There’s ample evidence that racism affects the lives of American minority groups in very concrete ways—from quality of life to life expectancy. Yet in the 21st century, the public is just as likely to hear about so-called reverse racism than it is about the racial oppression people of color have endured in the United States for centuries. As African Americans, Latinos and other minority groups rise to prominence in fields that were traditionally off limits to them, allegations that they are reverse racists, or discriminate against whites, are on the rise. Often these claims are made with little evidence to back them up and serve only to discredit minority public figures as suitable leaders. Prominent people of color such as President Barack Obama, Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Rev. Al Sharpton are just a few of the high-profile minorities who’ve been accused of indulging in reverse racism.
President Accused of Hating White People
Barack Obama has written extensively about his biracial heritage and the fact that he grew up in virtually all-white locales—Hawaii and Indonesia. Born to a white Kansan mother and a black Kenyan father, Obama grew up entirely without his father and, thus, without a major black influence in his life as a child. Obama not only grew up with white family members but also attended predominantly white schools and universities. An old white girlfriend of his recalled that Obama felt inadequate as a black person because of his overwhelmingly white upbringing. It wasn’t until his days as a community organizer on Chicago’s South Side that Obama began to connect with the African-American community. Despite this, conservatives in the spotlight have accused Obama of harboring anti-white sentiments.
In 2009, conservative television personality Glenn Beck said of Obama, “This president has exposed himself, I think, as a guy, over and over and over again, who has a deep-seated hatred for white people, or white culture.” He later added, “This guy is, I believe, a racist.” After a public backlash following these baseless comments, Beck retracted his statement, but that didn’t stop other conservatives from following suit at later dates.
The following year Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) also accused Obama of being a racist. “The president has demonstrated that he has a default mechanism in him that breaks down the side of race on the side that favors the black person,” King said after the president weighed in on a racial profiling case involving black academic Henry Louis Gates and a white police officer in Cambridge, Mass. While Obama initially sided with Gates in this case, that’s not a sign that the president automatically sides with blacks. After all, Obama admitted to being friends with Gates, a fact that conservatives such as King overlooked.
Michelle Obama Subject of Reverse Racist Rumors
Like her husband, Michelle Obama has also been subjected to claims that she’s a reverse racist. In May 2008, just months before Election Day, conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh said that he heard that Michelle Obama was recorded using the offensive term “whitey” at Trinity United Church of Christ. That’s the same church where Obama’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright delivered sermons asking God to “damn America” after 9/11 because of the nation’s history of racial oppression. But the Obama campaign pushed back against Limbaugh’s rumor with an urgency, pointing out on its website that no such tape of Michelle Obama exists because she had never spoken from the pulpit of the church nor had she used the word “whitey.”