Unfortunately, there is no comprehensive, universal language for justice work. Still, a glossary for commonly used terms is vital to communication. Without a common language we have the increased risk of misunderstanding, controversy and frustration. Language is ever-evolving and there are limitations to the static nature of a glossary but it is my hope that this glossary will offer a starting point for communities to form a common language.
Regardless of our level of understanding or engagement in justice work, reflecting on our terminology— including its origins and our reason for using it – will help to foster shared understanding and deeper discourse. Some common language develops naturally through shared experiences but not all experiences are universal. That’s where intentionality becomes necessary but it doesn’t have to be a scary thing. Developing a common language just means making explicit a process in which we all already engage — the creation of language and mutual understanding.
The words we use to exchange ideas are ever-evolving so, with the realization that I may be missing a term or need to revise a definition, I consider this a living document. I welcome any new insights or suggestions that help us to build trust and understanding as we go about the work of justice.