Reverse Racism and Reverse Sexism Don’t Exist

“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:

 Stop Sign
Stop Sign

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:

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 12.10.47 PM

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 hatewhen 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.

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16 Comments

  1. I’m sorry but this is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever read. Imagine if I went up to the King of Saudi Arabia and called him a raghead. He definitely has more power than me, so that wouldn’t be racist, right? No it would entirely be racist because that’s a racist term. Also please use all sources when defining words, like the dictionary definition of racism. To use the same source you did for prejudice, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/racism?s=t, with the third definition being pretty clear: racism – hatred or intolerance of another race or other races. I don’t care if you have power or not, most individuals don’t have power, but if you are hating on someone because of their race, then you are being racist.

  2. A couple of things.
    1. If you are going to use pseudo math, please understand it so your mathematical model doesn’t contradict itself. Sexism = prejudice+power, when power =0 implies that sexism=prejudice. So if you have no power, then sexism=prejudice, and thus, being prejudice is being sexist. Maybe sexism=prejudice*power would be a more effective model for your argument. But you also say women are disadvantaged, not that they have no power. You would have to claim that women have absolutely no power in order to prove your point. I feel that this is very prejudicial to say that every woman has no power. Going with your logic, if you have any sort of power, then being prejudice in this way makes you sexist towards women.
    2. The quote “The problem is that white people see racism as conscious hate, when racism is bigger than that” is a gross generalization of white people. There is no proof of this at all, and is thus being stereotypical when your entire article is implying the dangers of stereotyping and being prejudicial.

  3. I actually love this article. I think it explains power structure and the dynamics of the fallacies “reverse racism”; racism is structural, not ONLY prejudice. This explains just that.

    Love this. Keep on writing. If you’re getting “hate” comments from anons, you know you’re doing something right.

    Unlearn sexism. Destroy the patriarchy. <3

  4. In case you didn’t realize, the whole purpose of this article was to challenge the dictionary definition of racism which is why I didn’t cite dictionary.com for the definition of racism the way I did for prejudice. I feel that the definition of prejudice is pretty straight forward, but racism is more complicated than what dictionary.com says. It’s not that dictionary.com’s definition of racism is incorrect but rather incomplete. I argue that it requires more than simply hatred or intolerance. Racism is a a deep-rooted structure that thrives off of and requires power to reinforce it. So regardless of whether or not YOU personally care if someone has power (which is sad because you should care), it is absolutely crucial to acknowledge privileges and power imbalances between racial groups when discussing racism. The entire reason racism even exists in the first place is because race was socially constructed in a way to produce a social hierarchy where some groups have more power than others. It was created in order to grant systemic privileges to some groups over others. In summary, you can’t have a conversation about racism without discussing power imbalances.

  5. 1. The equation was meant to illustrate a concept. It was more of an analogy and a tool than anything else. It’s not meant to have numbers plugged in to it. It was meant to emphasize that two variables (power and prejudice) are necessary TOGETHER in order for something to be considered sexist or racist.
    When power = 0 and there is no power to reinforce sexism, than that incident of what was perceived to be sexism is actually just prejudice. The equation still makes sense. If a woman was accused of being sexist towards men, she would be missing a variable (power) to complement her incident of prejudice. Therefore, she is not really sexist, but rather prejudicial. So her “sexism” is actually equal to prejudice and isn’t sexism at all.
    I present power as a zero-sum game in regards to sexism. If men hold political, social, and economic power and dominance, that means that women do NOT hold that power. Until things are equal, one gender will have power and the other will not. So if a woman were to do something against a man, she doesn’t have political, social, and economic dominance to reinforce her actions the way that a man would.

    I’m not exactly sure how you deduced that I am sexist towards women when I literally spend all my time talking about female empowerment. Acknowledging that there is a power imbalance between genders doesn’t mean I support that power imbalance. It’s the same way people accuse me of being “racist against white people” for pointing out that there is a power imbalance between whites and non whites. These conversations may be uncomfortable to have because they challenge everything we’ve ever been taught, but they need to be addressed and discussed openly.

    2. You’re turning an article about racism and systems of oppression into a conversation about yourself and your feelings. It’s like the people who preach the whole “not all men” thing when talking about feminist issues and steer the article away from the oppressed group, except in your case, it’s “not alllll white people xyz.” I love how out of alllll the problems I listed against PoC, your NUMBER 1 concern was to point out this tiny little sentence that hurt your feelings. Go reread the “Were your people dehumanized…” paragraph over again. THAT should be the stuff you spend your time discussing with people. That should enrage you. That should be what you spend time commenting on my article about. But of course, your #1 priority is to make sure white people aren’t generalized. You need to sort your priorities ASAP.

    Also, I urge you to look into statistics surrounding the percentage of white people who view racism as a problem. Studies show the vast majority of white people in this country do not view race as an issue anymore and aren’t aware that racism exists today and constantly works in their favor, whether they like it or not. So there actually IS proof that that line of thinking persists and is mainstream. The proof manifests itself in centuries of genocide, oppression, murder, and denial of rights to racial groups perceived as inferior. It also manifests itself in racist structures that still exist today and benefit one group over another.

  6. I do agree with this article, but white people don’t always have the power. In my situation, for example, my parents immigrated here from a poor European country called Lithuania. We live in a very low-income area with many people of color. However, they are able to receive many benefits from the government and transfer to better schools because of their skin color. I don’t have this advantage. I’ve tried getting a job in the area but I was literally told that they didn’t hire white people. Thus, I have to spend more money on gas to drive out to an area that would hire me despite my skin color. Overall, I feel incredibly disadvantaged.

  7. I would agree with all your points if it wasn’t for the same mistake that ALL articles on Rascism and Sexism make. It may just blow your mind and give you the desire to stand against those who truly oppress humanity.
    The truth is that you have lumped all men and women and whites and blacks in distinct societal brackets.
    THIS IS BULLSHIT!!
    You categorically cannot make a sweeping statement on any of these groups as they contain MILLIONS of individuals, it’s plain stupid and is the foundation of these silly sexist and rascist ideals, to suggest that people are more affiliated or not based upon their sex on skin tone is a tribal hangover of our natural desire for “communal inclusion” based on what I call “primary identifiers”. These being the first and most obvious of physical features used to easily describe another person, for example bob with the big belly or Kirsty with the asymmetrical haircut or even Oliver with the big nose.
    So between tribes that mix with other tribes of a different ethnicity, the primary identifier would be skin tone, ergo creation of Rascism.
    With sexism however we see that the entirety of a gender being pigeon holed, for example men are pigs, women are nags.
    Again BULLSHIT!!
    They are all individuals, none of which can be considered to have anything in common other than what accidentally happens to be between their legs!

    They final point I would like to raise on these sweeping statements, it’s this.
    When you refer to “white men” you actually refer to a very, very small group of societal “elites”, originating from Europe. These “white men” are those who created our modern society’s, promoted colonialism and treated like slaves ALL people who were not part of the European Elite. This includes white men too, in particular the original inhabitants of the United Kingdom, the Celts, some parts of which have been under occupation for over a thousand years, which also happened to be a Matriarchal society and was until the 1950’s.
    Now tell me are the “white men” of the Celts, who have had their land and Matriarchy taken away from them the same as the “white men” who took it?
    I Hope we all see sense, we have only one enemy, and that is ourselves.

  8. The article was really enlightening and so interessant to read. Thank you for sharing it. All of this also applies to other countries. I’m from Germany and PoC also experience racism here, although not as much as in the US. But it doesn’t really matter because it’s still here too. The same applies to sexism too.
    (Sorry for my bad English)

  9. Thank you for your kind words! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I’m the author by the way! haha. You never have to apologize for your bad English, especially since it’s not your first language! Thank you for reading my article! <3

  10. *yawns* More of this age-old nonsense. Maybe you should have continued with actual definitions of things instead of abandoning them as soon they became inconvenient to your cliche polemic:

    rac·ism
    ˈrāˌsizəm/Submit
    noun
    the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.
    prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.
    “a program to combat racism”
    synonyms: racial discrimination, racialism, racial prejudice, xenophobia, chauvinism, bigotry, casteism
    “Aborigines are the main victims of racism in Australia”

    There is no modifier which requires a power imbalance. So unless you actually want to redefine the word, which is dangerous to do, yes, racism can be exercised and felt by all. To say otherwise is inaccurate and dangerous. Sorry, but a black person can be just as horribly racist as a white person can. I absolutely agree that racism and it’s consequences are much more apparent the other way around, but let’s stop pretending like one group can’t be horrible to another group. It justifies all sorts of atrocities and weakens the fight against contemporary racism.

  11. Destroy the patriarchy, not men. Destroy racism, don’t redefine it to create a new generation of offenders.

  12. Why don’t we just call it oppression instead of reverse racism or sexism? To me this concept is a communication issue. The general understood definition for racism is not the definition represented here. Therefore, when people say reverse racism doesn’t exist people think of the term racism as they know it… Not how people are trying to “redefine it.” Why do we need to redefine the term in order to show people that systemic racism exists or oppression, etc….? It simply puts people in defensive mode because they think you’re saying that when white people do it it’s racist but when people of color do it, it’s not. I understand that is not what you mean, but the average person will not care to take the time to understand your reasoning, and thus will go “this person is ridiculous!” They walk away & you have now pushed them away from the discussion all together. So here is a proposition… instead of redefining words in the dictionary maybe do one of 2 things. #1 Use different words to communicate your message based on currently established meanings. Ie: say white people are not oppressed in our country for x reasons … or even say systematic racism doesn’t exist for white people, etc. … or… #2: Create a different term & give it a definition. This way, when people hear you saying “x” doesn’t exist they’re reaction is not “yes it does!” but “what does that word mean?” For goodness sake… Why ya gotta make it complicated!? Now you’re spending tons of time explaining to people what you mean & how your definition differs… While we stand back going… “You can’t just up and change the definition of words like that!!!” 🙁 …with a face of utter confusion 😐 … On the other hand… If you use one of my 2 suggestions you move past the dictionary definition argument & straight into the discussion that matters.., the fact that oppression & systemic racism does exist against certain groups in our society… Then we can go from there! 🤓 I get that it’s a complex subject, but lets keep it as simple as possible yall!😜 The definitions of words take on different meaning over time all on their own, you don’t need to force it! Just let it happen! 😎 At the moment yall are sounding a lot like Aynd Rand trying to redefine the word “selfish.” Some will get it, but the majority of people are going to look at you with wide eyed confusion! 😳

  13. This is a ridiculous comment – clearly many things regarding race would be very different if everyone was the KING OF BLOODY SAUDI ARABIA. Seriously… that cant be a legit comparison… shes unpicking and deconstructing a complicated concept to show how ingrained and systemic racial inequalities are.

  14. I have shared this article quite a few times in the past year, principally due to exasperating discussions with my white hetero etc friends (hate to generalise but its genuinely my experience of the conversation) – it explains so clearly why the notion of reverse racism and sexism are so problematic.

    Genuinely thank you so much, I get so frustrated that “privilege is invisible to those who have it” (think that’s Michael Kimmel…), I can get heated and struggle to articulate my thoughts. Namely how being a white, heterosexual, able bodied, male has a large impact on how someone experiences our society and thus how they view the world. When I directed some people here, it helped explain how lack of social/ institutional power strips women/ PoC of the ability to be sexist/ racist. Also it called into question things they took for granted. I continually try and ‘check my privilege’ (as a white, hetero, able bodied, female), for example the fact that for most of my younger life I thought I didn’t have a “race”, I was “normal”, I didn’t have to think about race as a part of my everyday life, but it is. Thanks again for helping deconstruct and mahuuuusssively complex issue/concept. Attempting to call into question values, ideas, and privileges that our society is pretty much built upon is always so hard, and met with so much backlash. Keep doing what you’re doing. This has pretty much been a stream of consciousness so I’m really hoping it makes a bit of sense ha !

    Oh also, think you’ll love to know, my best friend in particular found it helpful in highlighting his privilege, and even highlighting how it is patriarchy that is damaging to other men, NOT the women/ PoC attempting to gain equality, hurrah !!

  15. The terms “reverse racism” & “reverse sexism” are inherently racist/sexist terms by the use of “reverse”. They are just plain old racism & sexism, there is no ” reverse ” about it.

    Your argument is completely ridiculous.

    You need to get out of your sheltered bubble and learn a thing or two about the real world.

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