“Reverse Racism”


Reverse Racism is a Myth 

Assumptions and stereotypes about white people are examples of racial prejudice, not racism. Racial prejudice refers to a set of discriminatory or derogatory attitudes based on assumptions deriving from perceptions about race and/or skin colour. Thus, racial prejudice can indeed be directed at white people (e.g., white people can’t dance) but is not considered racism because of the systemic relationship of power.
 When backed with power, prejudice results in acts of discrimination and oppression against groups or individuals. In Canada, white people hold this cultural power due to Eurocentric modes of thinking, rooted in colonialism, that continue to reproduce and privilege whiteness. (See our definition of Whiteness)

Ricky Sherover-Marcuse asserts that "we should not confuse the occasional mistreatment experienced by whites at the hands of people of color with the systematic and institutionalized mistreatment experienced by people of color at the hands of whites” (“A Working Definition of Racism," p. 2). While expressions of racial prejudice directed at white people may hurt the white person/people individually or personally, and are never to be condoned, they do not have the power or authority to affect the white person's social/economic/political location and privileges. (See our definition of White Privilege/White-Skin Privilege)

Reverse racism is a myth because it tries to ignore the fundamental question of who holds more power/privilege between the individuals/groups involved; the myth of reverse racism assumes that racism occurs on a so-called level playing field. For example, Ricky-Sherover-Marcuse observes that claims to reverse racism are often made in regards to affirmative action programs. Zeba Blay explains how white people often "believe deserving white students are discriminated against while academically unqualified students are given highly coveted college or company positions ― just because they happen to tick the "ethnic minority" box" (article cited below). Sherover-Marcuse explains how, in actuality,"[a]ffirmative action programs are attempts to repair the results of institutionalized racism by setting guidelines and establishing procedures for finding qualified applicants from all segments of the population” (“A Working Definition of Racism," p. 2). In other words, these programs do not privilege people of colour but help to ensure that they are given equal consideration and opportunities.


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