“Blacks and Latinos can be Racist, too!” Why Reverse-Racism doesn’t exist

“My words hurt them. My sword cut them. But when they attacked, they did so with chains found in words, words on papers that read law. And I didn’t have weapons to fight words on a paper. I could kill, but they could erase me from existence with what seemed nothing.” 

While I was waiting at the airport in Santiago, Chile, I met two white male US citizens from Los Angeles. I can’t recall how we started speaking, but we did, and they were recounting to me the amazing time they had had in South America. Suddenly, one of them said “I’m just happy people here aren’t as racist here as in LA.” Confused and curious, I asked him to explain. He continued, “well, now you just have all these groups of Blacks and Latinos hating white people. People have been racist against me back in LA…” and he went on. I rolled my eyes, face-palmed, and was about to go off when we were called to board the plane, denying me the opportunity to tell them why people of color can’t be racist.

This wasn’t the first time I have met a white person who claims to have been the victim of racism, or better said, reverse racism. Time and time again I hear a white person complain how they’ve been victimized, or sometimes how they’ve been oppressed because of something like affirmative action, which denied them access to a prestigious program or into a University of their choice. Let me explain right now why reverse racism doesn’t exist.

First, I want to clarify that Racism isn’t a character trait or individual behavior. Racism is a paradigm, a social construct which works as a system of selective oppression. In a nutshell, Racism is

Racial Prejudice/Discrimination + Systemic/Institutional Power 

To say that people of color can be racist is to deny the existence of an institutional power imbalance, either social or legal, within the United States. That power imbalance is illustrated in access to education, poverty, health care, or with legal rights such as voting, or the disproportionate incarceration of men of color, among several other inequalities. This systemic oppression occurs in one direction – where people of color, as a group, are disenfranchised, while the other group, white people, are privileged.

People of color can be prejudiced toward white people, everyone has their own prejudices, including me. But that doesn’t constitute racism, because people of color do not have the structural power to oppress white people as a group. Racism isn’t that one KKK member calling a black person “nigger”, Racism is the use of structural power to create racial inequality. When a person of color calls a white person “cracker”, as Trayvon Martin supposedly did to George Zimmerman, it doesn’t constitute racism because people of color don’t have any systemic or institutional power to oppress white people.

I can insult and hurt a white person because of racial prejudice, but there is a difference between insulting/hurting someone (which should never happen in the first place) and oppressing an entire group of people. I can create a thousand racial slurs for white people, but again, that is racial prejudice, not racism, because there is no system in place actively creating policy or societal norms and practices that are collectively disenfranchising white people because of the color of their skin. And this reverse racism card is heard all the time in colleges throughout. When I hear white people complain about how they don’t have a “white history month” or an “anglo heritage club” but theres a Latino History Month, or an African American Club, I want to go crazy. You have a white history month, matter of fact, you have a white history day – everyday. You don’t need a club because every institution in this country was fashioned for you, not for me. In fact, it was fashioned only for you and precautions were taken to purposely keep me out. To be angry at your desire to have a “white club” isn’t me being racist, its me telling you to wake up and realize that regardless of Obama being in the White House, we’re not in Post-Racial Color Blind ‘Murica.

So, no white boy, some people, including myself, are just really pissed off and calling you a cracker because we’ve been colonized, enslaved, disenfranchised, abused, and purposely oppressed because of the color of my skin – I’m not calling you cracker because I’m racist. Plus, in order to be racist, I need to be white first. That’s a privilege afforded to you, not me. Even if I wanted to oppress you, I wouldn’t be able to anyways.

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11 thoughts on ““Blacks and Latinos can be Racist, too!” Why Reverse-Racism doesn’t exist”

  1. Tell it, Nico! Love this line: “You have a white history month, matter of fact, you have a white history day – everyday. You don’t need a club because every institution in this country was fashioned for you, not for me.”

  2. So, you have qualified racism to require oppression to be valid? If an Asian person hates a Latin person because you the color of their skin, that is the classic definition of racism, whether one is oppressed or not, does not factor into someone being hated because of the pigment of their skin or ethnic background. White privilege exists, there is no denying that, but if you are prejudiced to someone based on their race, you are racist. Saying anything different is just trying to skew the meaning of the word.

    1. I’m saying that is racial prejudice, not racism. The reason being, aside from the ones I’ve already mentioned, is because racism does not exists as a singularity, but must be understood within the context of its intersection, and one of those, perhaps the most important, is white privilege. If we quantify racism as the sole action of one individual mistreating another individual because of skin is also to say that racism, now a days, had been significantly reduced in the last 50 years, and has nothing to do with laws or institutions. According to you, racism is just calling someone a racial slur. So, by that logic, racism is almost gone. We don’t hear the word nigger as much (or wigger/cracker) which must mean that racism is slowly but surely dying. Well, what about the mass incarceration of men of color? What of the still widening gap between people of color and their white counterparts. I can go on, but its clear that racism is not, and cannot, just be one person insulting another. Because if thats all gone, and lets make a hypothetical right now that is is, we can’t be honest with ourselves in saying that racism is dead while there still exists systematic inequality, which is still based on skin color? What would you call it?

  3. I’m saying that is racial prejudice, not racism. The reason being, aside from the ones I’ve already mentioned, is because racism does not exists as a singularity, but must be understood within the context of its intersection, and one of those, perhaps the most important, is white privilege. If we quantify racism as the sole action of one individual mistreating another individual because of skin is also to say that racism, now a days, had been significantly reduced in the last 50 years, and has nothing to do with laws or institutions. According to you, racism is just calling someone a racial slur. So, by that logic, racism is almost gone. We don’t hear the word nigger as much (or wigger/cracker) which must mean that racism is slowly but surely dying. Well, what about the mass incarceration of men of color? What of the still widening gap between people of color and their white counterparts. I can go on, but its clear that racism is not, and cannot, just be one person insulting another. Because if thats all gone, and lets make a hypothetical right now that is is, we can’t be honest with ourselves in saying that racism is dead while there still exists systematic inequality, which is still based on skin color? What would you call it?

  4. I think you may be missing my point. Racism is a prejudice based on race. That is the definition of racism. White privilege is an effect of racism, oppression can be motivated by racism, neither are a defining factor of racism. You hate, discriminate, are prejudiced against someone due to their race, you are a racist. The fact that white privlage exists is proof that racism exists. Please don’t put words in my mouth or reduce my argument to the simplified example I chose to get my point across.

    1. And thus, the framework I propose. I recognize racial prejudice. But if, as you say, anyone can be a racist, including people of color, then certain other realities must be also true. If there is white privilege, then there must be black privilege. Oh, but there is not such thing. As I mention, white people have the structural power to oppress, whereas people of color do not. Or as you say in your next comment – reverse racism is a bs concept. What? That claim is made by white people, to claim reverse racism, and yet you say it doesn’t exist. This framework I propose is to help understand our “colorblind” institutions, and how we have moved from overt to covert racism.

      1. Just because someone makes a claim of something existing doesn’t make it so. Reverse racism is a false concept, in my opinion.
        Once again a racial privilege is a result of racism, not a defining factor, not does it need to exist to prove racism is real. And if you feel you must define racial privilege to races, look east, particularly Asia. Also take a look at the racism issues present in Africa.
        You seem to have a large issue with allowing any race besides whites to be labeled as racist. This is what particularly bothers me. Racism is not an exclusive concept to one group of people. It is a world wide issue and needs to be treated as such.

      2. First, I am discussing racism in the context of the US, not in the context if any other region or country in the world. Everywhere has its own type of race relations, but in the case of the US, race has its direction.

        As to your question. People of color cannot be racist. They can be racially prejudice toward white people, as can white people, or not. White people can also lack racial prejudice, however, when it comes to systemic inequalities in our country, race, as a system (NOT a character trait or individual behavior) goes one direction, not two (or several). White people, in the US, are benefactors of this structure, and thus they are also part of its perpetuation, both as a person who uses a racial slur or the person who does not but does not acknowledge their own inherent privilege. I am Latino, a person of color. I can be racially prejudice, but my existing or my use of a racial slur is not contributing to a power structure that is oppressive, because I do not have, along with my brothers and sisters, to systematically do so. Its like saying men can be victims of sexism. They cannot, because we live in a male dominated patriarchal society, and by men claiming victimhood, we make illegitimate the oppression women experience.

      3. I’m just going to simplify this, do you honestly believe that only a race that occupies the majority of a power structure is capable of being racist? That any person in a race that does not occupy said power structure is no longer guilty of racism?

  5. If it helps to clarify, my objection is that you should not be adding to the definition of racism. The points you make are better listed under effects of racism. And yes, reverse racism is a bullshit concept.

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