

Cultural appropriation is the act of taking on aspects of a marginalized culture by a person or an institution who is outside of that culture, without comprehensive understanding of the context and often lacking respect for the significance of the original. Cultural appropriation, when promoting negative cultural or racial stereotypes, reproduces harm. Acts of cultural appropriation can often reveal power dynamics within a society: for example, a white person who wears a marginalized culture’s traditional dress is praised as fashionable, while a racialized person could be isolated from the dominant group and marked as foreign.  

Marginalization describes any process of displacing minorities to the social fringe. As a rule, marginalised groups are presumed to not correspond to the norm-oriented majority of society and are severely restricted in their ability to behave freely, have equal material access, enjoy public safety, and more.  

Microaggression names individual comments or actions that unconsciously or consciously demonstrate prejudice and enact discrimination against members of marginalized groups. As small, common, and cumulative occurrences, microaggressions can comprise of insults, stereotypes, devaluation, and/or exclusion. Microaggressions often negatively affect the person on the receiving end, affecting their psychological and physical health and wellbeing. 

Misogyny is a term for sexist oppression and contempt for women that is used to keep women at a lower social status than men, thereby maintaining patriarchal social roles. Misogyny can indicate an attitude held by individuals and a widespread cultural system that often devalues anything perceived as feminine. Misogyny can overlap with other instances of oppression and hate—such as homophobia, trans*-misogyny, and racism. 

Neurodiversity is a term that describes the unique ways each person’s brain structures function. The basic assumption of what kind of brain functioning is healthy and acceptable within a norm-oriented majority society is called neurotypical. 

Nonbinary is a term that can be used by persons who do not describe themselves or their genders as fitting into the binary categories of man or woman. A range of terms are used for these experiences, with nonbinary and genderqueer often used. 

Patriarchy is a social system whereby cis men dominantly hold positions of privilege both in public and private spheres. In feminist theory, patriarchy can be used to describe the power relationship between genders that favors male dominance, as well as the ideology of male superiority that justifies and enacts oppression against women and all non-normative genders. 

Pronouns, or personal gender pronouns (PGPs), are the set of pronouns that an individual uses to refer to themselves and desires for others to use when referring to them. The list of pronouns is continuously evolving. An individual may have several sets of preferred pronouns, or none. The intention of both asking and using a person’s pronouns correctly is to reduce the negative societal effects for those whose personal pronouns don’t match with the gender identity that’s assumed by a cisnormative society. Using gender-neutral wording and terms to refer to groups of people (such as “folks,” instead of “guys”) are also inclusive steps that resist the gender binary and cis-normativity. 

Racism is the process by which systems, policies, actions, and attitudes create unequal opportunities and outcomes for people based on race. More than individual or institutional prejudice, racism occurs when this discrimination is accompanied by the power to limit or oppress the rights of people and/or groups. Racism varies over time and between cultures, with racism towards different groups intensifying in different historical moments.   

Sex-gender difference names the distinction between the concept of “sex” as a biological fact and the concept of “gender” as a product of cultural and social processes, such as socially constructed roles, behaviours, expressions and gendered identities.

Sexism is the process by which systems, policies, actions, and attitudes create unequal opportunities and outcomes for people based on their attributed or supposed sex and the ideology underlying these phenomena. It is mostly used to name the power relations between dominant and marginalised genders within cisheteronormative patriarchal societies.

Sexual orientation is the term that describes which sex or gender a person feels emotionally, physically, romantically and/or sexually attracted to.

Social origin describes the socio-cultural values and norms into which one is born, including factors such as environment, class, caste, education biography, and more. The values that accompany one’s social origin are constructed, but often have material impact that privileges or under-privileges certain groups and people. For example, someone whose social origin includes living in a Western country, inheriting intergenerational wealth, and having a consistently good education will increase their chances for a high-paying job as an adult. Their social origin must therefore be taken into account, rather than their inherent worthiness for such a job. 

A social norm is a shared belief in the standard of acceptable behaviour by groups, both informal as well as institutionalized into policy or law. Social norms differ over time and between cultures and societies. 

Socioeconomic status, usually described as low, medium, or high, is a way of describing people based on their education, income, and type of job. The values and norms assigned to each socioeconomic class are socially constructed but have material impact. 

Structural discrimination refers to patterns of behaviour, policies, and attitudes found at the macro-level conditions of society. This discrimination of social groups is based on the nature of the structure of society as a whole. Structural discrimination is distinct from individual forms of discrimination (such as a single racist remark, which is a microaggression), though it often provides the contextual framework to understand why these individual instances occur. 

Tokenism is a superficial or symbolic gesture that includes minority members without significantly changing or addressing the structural discrimination of marginalization. Tokenism is a strategy intended to create the appearance of inclusion and to divert allegations of discrimination by requiring a single person to be representative of a minority. 

White supremacy names the beliefs and practices that privilege white people as an inherently superior race, built on the exclusion and detriment of other racial and ethnic groups. It can refer to the interconnected social, economic, and political systems that enable white people to enjoy structural advantages over other racial groups both on a collective and individual level. It can also refer to the underlying political ideology that imposes and maintains multiple forms of domination by white people and non-white supporters, from justifying European colonialism to present-day neo-fascisms. 

Whiteness is a socially and politically constructed behaviour that perpetuates an ideology, culture, history, and economy that results in the unequal distribution of power and privilege favoring those socially deemed white. The material benefits of whiteness are gained at the expense of Black, Indigenous, and people of color, who are systematically denied equal access to those material benefits. 
On our blog, white is often written in small italics to mark it as a political category and emphasize the privileges of whiteness which are often not named as such, but rather taken for granted as the invisible norm. 

Xenophobia names the hostility towards groups or individuals perceived as “outsiders” based on their culture. Xenophobic attitudes are often associated with hostile reception of immigrants or refugees who arrive in societies and communities that are not their homelands. Xenophobic discrimination can result in barriers to equally access socioeconomic opportunities, as well as ethnic, racial, or religious prejudice.

Abolition is a term that names officially ending a system, practice, or institution. Rooted in 19th century movements to abolish slavery, present day abolitionism is often invoked to end the practice of policing and military and/or the interconnected carceral systems of prisons, refugee camps, detention centers, and more. For more, see the definition of prison-industrial complex). 

Accountability is the obligation and willingness to accept responsibility for one’s actions. In the context of social justice, accountability refers to the ways in which individuals and communities hold themselves to their principles and goals, as well as acknowledging the groups to which they are responsible. Accountability often requires a transparent process and continuous self- and collective awareness. 

Ageism is discrimination or prejudice based on a person’s age, such as when skills and abilities are questioned and assessed based on one’s older or younger age. 

Agender is an adjective that can be used by persons who do not identify as any gender.

BIPoC stands for Black, Indigenous and people of color. A term that originated in the U.S., it is a self-designation intended to center the specific experiences of Black, Indigenous, and other racialized groups, who are severely impacted by systemic racial injustice rooted in histories of enslavement and colonialism, and to unite people and groups affected by racism. 

Colorism is a term that describes the prejudice or discrimination favoring people with lighter skin tones over those with darker skin tones. This is especially used to describe the nuanced discrimination faced within a racial or ethnic group. 

The Critical Diversity Policy at UdK is a document whose intention is to emphasize and enforce the idea that differences in values, attitudes, cultural perspective, beliefs, ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientation, gender identity, abilities, knowledge and life experiences of each individual in each group of people should be considered and overcome within the university.

Deadnaming is the act of calling a trans*, nonbinary, or gender-expansive person by their birth name, or an incorrect name, when they have changed their name as part of their gender expression. It is never okay or necessary to use a person’s deadname when they have changed their name, including when describing past events. If you deadname someone, take accountability by apologizing and commit to not doing so in the future. Take steps to know someone’s current name and commit to using it.   

This sociological term focuses on how people observe, (re-)produce, and make gender relevant in everyday life. Rather than taking gender as an innate quality, the acts of “doing gender” emphasize how gender is a social construct that is prevalent in daily human interaction. 

Misogynoir is a term, coined by Black feminist Moya Bailey in 2010, that describes the gendered and racial oppression faced by Black cis and transgender women (the latter sometimes referred to as trans*-misogynoir). Taking an intersectional lens, misogynoir examines how anti-Black racism and misogyny combine into a particular form of oppression and discrimination. 

Queer is an umbrella term for people who are not heterosexual or cisgender. It Is used for a broad spectrum of non-normative sexual and/or gender identities and politics. 

Safer spaces are intended to be places where marginalized communities can gather and communicate shared experiences, free of bias, conflict, or harm perpetrated by members of a dominant group. Recognizing that there is no such thing as a perfectly safe space for marginalized people under the current systems of our society, the term “safer” indicates the goal of temporary relief, as well as acknowledging the fact that harm can be reproduced even within marginalized communities. 
Examples of safer spaces created in organizations and institutions are queer-only spaces and/or spaces only for Black, Indigenous, and people of color. 

Social justice is a form of activism and political movement that promotes the process of transforming society from an injust and unequal state to one that is just and equitable. Social justice is rooted in the view that everyone deserves equal economic, political, and social rights and opportunities, and the fundamental right to feel psychologically and physically secure. Social justice therefore aims to change governing laws and societal norms that have historically and presently oppressed some groups over others. Social justice is not just the absence of discrimination, but also the presence of deliberate systems and supports that achieve and sustain equity along lines of race, gender, class, ability, religion, and more. 

Transgender, or simply trans*, is an adjective that refers to people whose gender identity is different than the sex assigned at birth. Trans comes from the Latin prefix which means “across” or “beyond.” The self-designation is not an identity feature that automatically indicates whether this person identifies with a different gender, no gender or multiple genders. Thus, there are several trans* identities. The asterisks (*) emphasizes the plurality and fluidity of trans identities.