Skip To Content
    This post has not been vetted or endorsed by BuzzFeed's editorial staff. BuzzFeed Community is a place where anyone can create a post or quiz. Try making your own!

    There Is No Such Thing As “Reverse Racism”

    The rise of “reverse-isms” are indicative of the current racial/political climate in the United States in that whenever a person of color or a member of an oppressed group demands resources which will help fulfill their needs as human beings, the automatic assumption is it has to be a zero-sum gain

    A few weeks ago, my colleagues and I were having a discussion regarding the underrepresentation of students of color in state universities across the United States. I attributed the disparity, in part, to highly segregated public education systems and Supreme Court decisions which ban race-based college admissions decisions. In response, my colleague (who just so happened to be a white, heterosexual, male-bodied individual) stated that he does not believe in affirmative action programs because it is a form of "…reverse racism which results in white students being unfairly targeted because of their skin color."

    "That's simply not true", I instinctively replied.

    "It's true to me."

    His life experiences led him to accept concepts such as post-racism and ¬reverse racism as truth. That was his truth, but it is certainly not mine.

    I am a person who is very particular about language and words. I pride myself on knowing the history and underlying meaning behind words before I use them, especially if it is directed at someone.

    Reverse racism, just like post-racial, is an asinine term for a bankrupt notion due to the fact that PEOPLE OF COLOR CANNOT BE RACIST because racism is institutional. Racism is systemic. Racism is normalized. People have to understand that the term racism is an indicator: it identifies a network of structures and institutions (the state, the police, the university, the corporation, the bank, etc.) used to oppress and marginalize entire populations. Allow me to further illustrate this:

    Black people cannot enslave, colonize, marginalize, imperialize, nor politically and/or economically disenfranchise white people. We do not have the capacity to enact "white codes" or impede on voting rights of white people because we do not have access to privileges, systems, and resources to do so. Racism is not just one person blatantly being discriminated against; it is an entire group of people operating within a structure where the idea of racial inferiority is woven into the fabric of the society, so much so that it makes it difficult for a person not to discriminate.

    The rise of "reverse-isms" are indicative of the current racial/political climate in the United States in that whenever a person of color or a member of an oppressed group demands resources which will help fulfill their needs as human beings, the automatic assumption is it has to be a zero-sum gain.

    If we give something to 'the minorities', the majority group will be losing out.

    One of my favorite examples of such a mentality is this: It's unfair that Black students have a Black Student Union when white students do not. To put it simply, the University of Massachusetts Amherst is a white Student Union.

    The same narrative is true for other isms which exist in our society. If the College of Natural Sciences launches an initiative geared to bring more women/female-bodied individuals into the STEM fields, that is not reverse sexism. It is merely a method to provide an equitable playing field for those whose lives have been systematically devalued by a society which places the emphasis on straight, white, Anglo-Saxon males.

    Please do not misunderstand: Do some people of color have unsubstantiated beliefs about individuals based on race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, or cultural backgrounds? Of course. Is there hate, intolerance, discrimination, stereotyping, bigotry, and prejudice found in these communities? Of course. However, racism is not a term that can apply to people of color because we still operate from an oppressed position in this society as compared to white people.

    I personally do not believe my colleague is racist. However, one does not have to be racist to benefit from a racist system. This is why when he looks in the mirror, he sees a man.

    When I look in the mirror, I see a Black man. The same holds true for my female-bodied colleagues as it is a fact which this society does not let us forget.

    Unless one is arguing that people of color are "naturally inferior" to white people (which is an explicitly racist position), there has to be an admission of some mechanism which limits opportunity. That mechanism is racism -- the existing social, political, and economic rule systems that discriminates against people, either overtly i.e. racial profiling or covertly limiting the Black electorate through redistricting, red-lining, etc.

    We admire and revere the individualist who succeeded by pulling themselves by their bootstraps. However, I cannot pull myself up if someone took by boots away and prevents me from obtaining another pair.

    When one blows the "reverse-ism" horn, they succeed in making the issue all about them while drawing attention away from the fact that there are groups of people who are not represented in certain arenas due to persistent historical and institutional barriers.