Anti-Racism 101

14 “Reverse Racism”


 “Racism describes patterns of discrimination that are institutionalized as ‘normal’ throughout an entire culture. It’s based on an ideological belief that one ‘race’ is somehow better than another ‘race.’  It’s not one person discriminating at this point, but a whole population operating in a social structure that actually makes it difficult for a person not to discriminate.”

“’Reverse Racism’ would only describe a society in which all the rules and roles were turned upside down. That has not happened in the U.S., however much white right-wing ideologues want to complain that they’re being victimized by the few points of equality that minorities and women have managed to claim.  White people who complain about ‘Reverse Racism’ are actually complaining about being denied their privileges, rather than being denied their rights.  They feel entitled to be hired and not to be discriminated against, even though the norm is white people discriminating against blacks. If, in a rare instance, a black employer discriminates against a white job applicant, that’s not reverse anything – it’s simple discrimination.  It’s to be condemned on principle, but it’s not evidence of some systematic program by which whites are being deprived of their rights.” – Hepshiba

“White people can experience prejudice and discrimination from black people, but they do not experience racism.”

Most of the time, when the term ‘reverse racism’ is brought up, it is in response to a slight that a member of the dominant group perceives has happened.

But in reality, the United States has a long legacy of racism that makes it difficult for people of color to receive quality health care, access affordable housing, find stable employment and avoid getting wrapped up in the justice system. These examples of institutionalized racism don’t quite match with the examples of reverse racism, such as “Why don’t WE have a White History Month?

There has never, ever, ever been a national set of laws or system put in place to systematically oppress white people or push them to a status that is ‘less than,’ senior editor Alexia LaFata wrote for Elite Daily. ‘Not once. Ever. So ‘reverse racism’ can truly never exist.’” -Philip Lewis

Great Aamer Rahmen comedy clip on “reverse racism’

“When someone says, ‘I’ve never owned a slave. My grandparents never owned slaves. Can’t we leave race in the past and move forward together?’


Let’s say you and I sat down to play a game of chess. But, we didn’t set up the board; our ancestors did. Back then, your ancestors decided to give themselves two extra queens instead of bishops and rooks instead of pawns. And our ancestors were like, hey that’s not fair, but at the time you said it was totally legal for you all to set up the board this way.

Now, you and I sit down at the board, and you’re saying ‘can’t we just ignore that and play a game of chess? I will not apologize for something my ancestors did!’

No no no no no, we do not want or require your useless apologies. We want you to set your board up the right, fair and correct way.

‘And lose my pieces?? That’s reverse racism!’

Well then can we get some extra pieces so that it’s even?

‘Stop asking for handouts! Pawns can become anything in this country! Just work your ass off and get to the other side.’

Meanwhile, you’re just a pawn on an even bigger board of chess accidentally protecting the actual racists with power standing behind you. But if we are on the same side, turn around, go ahead – we’ll catch up. White goes first…”

-transcribed by me from the video “Can’t We Just Leave Race in the Past?” by a man whose name I can no longer locate

“Although mainstream definitions of racism are typically some variation of individual ‘race prejudice,’ which anyone of any race can have, whiteness scholars define racism as encompassing economic, political, social, and cultural structures, actions, and beliefs that systematize and perpetuate an unequal distribution of privileges, resources and power between white people and people of color (Hilliard, 1992). This unequal distribution benefits whites and disadvantages people of color overall and as a group. Racism is not fluid in the U.S.; it does not flow back and forth, one day benefiting whites and another day (or even era) benefiting people of color. The direction of power between whites and people of color is historic, traditional, normalized, and deeply embedded in the fabric of U.S. society (Mills, 1999; Feagin, 2006).” -Robin D’angelo

“My question to you is this: Why does it matter so much to you to call racial discrimination toward white people racism? Why when we already have words like prejudice, bigotry, or bias to adequately capture racialized experiences of white people? I’ll tell you why. Because granting whiteness ownership of racism sounds to you like leveling the playing field for white people. But you fail to acknowledge that the playing field already unfairly advantages whiteness. Framing racism as ‘equal opportunity’ is reductive. It drastically diminishes the ugly reality of racism as injustice toward black people.

Face it. When white people make claims of racism, it is almost always a means to re-center whiteness instead of acknowledge how black people are the primary victims of racism. In fact, research suggests that a not-insignificant number of white people believe themselves to be the primary victims of racism in the 21st century. And if that’s not cause for worry, I don’t know what is.”

“‘You can’t fight racism with racism’ is another classic trope that [white people] trot out when they’re trying to observe the racism of black people (which we’ve already covered is absurd)….If a black person is being racist (by a white person’s spectacularly unsophisticated definition), chances are it is in response to 400 years of chattel slavery, 50+ years of Jim Crow, lack of voter rights, and continued CURRENT disenfranchisement through racial profiling, lack of education, housing discrimination, and police brutality.

So even if we take your laughable accusation of black racism toward white people at face value, you look like a fool…for throwing the penalty at the person who responded to aggression with aggression instead of stopping the person who is running around the playing field punching people in the face.” -Christopher Sebastian

I transcribed a clip from a talk in which someone asked TaNehisi Coates to speak to why whites can’t use the N word. First he gives examples, like Black women affectionately using “bitch” with each other, or Dan Savage saying “faggot,” etc, and talks about the basic human courtesy of not encroaching on a group you’re not part of. Then he says: “We understand that it’s normal for groups of people to use words like these, words that are derogatory, in an ironic fashion. Why is there so much handwringing when Black people do it? Black people are not outside of the basic rules and laws of humanity.

I used to have a good friend who had a cabin in upstate New York, which he referred to as a ‘white trash cabin.’ He was white. I would never refer to the cabin like that – I would never say ‘I’m coming to your white trash cabin.’ I just wouldn’t do that. The question one must ask is why so many white people have difficulty extending to Black people things that are basic laws of how human beings interact. And I think I know why.

When you’re white in this country you’re taught that everything belongs to you. You think you have a right to everything. You’re conditioned this way. The laws and the culture tell you this. You’ve got a right to go where you want to go, do what you want to do, be the way you want to be, and people just gotta accommodate themselves to you. So here comes this word that you feel like you invented and then somebody tells you not to use a word that you invented! ‘Why can’t I use it? Everyone else gets to use it! That’s racism that I don’t get to use it, that’s racism against me! Here’s this song, and I can’t sing along? How come I can’t sing along?’

For white people the experience of being a hip-hop fan and not being able to use the word ‘nigger’ is very insightful. It will give you just a little peek into the world of what it means to be Black. Because to be Black is to walk through the world and watch people doing things that you cannot do-that you can’t join in and do. So I think there’s actually a lot to be learned from refraining.” -TaNehisi Coates

“The word nigger has no rival. There is no rough or refined equivalence between the term and the many derisive references to white folk. Those terms don’t evoke singularly gruesome actions. Nigger is unique because the menace it implies is portable; it shows up wherever a white tongue is willing to suggest intimidation and destruction. There are no examples of Black folk killing white people en masse; terrorizing them with racial violence; shouting ‘cracker’ as they lynch them from trees and then selling postcards to document their colossal crimes. Black folk have not enjoyed the protection of the state to carry out such misdeeds.”

“I sometimes think of how the nigger crawled from the newly forming white imagination as a denial of everything that was enlightened and human.”

“White racism was the government’s science project; bigotry was its nightly homework.”

-Michael Eric Dyson

“All of American culture is basically ‘Dear Black People.’ All of white culture lets Black people know where they fit and don’t fit. Plus, white people making jokes about blackness actually affect Black people’s lives.

There’s no such thing as ‘reverse racism:’ Black people can be biased or prejudiced or bigoted, which is personal, but racism is systemic. Black people can’t be racist because of what racism is: the oppression of a marginalized group in a society based on white supremacy. If you are white, you automatically benefit from white privilege.”

-transcribed from video by Teyonah Parris and Justin Simien of “Dear White People”

“People of color need their own spaces. Black people need their own spaces. We need places in which we can gather and be free from the mainstream stereotypes and marginalization that permeate every other societal space we occupy. We need spaces where we can be our authentic selves without white people’s judgment and insecurity muzzling that expression. We need spaces where we can simply be—where we can get off the treadmill of making white people comfortable and finally realize just how tired we are.”

“Though people of color are creating and envisioning spaces in which we may be together, our efforts are continually questioned, attacked, and made invisible within our communities. Spaces for people of color are ignored, even when they attract large numbers. They are marginalized from other community events and programming. Community leaders find reasons to question the legitimacy of PoC groups and may interrogate organizers about what exactly we’re doing when we get together. Some white people insert themselves into PoC spaces with reasons why they believe they should be included such as, “I identify more with people of color than with white people.” There are people who accuse PoC spaces as being racist and segregationist.”

-Kelsey Blackwell