Shared Language

What is a bias incident?

A bias incident is an act motivated by the offender’s bias against the actual – or perceived – race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, genetic information, marital or parental status, or veteran status of the targeted person or group, but does not rise to the level of a criminal offense. Examples may include posting on social media about someone based on identity; using offensive language that may pertain to identity; and taking down or tampering with bulletin boards or displays. A bias incident can occur whether the act is intentional or unintentional.  Speech or expression that is consistent with the principles of academic freedom does not constitute a bias incident.

What is a hate crime?

In simplest terms, a hate crime is a crime motivated by racial, sexual, or other prejudice that typically involves violence and/or the intent to intimidate the victim.

Under Massachusetts law, Chapter 22C, Section 32, a hate crime is defined as “any criminal act coupled with overt actions motivated by bigotry and bias including, but not limited to, a threatened, attempted or completed overt act motivated at least in part by racial, religious, ethnic, handicap, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation prejudice, or which otherwise deprives another person of his constitutional rights by threats, intimidation or coercion, or which seek to interfere with or disrupt a person's exercise of constitutional rights through harassment or intimidation. Hate crime shall also include, but not be limited to, acts that constitute violations of sections thirty-seven and thirty-nine of chapter two hundred and sixty-five, section one hundred and twenty-seven A of chapter two hundred and sixty-six and chapter two hundred and seventy-two.”

What are microaggressive behaviors?

Microaggressive behaviors are insults, actions, or comments which contribute to an environment or experience that is not welcoming to a person or group based on their age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religion, religious practices, or sexual orientation.

Examples (from Messiah College): 

  • Failing to learn to pronounce or continuing to mispronounce the names of students after they have corrected you.
  • Using heteronormative metaphors or examples in class.
  • Continuing to misuse pronouns even after a student, transgender or not, indicates their preferred gender pronoun.
  • Assigning student tasks or roles that reinforce particular gender roles or don’t allow all students flexibility across roles and responses.

Microaggressions are oftentimes unintentional, and still have negative impact. It’s important to consider the negative impact rather than the intent.