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Op-Ed by JORDYN SAUNDERS/Voicewaves
Our society is at a point where the oppressor has become the oppressed. Well, that’s what the oppressor thinks.
The topic of “reverse racism,” dating back to the 1960s’ civil rights movement, has regained traction, manifesting in trends like the “All Lives Matter” slogan. The slogan criticizes the Black Lives Matter movement, a campaign against violence and systemic racism of black people, claiming that the movement sheds a bad light on white people.
People often see reverse racism as prejudice or discrimination against someone of a dominant racial group. So when the topic of reverse racism comes up, it basically means racism against white people.
Many argue whether or not reverse racism actually exists, partly because they struggle to define what racism is.
So let’s start there. The Oxford University Press dictionary defines racism as prejudice, discrimination or antagonism against someone of another race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior. Many often confuse racism and prejudice as the same thing, but the distinct difference is that racism encompasses discrimination, an act of oppression, with racial prejudice, which is, on the other hand, defined as a preconceived opinion not based on reason or actual experience.
Let’s say a black man says he hates white people. While this may be prejudiced, it is not racism because he still lacks privilege or power over white people. He wouldn’t have much political, economic or social leverage to discriminate against white people nor affect their life chances.
To better understand reverse racism, let us take a look at where the idea comes from. My friend, Mayra Gonzalez, a social justice organizer with Californians for Justice, thinks reverse racism “comes from white people thinking they’re losing their privilege.”
Though there are still improvements to be made, minorities definitely have gained more rights, status, and respect throughout history. Minorities are also growing in numbers such as Latino and Asian populations in the U.S. White people see of all these changes. They see that one day they will no longer be the majority in the U.S. and are afraid of being disadvantaged like minorities.
So how do they respond? They cry foul and call it discrimination.
Affirmative action policies attempt to provide more opportunities to historically underrepresented and oppressed groups, particularly in colleges and universities that attempt to provide equal access to women and minorities. Though many understand that it was designed to make up for centuries of racial oppression, critics argue that such colleges and universities favor one group over another and base admission on race rather than intelligence, and this creates a form of reverse discrimination.
Remember that famous #StayMadAbby trend on social media? Abigail Fisher, a white woman, sued the University of Texas for not accepting her, claiming that her spot was wrongly taken by a person of color due to affirmative action policies. The Supreme Court ultimately shot down her claims.
Despite what some people think, it’s clear to me that affirmative action practices were key in significantly raising the number of college graduates of color, who were often underprivileged and underrepresented. It offers more opportunities and help to those who didn’t get a social or economic head start in life, and it does not discriminate against those who did.
Some people also like to shout reverse racism when being accused of racism. For example, when I first came across YouTuber Rucka Rucka Ali’s parody of Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito” on Instagram, I, along with most others in the comments, saw it as an attempt to call attention to police brutality and white privilege. However, other commenters took it as an attack on white people and may have felt uncomfortable with certain generalizations. The problem here is that when accused of something discriminatory by a person of color, some white people freak out and turn it back onto the accuser. They don’t realize that this takes legitimacy away from what the person of color said and ignores the issue at hand. In these cases, instead of getting defensive, the white person needs to listen and acknowledge their mistake.
So is reverse racism a real thing? In my personal opinion, it isn’t. Racism is both racial prejudice and racial oppression, and white people are not oppressed in this country. Either way, reverse racism is not a pressing issue in this country; injustice, and underrepresentation of minorities are.
This op-ed article originally appeared on Voicewaves Long Beach. Visit their site here.