People of Color are just as racist as we are

People of Color are just as racist as we are

reverse racism and White people can’t get into college or get good jobs.” If you define racism as racial prejudice, then yes, anyone across any race can have just as much racial prejudice as anyone else. But racism is not merely racial prejudice. Racism is racial prejudice backed by institutional power. Only Whites have the power to infuse and enforce their prejudices throughout the culture and transform it into racism. If you understand what racism is, then you understand that there is no such thing as reverse racism. The term reverse racism implies that power relations move back and forth, one day benefiting one group and the next day the other. But as we can see from the founding of Canada and the United States to the present time, White power and privilege remain deeply rooted and intact.

For example, while the United States has elected a biracial President, and this is very significant, focusing our attention on isolated exceptions allows us to deny the significance of the rules themselves and whom they serve. The vast majority of CEOs, Fortune 500 executives, managers, professors, doctors, lawyers, scientists, and other prestigious positions of leadership and decision making are Whites. While Whites are the majority of people in the United States and in Canada, their overrepresentation in leadership does not match their numbers in society.

Programs such as Affirmative Action in the United States and Employment Equity in Canada are often cited as examples of reverse racism or special privileges that peoples of Color and Indigenous peoples have over Whites. These programs were developed in order to redress the reality and pervasiveness of White discrimination against peoples of Color.


Still, commonsense understanding of these programs is very limited; for example, no employer is required to hire an unqualified person of Color, but they are required to be able to articulate why they didn’t hire a qualified person of Color.

Federal protections are important because although many Whites claim they would “hire the best person for the job,” they do not understand that because of the constant messages that peoples of Color are inferior, who we perceive as the best person for the job will likely be someone White. According to Pager (2007), White men with a criminal record are slightly more likely to be called back for a job interview than Black men with no criminal record, even when they are equally qualified. In addition to unconscious preference for White applicants, another way racism manifests in the workplace is through the concept of “fit.” This is the tendency to prefer people whose cultural style matches the workplace culture. Unfortunately, the culture of the workplace, unless owned by peoples of Color, will likely be White. This plays out in industries such as fashion, wherein there is a very specific and limited ideal of female beauty (such as narrow noses and slim hips), and in schooling when teacher candidates are evaluated based on whether the staff will be able to relate to them.

Although women were not originally included in Affirmative Action, White women have numerically been the program’s greatest beneficiaries. While Affirmative Action and other programs have made an impact on increasing the numbers of underrepresented groups in employment, these programs have not come close to reaching their goals. Still, states such as California and Washington have ended Affirmative Action, and the Supreme Court ruled that giving points based on race could not be used in college admissions.

When thinking about programs such as Affirmative Action, it’s important to remember the dynamics of race. Because Whites are seen as “just people” rather than as White people, when they are hired it is assumed to be because they are qualified. When peoples of Color are hired (regardless of whether an employment equity program had anything to do with their hire), Whites often assume that they were hired due to a special program. This assumption reveals that Whites see peoples of Color as inherently unqualified; we have difficulty imagining they could have gotten the job on their qualifications alone. Further, this assumption reveals the sense of entitlement Whites have to all desirable positions (“they got my place in law school” or “they got my job”). This also suggests that we are not quite as colorblind as we often claim.


“Racism is a thing of the past. Besides, I didn’t own slaves; I wasn’t around when Indians were put in residential schools.” Many White people are woefully uninformed when it comes to the continuing presence of racism. Seeing ourselves as individuals, with no connection to our nations’ pasts, erases history and hides the way in which wealth and social capital have accumulated over generations and benefit us as a group today. Canada and the United States were founded on the exploits of slavery as well as genocide, and racism did not end when slavery or the residential school systems ended (Zinn, 1980/2010). Legal and institutional exclusion of peoples of Color, in addition to illegal acts ranging from lynching to racial profiling, continue today. Racist acts of terrorism and the state- sanctioned killing of peoples of Color, such as the executions of Vincent Chin (1982), Dudley George (1995), James Byrd (1998), Amadou Diallo (1999), Kendra James (2003), Kathryn Johnston (2006), Trayvon Martin (2012), Andy Lopez (2013), Sammy Yatim (2013), Michael Brown (2014), Tamir Rice (2014), Akai Gurley (2014), Tanisha Anderson (2014), Eric Garner (2014), Freddie Gray (2015), Andrew Loku (2015), Walter Scott (2015), Jacqueline Salyers (2016), Alton Sterling (2016), Philando Castille (2016), Terence Crutcher (2017), Jose Nieves (2017), Charleena Lyles (2017), and countless others are commonplace.

Peoples of Color were denied Federal Housing Act (FHA) loans as recently as the 1950s. These loans allowed a generation of Whites to attain middle-class status through home ownership. Home ownership is critical in the United States because it is the means by which the average person builds and passes down wealth, providing the starting point for the next generation. Peoples of Color were systematically denied this opportunity and today the average White family has eight times the wealth of the average Black or Latino family (Federal Reserve Board, 2007). Excluding peoples of Color from the mechanisms of society that allow wealth building continues today through illegal but common practices such as higher mortgage rates, more difficulty getting loans, real estate agents steering them away from “good” neighborhoods, discrimination in hiring, and unequal school funding.

Racial group membership is consistently traced to inequitable outcomes on every indicator of quality of life and these outcomes are well documented and predictable (Hughes & Thomas, 1998; Williams, 1999). Limiting our analysis to the micro or individual level prevents a macro or big picture understanding. At the micro level (“I didn’t own slaves”), we cannot assess and address the macro dimensions of society that help hold racism in place, such as practices, policies, norms, rules, laws, traditions, and regulations. For example, in the United States peoples of Color have


been formally—and now informally—prevented from participating in government wealth-building programs that benefit White Americans.

Consider, for example, the ways in which schools are funded through the property tax base of the community in which they are situated. Given the fact that youth of Color disproportionately live in poor communities and their families rent rather than own, youth of Color are penalized through this policy, which ensures that poor communities will have inferior schools. In turn, this practice ensures that middle- and upper-class students, who are more likely to be White, will get a superior education and have less competition in the future workplace—an example of institutional racism and White privilege (Kozol, 1991).

In light of all the possible creative options for funding schools to ensure that every child has equal access to quality education, the current acceptance of the status quo is an example of institutional racism. Other examples of institutional racism that serve to reinforce the ways in which schools reproduce inequality include: mandatory culturally biased testing; ability tracking; a primarily White teaching force with the power to determine which students belong in which tracks; cultural definitions of intelligence, what constitutes it, and how it is measured; and standards of what constitutes good behavior as determined by White teachers and administration. Rather than serving as the great equalizer, schools function in actual practice to reproduce racial inequality. Insisting that we could not have benefited from racism because we personally didn’t own slaves is extremely superficial and hides the reality of White advantage at every level of our past and present society.

Place Your Order Here!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *