Reverse Racism…..and other lies society taught us
When I was younger, I believed in things like Santa Claus. I believed the boogeyman might eat me alive. I believed the Tooth Fairy loved my sister more because she gave her more money. But then, I grew up, and as an adult, I realized all these things were just make-believe scenarios created for children. None of them were even real but simply figments of my imagination. Fast forward over a decade later and much to my surprise, it's not just kids with an overactive imagination. Adults create make-believe concepts all the time and one of the most ridiculous of these imagined concepts, I think is probably the term, “reverse racism.” A term used quite frequently when dealing with race relations, but have any of us found a concrete answer on what reverse racism really is ? Is reverse racism even real or just an imagined idea made up by society?
Before we can speak on the validity of reverse racism we must first explain what racism is and uncover its many complex layers.
The Webster dictionary defines racism as prejudice or discrimination based on one's race. The Atlantic goes on to elaborate on this definition, defining racism as a social construct created based off of institutionalized oppression. The Oxford dictionary explains even further defining racism as prejudice, discrimination, and antagonism directed against someone of a different race based off of superior beliefs of their own race.
All various versions of the same concept many Americans choose to partake in. A concept with beliefs so powerful, that they have the ability to change the lives of many oppressed people.
How Can A Belief Affect Someone's Life?
On any given news station, unjust court verdict or police officer encounter, society has continuously shown us, Americans are not all born equal and some of us, (mainly the white majority) were born with a powerful advantage. As television host Jon Stewart eloquently explains, white privilege is alive and well. With this privilege provided to white America comes power, and with that power comes changes. These changes enforced by the majority based solely from arbitrary opinions affects the lives of minorities for generations to come.
For years, these ideas have adversely affected the way minorities live their everyday lives. Whether it be how authorities view the minorities of society, making black Americans three times more likely to be killed at the hands of the police —a statistic according to Pacific Standard magazine— or how Pew Research displays the racial wage gap, allowing lower incomes for minority groups as a whole. This nation has witnessed time and time again the majority dictating the lives of minorities. But perhaps the main reason that minorities do not have the power to be racist is that they don't have the power to change the public perception of Caucasian Americans in the same way Caucasians can drastically alter everyday life for minorities.
Black Americans Lack The Power To Be Racist
If “reverse racism” were true, it would imply that black people had the power to change the entire life trajectory of generations of white families, based on a few decisions. It would mean that stereotyping the white race as a whole directly affects the way white Americans live their everyday lives.
One clear example of this according to the Dallas News, is the history of post-Jim Crow era segregation in America. Take Levittown, for example, a small suburban town in Long Island, New York. In 1947, Levittown was orchestrated by real estate developer William Levitt, and is known to be the first mass-produced suburb created. According to Historynet.com, this suburb was used as an American post-war architectural blueprint for future development of cities around America. While this kind of neighborhood development was a pivotal turning point in U.S history, it lacked one thing: black people.
According to the NY Times, William Levitt stated that homeowners in Levittown were forbidden to rent or sell to anyone “other than members of the Caucasian race." As racist as this was at the time it was completely legal. In fact, the NY Times goes on to state Levitt's defense on why he believed he was right. Levitt justified his buildings by saying “as a Jew, I have no room in my mind or heart for racial prejudice, but I have come to know that if we sell one house to a Negro family, then 90 or 95 percent of our white customers will not buy into the community. This is their attitude, not ours. As a company, our position is simply this: We can solve a housing problem, or we can try to solve a racial problem, but we cannot combine the two.”
And so it was. Levittown went on to prosper, leaving minority groups left behind in the inner cities. Now over 50 years since the town's development, some continue to celebrate its achievements, while others believe Levittown has a legacy of segregation. The enforced racial segregation scarred many black Americans, and left a great impact on our country as a whole. Fast forward over half a century later and residential segregation is still evident in various cities throughout the U.S. As for Levittown, although now illegal to discriminate based off race, thanks to the Civil Rights Act of 1968, not much has changed within the racial statistics of this town. According to Suburban Stats, as of 2016-2017, the white population in Levittown is 46,137, making up 88 percent of the city's total. Black people account for 470 residents, making up less than 1 percent.
So how does this prove that residential segregation is racist? Although in some places it's the norm, residential segregation is harmful to our nation's overall progression. Residential segregation prolongs the racial wealth gap in the workplace and based off studies done by The City Observatory, leaves minorities with lower incomes in comparison to their counterparts. The community one resides, affects opportunities and resources they have access to.
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) states that racially segregated neighborhoods are also in direct correlation with racially segregated schools, in which students have very different experiences. For those who reside in less developed communities, their educational access may be limited which ultimately is shown in student performance. For impoverished neighborhoods, children often have less access to routine health care, increasing their class absentees throughout the school year. Due to the lack of resources, as well as the paradigm of the school systems, going to college often times isn't enforced in these neighborhoods as well.
This trickle down concept is one many residents living in poverty can relate to, which by no coincidence are also disproportionately neighborhoods of color. In a State of Working America study, African Americans had the highest poverty rate with 27.4 percent of the nation's total. Hispanics followed with second highest rate at 26.6 percent, and whites had a poverty rate of just 9.9 percent. These statistics are far from a coincidence and are representative of the power racism has on lives for years to come. Again, the concept of racism is focused on power and the ability to inflict change with that power.
Prejudice Vs. Racism
Prejudice and racism are two different things, and the confusion between the two is what I believe created the belief of reverse racism in the first place. Due to the lack of logical reasoning behind this idea of reverse racism, it simply sounds like a created concept to appease the insecurities of white America. Even President Donald Trump has been brainwashed into thinking black people have the power to be racist, which he has vocalized on numerous occasions.
Now Mr. President, as well as any other misinformed individual, I need you to know that these are not acts of racism. While I understand we do not live in a utopian society, and people may say or do hurtful/antagonistic things that may appear as racist, these acts are not acts of racism, these are acts of prejudice.
When it comes to being prejudice against the majority group (in this case white America), I can wholeheartedly agree. Yes black people are prejudice. Yes Hispanic people are prejudice. Yes Asian people are prejudice. Yes white people are prejudice. Unlike racism, ALL people have the power to be prejudice. Prejudice focuses on preconceived notions or opinions about a thing or person, with no sufficient reasoning, logic or truth. It has nothing to do with power within your race, it has nothing to do with institutionalized oppression and it has nothing to do with affecting future generations.
So when you judge someone solely on an opinion or stereotype you've heard, this is engaging in prejudice behavior. With that said, when white America feels personally victimized by insulting comments, television shows, or opinions from their counterparts these are all acts of prejudice, not racism.
When Prejudice And Racism Walk A Thin Line
Think about today's policing and the various protests that occur because of it. With the increase in police murders alongside police brutality, we are witnessing people protesting for equality and justice in our day and age. A perfect example of modern day prejudice vs. racism is the ever so controversial black protestors vs. the police. It is a common prejudice belief that black protestors are usually more violent and riotous. While various news outlets and media personalities much like Tomi Lahren, have taken the liberty in highlighting this ignorant belief, the reality is, that is far from the truth.
In fact, according to The Huffington Post, previous protests have shown that police officers treat black people differently from other protestors, which consequently results in disorderly conduct. Unlike our white counterparts, who are afforded the liberty of "peaceful protests" much like the Women's March of 2017, black protestors have a different experience altogether. Black protestors are often met with hostility and militarization off initial contact with the police. The Huffington Post goes on to further explain how authorities arrive in full riot gear, guns drawn and tasers ready, naturally creating an unwarranted, intense environment.
Though the idea that "black people are violent" may be prejudice, the actions taken by police that cause how black people are treated are racist. Their beliefs affect how all black people are treated at future protests and will ultimately change the way they are viewed in society.
It's important to understand that racism is a systemic social construct with years of preparation followed by even more years of demonstration. Something with so much power and history behind it, is much more complex than some make it out to be. Understanding the history of racism allows people to understand, why an idea such as "reverse racism" is not only ridiculous, but disrespectful to the oppressed.
Understanding the differences between racism and prejudice allows us to comprehend society a little more, remain realistic about our circumstances, and most importantly aim towards a better future. (After all, you can't change something you never understood in the first place.) The fact of the matter is, racism is real; prejudice is also real. But "reverse racism..." not quite.