General Question

margeryred's avatar

How do you deal with REVERSE Racism?

Asked by margeryred (289points) June 11th, 2008

I live in a city where I, as a white woman, am a minority. I often experience prejudice and racism (since high school on through to my career). I do not want to have a victim mentality, but I am having a hard time dealing with people who are outright nasty because they are allowed or feel entitled because they have been discriminated against. It’s like kid gloves with a controversial issue. It is unfair & it makes me angry. Some of best friends throughout my life have been a different race than me. I even mentor a African American young lady whom I’ve taken into my home without any descrimination (she has her own bedroom).
I’ve especially experieced this behavior from older black women.

Additional note: a supervisor told me at work that I was the wrong color for a position I was putting in for.
How do you mentally rise above? I can see this treatment changing me, I sometimes expect it and it isn’t warranted.

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23 Answers

crunchaweezy's avatar

It’s not going to change, nasty people will always be nasty.

paulc's avatar

I should answer the question but first I have to call you out on the term “reverse racism”. Racism is racism no matter what the racial equation.

Your best bet to combat it is to not let their actions affect yours. That is to say, do what you feel is right regardless of whether or not you expect an adverse reaction (see Rosa Parks for an example of this).

richardhenry's avatar

Like paulc said, this isn’t ‘reverse racism’; it’s just racism. It can’t be great to be in such a position, and in all seriousness I would consider moving if it’s causing you problems with your career or you feel oppressed. A fresh start could be good for you.

margeryred's avatar

I disagree… this is reverse Racism to me because it is ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE for a white person to descriminate openly against a person of another race. Especially in the work place, can you say LAWSUIT?
It has become acceptable where I live for other races who have historically been opressed to now openly opress others.
I was told by a black co-worker that he felt sorry for me because he said people generally are racist behind his back so he doesn’t have to “deal” with it head on. He said co-workers are openly racist & sexist to me because they can get away with it.
Does that explain the “reverse” as I hope I meant.

margeryred's avatar

I guess I have been ignoring it for about 20 years. It has gotten increasingly worse, and I can tell my mind is making judgments about people when I see a behavior that I recognize as this treatment.

wabarr's avatar

I disagree that this is racism at all. Inherent in racism is a power differential, where a dominant racial group views itself as superior, and others as inferior. Check out some definitions of the term. Most definitions include notions of hierarchy, dominance and superiority. So it is very hard to make an argument that white folks experience racism, as whites are economically and socially privileged in America. Discrimination perhaps, as in margeryred’s case with her job application….but not racism, reverse or otherwise.

crunchaweezy's avatar


Racism is discrimination based on racial group, she’s correct.

Mtl_zack's avatar

lets say that you and a friend get into a fight, and you call each other names. this is the same thing, but on a cultural level, instead of a personal level. you have to bring it back down to a personal thing.

and, by the way, this is just plain racism. racism doesnt mean that you hate people of the other race, it means that you see the world as different types of people instead of just one.

Michael's avatar

We’re arguing about semantics a bit here.

I happen to agree with wabarr. Racism, historically, has meant a powerful group believing itself to be inherently superior to a less powerful, usually minority, group, based on beliefs about genetics, heredity, and/or nature. That does not seem to describe what is happening in this situation.

Nevertheless, the semantics are, essentially, besides the point. Here, margery has experienced what she feels is discrimination based on her race, in addition to numerous occasions of rude/offensive behavior caused, in her view, by being different. What we call it matters a bit less than how margery chooses to deal with it.

I think it’s a tough situation because the behavior margery describes should be unacceptable regardless of the race of the cast of characters involved. However, I would also caution against jumping to conclusions or making judgments regarding the beliefs of the people involved. Minority group members, whether or not they live in a place where they are, in fact, a minority numerically, often keenly feel their minority status at all times. Majority group members, on the other, tend to benefit from their status unknowingly most of the time, and only rarely feel negative effects owing to their group membership. This may make these times felt all the more acutely, but it bears remembering that many minority group members feel this way most of the time.

susanc's avatar

Bravo Michael. Being treated badly as a member of an historically privileged group is horrid and you don’t have to accept it, but you need to have your argument ducks in a row before you start objecting, which is a good reason to read your co-flutherers’ thoughts.(Bravo margeryred.)
Being treated badly as a member of an historically oppressed group is not just horrid: it’s soul-destroying.
Since you have black friends, why not sit down with some of them (one at a time, maybe) and see what you can learn. Not the people who are being hard on you, but
friends from another context. Listen up. See if their stories of being treated badly
by white folks is really the same as what you’re experiencing. Learn and grow. You
can become a force for fairness and understanding. If you can handle the hard work!
It IS hard work to maintain your dignity as a person when a whole social history is weighing down on you.
But we have to.

wildflower's avatar

I completely agree with paulc’s answer.
Also, how can discrimination of any minority be more acceptable than another? Isn’t that a kind of discrimination in itself?
It’s not that long ago that it seemed the most lethal job in the world was being a farmer in South Africa if you happen to be white.

Discriminating against others based on their skin colour/ethnic origin is racism – regardless of who’s doing it and who they’re doing it to. How to deal with it when you’re at the receiving end is difficult. I’m sure at times you feel tempted to take revenge, but in the end the best you can do is keep your head high and not sink to that level. Keep treating all people equally – even if some choose not to recognise it.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”
— Aristotle

Curious404's avatar

The term reverse racism is exteremely offensive as it implies superiority. As mentioned before, racisim is racism, and its always wrong. To that point, it sounds like you have a legal case on your hands for being told you “you were the wrong color” for a position you wanted.

robmandu's avatar

@wabarr and @michael… sometimes I am indeed curious about the semantics of things.

If racism is not the historically and semantically correct term here, then what word would you suggest?

According to Wiktionary, racism can simply be defined as prejudice or discrimination based upon race.

Further, I will go on record as saying that, for me, a “power differential” is not a necessary component of racism. But even if it were, sounds to me like, if nothing else, @margeryred is up against there being “power in numbers.”

tupara's avatar

This isn’t racism, it’s bullying. Blacks distrusting whites isn’t racism, it’s an attitude that comes from experience. Stand up to a person being nasty to you as an individual rather than making it about race just because they’re a different colour. If someone’s trying to bully you, get in their face and get some respect.

susanc's avatar

Yes yes yes. Tupara makes a point I tried to make, but much more clearlyt. You do not have to accept bullying or specious discrimination.
I still think that black-on-white discrimination comes from a different place than the
reverse, and should be looked into to learn the origins, as if they’re not entirely obvious.
And talk. And talk.

margeryred's avatar

Okay, since I got just a few really good answers and mostly the ripping apart of my question and the words I used I think we have a long way to go where communication is concern.

@susanc thank you for possibly the best down to earth response:

_Since you have black friends, why not sit down with some of them (one at a time, maybe) and see what you can learn. Not the people who are being hard on you, but
friends from another context. Listen up. See if their stories of being treated badly
by white folks is really the same as what you’re experiencing. Learn and grow. You
can become a force for fairness and understanding. If you can handle the hard work!
It IS hard work to maintain your dignity as a person when a whole social history is weighing down on you.
But we have to._

I think I will try this.
And that my friends is the reason I asked the question.

I think I learned though that no matter how you phrase a question there are people here that just can’t wait to pull it apart…

wabarr's avatar

I think I would just use the term discrimination. Note that the original phrasing of the question was reverse racism. That qualifier indicated that the normal power differential inherent in racism was being reversed in the events in question.
I think this is more than a semantic argument. I empathize with what margery has experienced. That can’t be easy to deal with, and that kind of behavior on the part of an employer is unacceptable. However, (mis)using the term racism to describe these events risks putting this event on the same level as the long-standing, institutionalized racism that black people in the US have experienced historically and continue to experience. Let’s not go there.

robmandu's avatar

@wabarr, I think you make an interesting point re: discrimination. To me though, that‘s the word that has the element of “power” in its meaning. That is, a person is discriminated against when applying for a loan, a job, whatever and they’re denied (meaning someone with the power won’t give what’s requested) that thing based on their color, sex, race, etc.

See what I mean? In that context, I’d think racism is a subset of discrimination.

I’ll stipulate that racism is itself an emotionally charged word. And I can see being careful not to throw it around too liberally. So, based on my description above, what @margeryred describes doesn’t sound like discrimination as much as it does racism.

Not that the semantics really matter here. Sounds like @margeryred got the advice she was looking for. Hope it works out for you, @margeryred!

margeryred's avatar

I was apprehensive about posting a question like I did…for obvious reasons. I still know I have been purposely mistreated by people of ethnic origins other than my own in very precise overt condesending ways. (white girl comments, hair comments, skin color comments usually followed by very nasty behavior & rudeness that again is the cause of this behavior—- WHATEVER YOU WANT TO CALL IT.)

It has been going on for years and I recently noticed that I was expecting this behavior from people who resemble or represent these ethnic groups prior to or even when there is no exchange of conversation orcontact whatsoever.

My point is that we have come full where racism or prejudice or discrimination or ill will or preconcieved notions OR WHATEVER you want to call it has been creeping in and affecting my behavior or defense mechanism prior to contact. This is causing me to become exactly what I detest.

I do not want to start sporting a “well earned” but very sad & pathetic chip on my shoulder that I have seen others carry. That isnot so flattering and makes that person weak.

I also without a doubt concede to years of oppression on certain ethic groups, but if I have been the victim of oppression in many ways (financially, to national origin, to skin color, HAIR color, education or lack thereof) why is my plight less important or insignificant because I am not “THEIR” race?

Frankly, my question wasn’t to debate whether or not this was occurring (believe me it is alive and well!) it was to get tips on how to stop the grey clouds from turning into a full blown tornado!

gooch's avatar

@margeryred I totally understand your question and feel it was correctly stated. I am a white male and know I have been discriminated against with no recourse to fix the problem. I am a civil servant who has been passed up for promotion because I was the wrong race. I scored the highest on an exam, was the senior employee, and have a perfect work history but I was competing for a job position which was held by nine other white males. A black male was given the job to create more diversity in the job class. Is this not “reverse discrimination”. My solution was just to suck it up. However unfortunate it is, it is cruel reality.

margeryred's avatar

Sounds like we work at the same place.

Although it does not just extend to work, when I am in public or enter specificly ethic establishments they do act out quite rudely.

Is this still pay back for the wrongful treatment of immigrant slaved blacks? I must say that I don’t get as much discrimination from Native Americans who had their land completely stolen, they were slaughtered! Not to mention the Jews who where MURDERED in masses for their race. I have a friend (an older lady) with her stamp (concentration camp tattooed number to keep track of them)... I don’t see her displaying the aforementioned behavior to anyone. She knows I am of German decent & am closer to being related to someone who persecuted the Jews rather than enslaved blacks or killed the Indians…

Just a point.

ayn's avatar

Fight racism AGGRESSIVELY wherever it occurs. The notion that traditionally oppressed groups, like African-Americans, can’t be “racists” is silly and disingenuous. Racism is harboring a bias against someone because of the color of their skin. Furthermore, in the example above, the writer stated that while she is white, she is a MINORITY in her city.

Racism is wrong. Ignoring it makes it fester and emboldens your oppressors (as borne out by the fact that the writer’s situation has gotten worse over the years, not better). File a lawsuit, file a grievance, file an EEOC complaint. Don’t act like it doesn’t bother you. Don’t worry about “offending” someone by reacting. Don’t pretend it’s okay. It’s not.

The truth shall set you free.

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