Why Reverse Racism is Not a Thing

It's really, really not.

And to explain, let's talk about what racism actually IS, since it seems like we aren't all using the same definition. When discussing issues of equality, discrimination, and representation, the word 'racism' does not refer to hatred based on race. Racism refers to a system (or systems) that give advantages to people of one race, causing disadvantages for people who are not of that race. Which is why racism isn't 'over' just because we have a black President. The success of one individual despite the disadvantages caused by a racist system does not negate or remove those disadvantages for everyone.


Can black people be prejudiced? Sure.

But do black people have the kind of systemic power to oppress white people? No. In the United States (and many other countries) prejudice based on race is only powerful on a grand scale when it is prejudice against people of color. Anti-white prejudice does not increase the rates at which white people are incarcerated (like it does for nonwhite people).

So that one time a black person called me "whitey" doesn't make me the victim of racism.

I have never been the subject of racism because I am a white person living in America. I have never been discriminated against in the workplace because of my race. Despite claims that affirmative action is discriminating against white people, my access to a college education was never penalized because of my race- turns out white people still have an advantage there too (and my education was improved substantially because of the diverse student body that I had the honor of learning with). These aren't just my personal anecdotes.

'System'? That sounds like a conspiracy theory.

It sounds like that because for all of us structural racism has been a part of every step we've taken. When you live in a racist society, racism feels like the norm. We (for the most part) look down on the Klansmen or the Neo-Nazis now because their actions are extreme and violent. But we accept it when a front-running Presidential Candidate says that “we need 100 more like Jesse Helms in the U.S. Senate.” (Jesse Helms was a huge opponent of the Civil Rights movement).

A lot of racism today happens in ways that are harder for us to see. In some respects this is progress, because people understand that being racist is something to be ashamed of.But it does make it more difficult to combat. Our school systems are still very much racially biased, and there is a direct school-to prison pipeline for nonwhite students that white students are not the victims of. Which contributes to the fact that people of color represent only 30% of our population but 60% of our people incarcerated. Widespread mortgage discrimination in the 1970s contributed to the higher poverty rate among African-American people today (because homeownership has historically been the key to improving one's socio-economic status). And that mortgage discrimination still persists today.

So while it's nice to dream about living in a truly colorblind society where racism no longer exists, that is not our reality. The systems of discrimination described above are a few of the many ways that racism is alive and well in the United States.

Which is why the above isn't racist.

And why this ^^^ is.

Caricatures of racial minorities re-establish the culture of dominance that has empowered white people to exploit, criminalize, and devalue people of color for centuries. Caricatures of white people and white culture do not function in the same way because they do not support the institutions of racial oppression that contribute to inequality. Caricatures of white people may be prejudiced, but they are not racist.

But that's not fair!

That's correct. It's not fair that white people have had this amount of institutional power for such a long time. And if we really, truly want racism to end, it will mean that white people will have to relinquish some of that power. The same way an abuser will have to give up some of the power he has over his victim in order to cease being an abuser, white people must give up the power that has been causing racial inequality. That isn't 'reverse racism', that's a natural consequence of a power imbalance being corrected.


All lives matter.

But right now all lives aren't treated like they matter. And until they are, the fight for equality won't be over.

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