My good friend was away at college when she experienced racism. She was invited to a black frat party when her black roommate told her she wasn't able to go because she was white. She ended up calling me and telling me about the situation. I was extremely disappointed. One, because I didn't understand how a person could have the nerve to tell a peer what they can or cannot do, and two, this was something I least expected. Her school is fairly diverse and she has told me multiple times how her Greek organization has attempted to socialize with black Greek organizations to help eliminate racial discomfort on campus. This social was her chance, and her black roommate of all people discouraged her from wanting to embrace a multicultural atmosphere. My friend went to the party anyway, and I'm glad she did. The one thing that struck me from our four-minute conversation was what she called it: "reverse racism." I politely told her I thought it was just racism she had been exposed to.
Reverse racism. The word is most commonly used by whites who have somehow felt wronged by minority groups. Affirmative action is sometimes considered a form of reverse racism or reverse discrimination. But it doesn't exist. The word implies discrimination, which is a form of racism, and racism in general can only be performed by white people serving as the aggressor in association with members of the minority race as the target.
Let's look up racism on two different sites. On Dictionary.com, it is defined as "1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others. 2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination, or 3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races."
On Merriam-Webster, it is defined as "1. a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race, and 2. racial prejudice or discrimination." Then it goes onto say, "Any action, practice, or belief...that humans are divided into separate and exclusive biological entities called “races,” that there is a causal link between inherited physical traits and traits of personality, intellect, morality, and other cultural behavioral features, and that some “races” are innately superior to others."
There is no mention of white-on-black injustice in the definition because any person can be racist. As Americans, we are used to the social model of white people being racist and black people discriminated against. Holistically, black people have endured the greatest and most horrific forms of racism the most and the longest within both minor and major spheres of society. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean white people are exempt from being the target of racism, no matter how small it may be. Black-on-white discrimination and injustice does happen, and can be destructive to white people's physical and mental well being.
Then again, does racism even exist? If race is a socially constructed term that has no physical meaning, then wouldn't the -ism alteration of the word not be real too? It's a frustrating topic to wrap my head around. I do not wish to undermine and eliminate the consequences of race and racism. However, realizing that race isn't even real makes questioning the legitimacy of racism only natural.
On the other hand, there are people who believe white people are not susceptible to racism. They belittle any sort of oppression white folks receive, claiming it's not as bad as the turmoil blacks are forced to deal with, and insisting that whites can never be oppressed when another group gains rights they already have. The writer of this blog post argues why people of color cannot be racist toward whites. While I understand where this author is coming from, I still think white people can be victims of racism—just not to the extent black people currently are and have been.White or a person of color, racism and discrimination is not exclusive to one specific group.