The myth of Reverse Racism, and other things
The myth of Reverse Racism, and other things

There is a weird thing in human culture, commonly referred to as racism. The power of this is absolute, having substantive influence on almost everything. Odd, however, is a desire of some of those not subject to it, to claim victimhood of it. Unqualified as I am, I shall attempt to wrap the crown of thorns that is racism around my fuzzy little head.

Swirl paw

Meowpolis, Purristan – Wednesday 10 June 2015

I am not a dog. I am a cat and thus am not colourblind. I can see dog. Although, who needs to see a dog to know one, when you can smell them from a mile away? I do admit I might be a speciesist when it comes to dogs, and I say this as a feline with many dog friends. A species, though, is not a race. A race is a social invention of you humans.

I can see every cat I meet. We do not engage in your petty games of invention. There are, of course, various species within the Genus Felis, and various breeds within the Felis catus, and I can see them all. In spite of this, there is no breedism. Within Purristan, there are only Felis catus. A utopia is easier to achieve with a feligeneous (for you, homogeneous) society. Feligeny (Homogeny) itself is easier if there is no artificial division by unnecessary social inventions.

Silly Hat
John Hat-Doe

However, because it is so easy to see differences, it becomes easier to divide by them, especially those appearing consistently amongst groups. This, you humans excel at. If there is a minority culture within a different, dominating culture, and that minority all wear, as considered by that dominate culture, silly hats, they then may find themselves subjected to cultural barriers resulting from those hats. Some may claim not to see hats or that hat in particular, yet unless blind, they are lying. Of course they see the hat! If they witness a crime committed by one wearing such a hat, and are interviewed by a detective, they will surely, perhaps even as the first point, mention the hat they otherwise claim not to see. Furthermore, if the silly hat clan also included the hyphenated use of the word "hat" in their names, such as John Hat-Doe, then one need not see them to be discriminatory. A recruiter, seeing this name on a resume, can have biases triggered, leading to no call back. It is a silly claim to say one cannot see such things, so it gets the silly hats treatment. Yet humans divide in such silly ways, and in doing so, you invent a slew of debilitating issues. And, oh boy, do these issues infect your society!

Racism: A Disclaimer

In order to begin understanding reverse racism, we need to understand racism. For that, we will need examples. I mean nothing by my examples, other than to be illustrative. Additionally, humans can and do say "that is racist!" at various things, often when they are obvious. But to help a reader understand racism, we cannot talk of it in such simple ways. Racism is more than the use of a single slur, for example. We must step back and take a broader, and in doing so, more comprehensive look at it. What this means is "that is racist!" will not help us. It is too simple for something so complicated. Furthermore, the manner with which I will discuss this, throughout the remainder of the post, is one where the term "racist" is not to be considered an insult or itself a slur. It may prove challenging to read the term and not see it as an insult. And if I were to refer to you as a racist, it may be hard not to find offence in that. I do not mean it in a context that leads one to say "that is racist!". I hope this becomes clearer as you progress through this post.

Now let us understand racism

There is a long and bitter history between Japan and Korea. Owing to foreign meddling and other factors, Korea has been subject to exploitation and manipulation for centuries. Japan was one nation that looked toward Korea for such exploitation, hitting its epoch during the Second World War. A result of centuries of picking on the Koreans, as well as simply being of different ethnic groups and cultures, is a legacy within Japan that looks at Koreans as inferior. From there can come a raised eyebrow from Koreans toward the Japanese.

If a Korean resides in Japan, this human can perhaps find themselves subject to institutional oppression and cultural hang-ups. They may find themselves oppressed in both overt and covert ways. If, for example, this Korean were to apply for a job, they do so knowing, or at least suspecting, that a Japanese applicant is more likely to win the job, for no reason greater than simply being Japanese in Japan. The Japanese, in Japan, are the dominate race, and the institutions reflect and support the perceived superiority of that dominate race, at the expense of others. The term for these experiences is racism.

Korean Racism
Obvious racism in Korea

In this broader view, the Korean in Japan is not the racist, whether or not they too harbour resentment or other unpleasant attitudes toward the Japanese around them. The racist in this scenario is the Japanese culture and society, the superior status of it at the expense of others, and those who reflect those views upon Koreans. This is a learned status and corresponding attitude. It is from their natural history as well as their exploitative history of conquest, and the legacy of those histories, building up the institutional and cultural roadblocks for equal opportunity and fair treatment of Koreans within Japan. This reality neither says nor suggests the Japanese are bad humans. In fact, the roles are reversed within Korea. However, because the Korean within Japan does not hold the keys to institutional power and cannot, on their own, widely influence ingrained Japanese cultural views of superiority, they cannot oppress the Japanese society while within it. For this reason, no matter how poor a view this Korean in Japan may carry toward the Japanese around them, they cannot be racist. Certainly prejudice. Perhaps ethnocentric. If without superiority and the privileged power to oppress broadly, Koreans, as a whole, within Japan, cannot be racist toward the Japanese.

If our Korean example were to move to the United States, they would remain subject to institutional racism, as they did in Japan. If our Japanese example, racist in Japan toward Koreans, were also to move to the United States, they would cease being racist. If they retain poor attitudes of Koreans for no reasons beyond they being Korean, they will remain prejudice and perhaps ethnocentric toward them. However, this Japanese example would fall into the same category as the Korean did while within Japan, for they, within the United States, are also subject to social and institutional barriers. Owing to their ethnic and cultural difference from and a perceived inferiority to the privileged power structure within the United States, they find themselves relegated to the same inferior social status as the Korean did while within Japan, subjected to all the barriers and racial attitudes any other Asian within the United States are.

Let us consider the African American

For the American reader, the next stuff should be old hat. It may be harder for the American to wrap their head around the Korean/Japanese point, but the systematic oppression, exploitation, and appropriation of the African American and their culture should be obvious to any American, and thus does not need explanation. However our readers come from all over, so it may help to review this for them. Additionally, and unfortunately, it seems, from top to bottom, the United States is a nation riddled with knuckle dragging buffoons. Most of this group hails from the dominate culture, ruled by the so-called Caucasian, also referred to simply as white. They do find allies in other groups, from African Americans who have internalised white racism, projecting it upon their own, or from other groups who likewise internalise white racism and project it upon the African American.

Walking billboards of one of the greatest stains on human history will not bring good things within a nation where the perpetrating culture has yet to come fully to terms with their history.

The reason those of African descent are in the United States is that they are, and serve as every day reminders of, the legacy of slavery there. Yes, there have certainly been many immigrants since, but when considering the context of this post, I refer to those bequeathing upon the world jazz and the blues. Regardless, an African immigrant in the United States is subject to many of the same barriers as the descendant of a slave. Walking billboards of one of the greatest stains on human history will not bring good things within a nation where the perpetrating culture has yet to come fully to terms with their history.

For hundreds of years slaves were not people, they were property. During the centuries when imported Africans were the property of European colonialists and later, citizens of and immigrants to a new nation, they were not part of the process of building personal wealth and creating opportunity for their families. Those who gained freedom during this time worked hard to end the institution, but there was so much concentrated wealth within it, that the effort was akin to abolishing Wall Street today. Perseverance and the moral high ground, along with some strong allies they successfully cultivated, helped push the issue to the forefront of public debate. The opposition from entrenched interests of concentrated wealth helped inaugurate a great Civil War, of which the aim of abolition achieved preeminent status. Today, many white Americans justly take a measure of pride in their ancestral effort at abolition, though some feel that was enough. Often forgotten, save perhaps for Frederick Douglass, are the many who were not white, risking all to make it happen while those white ancestors were creating, maintaining, and protecting the institution in the first place. Furthermore, thanks from the African American has been given, as it was freed slaves in Charleston, South Carolina, who helped create the tradition that became the Memorial Day holiday, remembering those who came before them, and honouring the Union soldiers who gave life and limb for their emancipation.

A brief bit on Jim Crow

Following emancipation was an era called Reconstruction. The aim was to integrate the mass of freed slaves into the economy and society as citizens, equal to their white counterparts. After President Grant, however, this effort collapsed. Southern governments begin re-creating a form of slavery or second-class citizenship through what became known as the Jim Crow era. African Americans, free on paper, could not vote as equals, could not buy property wherever they chose, nor freely start businesses, and an assortment of other limitations. Laws were enacted or changed, and African Americans found themselves arrested for all sorts of nonsense and petty crimes, while sentenced via kangaroo courts to long prison sentences. Permanently removed was their right to vote, even after completing their sentences. While prisoners, they were effectively slaves once more, serving on plantations or as free labour for other projects.

Because of this institutional discrimination, African Americans were isolated into particular neighbourhoods, and those neighbourhoods had little economic value simply because African Americans dominated them. African Americans could not compete fairly for jobs, nor could they secure loans for school, assuming they achieved admission. Permitting all of this was their lack of representation in government.

It took a long time of great struggle to resist and then begin tearing down these Jim Crow laws. The Civil War ended in 1865, yet African Americans could not freely vote everywhere until 1965. They would not gain the privilege of a loan and the liberty to purchase property anywhere of their choosing until over one-hundred years after their emancipation. Many African Americans have done rather well since then, but it remains unreasonable to expect African Americans on the whole, essentially locked out of the mainstream economy until the nineteen-sixties, to create a legacy of inheritable wealth along with the opportunity and privilege that comes with it, all in a period of less than fifty years. Some of those within an institutionally oppressed group, without genuine equality of opportunity or education, artificially isolated and cut off from the mainstream economy from a continued, multi-generational legacy, may seek cheap forms of temporary escape, perhaps find alternative ways to get by, or otherwise react to events in ways that may strike some as counter-productive.

You get an acre! You can an acre! You too get one!

It may help to remember that white Americans received land, lots of land, free. It was land either bought or stolen from Native Americans or Mexicans by the state or federal government – from the East Coast all the way to the West Coast. Although, you, the reader, if you are a multi-generation white American, may not even know about it within your family history. It is very likely someone, somewhere along the line, received either a big chuck of free land, or highly subsidised land, and used it to build wealth. They may have sold it off to an oil company, using the proceeds to send kids to college or start a business. Who knows what, but if you are white and your family has been in the United States for a long time, this or a similar scenario is extremely likely. You may consider it the Original Government Handout. African Americans did not receive such an enormous privilege.

The reality today

Today we have some families that have emerged from this legacy and are doing rather well. Many are sons and daughters of immigrants rather than descendants of slaves. Regardless, we can find successes everywhere. Policy attempts at correcting a legacy of injustice helped many, such as Affirmative Action programmes, which targets helping women and people of colour achieve parity in college admissions, or employment, and elsewhere. However, for the African American, fifty years to break out of centuries of institutional oppression, especially when institutional and societal barriers remain, is not a reasonable amount of time.

Ferguson, Missouri, is not some weird Magical Mystery Place. There are Ferguson's all across the United States.

For example, many of the former Confederate States began stripping felons, for life, of their right to vote. This then spread from there to other parts of the nation. Still, to this day, some of these states still strip the right for life. Others require an affirmative request from the former parolee to have their right restored. Remember that voting is a right, not a privilege. A felon can still get the privilege of a drivers license restored, but not the right to vote. Readers should all be well aware, especially after recent events in Ferguson, Missouri and Baltimore, Maryland, that African American communities receive far more policing than others receive, and, as the Justice Department learned, they receive citations for everything under the sun, operating as revenue mares for city government. For one example, the Justice Department discovered that of the 21,000 residents of Ferguson, over 16,000 had warrants for petty offences. Ferguson, Missouri, is not some weird Magical Mystery Place. There are Ferguson's all across the United States.

Black Lives Matter

The shootings and deaths of Africans Americans at the hands of vigilante's and law enforcement have made their way into the popular news media. What were once local stories, or worse, minor and unreported outside police blotters, have found some time recently in the national limelight. Springing out of this attention is the slogan and corresponding movement dubbed "Black Lives Matter". A common rebuttal is that all lives matter. This is a true statement. However, it misses the entire point, while also being so blatantly apparent it does not merit mention. The issue is that there appears to be, supported by a litany of research and testimonials, a disregard for black lives. This should be an unchallenged concept and the slogan be freely expressed without questioning it. I am not an African American human, owing to my catness, so I am unqualified to comment on most of these things; however, I am also not a space cadet. If you are a white American, you too can join me. Without the lived experience of visually apparent blackness in the United States, neither the white American nor I can effectively and accurately relate, sympathise, empathise, nor ever fully appreciate and understand the experience. The last thing we must do, when approaching any humans of colour, is to downplay or disregard their lived experiences and earned perspectives. The slogan resonates for a reason – whether you understand why is irrelevant.

If you are a white person, your primary objective, if you ever find yourself in conversation with a human of colour on the issue of Black Lives Matter, or similar issues, or while reading the comments somewhere and feeling the itch to reply, is one funky Latin word: acquiesce. None who is not a human of colour with lived experience should lead a discussion on this. You may opine, to be sure, and accept any consequences from doing so, but you will not be the authority on the subject. I recognise the contradiction and my corresponding failure, though I accept the consequences. Nevertheless, I will hope humans of colour reading this will write me off as a cat, providing a most generous pass when and where I screw up.

How about this Reverse Racism thing

Caucasians
Sponsored by the Caucasians!

Let us imagine a scenario. You work at an outlet retail store in a community dominated by humans of colour. You are white and today you are the cashier. At the register next to you is an African American co-worker. Both of you are checking out long lines of customers; it is a busy day. The store policy requires that you, the cashier, must request a photo ID from anyone paying with a credit card. Therefore, you and your African American co-worker are making this request of each customer paying with plastic. In front of you appears an older woman of colour, who places her items upon the counter. You ring her up, and she hands you a credit card. Following the store policy, you ask for her photo ID. She looks at you, and in an accusatory and annoyed tone, asks "Why? Because I'm black?"

Dum Dum Dummm

You have checked out many customers today. Half were black, a third were Latinos, some were Asian, and some were white. You asked every one of those presenting you a credit card for their photo ID. Your African American co-worker, standing right next to you, has done the same. You know your co-worker would have asked for your accusing customers' photo ID if she were in that line. You may find yourself thinking that this customer is asking you her question because you are white. You think that she would not ask this of your African American co-worker. Perhaps you are right. You may then think her inquiry reveals her racism! Alas, it is reverse racism!

You may think this, but you would be wrong. There is, in fact, only one correct answer to her inquiry. That answer is "Yes". However, if you are smart, and seek to avoid a battle you will lose, in spite of offering the correct answer, you will present a different answer. Instead, you might go with a half-truth answer: "No, ma'am. I ask every customer paying with a credit card for their photo ID, for it is our company policy." Be sure to smile.

The Flip side of this

Readers of colour in the United States likely already know why the correct answer is "Yes". For the rest of you, I will use another scenario to help illustrate the case. Let us now pretend you are a white male, wearing a nice, fashionable ensemble, and are shopping at a boutique menswear store in an upscale suburb. There is not a person of colour, or even a poor person, seen within a twenty-mile radius. You select your items, approach the clerk, and they ring you up. You hand over your credit card, pay, and go about your business. You may not have even noticed the clerk failing to ask for your photo ID, in spite of you writing on the back of it "Ask for I.D."

The reason why the store, in the first scenario, has the photo ID policy is that it is not a sufficiently affluent (a common euphemism for white) community and is in a neighbourhood filled with humans of colour. The policy you are following is there because that customer is black. Therefore, the correct answer to her inquiry is "Yes." Certainly, you were not personally asking her for her photo ID because she is black. You are indeed following company policy. Racist company policy. This makes your black co-worker an agent of racism, as she is imposing racist company policy upon customers. This leads her, unwittingly, into an alliance with white racism, and her obligation from her position to reflect that oppression upon her own.

If, however, you are the clerk at the other store, and the next customer is an African American attempting to pay with a credit card, and you ask for their photo ID, then you, personally, are the racist. You are white, in the United States, and imposing upon them something you otherwise did not with the previous fashionable white customer. Your views reflect personal racism, whether the store has a similar ID policy or not, because you are not asking everyone, but rather, only asking humans of colour. In this case, you are the oppressive one and using policy, if it exists, as your cover.

One may say the outlet retail store has the ID policy because it is subject to more in-person credit card fraud than the upscale menswear store. Though dubious, if so, it would perhaps only be by volume. Many more shop there in a given day, but the numbers using a stolen or counterfeit credit card in person at a retail store is nil. It is, statistically speaking, far more likely that the fashionable white guy is the one committing in-person credit card fraud, because it is easier to commit in-person fraud if you are white in the United States, especially if fashionable and shopping at a high-end store.

Let us pull back from the specific

Reverse racism is myth in the United States because African Americans and other minorities do not systematically and institutionally oppress white Americans. Like the Korean earlier, it might be possible for our Japanese example to be racist toward a white person... in Japan. However, it does not work the other way around. In the United States, white people, and particularly the white male, may walk around freely, with heads held high, at the expense of women and people of color. The white person is the standard by which all others are judged and compared. They are culturally and institutionally superior to all others. The African American, Latino, et cetera, are those inferior, suspected, and observed. This is the default position for them, and foreign for the white person. The black person is the one generically feared, and a result of this is the shootings now more widely reported. It is an irrational fear, rooted in prejudice, and a key reason why some are motivated to remind people that black lives matter too.

There is a mob publicly threatening the police

Bundy Protester
A Protester Takes Aim at Law Enforcement

Let us consider, not long ago, a widely reported event at a ranch in Nevada. A rancher was grazing his cattle on public land and refusing to pay for the use of and damage to that land. He got away with this for a few decades, until federal authorities decided finally to crack down. In response, he rallied many armed people to join him and defend his ranch wallet from law enforcement officers sent there. A standoff ensued, with protesters pointing loaded, high-powered rifles at law enforcement officers. Many made overt threats to shoot and kill law enforcement. These people, in some prominent media circles, and in spite of an initiating crime committed, where hailed as heroes fighting for their rights. After some days, law enforcement backed off, and this armed mob won a reprieve for the freeloading rancher.

Ferguson Protester
Law Enforcement Takes Aim at a Protester

Shortly after this event, protests erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, resulting from the shooting death of a teenager at the hands of law enforcement. In contrast to the ranch, a massive, militarised police force, with no intent of backing down, arriving in armoured vehicles and using belt-fed automatic firearms pointed toward protesters, directly confronted and dispersed these protesters. They did so by firing tear gas, rubber bullets, and so on, while arresting many. I should note there was no initiating crime on the part of the protesters. Where the rancher was blatantly doing something illegal and thumbing his nose at the authorities, amassing a large group of supporters pointing loaded weapons at law enforcement, all with overt threats of violence against those authorities, the protesters of Ferguson were unarmed and peacefully exercising a constitutional right. Yet some media, particularly those who had praised the law-breaker in Nevada and his law enforcement threatening supporters, presented the protesters in Missouri as thugs, looters, criminals, et al.

A key difference in these events is the race of those involved. If you are unfamiliar with the events in Nevada and those in Missouri, and are unable to discern the two from the included photos, I shall leave it to you to guess wildly as to which was which. Okay that was a very good guess! The comparison of these events serve as a case study of institutional racism, white privilege, and are a blatant example of racism in media, if ever there was one.

How can reverse racism exist in such a place

I find it shocking that African Americans put up with white Americans as much as they do.

Speaking of white privilege, it is a commonly referenced phrase and worth reviewing. The point earlier noting all other Americans are judged and compared against white Americans is a critical component of white privilege. A mob may assemble, point firearms at law enforcement and overtly threaten to kill them, without meeting armoured cars and tear gas. In fact, they may do so without even facing arrest. They may do so and receive praise in the media. Yet we need not get so extreme in these examples. Clerks ask people of colour for a photo ID whereas the white person often skips the hassle. People of colour often find themselves followed in the department store, while the white person is not an assumed shoplifter. People of colour find themselves asked extraordinarily stupid and racist questions, while the white person doing the asking remains freely ignorant of their privilege and racism. So here we are with a black person not liking a white person, because they are, well, a white person. Is it not possible the sour feelings are rooted in that white person being a racist, and the black person just got sick of it? Frankly, I find it shocking that African Americans put up with white Americans as much as they do.

All white Americans are racists

There are reasons, of course. I stated earlier that, in spite of racism toward Koreans in Japan, the Japanese are not bad people. It is the same in the United States. If you are a white person, you benefit from unearned privilege at the expense of others every single day. It is coming at the expense of those who do not receive it; otherwise, it would not be a privilege. The systematic, generational, and institutionalised oppression of communities of colour have artificially created a dominating culture, standard, wealth, and so on. The privilege afforded to white Americans, coming at the expense of others, means the white person, regardless of ideals, views, attitudes, and so on, are racists. They might not personally be prejudice nor ethnocentric. They may not have a racist bone in their body (though that is highly unlikely). They are racists, regardless, until there is no longer an institutionalized system that benefits them based solely on their race alone. There cannot be reverse-racism when every single human in one camp, by default, are already the racists – at birth.

I am not a racist!

It sucks, I agree. Similar to alcoholism, the first step toward breaking down a racist system is first to admit you are a racist. How can you tell? Are you in the United States? Yes? Do you identify as white? Yes? Congratulations, you are a racist. Though, remember, you are not a bad person (I hope). Rather than asserting you are not a racist, when indeed you are, and especially when you at some point will follow the assertion by saying or expressing a racist thought or attitude, much to the chagrin of, yet enormous graciousness and forgiveness from, your black friend, you would do much better to take the first step.

Similar to alcoholism, the first step toward breaking down a racist system is first to admit you are a racist.

Once you have identified there is a problem, and your denial was part of what sustains that problem, you must also remember it is not just white and black. It is white and everyone else. Consider some common matters. This may be hard to swallow, but Asians can indeed drive and their first and only language may very well indeed be English. Native Americans are not redskins, no matter how it is spun. Latinos are not illegals. African Americans are not cats, so do not bother asking, for the answer is obvious; you cannot touch their hair. And so on. Everyone not white faces oppression in overt and covert ways, and you, if a white person, reinforce it through held prejudices, biases, and stereotypes. This helps ensure a sustained culture of institutional racism. Sure, a Latino may harbour prejudice toward African Americans, but if you are white, fixing that one instance is not your job right now. You have bigger fish to fry. You are the standard all others are judged and compared, therefore you can help fix the over all problem of the prejudices of others by fixing the standards.

Under no circumstances are you, the white person, to play the race card, especially by claiming victimhood of reverse racism. I have hopefully demonstrated that is does not exist, and, if you think about it, it is a racist notion. Also, do not accuse a human of colour of playing the race card, which itself is playing the race card. Besides, they are likely not playing. Lived experience and perspective is not a game. If your first thought is that of the race card, stop, take a breath and consider what they might be highlighting. Perhaps, if it may help, consider the shopper I mentioned earlier.

Other things you can do

The New Jim Crow
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

Purristan cannot end racism in the United States, or the world. For one, we are not Americans. Also, who listens to their cat? If you are a human of colour, there really is not much you can do either, for a similar reason. The conversation on race has been occurring within communities of colour for ages. What the conversation always lacks are white people, en mass, earnestly approaching it with open minds. If you are not an American, but live in a nation that has oppressed minorities, you too can make your admission and begin the process of changing the standards within your society. There is no doubt my words here today will do little on their own on these matters. However, there is an enormous amount of material out there, written by humans much smarter than this cat, and critically, people of colour, on these very topics. These are the voices you, regardless of race, should listen to – not mine. The primary point I have tried to address is the myth of reverse racism and what racism actually is, being distinct from prejudice and other factors. If you are one who has never explored this topic, and particularly if you are a member of the dominate culture in your society, I strongly encourage you to look toward the true experts and thought leaders from all the communities of colour within your society. Surely, you have a black friend. I hope that you have a Latino friend. If not, maybe there is at least one at your place of work. Take that wonderful gift and ask them for a recommendation of who to read. Remember also, acquiescence. This is the word of the day. Well, every day. Lastly, present your inquiry as your own idea; for Heaven's sake do not admit you are following a request from a cat.

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