When UTMSU posted a photo last week pertaining to “reverse racism”, comments immediately flooded in debating whether or not the term should even exist. However, when I searched the term on Google, one of the first few results displayed was from Urban Dictionary, which began to put doubts in my head.
If being racist towards Caucasians existed, shouldn’t it just be termed racism? Why coin a new term for it?
When UTMSU posted a definition of the term up on their Facebook page, it caused a lot of controversy. Most of the outrage and backlash was at how callous it was to believe that reverse racism—a term used to describe acts of racism against people who belong to the racial majority—didn’t exist.
When asked about her views on it, Diala Saab, a second-year psychology major, said, “If someone discriminates against someone [else] because of their race, it’s racism,” regardless of how you want to label it. “Society shouldn’t be a jigsaw puzzle where pieces of human[kind] are acknowledged to be more dominant than others.”
Sherry Ghaly, a third-year psychology major who wrote the definition for UTMSU, didn’t believe it was so simple. “[The term] isn’t meant to attack whites at all. It’s simply stating that white people are given privileges in society not afforded to people of colour,” she says.
“Racism is fundamentally tied to the notion of dominance and power, and people of colour do not have this position in society; only white people can truly be racist,” Ghaly added.
In other words, a minority group, such as Africans or North Americans who have had their history embedded in slavery and oppression, cannot reproduce the kind of racism that exists at a kind of structural and institutional level that affects their historic oppressor, i.e. a majority group, Caucasians.
“When people of colour are discriminatory in North America, it’s [not as significant]—we do not have the political, social, or economic clout to influence policies,” she said, adding that racism committed by white people can impact the lives of people of colour “on a very grand scale”.
According to this view of racism, one form of it is an institution and the other is personal. When a majority group is insulted, it does not affect them the same way it affects those who are a minority. When a minority group is stereotyped and insulted through years of a system that has been put into place, the result is a lack of basic rights, and reduced access to jobs, benefits, and much more.
We can get lost in the technicalities behind the phrase “reverse racism” but one thing is for sure: racism has become a part of everyday lingo, but behind the six-letter word is a history that affects people today, individually and collectively. It isn’t tangible, but it is something we can see all around us.