White privilege and the concept of “reverse racism” are two topics that are heavily discussed on the Internet. On forums like Reddit and Tumblr, many white people recall anecdotes of discrimination. Often, they use the term “racism” to describe their experiences, but in actuality, they aren’t truly experiencing racism – they are failing to acknowledge their own white privilege.
In America, we are taught that we “overcame” racism in the 1960s with the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr. We hear his iconic “I have a dream” speech, and our teachers wipe the dust off their proverbial hands and move on to the next topic. This inadequate teaching about the history of racism in the United States is a key part of the problem and a downfall for our education.
The youth in many schools are taught history from a white, cisgendered and patriarchal perspective. Too often, we are told that there is no such thing as racism and that we are all equal, and though this is optimistic, it is a false assumption.
WHAT IS RACISM?
Terms like “reverse racism” or “racism toward Caucasians,” are expressions repeatedly used by white people to explain the form of discrimination that they experience. They use these terms because of the lack of discussion and exploration of what racism is.
In many disciplines, racism is viewed as a power structure where the oppressor stifles and suppresses a minority. It is an ideology that breeds hatred against a minority based on skin color and a history of negative stereotypes.
Racism has led to serious counts of violence, and it indicates a lack of opportunity and resources available to an oppressed population. Racism only works when the oppressor does the oppressing, and white people have always been the oppressor.
Veritably, white people have always had many privileges simply because of their skin color. White privilege is the fact that a Caucasian man can walk around a retail store and not have people watch him as he shops.
White privilege is the fact that a white couple can find and purchase a home in any neighborhood they want. White privilege is the fact that people don’t lock their car doors when a white person walks by on the street. It is the fact that people almost never make fun of a white person’s name, and they do not face the social and economic disadvantages of being a minority.
Many people argue that “white” is a race, and therefore white people can also be oppressed. They may argue that we are all the same and that all are equally prone to racism constituted from discrimination based on skin color. It is also easy to say it was their “white” ancestors who committed heinous crimes as part of the history of colonialism and imperialism, and therefore, they shouldn’t have to suffer for their ancestors’ behavior.
REVERSE RACISM IS WRONG
While these arguments sound valid, we must elevate the conversation around this issue. The history of violence and discrimination against white people is nothing compared to the suffering of the people of color in our country. When a white person compares his or her experience with the experience of a person of color, it not only derails the conversation, but it implies that the experiences a white person faces are as serious as this extensive history of oppression. Even more, it belittles the misery of someone who experiences real racism.
Not getting jobs based on their race and living in an area where “stop and frisk” or “stand your ground” laws are acceptable are part of our reality and are products of the racist world we live in.
As a white person speaking to other white people, I’m not suggesting that we hate ourselves. White guilt is as pointless as claims of “reverse racism.” However, white people must acknowledge the privileges that they have.
Many of their privileges in life are products of the fact that they are white in this world. By pretending that racism isn’t present, you are contributing to American ignorance. And by comparing your troubles to those who have felt the real pains of racism, you are devaluing their experiences.
It’s a shame that we aren’t taught about the deep nature of racism in our country in school, but in the world we live in today, knowledge and information are accessible everywhere.
As a society, we need to become more educated about the past experiences of the disenfranchised minorities in the United States. We need to realize that racism is still very real and that each one of us has the ability to start and continue the discourse around the awareness of these issues.