I recently attended a talk by a society in my university called The Black Women’s Project. It was an excellent talk which focused on deducing our emotional responses to the injustices experienced by black people. There were many issues talked about, such as police violence to young blacks (most notably in America), the disadvantages black people face in the education and job systems, and cultural appropriation. However, one topic that was brought up that was of particular interest to me was the topic of reverse racism. The definition of reverse racism is a very literal one. It can only be defined as a person of color making fun of a white person for a white characteristic or trait. Many people have questioned the existence of reverse racism – does it actually exist? Sam White in the movie “Dear White People” put it plainly:
Black people can’t be racist. Prejudiced yes, but not racist. Racism describes a system of disadvantage based on race. Black people can’t be racists since we don’t stand to benefit from such a system.
We do not live in a society where every racial group has equal power, status, and opportunity. This is why racism cannot flow from a racially disadvantaged group to a racially advantaged group. It just can’t.
The terms racism and prejudice are often classified as interchangeable, but they are simply not. While it is true that black people can be prejudiced towards white people, they cannot be racist towards them. For a black person to be racist to a white person requires a history of segregation, colonization and enslavement and years of tormenting with racially derogatory words, and this simply does not exist.
To be racist requires being in a position of racial privilege. Racism is not just about individuality but it is also about institutionality. People of Color cannot technically be racist towards a system that holds the institutional power to oppress them.
This is not to disregard the fact that white people can never experience prejudice or discrimination in any form. People often make fun of the fact that “white people never use seasoning on their food” (which, real talk, where the spice at tho) or “white people can’t dance”.
These remarks are not heavy criticisms, but they can still be classified as discriminatory remarks. However, it is simply politically incorrect to decry these as racist remarks. On a side note, “reverse racism” has now even brought into the political realm. The man of the hour with regards to this topic, Donald Trump, recently denounced the show “Black-ish” as racist because there would be outcry if there was a show called “Whiteish”.
Now let’s talk about the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. Recently, actress Stacey Dash commented on the controversy, claiming that there is a barrier to stopping segregation of black and white people. She claimed that things such as BET and Black History Month encouraged segregation of black and white people and should be discontinued. This is fundamentally wrong.
The reason BET was set up in the first place, was because there weren’t many networks willing to take on a show that had an all black of even majority black cast and crew. This was why it was created – to depict the talents of black people and to create opportunity where there was none. Some people would say that having an “all black cast” is fundamentally wrong as this goes against the essence of diversity and inclusion. However, what about shows like Friends and Cheers? These were shows that had an all-white cast when it was looked down upon to have an all-black cast, yet no one found fault with the lack of diversity in these shows.
The same goes for Black History Month. Black History Month was created to educate about the struggles of black people and the history that isn’t too often taught in the regular school curriculum, which is, respectably, history that is very whitewashed.
Amongst complaints of there not being a “White History Month”, The View co-host Joy Behar shut down claims of reverse racism by commenting that, frankly, White History Month is every other month in the year. White history is the history we are taught in the majority of schools. White history is the history that is celebrated the most in our society. This is not to say that we should not be taught it, as white history is just as fundamentally important as black peoples’ and other minorities’ history is. However, we need to have an understanding and appreciation for the history of many different cultures.
With that, I hope I have clearly established my opinion on reverse racism – that it is not real. It just doesn’t exist.
Reverse racism isn’t real because we live in a culture that supports and enforces whiteness as the norm. Something I found on Tumblr really captures the essence of this:
Maybe we’ve missed the way white Americans have been systemically deprived of access and opportunities.
Maybe we’ve overlooked all the times whites have been targeted by implicit and explicit race-baiting attacks, whether they’re playing professional sports or seeking elected office.
Maybe we didn’t get the memo on the way the legacy of discrimination against white Americans continues to manifest itself in worse outcomes in income, home ownership, health and employment for them, the way white people are told they’re “objectively” ugly, and the disgust so many Americans felt the last time a white person ran for president.
Oh, wait, none of that has happened? So we’re talking about white people being victimized by things like affirmative action, the Smithsonian’s new black museum and scholarships for minorities? In that case, perhaps the study should be renamed, “Whites Have Forgotten What Racial Discrimination Actually Is.