“Affirmative Action is reverse racism.”
“Affirmative Action oppresses white people.”
“Affirmative Action is just revenge against white people for things my ancestors did.”
“It’s in the past.”
“I’m white and people have been racist towards me. I’ve been called derogatory words before.”
“I don’t see color or race or gender. I just see people. I’m a humanist.”
“Women can be just as sexist as men.”
“That’s sexist against men.”
“Racism and/or sexism can go both ways.”
“Racism doesn’t exist anymore. Slavery is over, and we have a black president now. So there’s no point in Affirmative Action since we’re all equal.”
If you say or have said any of the statements above:
With graduation right around the corner for me, my little comfortable UCLA bubble will soon burst, and I will have to face “the real world.” The real world, unfortunately, is filled with endless amounts of ignorance, misogyny, and bigotry. Throughout my UCLA experience, I have intentionally surrounded myself with individuals that have challenged me to step outside my comfort zone and learn things I’ve never known before.
I am ashamed to say that at one point, I thought it was possible for women to be sexist towards men. I thought it was possible that a person of color could be racist towards a white person in the U.S., especially if they called them derogatory racial slurs. I didn’t even want to associate with feminism at before coming to UCLA because I bought into the idea that feminists were all radical man-haters.
It’s my experiences at UCLA that have really opened my mind to the truth. It is UCLA that has debunked the age-old myth I used to believe that says that reverse racism or reverse sexism actually exists.
Newsflash: It doesn’t.
If you didn’t already know this, I know how you feel. I was just as shocked as you were when I first found out. What do you MEAN it doesn’t exist? White people and men aren’t immune to hatred from other groups, right?!
But first, let me take a chance to explain why it is impossible for reverse sexism, reverse racism, or most reverse “-isms” to exist.
Let us define what racism is, shall we?
Racism is not simply prejudice. Racism and prejudice are two different things, though they are interlinked in significant ways; PLEASE don’t make the mistake of confusing them or thinking they are synonymous because they are NOT.
Dictionary.com defines prejudice as:
Think of racism as an equation in which prejudice is only part of it (I’m aware I’m simplifying a very complex issue, but go along with me).
Racism = Prejudice + Power
Keyword: PLUS POWER. If there is no power, there is no racism.
Similarly, Sexism = Prejudice + Power so if there is no power, there is no sexism. And since it is clear that women are disadvantaged in almost every respect and that men are privileged in the social, political, and economic power they hold, it is thereby impossible for a woman to be “sexist towards men.” A woman can be discriminatory, bigoted, or prejudiced against men, but not sexist.
As Sarah Luckey describes it:
“Racism exists when prejudice+power combine to form social constructs, legislation and widespread media bias that contribute to the oppression of the rights and liberties of a group of people. Racism is systemic, institutional, and far reaching. It is the prevalence of racism within social structures and institutional norms, along with implicit and explicit enforcement by members of a group, that allows racism to run rampant and unchecked. America is a country seeped in white privilege, and our social structure is built on colonization and forced slave labor that then turned into further systemic and ongoing oppression of PoC [People of Color]. We have a culture that presents whiteness as the norm and all else as ‘other’ or different. White is presented as the beauty ideal, the main face in the media (unless we’re talking about criminals, then PoC get unfairly misrepresented), the standard, the regular. It’s a structural problem that affects the perceptions of jurors in criminal cases, admissions to colleges, funding for public schools, welfare and food stamp programs, the redrawing of district lines that affect where we vote, who we see represented on T.V. and how, what schools people have access to, what neighborhoods people live in, an individual’s shopping experience, access to goods and services; it’s extensive and a part of the fabric that let’s whiteness remain dominant in American culture.”
So if a white person has been called a derogatory word or if a white person is given dirty looks because of the color of their skin by a non-white group in a social setting, that is NOT racism. Because chances are, in the end, those in power will still remain in power, and those oppressed will still be oppressed until the system of oppression is fully deconstructed. If a white person does something prejudiced towards a person of color, it carries a lot more weight because the white hegemony still retains political, social, and economic power and reinforces that power through persistent subjugation of People of Color in many respects that go much further than simply name calling.
This is not to excuse acts of prejudice or trivialize incidents of people being called harmful and hurtful racial slurs. However, one MUST understand that prejudice is a two way street, UNLIKE racism which is a one way street. Incidents of prejudice are unacceptable, harmful, and most definitely should not be tolerated. However, for a person in the position of privilege to claim their experiences are instances of racism minimizes the REAL lived experiences of racism that people of color face.
First, when a white person claims to be the victim of racism, what they are really doing is expressing their fears that their privileges might be taken away. Second, they are saying that they experience the same form of oppression that people of color face. Sorry to break it to you, but there is no system that actively works to oppress and subjugate white people in order to treat them as inferior. To say that a white person has experienced racism just like any person of color assumes that the playing field was level to begin with.
Somebody called you a cracker? A redneck? I’m sorry your feelings are hurt. That is truly unfortunate and should not be tolerated (and I absolutely mean that). However, that is not racism. That is an incident of hate, prejudice, and bigotry.
Were your people dehumanized and/or enslaved for centuries (and still dehumanized today)? Are you more likely to be incarcerated because of your race? Does your own government spend more money to incarcerate your people than to educate them? Are you more likely to be followed in a grocery store and instantly criminalized just because of how you look? Are you less likely to be employed because your name is Lakisha or Jamal? Are you more likely to drop out of school because your local public institution is heavily underfunded and disregarded? Are you more likely to live in extreme poverty or be homeless? Are you more likely to have poorer health as a result of environmental inadequacies such as lack of access to proper and preventative health care because we live in a society that favors profit over people when it’s supposed to be the other way around? Are you more likely to work a minimum wage job? Is your beauty seen as the least ideal and desirable in the media? Are you a victim of hyper segregation and generational poverty? Were your people victims of genocide that sought to erase their entire histories, cultures, language, and mere existence? Are you more likely to be unemployed? Is your neighborhood more likely to be ravaged by drug abuse and gang violence coupled with unchecked police brutality? Is there an enormous profit-based prison industrial complex that profits and thrives off of the imprisonment of your own people? Are you consistently disadvantaged in criminal proceedings at a far more frequent rate than any other racial group because your race is perceived as inherently criminal? Do your people only make up 3.8% of your college population?
Deep breaths, Eidah. Deep breaths.
Oh, no? Well, lucky you. You haven’t experienced racism. You haven’t experienced incidents of prejudice AND power working simultaneously against you.
Though race is an imaginary social construct only created to serve the oppressor’s agenda of maintaining a strict social hierarchy that keeps certain races, classes, genders, and sexualities at the bottom ranks, it still works against PoC in a million and one ways, some subtle and some overt.
Racism is undeniably so deep-rooted that it’s foolish to assume it doesn’t exist anymore or that it could even possibly work both ways when our country’s entire history SHOWS that it’s worked in only one way and continues to work one way today. Tell me one moment in history when people of color have reaped the benefits the way that white people overwhelmingly do in almost every aspect of life.
White is the norm; it is the baseline and that’s NOT by accident!!
As Scott Wood explains:
“The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that. Racism is a complex system of social and political levers and pulleys set up generations ago to continue working on the behalf of whites at other people’s expense, whether whites know/like it or not. Racism is an insidious cultural disease. It is so insidious that it doesn’t care if you are a white person who likes black people; it’s still going to find a way to infect how you deal with people who don’t look like you. Yes, racism looks like hate, but hate is just one manifestation. Privilege is another. Access is another. Ignorance is another. Apathy is another. And so on. So while I agree with people who say no one is born racist, it remains a powerful system that we’re immediately born into. It’s like being born into air: you take it in as soon as you breathe. It’s not a cold that you can get over. There is no anti-racist certification class. It’s a set of socioeconomic traps and cultural values that are fired up every time we interact with the world. It is a thing you have to keep scooping out of the boat of your life to keep from drowning in it.”
Now, this article isn’t meant to just bash and hate on white people. If you view it that way, you missed the entire point of this article, and you need to open your mind to see its true purpose.
I’m sure we can all agree that yes, racism is a thing. Yes, it has undeniably existed in the past. And now we have established that it definitely exists today. So why is incredibly important that I’m spending all this time on this article to enlighten you about what racism really is and who the main perpetrators and victims of it are?
Because in order to DECONSTRUCT systems of oppression, we must first be AWARE of them. We know that in an oppressed-oppressor relationship, there must be at least one of each and there must be a dominant group that hoards most of the power.
I’m addressing the elephant in the room. Our several years of schooling since elementary school have been sugarcoated and played down. People of color’s real lived experiences of racism have been trivialized, ignored, and overlooked. It is time for that to end. It is time to become conscious.
But we don’t stop at consciousness. No. We take a step further and become critical of the newfound consciousness we have.
Now that we are critically conscious of the systems of oppression that are always at play EVERYWHERE you turn, every second of every minute of every hour of every DAY (whether you are completely aware or not), only then can we seek to deconstruct these oppressive systems.
It’s a long uphill battle, and chances are, we won’t see racism or sexism eradicated entirely in our lifetime. Because racism and sexism are so deep-rooted, systemic, institutional, and structural, it’s going to take a lot for us to deconstruct it and get rid of it.
Let us all be conscious of what racism or sexism ACTUALLY is before we unite together in deconstructing and minimizing it as much as we can.
I’m not attempting to point fingers at anybody. However, I ask that whoever you are, take a minute to analyze what your social location is.
To find out your social location, look at your class, gender, race, and sexuality. You might find that you are privileged in some regards (or all if you’re a white, heterosexual, able bodied, middle or upper class male). Acknowledging your privilege and being conscious of it is extremely important in seeking to deconstruct these systems of oppression that I speak of.
Understanding who the dominant and subjugated groups are is necessary for us to deconstruct systems of oppression and seek to equalize them.
Pointing out that yes, THIS is the group that is privileged socially, economically, and politically is NOT hateful, discriminatory, or otherwise. It’s laying down the facts and exposing you to the reality of the situation. Defining who is privileged and who is not will help you better understand how to equal out the playing field.
This article is meant to help you understand how to take the power that is unevenly distributed and redistribute it fairly amongst everybody because we are all humans worthy of equality.
If I can help to educate at least one person on the subject of reverse racism and reverse sexism, then I can graduate UCLA with much more faith that my peers will join me in seeking to deconstruct oppressive ways of thinking and challenge the status quo for the better.