Reverse racism? You’re kidding, right?

Very recently, when I was eating my lunch peacefully, I happened to sit next to someone who was talking about their experiences with racism. A white person. They thought the word “white” was a racial slur. “People can be racist towards white people too!”, I heard them say. Haven’t we all heard it before? Sigh. You know what? That kind of nonsense is tiring, played out and incorrect. So let me try to explain why reverse racism isn’t real and why white people need to let that one go.

Let’s start from the beginning. One thing you have to accept is that “a hatred or intolerance of another race” is not the definition of racism. The dictionary is wrong. Get over it. What racism really means, is when intolerance in government laws, attitudes and ideals of a society are ingrained in a culture to the point where patterns of discrimination towards a certain race are considered as normal. If you keep this in mind, you’ll understand that reverse racism doesn’t (and can’t) exist.

In other words: racism (or sexism) is prejudice plus power. People of color can be prejudiced against white people (“Caucasian” doesn’t always mean white). But(!) they can never have power, i.e. a whole system of structured support that backs them. White people often don’t understand how much power they have. Just one white person has more power to do actual harm to a black person than one hundred black people do to that white person.

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When white people complain about reverse racism, they are not complaining about losing their rights. What they are complaining about is losing their privilege. White people have privilege because they benefit from the institutionalized, racial oppression of people of color. The fact that every white person benefits from this continued legacy of racism is called white privilege.

White people can never call someone else racist against them because that “someone else” does not have the power to oppress them. The person has the power to be mean. To hurt feelings. Not to oppress.

That is the key difference. So no, reverse racism is not a real thing. Just like cisphobia, misandry and heterophobia don’t exist. That doesn’t mean that white people can’t face oppression. For instance, a white lesbian can face homophobia and misogyny while a black, straight man can benefit from straight privilege and male privilege. But, once again, white people can’t face oppression based on their race.

When a person of color is mean to you, they are just being mean to you. That’s it. Their entire society is not actively discriminating against and oppressing you. Their society is not one where it is difficult for them to not be racist against you.

But yours is. And you need to accept that.

Written by Chemma Mhallah

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Chemma Mhallah is 19 years old and studies Applied Linguistics. Music and literature are her main interests.