Understanding the meaning of bias and what constitutes an incident of bias is an important step in the BIRT process. Bias refers to the prejudices we hold towards another person or group, usually rooted in the stereotypes and assumptions we learn from our participation in the broader culture. Explicit bias refers to the conscious attitudes and beliefs we hold towards others manifested through observable actions and behaviors with the intention to demean and devalue another person or group. Implicit bias refers to our unconscious beliefs or attitudes towards others and is without intentional control. We act on these negative implicit biases without realizing their impact on others.
An incident of bias refers to any verbal, non-verbal, explicit, or implicit action or behavior towards targeted persons because of their social memberships, but does not rise to the level of a crime. Social memberships include ethnicity, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion, Indigenous background, veteran status, age, refugee or undocumented status, or socio-economic class. Incidents of bias can range from the everyday slights and slurs that presume the inferiority or insignificance of another person to overt forms of discrimination that blatantly seek to offend or ridicule a person’s belonging to specific social membership. These incidents of bias have the potential of disrupting the learning environment, creating an atmosphere of alienation and isolation among those who experience bias. They diminish our ability to live our meaning and practice of a Catholic, Benedictine community.