Is there such a thing as "reverse racism"? Yes, but it's probably not what you had in mind

Can white people be the targets of racism? Some say yes, of course. Others say that even if a black person disliked white people in general, it would make no difference because white people are still privileged, so this is not racism.

In a sense, both views are correct. First off, anyone who takes general beliefs about a group of people, whether based on facts or not, and applies these supposed attributes to someone they do not know, or wrongly imposes this perception on someone they do know, is guilty of prejudice. Period. If the group in question is a racial group, it is racism, but that sub-definition is secondary.

White people and others who are privileged need to be conscious, however, of  institutional racism. This is the second argument from above, and it is also true. The system itself (laws, courts, police, the economy) in any society is always vulnerable to serving primarily the needs of those with the most power. This situation is ameliorated by democracy, but it is not eliminated. And the point above is quite right: If you hate someone, regardless of the reason, but are not in a position of power, that hate is mostly irrelevant (unless you decide to take the last into your own hands, perhaps, but that will not change what happens next). If a person with power, even a person who approves bank accounts or building permits, for example, hates someone, their position gives substance to that hate. What's more, it does this in a way that often make this hatred invisible: There are almost always reasons that can be found for denying a loan application or other request, allowing hate to be disguised, perhaps even to the hater. As far as institutions are concerned, then, white people cannot suffer racism. (Isolated cases would quickly be rectified by other parts of the system like judicial appeal, elections, lobbying, etc.).

As far as "reverse racism" goes, the term is mostly a misnomer. Disliking someone due to their race is racism, regardless of which race each person belongs to--there's nothing "reverse" about it. LIKING someone due to their race could be called reverse racism. This might be a side effect of plain old racism, though, if that like is a byproduct of dislike of other races. I think the best example of reverse racism is probably affirmative action. It is a race-based policy that gives advantages to a group based solely on race in order to counteract the prejudices that group experiences otherwise. I nearly called it a racist policy, but caught myself because, according to my own definition, racism is hate based on race. Since affirmative action is not hate, but advantage for those otherwise disadvantaged, it is not necessarily racist. It is racist if other disadvantaged groups become disadvantaged as a result (a form of institutional hate, you could argue).



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