Op-ed: A look into reverse racism
Racism. A word with so much power, it often is avoided in discussion by those who aren’t well versed in what it means. No one wants to be labeled as a racist. Two polarizing views saturate the media. The left criticized for slandering those they see as racist and the right, on the other hand, argues that racism doesn’t exist in contemporary America. Of course, these statements are generalities, no one statement can inhabit all persons who subscribe to a certain ideology. Nonetheless, the issue I often in encounter when discussing racism is the argument for or against the validity of reverse racism.
According to Dr. Michael Norton, a professor at Harvard Business School, and Dr. Samuel Sommers, a professor at Tufts University, reverse racism can be defined as “ anti-White bias.” Although at first glance this definition would imply that there is racism against white individuals, this implication is completely false. Racism itself is fundamentally based in power, it benefits only the group holding the power and does so by enforcing a racial hierarchy in many ways, both subtle and forthright.
The white population in the U.S. holds both power and majority. With that in mind, it begs the question of how people go about claiming reverse racism. It begins with education. People have been improperly educated on racism and what it truly means. While the education system has introduced this term to us at a young age with good intentions, it is not explained properly and is overly simplified. People grow up believing discrimination, prejudice and hate crimes are synonymous with racism. However, while discrimination, prejudice and hate crimes are often used as tools by society to recreate and reconstruct racism, they are not bound to racism. They can be employed by individuals who are not reconstructing racism, but other forms of oppression or marginalization.
Recently, a group of black teens assaulted a mentally handicapped white male due to conflicted motives, but there was clear evidence of an anti - Trump and anti - White sentiment. The attackers can be heard saying, “ F--- Donald Trump,” and “ F--- white people.” Definitionally the acts of these individuals were discriminatory as they abused an individual based on his race. Therefore, definitionally, the crime committed was a hate crime. However, this attack was not part of a racist construction as the assailants are incapable of being racist due to their marginalized identities.
The issue with this current discussion over the validity of reverse racism is that racism has been misinformed to the majority of Americans. Racism enforces and reinforces a socially constructed and institutionally engrained power structure. People who don’t benefit from this power structure cannot be racist due to their own marginalization. By classifying racism as synonymous to discrimination and prejudice, people are lead to believe that anyone can be racist. The attackers in Chicago are capable and culpable of being discriminatory, prejudicial and of committing a hate crime. But, their acts were not racist. Racism is an act that only belongs to whiteness.
As a white person myself, I understand how this topic is rather daunting. I benefit from this constructed racism that I have discussed. However, it is important for me and all white people to aid in its deconstruction, examining and pushing it into discourse that allows us to see the error within different perspectives on the topic of racism. It is essential for this conversation to continue and that every person feels heard. In a time of great polarization people often aren’t willing to communicate. We must be certain that our communication does not hinder our societal progress and instead we must strive to make a more inclusive and welcoming world.
Michael Lucatorto is a freshman in the School of Communication.