By Chelsey Sanchez
“I think there is such a thing as reverse racism,” Australian stand-up comedian, Aamer Rahman, said during one of his shows. “And, I could be a reverse racist if I wanted to,” he continued. “All I would need would be a time machine.”
Reverse racism, an increasingly popular and trending topic, is the idea that a minority group can racially discriminate against the dominant racial group. Usually, this term is evoked during conversations filled with references to Uggs, Starbucks, and white girls. Or, maybe, the concept is casually mentioned in passing amongst friends when discussing the “ironic” implications behind the black community’s acceptance to use the N-word freely, while the white community is condemned and judged for even whispering such a word. In light of recent events, it is more common to hear “That’s racist” when criticizing and slightly generalizing the actions taken by white police officers against people of color.
There is a long history of hurt behind the complexity that is racism, as Rahman suggests by his odd request for a time machine. He continued, “What I’d do is get in my time machine. I’d go back in time, to before Europe colonized the world, right? And, I’d convince the leaders of Africa, Asia, the Middle East, [and] Central and South America to invade and colonize Europe, right? Just occupy and steal their land and resources, set up some kind of, like–I don’t know–TransAsian slave trade where we exported white people to work on giant rice plantations in China, just ruin Europe over the course of a couple of centuries, so all their descendants would want to migrate out and live in the places where black and brown people come from.”
The audience laughed, but Rahman’s face and tone remained comically dead serious. “But, of course,” he said, “in that time I’d make sure I’d set up systems that privileged black and brown people at every conceivable social, political, and economic opportunity. White people would never have any hope of real self-determination.”
Rahman was not the first to confront this sticky subject. Truthfully, reverse racism is a tangible topic in the flow of mainstream consciousness of today’s society. The mere idea of being racist towards white people is so thick in the atmosphere that we can cut through the air with things much smaller than the sharp edges of a Starbucks-loving-white-girl joke. The prevalence, the insistence, and the consistency of “reverse racism” are what make it real.
But, how real is real? Real enough for everyone to accept unquestioningly, like “the-sky-is-blue” real, or “two-plus-two-equals-four” real? Or, real in the way that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and Bigfoot are real to my two younger sisters?
I won’t pretend to know the answer, because an answer to a question such as “What is racism?” cannot singlehandedly come from an individual, Asian-American, teenage girl from Granada Hills, California. My perspective, although it still desereves to be heard, acknowledged, criticized, and analyzed, is one of the many spectrum of opinions that we have. The crisis at hand isn’t that we don’t have an answer, but that we are so reluctant to hear other voices that aren’t our own answer.
But, I’ll tell you what is real. “Real” is hearing your 9-year-old sister tell you that she hates the shape of her eyes while watching the endless stream of kid’s show featuring a blonde-haired-blue-eyed girl. “Real” is growing up playing with dolls that do not reflect any of the characteristics you see when you look in the mirror. “Real” is watching people who actually do look like you pigeon-holed into “geisha girls” and “nerdy math-lovers” in all your favorite TV shows and movies. This is real, and, unfortunately, there is nothing Santa Claus-esque about it.
Is reverse racism real? Does racism encompass prejudices and discrimination against white people? The answers to these questions can clash or coincide, and, as I previously mentioned, all answers deserve to be heard. However, at the same time, some answers do hold more credibility over others.
The voices of minority communities in the U.S. are constantly being repressed, ridiculed, invalidated, and silenced through the many other forms of systematic oppression we experience on a daily basis. The proclamation that “reverse racism is real!” makes many of us uncomfortable because that proclamation usually comes from the mouth of the person benefitting from our systematic oppression.
No one is saying that it is impossible to discriminate against white people, because it is possible, and it does happen.
However, the idea that a white person can be oppressed simply because they are white will raise eyebrows (and even more questions). That proclamation almost glorifies racism, making it seem like an exclusive club that white people are so desperately trying to gain a membership at, rather than beholding it as the ugly real thing it actually is.
Our answers should hold priority because, to us, racism is more than something to be debated about over dinner. Racism infiltrates the air we breathe in, molds the shoes we walk in, and is the reality we live in.
So, if one of our answers to the question “Is reverse racism real?” just so happens to be “No,” listen.