formats back

Proud recipient of the following awards:

Does reverse racism exist in America?

By Jordan Stutts
 Elijah Nouvelage / Stringer (illustration)
*Updated 2020
Decades after the civil rights movement, racial tensions still run high in America today. While abuses against minorities, especially at the hands of police, are real and must be stopped, some white Americans feel under attack as well. This has led to a conversation about whether “reverse racism” exists in America, and whether there is discrimination against white people from minorities.  The idea of reverse racism is divisive, which is why it should be addressed.
Here are three arguments asserting that reverse racism does exist in the US and three more asserting that it does not.


Reverse racism is real


Affirmative action is discrimination

Affirmative action is mostly recognized as preferential treatment toward minorities for college admissions or corporate hiring. The key argument is that, historically, white Americans have severely harmed African Americans, so preferential hiring, contracts and scholarships is a legislated attempt  to compensate for past wrongs. Affirmative action was first introduced in 1961. One example involves the University of Michigan using a point system for its admissions process, awarding an extra 20 points (out of 100) to some minorities. A lawsuit against Harvard by Asian-American students who claim the university discriminates against them, and the subsequent appeal, also brings into focus the efficacy of such minority-based quota systems.

This idea of reverse discrimination, an unintended consequence of affirmative action, has been repeatedly tested in court, yet no clear answer has emerged for what is considered fair. Opponents of the policy say affirmative action amounts to racial preference and has logged countless victims in an attempt to manufacture equality. For instance, a two-year Department of Justice investigation into Yale University’s admissions process has found that the university discriminates against white and Asian-American applicants.


A political correctness double standard

Over half of the US population says the language of others too easily offends Americans. In fact, 80% of Americans think that political correctness is a problem. Some say that the pervasive outrage against political correctness and many Americans’ perceptions that their communication was being restricted by others helped usher in the Trump era, in which he resented and rejected political correctness. Some white Americans believe that a political correctness double standard exists, limiting what they can say though it is permissible for non-whites to reprimand the Caucasian race for past transgressions. This double standard can also exist in the cultural realm as well, with artists and entertainers being favored for their race rather for their talent. The result influences how society views racial interactions.

In the media as well, there is imbalanced coverage of crimes when they are perpetrated by whites against African Americans. Conservative African American writer Clarence McKee wrote in 2013 that “all too often it appears that a black life means more if taken or harmed by a white person than another black,” citing little coverage of Chicago’s black-on-black crime epidemic versus the attention George Zimmerman’s 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin received.


Open racism against white people

During the heat of the 2016 US presidential campaign, white Americans said in a Washington Post poll that they believed anti-white racism is a problem outweighing anti-black racism. While Donald Trump’s first presidential campaign was noted for racial overtures against minorities, events occurred against whites as well. For instance, in the months following the election, several videos surfaced showing violence against white people. Two videos seemed to be directed at Trump’s 2016 election victory, though it was not clear if the victims supported the president. While violent events like the 2017 Charlottesville rally put a spotlight on the growing popularity of white nationalism, and do not diminish the concern about regular racism, they also show that feelings of white victimization exist and is a significant driver in many Americans’ feelings and behavior. With the growth of the alt-right, it is apparent that such feelings will continue after Trump’s presidency ends.


There is no such thing as reverse racism


A level playing field is lacking and needed

A 2011 report on student aid policy analysis shows that white college students are 40% more likely to get private scholarships than minorities. Additionally, a 2003 study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that individuals with a “white sounding” name were 50% more likely to get called back by a potential employer than someone with an “ethnic” sounding name. These statistics exist even with affirmative action in place. Until it is demonstrated that minorities have a fair shot in the US, this policy is a needed intervention.


Celebrating non-white culture is not racist

Since Black History Month was established or Black Entertainment Television (BET) was created, critics have asked why there is no white equivalent in US society. That is because there is no need. Caucasians have been the majority race throughout American history, driving the cultural narrative. Besides, in pop culture, there exists what’s called the “white savior complex,” where white characters in moves are depicted as good guys who save people of color from oppression (like in The Help, Green Book, and The Blindside, just to name a few.) This narrative is obviously not always the case, and networks like BET are an important cultural way for African Americans to authentically tell and share their own stories.

Similar to religious or other cultural groups, some conversations within the African American community need to be held in a setting directed at a specific audience. Social groups in high schools and on college campuses, like black student unions, are important for African Americans to discuss issues like discrimination and racism they face in their own lives without the intrusion of white observers who live a totally different experience.


The deck is stacked in favor of whites

Institutional racism is prejudice and bigotry against certain groups that many believe is ingrained in the way society functions. Discrimination against white people might exist in America to an extent, but not in the same way that institutions, such as schools, employers and housing authorities, have discriminated against other minorities – and still do today. Not to mention cases of police brutality are significantly higher against blacks than whites, as the George Floyd protests highlighted. Plus, white Americans benefitted more from separate-but-equal school systems and have less frequently experienced housing discrimination. A Harvard University study shows that labor discrimination still exists in the job market, with white people still more likely to be hired even for low-wage jobs.


The Bottom Line: Racial tensions in America are high, and some white people feel under attack, that their voices to speak out have been limited, and that government policies favor minorities. However, they have not been historically discriminated against in America, and statistics show that they have advantages over minorities in school and work. So, when discussing discrimination in America, do you think reverse racism is a conversation worth having?

Write a response...
See what else you’re missing