There is a term I wish to deconstruct: reverse racism. I have heard the term used by Black and White people in discussions about race. The media has given credence to the term through repetition and the use of it by public personalities; however, I am always fascinated – and often skeptical – about the way that coin phrases make their way into a dialogue without analysis or true definition.
I have most often heard the term reverse racism used by some White people in an attempt to gaslight the struggle of people of color. There are some Black people who assume that every White person is prejudiced and practice racism and while that is in itself racist it is not reverse racism. Simple deductive logic would tell anyone that the reverse of racism is equality. So to create a term that in its definition negates the original word but does not negate the action that it defines is illogical.
Cause anytime we mention our condition, our history or existence, they callin’ it reverse racism
– Nas, “N.I.G.G.E.R.”
Creating the term reverse racism instead of using racism implies that the two are different. Different how? I don’t know. Perhaps only White people can be racist and only Black people can be reverse racist. But the fact that there has to be two different evils threatens the solidarity of Black and White people battling this thing called racism. Because reverse racism suggests that racism isn’t the profound plague that it is. Reverse racism allows people to say ‘hey what Black people are experiencing isn’t unique because we go through it too and look how well we do socially and economically.’ Reverse racism neutralizes the severity of racism and turns Black people into a weak group of people too lazy to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps like White people do. This term reverse racism is a cancer in the discussion of race relations that turns the issue in on itself. It completely changes the narrative and in turn sterilizes the struggle against racism.
I do believe that Black people can be racist; however, due to the history of oppression of Black people in America, it is not the same thing as when white people express racism. It means very little for a Black person to be racist against a White person because that anger will never amount to much more than anger and rage. It will never alter the fabric of the country nor will it oppress White people.The difference is that Black people in America are not in a position to manipulate the power structure and create systemic disenfranchisement of White people. When Black people express racism it is a defensive gesture that is purely emotional. When Black people display racism towards White people it is their way of expressing anger against the whole group of White people for what some have and are doing to oppress Black people. It is a way for them to psychologically balance the scales by doing to White people what they have done to Black people. It isn’t a reverse of racism; it is conceptually the same thing that White people do when they make broad generalizations about Black people. But these generalizations have relatively no effect on White people or their lives so defensive racism is a dog with no teeth.
The most problematic thing about this notion of reverse racism is when Black people use or accept usage of the term. It provides proponents of reverse racism with the sense of validity because of a Black person agrees with it, it has to be a real thing. But is both illogical and counterproductive to the struggle against racism. Reverse racism is a very obvious attempt to gaslight and devalue the plight of Black people in America. There is only one racism and it is never right or okay but the struggle that we are making against racism is directed exactly where it should: at those who have the ability to take their racism and embed it into systems that govern our country and, thereby, make racism more than ignorant thought. In truth we would like to reverse racism but that wouldn’t make it a detriment to White people; it would make racism non existent. And that is something we should all hope for.
I’m not sayin; I’m just sayin,
An Angry Black Man