Five decades ago the term “reverse racism” would have resulted in a blank stare from most Americans. Then minority groups fought to exercise their full rights and the idea that they could somehow discriminate against whites would've been regarded as absurd. As minorities have made gains over the years, some people argue that not only aren’t they victims of racism but that they also discriminate against whites. This overview of reverse racism outlines which public figures have been accused of resenting whites, whether reverse racism actually exists and why affirmative action programs
have been linked to reverse racism.
In the 21st century, complaints about reverse racism run rampant. In particular, many complain that affirmative action constitutes reverse discrimination. Accordingly several different states have struck down affirmative action policies in state universities, employment and public contracting. Moreover, it has become increasingly popular to accuse people of color of harboring anti-white sentiments. While minorities can exhibit racial prejudice, social progressives argue that they lack the institutional power to actually be reverse racists. In other words, if a lone person of color is prejudiced against whites, they lack the social influence to deny them job, housing and educational opportunities because of it. Given this, liberals typically argue that reverse racism doesn’t actually exist.
While reverse racism is considered a legitimate problem among conservatives, others have a different take. Activist Tim Wise deems reverse discrimination a myth because, “When a group of people has little or no power over you institutionally, they don’t get to define the terms of your existence...” Meanwhile, Washington Post
columnist Eugene Robinson has criticized conservatives for portraying President Barack Obama
as anti-white. “A cynical right-wing propaganda machine is peddling the poisonous fiction that when...minorities reach positions of power, they seek some kind of revenge against whites,” he wrote in 2010. Comedian Bill Maher has called the idea of reverse discrimination “racist” for denying the challenges minorities still face.
Who are the reverse racists? Conservatives such as Iowa Rep. Steve King have suggested that President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney Gen. Eric Holder resent white people. First Lady Michelle Obama, the Supreme Court’s Sonia Sotomayor
and the Rev. Al Sharpton have also been fingered by the right as people of color with anti-white sentiments. While such claims have made numerous news headlines, they remain unproven. In fact, much of the “evidence” used to pinpoint prominent people of color as reverse racists doesn’t exist. Rush Limbaugh, for example, suggested Michelle Obama was caught on tape at the pulpit of Trinity United Church of Christ using the term “whitey.” Not only doesn’t such a tape exist, Michelle Obama has never spoken from Trinity’s pulpit.
The federal government put affirmative action programs into place to level society's playing field. For years, employers and academia denied entry to historically oppressed groups. Affirmative action acts to right these wrongs. But as the United States moves into what’s been described as a post-racial era, many people don’t understand why affirmative action is needed. They argue that institutional racism isn’t as virulent as it once was and that people of color have made significant strides in the U.S. Minority groups no longer need affirmative action, they say. On the other hand, social progressives argue that minorities still face discrimination in employment, education and contracting, making the need for affirmative action essential.