Friday, December 12, 2014

There Is No Reverse Racism (or Heterophobia, or Reverse Sexism)

I can hear the heads out there in Interweb-land exploding now. “I’ve been discriminated against for being a___________________ (fill in the blank) man/straight person/white person!”
I believe you. It happens. It has happened to me. That is why laws about discrimination apply across race, gender and sexual orientation.
Sure, it involves prejudice—a preference, and sometimes a preference that can be regarded as unfair.
But racism is prejudice plus power.
Sexism is prejudice plus power.
Homophobia is prejudice plus power.
Classism is prejudice plus power.
Isms like this do not operate in a vacuum. Societies have shared values, and some in a society have more power than others.
An individual person in a group with less power might have more power than some other individuals in that group—for example, Samuel Jackson has more power than Eric Garner.
But if Samuel Jackson had been in the street selling loose cigarettes, the police would not have treated him better.  And if they had, it would be because they recognized him.

Police Brutality: A One Act Play
Officer 1:“Hey, that guy looks like—you know, that actor. From Pulp Fiction.”
Officer 2: “But it can’t be him. He wouldn’t be here selling loosies on the street with no entourage and no Paparazzi in sight.”
Officer 3: “Let’s get this mother effing N-Word off this mother effing street.” [Commence confrontation.]
And Scene.

But why make such a big deal about it? Because racism is systemic, pervasive and powerful.  Garden variety prejudice and discrimination that are not aided and abetted by something so powerful and systemic is fundamentally different.  Calling someone a “reverse racist” for criticizing White people creates a false equivalency. In most cases, the person is not so much a “reverse racist” as observant.

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