Deconstructing the ‘Reverse Racism’ Rhetoric

 

It’s all good until people of color start coming for what has historically been explicitly reserved for white people.

As we’re all aware, we have a long, disturbing, brutal history of racism in our country. The construct of race itself was created to ensure white people would consistently benefit from the systems of our government, while guaranteeing the opposite outcome for people of color. It’s important to understand that the fight for racial justice and reconciliation didn’t begin with this idea of “leveling the playing field” that is often discussed in race relations today. Instead, it began with the desire to just be seen and treated as human. It began with the yearning to not live in a constant state of fear. It began as a fight for survival.

Now, we live in a society full of race-neutral policies that cannot explicitly discriminate against people of color, but do so by using exclusionary language that deliberately favors white people and disproportionately deprives people of color. We live in a society where we technically have access to all of the same institutions and opportunities that white people do, as long as we are willing to quietly abide by the white-dominated status quo and work harder to get less. We live in a society where we have free reign to make the same poor decisions that white people make, as long as we understand that the consequences of our actions will be harsher and compounded with scrutiny toward our entire community. You see, racism is an intricately designed power structure that doesn’t need any of us to function. While racist people do exist and can be defined as individuals who deliberately vocalize and act on white supremacy culture, racism itself impacts us all with or without those people. It is the framework that our society was built on. It is the foundation of our norms and biases.

Typically, white people argue that reverse racism is happening to them when they feel like they’re being overlooked or deprioritized for a person of color. They feel off balanced because they recognize the unfamiliarity of this sequence. So often, even the most well-intentioned white person doesn’t recognize the daily extent to which they benefit from systemic racism. They don’t notice that they don’t worry about feeling responsible for the actions of their entire race. They don’t notice that they don’t have to prove their competence despite being overqualified for the job. They don’t notice that they aren’t burdened with reconciling and disproving the inherent negative assumptions that are automatically associated with them because of their race. Most importantly, they don’t really notice race at all.

We’ve made race and racism invisible to white people. We’ve made their experiences the norm and the default to which we’ve based everything else off of. We’ve excused white people from acknowledging their access and advantage, while forcing people of color to bring it to their attention. Now, we’ve made people of color out to be the viscous, race-baiting ones who ‘can’t seem let the past go,’ and who have to defend the efforts to interrupt a system built on white dominance and create space for a new norm.

So not only is accusing someone of reverse racism wildly insulting, this whole concept that you can reverse a power structure that continues to inherently privilege white people even in the argument against racism is baffling and almost laughable. Unless you go back to 1619 and reverse all of the systemic advantages given to white-skinned people and redistribute them to people of color, you cannot reverse racism. And you know what? The conversation shouldn’t even be about reversing racism — it should be about acknowledging and dismantling it. White people need to accept that racism there, understand that they benefit from it everyday at the expense of people of color, and allow people of color to be pissed that this is the reality we are living in.

White people also need to accept that they are not and never have been on the receiving end of racism. Race was created by white people, for white people, and white skin privilege itself has pervasive and divisive influences in communities of color. In our own community, we emphasize the beauty of light skin and whiter features because we acknowledge the access and opportunities that it leads to. Companies all over the world have made millions of dollars on skin bleaching products and skin-lightening solutions because of the inherent power of whiteness.

So don’t you dare for a second try to convince me or anyone else that “reverse racism” is real. Do not disgrace the millions of Black people who have and continue to be brutally slain because of their brown skin at the hands of people with white skin by equating equity practices with centuries of deliberate abuse.

// Have you ever been accused of reverse racism? How have you responded? What it did it make you feel or believe? Do you feel empowered to name it as the falsehood that it is? Leave your thoughts below!

 

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