Key Definitions

Implicit / Unconscious Bias

Implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. The implicit associations we harbor in our subconscious cause us to have feelings and attitudes about others based on preconceived notions attributed to race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality, age, ability and appearance. These associations develop over a lifetime through exposure to direct and indirect messages from institutions of authority. Although automatic, implicit biases are not completely inflexible: They are malleable and manifest in ways that are responsive to the perceiver’s motives and environment. (Ewuare Osayande, American Friends Service Committee Chief Diversity Officer, Implicit Bias: Developing Critical Consciousness in Service of Intercultural Advancement PowerPoint Presentation (2016)


Racial Discrimination

Any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect (Emphasis added) of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms. (International Convention on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), Article I(1).)



The everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership. (from Diversity in the Classroom, UCLA Diversity & Faculty Development,2014). The first step in addressing microaggressions is to recognize when a microaggression has occurred and what message it may be sending. The context of the relationship and situation is critical. (Adapted from Debra Wing Sue’s Microagressions in Every Day Life by Patty Powell, Counsel for Counsel, LLC, Presentation on Microagressions, University of Denver Sturm College of Law, February 2015.)


Interpersonal / Individual Racism

Actions that perpetuate inequalities on the basis of race. Such behaviors may be intentional or unintentional; unintentional acts may be racist in their consequence.(World Trust.Org, Cracking the Codes Conversation Guide, p. 6. )



If you have five minutes...

Visit Kiyun Kim's Racial Microaggressions photo gallery (2013).


In this clip from a 1968 episode of "The Dick Cavett Show," James Baldwin deftly explores intent and effect of racism in America: I don’t know what most white people in this country feel, but I can only include what they feel from the state of their institutions. (1 minute)

clip from a 1968 episode of “The Dick Cavett Show,”

Watch this clip from the film Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible by Shakti Butler about the relationship between personal bigotry and systemic racism (2 minutes)


If you have twenty minutes...

Read this open letter to white Quakers: Dear Friend / Good White Person by Regina Renee Ward (2014).

Sadly, it became such a norm that my presence in meeting for worship seemed to prompt “Ask a Black Quaker” time.


If you have an hour...

Listen to one of these podcasts: 

Code Switch podcast: Charlottesville (32 minutes), August 16, 2017

After a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville spiraled into deadly violence, residents of the Virginia town do some soul-searching. Plus: a scholar on the politics of white resentment, and a GOP operative worries about the party's long-term future.  (You can listen to the audio below or through a podcast app on your phone or tablet).

Invisibilia Podcast: The Culture Inside (56 minutes)  Scientific research has shown that even well-meaning people operate with implicit bias - stereotypes and attitudes we are not fully aware of that nonetheless shape our behavior towards people of color. We examine the Implicit Association Test, a widely available psychological test that popularized the notion of implicit bias. And we talk to people who are tackling the question, critical to so much of our behavior: what does it take to change these deeply embedded concepts? Can it even be done?  (You can listen to the audio directly from the Invisibilia website or through a podcast app on your phone or tablet). You can also take the Implicit Association Test yourself.


Still Processing Podcast: Asian-Americans Talk About Racism, and We Listen - Part I (37 minutes)  Asian-Americans talk about their childhoods, how they first became aware of their identity, what that means in America, and how the media represents Asians and Asian-Americans.  (You can play the audio from the website or download it to your phone or tablet -- the website includes instructions).


Questions for Conversation and Journaling

Have you made efforts to notice how stereotypes affect how you experience the world and those you encounter in it? If so, what have you observed about your own unconscious biases?

What new information did you take away from reading, watching or listening to these resources? How will you try to apply it?