Black People Can’t Be Racist: Or, Reverse Racism Isn’t Real

A year or so ago, I read a couple of articles online that argued that blacks cannot be racist against whites. The links to the articles are here and here, but the basic thesis is that minorities cannot be racist against whites, because white people have been in power for so long in North America. The articles point out that since systemic racism has oppressed blacks and other minorities for so long, only a similar, long-term oppression against whites would actually count as racism. Let me be clear: There is a difference between systemic racism and racism. This post is about racism, not systemic racism.

It only takes an elementary understanding of history to see that racial minorities have been oppressed in North America by whites for centuries. There is indeed still prejudices against blacks and other minorities by whites. However, by looking at the definition of the word “racist”, one should realize that anyone can be be racist against anyone else. The length of time racism has occurred does not determine whether the person is racist or not. 
Racist:

“a person who believes in racism, the doctrine that one’s own racial group is superior or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.” (dictionary.com)

By this definition, any person, of any skin colour or racial group may be racist against any other group. Anyone can be racist. If you don’t believe me (a white male), read what a Hispanic female with a Ph.D. has to say about racism:

“Anybody can espouse racism, regardless of the color of your skin. Anybody can use racist speech and actions to be damaging to others. You can even be racist within your own race (in POC communities people with darker skin are sometimes discriminated against), or against your race as a whole.”

(Mikaela Sifuentes, June 2016)


Another article I read (also from Huffington Post) argued that reverse racism isn’t real. The author, Ali Owens creates an equation to explain what racism is:

No, it’s (reverse racism) not (real) — and here’s why. Look at it as an equation: racism = prejudice + power. While it’s true that anyone can hold a set of prejudices against anyone else, racism specifically implies oppression — and white people as a whole are not oppressed.
Prejudice generalizes; it makes judgments that are often premature or unjust. Racism, on the other hand, is a whole system of oppression — a cultural ideology that begins from a position of privilege.

(Ali Owens, February 2016)

Ali wrote that racism = prejudice + power. This is not true.

Racism =

  1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human racial groups determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to dominate others or that a particular racial group is inferior to the others.
  2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
  3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

Simply stated, racism = prejudice, which is a more accurate equation. The definition does not require the prejudiced and racist person to have power. If this were true, and if racism was prejudice + power, every racial minority in the world would automatically be exempt from being racist. For instance, by this logic, it would be impossible for Hispanics or Asians or Indians (aboriginals) living in the US to be racist against anyone else. It would be impossible for the Dalits (who are members of the lowest caste in India) to be racist against anyone else.

Unfortunately, EVERYONE can be racist, regardless of their skin colour, position of power, or heritage. Like any evil behaviour known to humankind, it is possible for anyone to succumb to feelings of selfishness, hatred, jealousy, bitterness, and prejudice and so on. We must all acknowledge this fact, and reflect on our own behaviour. No one is immune to being a jerk.