Discover More About Racial Reconciliation

In seeking racial reconciliation, we begin to understand each other through dialogue and relationships. This blog is part of a series that explores the issues facing our world today.

What Does It All Mean? A Glossary of Racial Reconciliation Terms

Racism: The belief that a people born of a certain race – often defined by skin color, ethnicity or cultural traditions – are superior to those of another race. 

Internalized Racism: Prejudice, bias and blind spots people have in themselves. An individual level of racism. 

Interpersonal Racism: When we act on internalized racism on each other. An individual level of racism. 

Institutional Racism: Racist policies and discriminatory processes across institutions, including schools, governments, organizations and businesses that produce unjust outcomes for people of color. A systemic level of racism. 

Structural Racism: Unjust patterns and practices that play out across institutions that make up our society. A systemic level of racism. 

Racial Reconciliation: The concept starts with the idea that racism in America is systemic and institutionalized, as well as internalized, individualized and interpersonal. Reconciliation begins with dialogue between people and people groups that have been historically divided. It engages relationship-building and truth-telling. On an individual and interpersonal level, racial reconciliation takes intentionality, vulnerability and confession. On a systemic level, it takes learning and advocacy. Racial justice, often in a restorative manner, is central to racial reconciliation. It advocates responsibility from all stakeholders and generational beneficiaries of racial oppression and seeks to right historical wrongs.

Colorblindness: The concept that people see no color in others; it has good intentions but is misguided and can do real harm by overlooking substantial parts of people’s identity. “Colorblindness does not acknowledge the image of God in diverse people groups,” says David Bailey, founder of Arrabon, a ministry that equips churches and Christian organizations to be reconciling communities. “It actually encourages us to do surface-level diversity and be passive in reconciliation.”   

Discrimination: Treating a person or a particular group of people a different way. Favoring or being unfair to people because of certain categorizations that include religion, age, gender or race.

Prejudice: An opinion not based on actual experience; based on preconception. 

Bigotry: Intolerance of any beliefs, opinions or creeds that are different from one’s own. 

Multiculturalism: The view that various cultures can co-exist in the same society and that those cultures merit equal respect, honor, interest and exploration.

White Supremacy: The belief that white people are superior to other racial groups and should be the dominant group in social, cultural, business and political circles of influence and power.

Black Liberation Theology: Black liberation theology seeks to make the gospel relevant to the lives and struggles of blacks in America, particularly in the context of a white-dominated society. It sees God as concerned with the poor and weak. Its founder, James Cone, says it teaches people “how to be both unapologetically black and Christian at the same time.” 

Implicit Racial Bias: A subconscious preference for members of our own group. The silent and subtle tendency to criticize “otherness.” 

Stereotype: A mental picture of someone or a group of people representing an oversimplified opinion or uninformed judgment. 

Restorative Justice:
A theory that focuses on repairing harm caused by criminal behavior. In its most holistic, restorative justice is accomplished through all stakeholders, such as the person who committed a criminal act and the victim and/or victim’s families. The thought is this can lead to the transformation of people, relationships and communities.   

Glossary sources: Centre for Justice & Reconciliation, Jay Smooth and Race Forward, David Bailey and Arrabon, Q,, Anti-Defamation League, NPR and James Cone, Merriam-Webster Dictionary,, The Winter Institute.

Question: Which one of these terms hold special resonance with you and why? 

Racial Reconciliation Resource: Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America” still stands as a seminal book for Christians. More than just offering data, “Divided by Faith,” traces our nation’s history as a racialized society, in which racism is not just characterized by personal slights and interactions but in which racist institutions like slavery gave birth to systemically unequal economic and social conditions that persist today. 

Write Emerson and Smith in “Divided by Faith”: “Our argument is that evangelicals desire to end racial division and inequality, and attempt to think and act accordingly. But in the process, they likely do more to perpetuate the racial divide than they do to tear it down.” 

Mark DeYmaz, in a book he co-wrote, “Leading a Healthy Mutli-Ethnic Church,” says “Divided by Faith” confirmed that “when compared with other social institutions, the church, far from representing the diversity and unity of the kingdom of God, was actually the primary institution perpetuating system (institutional) racism in our society.” The book, he said, catalyzed a pioneering stage of multi-ethnicity and racial reconciliation in evangelical churches. 

“Divided by Faith” outlines the damage have we done as a Church to the possibility of racial reconciliation but also gives us insight into change and hope that we can take steps toward healing. 

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