Anyone who Claims 'Reverse Racism' is Wrong
Reverse racism is a term that seems to be more relevant by the day. As organisations, governments and individuals take steps towards equality (some more than others), those on the right seem eager to make the claim of reverse racism. You might have seen it before: when a black family was used in a Sainsburys advert or when Stormzy announces a scholarship for black students, for instance. Similarly, in the last week, in the middle of Pride month, I have even heard the term heterophobia being used. It is clear that some people don't want to encourage equality. Instead of celebrating diversity, some fear it. Pro-black is interpreted as anti-white. Pro-trans is interpreted as anti-cis. Pro-large-body is interpreted as anti-small-body.
With all this mind, I am proud to share an amazing article that a sixth-former at my school wrote. More eloquent and concise than I could ever wish to be, here is an article by Nanditha on the Myth of Reverse Racism.
What is reverse racism?
The definition of reverse racism is the following:
‘Reverse racism or reverse discrimination is the concept that affirmative action and similar colour- conscious programs for redressing racial inequality are a form of anti-white racism.’
To put this definition simply, the ‘reverse racism’ card is often pulled by white people when people of colour call out the racism and discrimination against them or when they create spaces for themselves that white people aren’t a part of. For example, a ‘black girls fitness club’ might be accused of ‘reverse racism’ for not including white people in their group. The theoretical ‘black girls fitness club’ is necessary because white people are, by default, welcome in any fitness group, whereas black women may feel excluded or unwelcome in spaces where they are a minority: that is the difference. The drive behind reverse racism seems to be a want to prove that people of colour aren’t the only ones that are put at a disadvantage or targeted because of their race.
However, one must clearly understand that reverse racism is a myth and here are the reasons why:
While assumptions and stereotypes about white people do exist, this is considered racial prejudice, not racism. You can be racially prejudiced against a white person, e.g saying ‘White people can’t dance’, but this is not considered racism. This is because of racism’s systemic relationship to power. White perceptions are what end up being heard and counted in a white-dominated society, therefore they have the power, thanks to centuries of Eurocentric beliefs and structures that continue to privilege and centre whiteness.
We shouldn’t confuse the occasional mistreatment of white people by people of colour with the systematic and institutionalised mistreatment of people of colour by white people. As seen above, racial prejudice directed at white people may hurt the white person individually, and are never to be condoned. But, they don’t have the power or authority to affect a white person’s social, economic, political situation and privileges. If an ethnic minority person treats a white person badly because of inherent prejudice against white people, that is wrong and completely unacceptable, but the wider consequences are likely to be less significant than if it were the other way around. If a white person treats an ethnic minority badly because of the colour of their skin, not only is it morally wrong, it can also have serious and dangerous implications for the life and prospects of that person: the thought of whether the prospect of getting a job, a proper education or healthcare is majorly determined by the colour of your skin has never been applied to white people, which greatly reflects the institutional racism in white-dominates societies.
Reverse racism attempts to ignore the power/privilege dynamic between the individuals/groups involved; the myth of reverse racism assumes that racism occurs on a so-called level playing field, when in actuality, it does not. One claim of “reverse racism” that is often made is in relation to affirmative actions programs: programs that were created to help ensure that non-white individuals are given equal consideration and opportunities, whether it is in regards to employment, school, or scholarships etc. For white individuals, programs such as this might feel like something is being “taken away.” This argument ignores the fact that affirmative action did not come out of nowhere ― there was a need for a system that would address the decades of underrepresentation of people of colour both academically and in the job world. These affirmative action programs are attempts to repair the results of institutionalised racism by setting guidelines and establishing procedures for finding qualified applicants from all segments of the population, not just from white people. In other words, these programs do not privilege people of colour but are an attempt to “level” the not-so-level playing field that has historically privileged a certain type of candidate.
In conclusion, to say that ‘white people don’t experience racism/ reverse-racism is a myth’ doesn’t mean to say that white people don’t have struggles. It simply means that when it comes to racism specifically, the structures of society mean white people will always hold more power than people of colour, hence white people cannot suffer racism. Here are some links to check out to gain more insight about reverse-racism and why it doesn’t exist:
Sherover-Marcuse, R. Revised 7/88. ‘A Working Definition of Racism’. http://docplayer.net/41346059-A-working-definition-of-racism-revised-7-88-by-ricky-sherover-marcuse.html