The organizers of a half-marathon in the northern Italian city of Trieste have been accused of racism over their decision to exclude African athletes from the race, which takes place on May 5. Racism is abhorrent, full stop.
What about reverse racism? Does it even exist?
Sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva famously labeled the concept of reverse racism “nonsensical.” In a 2010 interview with the TheGrio.com, the author had this to say:
“When whites talk about reverse discrimination, I feel that they are making a silly argument because what they really want to say is that we, people of color, have the power to do to them what they have done to us from the 13th century.”
According to Bonilla-Silva, some people of color are prejudiced against whites; however, they lack the power to discriminate against whites on a systemic scale. White people, in his words, “control” the economic and political landscapes that govern the United States.
I am not here to deny the fact that white people, for centuries, have oppressed people of color. Only a pigheaded moron would argue otherwise. I am here to discuss racism, which can be defined as “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race.” The whole concept of power is a moot point. Historically speaking, men have been the dominant force in society. Women have suffered at the hands of men. However, nobody denies that men are harassed by women in the workplace, in marriages, etc. Misandry exists.
Dear, White People
In Dear White People, a 2014 American comedy-drama film, a character states that “black people can’t be racist. Prejudiced, yes, but not racist. Racism describes a system of disadvantage based on race. Black people can’t be racists since we don’t stand to benefit from such a system.” What a clever way of circumventing truth. This character’s argument — that minorities can’t be racist because they lack the power to act on such ill feeling — is deeply misleading. Today, there are no restrictions on which races can be the instigators of pain. Racism can occur at an individual, not just an institutional, level. It is important to remember that millions of white people are not in positions of power. Millions of white people do not come from places of privilege. It perplexes me that so many absolve non-white people of racism. The next time someone argues that it is “literally impossible to be racist to a white person,” or that “racism against white people doesn’t exist,” ask them if they are familiar with Sarah Jeong.
In 2018, the New York Times appointed Sarah Jeong to its editorial board, a journalist with a history of posting numerous racist tweets (“Dumbass f***ing white people,” “White people are bulls**t,” “White people should be cancelled”). One wonders how you “cancel” white people.
Anyway, shortly after her appointment, unsurprisingly, people were quick to voice their anger. In response, Jeong released a public statement saying that she, an Asian female, had been the recipient of sexist and racist abuse on social media for years. Here, the phrase “two wrongs don’t make a right” instantly springs to mind. These tweets, she argued, were not racist. They were satirical in nature. She was merely “counter-trolling”; and here I was thinking Jeong was just being racist. Silly me.
Jeong, many argued, should never have been hired, and she certainly shouldn’t have been appointed to an editorial position. However, the board of the New York Times doubled down, acknowledging that although the members didn’t look favorably on her past tweets, they recognized the context in which they were made: “For a period of time she responded to harassment by imitating the rhetoric of her harassers.”
If Jeong had used the words “trans,” “Muslim,” or “black,” would she still have a job? I think we all know the answer to this question.
More recently, just a few months ago, a man by the name of Matthew Furlong applied for a position with Cheshire Police in the UK. Furlong wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, who is a serving detective inspector on the force.
Furlong passed the interview stage of the recruitment process. He was praised for being “well-prepared.” In their report, the interviewers said that Furlong “could not have done any more” in his effort to make a favorable impression. Nevertheless, an offer was never made. Why?
Technically speaking, under the Equality Act of 2010, British employers cannot discriminate against people on the basis of certain “protected characteristics.” These include race, sex, and sexuality. Nevertheless, if they wish to, they can choose candidates from specific groups over others — usually white people, and in particular white men — if they are of “equal merit.” Some refer to this process, rather disingenuously, as positive discrimination.
But, as you shall see, this was an example of racism in its purest form. Representatives for the police force claimed that they had received applications from 127 other candidates, many of them just as qualified as Furlong. Matthew’s father was having none of it. He lodged a complaint with Cheshire Police. After an employment tribunal carried out an investigation, a damning report was issued. The tribunal ruled the force had used “positive action” to recruit people with different characteristics, but in a discriminatory way. In an interview with the BBC, Jennifer Ainscough, a prominent employment lawyer, said: “Matthew was denied his dream job simply because he was a white, heterosexual male. This is the first reported case of its kind in the UK where positive action has been used in a discriminatory way.” I referred to positive discrimination as being somewhat disingenuous for a legitimate reason. Positive action can be used to boost diversity, but it should only be applied to differentiate between candidates who were all equally well qualified for a role. Furlong, clearly a qualified candidate, was a victim of direct discrimination on the grounds of his sexual orientation, race, and sex.
Gratuitous use of race
When it comes to the bashing of white people, the “trend” is as prevalent as it is undeniably racist. As you’ve probably noticed, criticizing white people, especially straight white men, is very much in style. It’s impossible to escape — from the Daily Beast to the HuffPost, largely because of Trump’s rise to power, it’s now acceptable to casually attack white people, especially white men.
The gratuitous inclusion of race even when it isn’t applicable, as during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, has become more frequent. Vox, just a few months ago, published an article titled “Lindsey Graham, Brett Kavanaugh, and the unleashing of white male backlash.” These weren’t normal angry men… oh no, these were angry white men.
When it comes to highlighting the dangers posed by white men, look no further than the McGill Daily, an independent student newspaper at Canada’s McGill University. In February of this year, the paper published a lengthy diatribe against white males. The letter, written by, and I quote, a “woman of colour,” begins in an acrimonious manner:
Dear White Boys in Poli Sci,
I wonder what your lives must be like. I always wonder this when I see you clustered in the hallways, or standing in the aisles of lecture halls, not realizing how much room you take up. You just stand there, so unapologetic, as the sea of people parts around you. I wonder this when you play devil’s advocate in class and you think you’re being clever, but you’re just sh**ting on someone else’s personhood. I wonder this when youtalk over other people, or comment on what the professor is saying without raising your hand, as if a lecture is just a dialogue that only the two of you can engage in.”
The letter continues: “I wonder this when you spread yourself out on your desk so that your things spill over onto mine, and you don’t apologize, but instead continue as if nothing is wrong — meanwhile, I am too passive to say anything.”
Here, the writer appears to have experienced desk annexation, where one greedy individual, the academic equivalent of Genghis Khan, gains desk dominance by scattering sheets and pens everywhere.
The writer, clearly perturbed by this attempt at desk displacement, continues: “I wonder this when you exist so loudly and so largely because you’ve been allowed to exist like this your whole life, and I am left to carefully defend the scraps of space that I have left. So this is a letter to you. For all the times I have wanted to punch you in the mouth and refrained, here’s to you.”
The appeal of victimhood culture cannot be understated. If one is to emerge triumphant in the Oppression Olympics, he or she must create a narrative steeped in agony and inequality. The writer, fully aware of this, goes on to say:
The term “white guy in poli sci” is of course a generalization because all sorts of people can be downright awful. However, the white guy represents the apex of privilege, and I do sincerely believe that this, and other groups who are so privileged in some respects, can be ignorant to the struggles of others. Therefore I use the term only to represent the height of privilege. But by all means, if you recognize any of these types of behaviours in yourself regardless of race,gender, sexual orientation, religion, class, etc., feel free to identify with them and ask yourself, “why do I act like such an a**hole?”
Notice how the writer acknowledges the “white guy” generalization, albeit disingenuously, yet continues to generalize.
The aggrieved then asks: “You might be wondering, what could possibly be so upsetting to inspire such a lengthy diatribe?”
In great detail, she goes on to recount the most harrowing of tales. In a university class, where hundreds of people were gathered to engage in political debate, a “white boy” had the audacity to disagree with her opinion. The writer, clearly not comfortable with idea of opinionated colleagues, writes:
You asked me if I could just stop cutting you off and let you finish your argument. I wanted to yell. I wanted to scream and flip a table and throw myself on the ground and rip myself in half. I didn’t want to hear what you had to say anymore. I felt bad for your own body. Your own muscles and vocal cords were plagued with the task of speaking your amazingly ignorant words. I was emotional because my hopes and ambitions were up for debate. Did my voice really need to be heard? Do women really need to be treated as equals? The answer is a stupid, and painfully indisputable YES. And here I was, talking to some dude who pulls up in a Patagonia sweater and acts like these and my own existence were up for debate.
Notice the Patagonia reference. In case you forgot, the writer is dealing with a white male.
The lengthy rant finishes in a bombastic manner:
To the guy in the Conservative Association on campus who wore a “Make Canada Great Again” hat courtesy of Rebel Media: f*** you. It was Activities Night and you made me f***ing scared for what poli sci here might be like because I thought it might be filled with the likes of you. I believe that the MAGA hat, in all its incarnations, is an act of violence and if you’re reading (if anyone knows this guy please direct him to this letter), just know that what you wear is not about “free speech” in some a**hole Jordan Peterson way. It is dehumanizing and offensive and you disgust me.
Two takeaway points from this letter, folks:
1) White men are bad.
2) Wearing a MAGA hat is an act of violence.
Regardless of the color of the perpetrator’s skin, there’s no scenario in which racism is not atrocious. This need to compare how a possible act of racism would differ if perpetrated against, say, black people or white is not just idiotic, it’s plain wrong. Racism permeates every nook and cranny of society. It comes in many different forms. Sometimes it’s subtle, and sometimes it’s overt. Sometimes it’s violent, like a police shooting, and sometimes it’s “harmless,” like an ill-advised tweet or a lengthy diatribe in a student newspaper. It’s important to remember that even when racist remarks are directed against groups that haven’t been historically stigmatized, they still perpetuate a cycle of dissolution and antipathy.