Tag Archives: reverse racism

The white Logic of “Reverse” Racism

Let’s examine the white logic of this homemade image from a Hitler quoting, white supremacist website. If “anti-racist is a code word for anti-white” (which seems to be their patented catchphrase), then logically that would mean only racists are white. Because if you’re against racist people, and that means you’re against white people, then only white people are racist. See how that works?

There are so many whites out there trying to make the case that POC are also racist, yet they consistently draw the equation between white people and racism. This is what happens when we forget and/or willfully ignore our histories of racist oppression: we think the world started at best with our birth, at worst yesterday, and we think we have legitimately “discovered” anti-white racism. The problem is that centuries of white violence, white power, and institutional racism are imagined to be the same as resistance to these phenomena. Then we think we can appropriate racism and imagine ourselves as equal victims.

No.

Because white supremacists reveal whites as the only perpetrators of racism, the argument is never that whites are not racist—it’s that whites cannot be exclusively guilty of racism. Why is proving this inaccuracy so important to us? It means we never have to change our behavior, we never have to change our systemic inequality, and, most importantly, it means we never have to relinquish the power and privilege of whiteness. If we can invent racism elsewhere then we never have to change and/or take responsibility for actual racism.

If you are a white supremacist, then please explain how whites are somehow simultaneously all-powerful, superior racists and powerless, inferior victims of racism. You can’t have it both ways.

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Racism 101: Prejudice vs. Power

Any time a white person uses their own personal experience of prejudice (or a fabricated one) to demonstrate how whites suffer from racism, there is an underlying tendency to believe individual experience reflects broader social and structural realities. This is not the case. Just as one white person who was harassed by a person of color does not prove “reverse” racism, one Black president does not prove the end of racism. For the few white folks with hurt pride, there are thousands more with staggering social comfort who make hurt pride an exception to the status quo; for the few POC with class/political privilege, there are thousands more with staggering social oppression who make this privilege an exception to the status quo. How much white privilege does it require to think one painful confrontation is equally damaging as living with the daily reality of racism? And how much white privilege does it require to think one isolated incident, or even several isolated incidents, are equivalent to the constant violence of racism?

Part of the problem in this case is the assumption that individuals are representative of entire groups, whether they are white or of color. Malcolm X attacked as an “extremist” and depicted/blamed as the symbol of Black “violence” ignores and erases the diverse complexities of identity and thought within Black communities. Making a case for reverse racism based on that one white girl down the street who got called a “cracker b*tch” or a “gringa” that one time ignores and erases the systemic and social power of having white skin. The fact that our whiteness protects us from racial violence and hatred 99% of the time facilitates our unjustified outrage when POC don’t value us for being white. We are so used to being valued for being white that we are quick to cry ‘injustice’ when anyone challenges the longstanding positive construction of whiteness. But don’t get it twisted: prejudice does not equal power. When white folks have legacies of social, structural, and racial power in our favor, prejudice against us is completely inconsequential and certainly not identical. Interpersonal conflict does not threaten the power of whiteness or render the suffering of racism equal along lines of race.

Until the majority of white folks have been retroactively written out of the US constitution, enslaved on the basis of being less than human, imported to work in agribusiness and industry then deported as disposable labor, and have been overwhelmingly colonized, displaced, raped, and tortured, then maybe we can talk about racism against whites. Once the majority of white folks are segregated to neighborhoods next to industrial plants and sewage refineries, have their social and political opportunities limited because of their racial identity, are discriminated against in employment and education, and have to live with constant dehumanization based on their race, then maybe we can talk about racism against whites. Stereotyping and lumping all POC under one identity by misinterpreting individual actions is racist; white folks losing their privilege because individual white people have hurt feelings is impossible.

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Racism 101: This Shit Doesn’t Go in Reverse

There are multiple misguided, and straight up wrong, ways white folks decide to interpret racism. Racism can be best understood in this way: it is a current and historical system of power relations, meaning one race has social, political, and economic power over another. This system exists in institutions, social divisions, access to opportunity, lived experience, and the actions/thoughts of individuals. Simple dictionary definitions (written by white folks) are exactly that: simple, and therefore insufficient. Racism is not judging any person based on their race, it is one race having dominance over another and limiting social opportunities of members of the dominated race by classifying them as inferior. If white folks question which race has maintained dominance in the US, we only need to consider how many white male presidents we have had, how many white male Supreme Court justices we have had, how the constitution was written by white men at the exclusion of people and women of color, and how federal and state legislation continues to work to our benefit. The legacy lives on, even if the historical moment is “over.”

So let’s think about this contradiction in terms called “reverse racism.” There have been no laws segregating or exiling white folks, no laws against white men marrying white women, no laws preventing white men from voting (preventing white women from voting was sexism, not racism), no laws that expressly state white folks cannot become citizens, no laws banning the social and cultural histories of white folks in school, no laws that have forcibly removed us from our land (which was never ours to begin with), no laws supporting discrimination against white folks on the basis that they are less than human, and the list of US laws white folks have never been governed by could go on and on.  What does this legal privilege say about how accurate our ideas are about experiencing racism? It says they are not accurate at all. Ever. White power is not just a bunch of white hoods and burning crosses, it is the power we have in government, law, housing, education, employment, policing, social status, citizenship status, and our ability to define race in ways that have uplifted our whiteness. Racism is not just a few insulting words or conflict between individuals, it is an inescapable reality of oppression that white folks never experience.

A professor of color once explained to one of our classes that the word “cracker” came from the slave master cracking his whip in the fields, which meant that even if a slave master was called a “cracker” he was still in a position of power as a slave master.  Today this remains true, although the circumstances have changed—even when white folks are called this word, we are not stripped of our long-held power and privilege as white people. If white folks think racism can be reversed, then we have to think about what is being reversed: we would have to reverse history, colonialism, systems of oppression, every racial theory ever published, every racial law ever passed, and a whole host of social, political, and geographic events. To get a basic handle on what this would look like, here is some historical satire written by one of the mods several months ago. The point is to understand that this never actually happened.

Five hundred years ago colonialism emerged in South America, the Caribbean, and Africa, resulting in the invasion, conquering, raping, and enslavement of Europeans. The Mexica (the Aztecs) brought their guns, canons, blades, and Indigenous cosmologies to dominate and convert the European “natives,” and to extract their human labor and natural resources for capital gain.  All East coast American Indian tribes of what is currently called the US expelled their “radicals” to begin colonies in England, decimating entire villages with their imported diseases as they “discovered” the territory of this “new world” before they displaced and/or massacred most of the remaining population. Indigenous Africans scouted for Spaniards to work their plantations as chattel slaves while trading them as property, raping Spanish women to produce more bodies to sell, earning the name “cracker” for their ruthless whip cracking in the fields. At the same time, an entire ideological justification, which produced volumes of hateful literature and doctrines of invented science, was developed in order to prove the inhumanity of the colonized and the racial superiority of the colonizer. For Europeans and any other white “natives” from the “Global North,” their fate would include genocide and the theft of land, generations of legal and social segregation, disproportionate imprisonment, forced sterilization, political repression, continued poverty and state abandonment, increased subjection to violence and hate crimes, unpunished homicides committed by law enforcement, employment discrimination, cultural genocide, higher mortality rates, education almost entirely representative of colonizing cultures, and so much more. Essentially, that is what “reversing” racism would mean.

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