*Important Note: This paper was written in response to a published article for GSU’s, The Signal, bi-weekly news paper in November 2011. Find it here: http://www.gsusignal.com/opinions/racism-is-absurd-but-reverse-racism-is-ok
It has been brought to my attention that certain individuals, not just the author, feel that they have experienced what they refer to as “reverse racism. I want to address this issue by discussing the historical context of racism and differentiate it from feelings of prejudice. To be clear, I am neither disregarding personal feelings of racial prejudice, nor am I disregarding the right to a “freedom of speech.” Everyone should be able to vocalize their opinions of how they may feel in an open, honest, and direct fashion. To be clear, I do not believe any of the diversity student organizations here at Georgia State exclude any students from joining their group in any overt or covert manner. As a fourth-year member and the current student president of a black & queer-focused student organization at Georgia State, BlackOUT, I have had my own accounts of people questioning why BlackOUT should exist, even though there is a general queer student organization all ready present here at Georgia State. However, that is not my issue either. My issue mainly lies in the lack of knowledge, understanding, objectivity, and fundamental support to state such an argument about racism without looking at its historical and concurrent functioning in a society built off of racial disparity.
It is important that many do not confuse what racism is and how it functions, with racial prejudice. Racism embodies a socialized and politicized system of oppression that keeps minorities (generally people of color) at a greater distance from accessing economic and educational advancement. By the definition proposed in the article I’m responding to, “reverse racism is “a term that describes the outcome of a group of people that try to protect a minority group so aggressively that it actually leads to hypocrisy.” This term “reverse racism” cannot compare to the years of complete desolation, segregation, and discrimination endured by minority groups such as African Americans, Latin Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans. Throughout time, these groups have faced, and continue to face, racialized inequalities because of legal discrimination in the past.
For clarity, I am not interested in making this a black or white issue. Also, I’m not interested in the pleading for the acceptance of diversity student groups on college campuses, for I believe that these groups all have a common purpose and a human right exist. From different point of views, these social groups bring about much needed awareness and education about their own struggles and accomplishments. Moreover, “reverse racism” is presumably to be referring to not exactly the white race, but to those who connect with the affirmation of white privilege. Racism, as it stands today, is as invisible as white privilege. In relation to racism, white privilege also consists of power and entitlement over others. One might acknowledge the existence of racism, but fail to be held accountable when she or he uses it at the expense of others. Therefore, I am not surprised that people who acquire white privilege feel the need to protect it, and the feeling of being discriminated against when they cannot attain that privilege. Besides, we cannot ignore the histories in which constitute people of color the need to unite in order to fight against racial, political, and social inequality.
Additionally, it is quite unfortunate that many can only recognize racism as it occurred during enslavement, three-hundred years ago. Racism has been, and still is, institutionalized in U.S. culture, even after the disassembling of Jim Crow laws in the late 1960s. Many of those who access their white privilege are unable to recognize the contemporary presence of racism, for it is so embedded into their own imagination of a just world. They fail to realize that it took forty-four years after those racist laws for a 44th president, who was non-white, to be elected. Let’s face the facts. We are still living in world where a vast number of people of color continue to face enslavement by both the government’s legal and penal system. According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics, Hispanics comprise of 20.6% of the incarcerated population, and African Americans are comprised of 39.4% of the incarcerated population. This means that 60% of people of color are disproportionately incarcerated.
We are still living in a society where black women and other women of color are being sterilized because they are seen as menaces to society: unwanted, hypersexual, and needing to be controlled. We are living in a time where our bodies continue to be policed, fetishized, and demonized by not only the government, but by the general public and mass media, too. We are living in a system where incarcerated women of color are still hand-cuffed and shackled by their hands, ankles, and even their bellies while giving birth to their babies. This is the unspoken, modern-day racism that is being exercised through and faced by people of color across the nation. Thus, it should be clear that it does not mean racism is a thing of the past. It has only been repositioned.
As a final point, it should be understood that the diversity student groups on college campuses are much more than the “FREE PIZZA” flyers you see in the hallways of buildings, in school emails, or that you inadvertently see on Facebook. Therefore, I challenge any and everyone to explore at least one out of the 300 diversity organizations here at Georgia State, if you have not all ready. Groups, such as BlackOUT, are not created to be exclusive. They are meant to gain more support from members who stand by their mission to educate others in order to fight against racial discrimination, criminalization, and other inequalities.
We all should embrace cultural diversity and not see it as a proposed threat. These systems of oppression: racism, classism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and countless others are still co-existing, and must be countered. And as you can see, we still have a ways to go in order for people to understand that they are only profiting from a system that nourishes itself off of the malnutrition of others. Besides, we cannot ignore the histories in which constitute people of color the need to unite in order to fight against racial, political, and social inequality. You support racism when you choose to ignore its existence, question its resistance, and benefit from it. You must deconstruct its functionality, challenge its existence, and educate others on how to stop it, not those who are already doing so.
Author: Angie Cain