Reverse Racism: Is There Such A Thing?

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Good Day Anishpat!

Thank you for your question: 'Reverse Racism' -- Is there such a thing? If you don't mind, let's start off by keeping to the United States, which is what I know best. I don't know how much you know about the history of the United States, but there is one or two things we must sort out before we can even attempt to answer your question. We have to be clear about what we mean by the term 'racism,' before we can even consider anything about it possible 'reversal.'

What is racism?

This seems like a simple question that we think we know the answer to. But if you talk to social justice activists who work in the field of anti-racism, you will learn that we do not. You have to distinguish between racism and bigotry, which, it seems to me, you are talking about, Anishpat. Let me explain. Remember, we're keeping to the United States of America.

Bigotry

As I understand it, anyone can be bigoted. Anyone can hold prejudicial feelings (consciously held or unconsciously held) about other people of different 'races' (a scientifically problematic concept in itself), religions, nationalities, ethnic groups, or even geographical areas (for example a common bigoted expression some urban, city people say about rural folk is to call them 'country hicks' or 'hillbillies,' and the like).

We can go further. One can take that bigotry and apply by way of 'discrimination.' This discrimination can take at least two forms: one that is dubiously complimentary and another that is uncontroversially negative. Let me explain.

1. The dubiously complimentary: For example, suppose I've gotten myself into some trouble of some kind, and I need a lawyer or an accountant. Now suppose I express a preference for and seek out a Jewish lawyer.

A. On the surface my preference APPEARS to be complimentary, an indication of my high opinion of the skill with legal argument and numbers of Jewish lawyers and accountants.

B. First of all, this preference is, by definition a discriminatory bigotry against lawyers and accountants of all other 'races' and/or 'faiths.'

C. In reality, such an expressed preference for Jewish lawyers and accountants is NOT at all complimentary to Jewish lawyers and accountants. Such a preference comes from what is actually 'anti-Semitic' bias. That is because this preference comes from a bigoted image that has dodged Jewish people for centuries -- that they are avaricious and litigious to an extreme that 'regular' people cannot hope to match. In this hypothetical situation, I prefer a Jewish lawyer or accountant because I think of him/her as a pitbull when it comes to the courtroom or in dealing with numbers (perhaps I think that nobody can get you as many IRS deductions on your taxes as a Jewish accountant.

Where does this bias come from? Well, it comes from centuries of medieval European history, when what can be called INSTITUTIONAL RACISM/RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION was applied to them. They tended to be barred from the trade guilds -- it was hard to make a living if you couldn't join a trade guild. So, they were effectively pushed into positions like tax collection and jobs having to do with finance. Obviously, all Jewish people were not/are not good at math, finance, business, etc. A very tiny minority of Jewish people became moderately prosperous in this way, but the majority had a really, really, really, really (Did I say 'really'?) rough time of it. You see there was a jingoistic Christian anti-Jew ('Christ-killers') bias going on. But notice, this 'discrimination' against the Jews affected their ability to make a livelihood! This is a vital point I shall return to!

2. The uncontroversially negative: Suppose I am the owner and proprietor of a private golf club and that I'm interested in attracting 'the right people.' Now suppose I have a feeling about Italians/Italian-Americans. Suppose I have the belief that 'they just don't fit in.' I can act on that by excluding them from membership of the golf club.

Now, please notice two things about this. Remember, we're keeping to the United States.

First

This discrimination does NOT affect the ability of Italians to earn a livelihood in the United States, the way other forms certainly did in the early twentieth century.

Second

Italians, blacks, indigenous-Americans, Asian-Americans (i.e., Chinese labor forcibly conscripted to work on the railroads), and the like NEVER had the ability to apply any 'reverse discrimination.'

You have to remember that for a long time in this country's history, the dominant political, socioeconomic group (i.e., people of Western European/British descent) had the formal, legal right to 'discriminate' against the non-whites, essentially, in all kinds of ways. Once upon a time my right to exclude even Italians from membership in my private golf club was formally enshrined in the law, backed up by the state as the only legitimate purveyor of violence.

Blacks, Italians (until they were assimilated as 'white'), Asians, 'Native Americans,' Mexicans, and the like NEVER had any legal right to form clubs, associations, trade groups, and the like and exclude 'white' people in the United States. In other words, 'minority' groups never had any legal rights of 'reversal,' if you like. The extent to which minorities did form clubs, professional associations, and the like, which happen to predominantly black, indigenous-American, Chinese, in membership is a reflection to which these groups had been excluded from such institutions of American life FIRST! We have to get the historical chronology right!

But discriminatory laws have been removed from the books (not to mention the fact that we have a black President), therefore we are a 'post-racial' society, and the REAL problem is 'reverse racism' or 'reverse discrimination.'

Well, let's look at that idea critically, assuming that we all believe that words have meaning. The word 'reverse' has a meaning! Did the removal of the discriminatory laws from the books cause a 'reversal' in the power of discrimination? In other words, did the removal of discriminatory laws from the books result in blacks, indigenous-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, women, gay, bisexual, or transgendered people, now being able to 'reverse' discriminate against white, heterosexual, men? Is that what happened? Is that how the situation 'reversed' itself?

Of course not! The very idea is absurd and should always inspire gales of near-hysterical laughter! I'll wait for you to settle down, :D

Its time for definitions

People whose activism takes them in this area, do NOT see racism as even synonymous with bigotry or prejudice.

Racism is defined roughly like this: Racism is the exhibited political, social, and economic power of one group to FORMALLY discriminate against another group or groups of people, based on 'race,' to the detriment of the targeted groups ability to fully participate in the wider society and earn a livelihood.

In the United States, minority 'racial' groups never had such power over white males.

But, once again, race-based discriminatory laws have been removed from the books, therefore there can't be any more white-directed racism against people of color, right? The problem is the 'reverse racism' of people of color, isn't it?

What's interesting here is the way our popular ideology, in a way, both denies the existence of prior racism (after all we're a 'post-racial' society) and yet affirms the existence of 'reverse' racism or 'reverse' discrimination. But again, if words are to have meaning, we should understand that something has to be present and active in order to be REVERSED! You cannot 'reverse' something that does not exist and is not active. In truth, then, the term reverse discrimination contains within it the tacit admission that straight 'racism'/'discrimination' are still in existence.

Something has to be present and active to be 'reversed.' The word 'reverse' is also, therefore, a chronological term, is it not?

Today, no one has the formal or legal power to discriminate against anyone, thereby preventing them from fully participating in American society and earning a livelihood. That's true, but people engaged in this realm of social struggle will tell you that there is such a thing as institutional racism. We are talking about effective 'racism' in the practical sense. Let me explain.

With racism we are talking about the discriminatory use of a power relationship of one group against other groups. Institutional racism says that even though formal laws of racial discrimination are no longer on the books, a habitual pattern of behavior has been set, over the course of centuries, in the public school system, criminal justice system, health care system, the banking system, the housing system, and the business structure, that, nevertheless, discriminate against racial minorities, compromising their ability to fully participate in American society and earn a livelihood to the advantage of the 'racially' privileged group. There are many, many statistical studies that bear this out.

You know, I glanced at one hub dealing with this issue of 'reverse' racism/discrimination. One of the comments said something to the effect of: It's reverse racism when a white high school senior with a great SAT score and the most wonderful GPA, yada, yada, yada.... is denied entrance into Harvard in favor of a person of color with much less sterling academic credentials.

Okay, for that to be true there would have to have been a 'reversal' of power relations. In this case, then, we should be able to look at the faculty, administration, and people who make the admissions decisions and find that they are predominantly, say, black. Is that what we would find if we looked at Harvard or any Ivy League school, or any major college or university in the United States? Was I asleep during the revolution?

But as I reflect upon the term 'reverse racism/discrimination,' and the fact that x has to exist and be active in order to be 'reversed,' perhaps reverse racism means something slightly different. Reverse racism/discrimination, in this instance, suggests that, say, blacks and whites in the United States of America, have roughly EQUAL power relations -- roughly equal power to discriminate against EACH OTHER politically, socially, and economically in such a way as to compromise the ability of EACH OTHER to fully participate in American society. Is that true?

A kind of 'tit-for-tat' situation is envisaged. There is a suggestion of a Manichean struggle: You discriminate against me here, I discriminate against you there.

But has such a thing ever happened in the history of the Earth -- at least this Earth in this particular time-space continuum? Think about it.

I'll leave it there. Thank you so much for reading.

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Comments 20 comments

geordmc 4 years ago from Beliot, Wisconsin

I was a victim of reverse discrimination while applying for a job. An uneducated black male got a job he was clearly not qualified for since mommy had to fill out his application, at Chrysler no less. I was passed over because I am educated and completely literate. So, YES it does exist.


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 4 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

Hi, geordmc!

Thank you for being the first to comment upon my unworthy hub, and for presumably giving it the 'funny' vote. However, I suspect you didn't mean that to be complimentary precisely.

I, obviously don't know the details of your situation with Chrysler. I'm sorry you didn't get the job, naturally.

But understand that I was responding to a question, the precise wording of which was: 'Reverse racism -- Is there such a thing?' Underscore the word racism. As I pointed out racism is a power relation -- one 'racial' group has the political, social, and economic POWER to discriminate against targeted group(s), in such a way as to compromise the ability of such groups to fully participate in the life of the broader society and earn a livelihood.

I am assuming you are white, geordmc? If that is right, you are a member of the dominant racial caste in the United States, that, as a group (as a group, mind you) that has more political, social, and economic power than African-Americans in the United States.

To my way of thinking, the case for 'reverse' racism/discrimination would be stronger IF the management at Chrysler were all or predominantly black. One instance in which you are passed over for a job in favor of a less qualified black person, does not, in my opinion, suddenly mean that the social force of racial discrimination has 'reversed' (that term carries an extremely powerful connotation) to your detriment as a white person, and to the advantage of black people.

Perhaps he benefitted from Affirmative Action, but that would be another matter unless you want to claim that Affirmative Action is, in itself, 'reverse racism/discrimination.'


platinumOwl4 profile image

platinumOwl4 4 years ago

wingedcentaur, I must truly compliment you on a correct definition of Racism, however, I was confused one small detail. At what point do you believe blacks to have assimilated into this exclusive " Club America". Removing laws does not erase the information that remain in printed material books using the famed bell curve as an example, brain size vs ability to comprehend. The School systems continue to promote overt/covert racism.


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 4 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

Hi, platinmuOwl4!

You are too kind to be so complimentary. You are quite right, removing formal laws does NOT and has NOT created the induction of African-Americans into "Club America." Progress has been made but there is still a way to go. You are quite right. I do not want to be misunderstood on this point.

To put it in the language of anti-racism activist and educator, Tim Wise, we have moved from Racism 1.0 to Racism 2.0, more subtle as you say, "covert." Absolutely!

That's specifically why I brought in the term 'institutional racism.'

Listen, platinum, thank you so much for the feedback!

Take it easy.


Anishpat profile image

Anishpat 4 years ago from San Francisco + Mumbai

Hi wingedcentaur,

Thank you for answering the question in such a clear and comprehensive manner. I have asked many questions on hub pages in the past but none of my questions have evoked a response in the form of such a high quality hub.

While I agree with you on most of your points, I do also see how a person belonging to a ''majority" group would and could feel discriminated against by affirmitave action laws etc. While no one can deny racism in the past (and perhaps covert racism in the present), is affirmitave action the only way to undo it? The fear is, are we trying to make a right with two wrongs?

Thanks again.


PWalker281 4 years ago

WC, you are the man! Finally, a clear and succinctly stated argument refuting the concept of so-called "reverse racism/discrimination." There is ALWAYS a "power dynamic" involved in racism, and I believe people who use the term "reverse discrimination/racism" simply don't understand this.

You also mentioned Affirmative Action as an attempt to rectify centuries of the impact of slavery, overt and institutionalized racism in this country. I worked in Federal EEO during the mid to late seventies (the 'heyday' of AA) and constantly heard the argument that less qualified minorities were being given jobs and promoted over more qualified white men. I'm not saying this didn't happen, BUT the goal of affirmative action was to level the playing field. In other words, all things being equal (i.e., both the white male and the minority are equally qualified) AND if statistics showed an adverse impact of an agency's policies in the recruitment, hiring, promotion, and retention of minorities (i.e, more whites recruited and hired, more whites promoted, more whites in the workforce, more whites in managment, fewer whites fired than minorities), then and ONLY THEN did you give preference to the minority in the employment decision.

That was the ideal. In practice, less qualified minorities may have been hired from time to time, but AA practices were not a matter of reverse discrimination, and more an attemt to equalize the playing field.

Voted up, useful, interesting, awesome, beautiful, and interesting, thank you very much!


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 4 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

Hi, Anishpat! Thanks for coming over and checking out my answer-hub to your question. It is a good one and I hope I helped to straighten out some misunderstanding many, many, many people out there have.

When a person belonging to a 'majority' gets 'discriminated against' (remember, in the hub we have a test for that!), he or she, in America, is not systemically blocked throughout the country the way a minority person is.

Remember, we are talking about a broad-based social force. I don't know what the best way to solve the problem is, but Affirmative Action sounds good to me.

Thanks for the feedback!

Take it easy.


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 4 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

@PWalker281

Hi, P.W.!

Thank you for the compliments and the 'up' votes across the board.

As always I appreciate the encouragement.

Take it easy.


The Finance Hub profile image

The Finance Hub 4 years ago from Portland, Oregon

There absolutely is reverse racism! Great hub about a very real issue. Voted up, useful and interesting. Hope you enjoy my hubs as well!


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 4 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

Thank you, The Finance Hub, for stopping by. I'm glad you liked the hub.

Thanks again!

Take it easy.


B-Dawg 4 years ago

As a half black man I am gonna keep it real w/ you. I am glad I am not white. Y'all got to worry about getting sued over petty stuff and it is more safer being black. A white comedian can't say jack about race w/o catching heat. I really think the white man should find a way to turn his skin black. I don't know how you guys do it. peace.


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 4 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

Thank you very much for the feedback, B-Dawg!

Take care. :D


Brian 4 years ago

I am a white man that plans on spray tanning his skin black. The reasons I want to be black are: 1. more job security/ opportunities 2. there is a high demand for good black men in our society 3. I feel like I can protect white people from racist black people better with a black face 4. don't have to deal with racial politics 5. white women LOVE black men.


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 4 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

Hi there, Brian!

First of all, thank you so much for commenting on my essay. As they say in show business, "No publicity is bad publicity," or something like that, as long as they spell your name right and so forth.

You are a mischievious rascal, whoever you are, "Brian." :D

Your satirical wit has brightened my day. Thank you.

Thanks again! :D

Have a nice day!


Brian 4 years ago

Thank you for your response. I am very seious! I think the biggest problem in the white community today is we don't have enough black voices representing us. But we sure have enough working against us. The media makes the white man look like a joke http://www.antiwhitemedia.com. If we have more black faces protecting us that would be a huge plus. White people move out of the cities cause they don't feel comfortable around a large black population well maybe a black face would make them feel more comfortable instead of moving to the suburbs and driving 50 +miles to get to work just get a black spray tan,black skin would really help the white man. My goal is to enlighten the white man. I beleive every white family should have atleast 2 black males protectiing them. Black males are good for protection but so is a white man with a black face.


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 4 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

HA HA HA, Brian. Thank you for the smile.

Do take care now! :D


SotD and Zera profile image

SotD and Zera 4 years ago

I really like your article. Makes me wish I'd gotten the email of one of my old college classmates- he seriously believed that reverse racism was a real thing, and I'd have loved to send this to him.

-Zera


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 4 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

Hi, SotD and Zera!

Thank you for your kind words. I'm glad you enjoyed my little scribblings.


PJ 4 years ago

White babies are the minority now. A lot of whites are choosing minority partners to have children with now. This is because they don't like the bullseye white skin gives you nowadays.


wingedcentaur profile image

wingedcentaur 4 years ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things! Author

Thank you for your thoughts, PJ!

Take care now!

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    William Thomas (wingedcentaur)245 Followers
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    The first step is to know what you do not know. The second step is to ask the right questions. I reserve the right to lean on my ignorance.



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