Reverse Racism, or aggregious ignorance of history and context

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in | Posted on 6:10 PM


I stole this comic from the Crommunist Manifesto; it's such a lovely encapsulation of the situation that I couldn't resist using it myself.

 The definition for racism in the social sciences is that it is a system of domination, justified by qualities attributed based on the apparent ethnicity of a group, which manifests in the form of inequalities of access, resources, opportunities and/or violence. Sadly, even the wikipedia definition for scientific, state and institutional racism is contested, despite ridiculously complete citation lists.

While people seem to dislike the assertion that racism is a system, it does not stop the historical record from contradicting them, as the comic and these sources demonstrate. For that reason, the word racism means a hell of a lot more than just antipathy toward the appearance of ethnicity. It invokes a series of social systems with an entrenched history.

This is why, even if someone who is black dislikes someone who is white because of their experiences with people of that apparent ethnicity, it is not racism. People who are black do not have the same social clout and cannot enforce or institute systems designed to disenfranchise white people. As in the comic, the white guy stood on the black guy to climb, then refused to help him up, claiming that the effort necessary is racism. The previous link demonstrates with great care that the assertion slavery did not greatly benefit slave owners economically (a way to measure the climb referenced in the comic) is complete crap. Slavery created a great deal of economic advantage for some families and persons of apparent white ethnicity.

Objections to affirmative action programs, designed to rectify differences in the economic starting points of various individuals and the overwhelming problem with discrimination which still faces those individuals, tend to assume that because these are government programs which use self-identified ethnicity as a qualification, they qualify as racism. Affirmative action fails to qualify as racism on the category of historical and on-going advantage. Note that white is a designation that, unless otherwise specified, includes persons from many different apparent ethnicities; there are plenty of persons from Mexico who are white, persons from Puerto Rico who are white, persons from Africa who are white, etc. The number of people in poverty who are not non-Hispanic whites, according to the 2010 census, is 57,297,000 persons, versus the 19,599,000 persons who are non-Hispanic whites. The ratio is 2.92:1, even in this economic climate.

Reverse racism ends up being an argument from ignorance, leaving one person with a series of advantages which they did not earn which are dependent on the apparent or perceived ethnicity. I am white, and I have experienced dealing with managers and overseers who very explicitly held opinions about me based on race and gender. In those situations, there is absolutely a situational power differential. It is, however, limited to my little experience, not broadly spread and historically awful. That power differential at a few of my jobs pales, compared to the overwhelming evidence of and precedence which racism exerts on POC. For those reasons, I am content to condemn the concept of reverse racism and to be happy for scholarships I can't earn; the world is enriched by contributions, and programs which attempt to help rectify those problems are what begin to try to even the playing field, not what makes it uneven.

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