Reverse racism or reverse discrimination is the concept that affirmative action and similar color-conscious programs for redressing racial inequality are a form of anti-white racism. The concept is often associated with conservative social movements and the belief that social and economic gains by black people in the United States and elsewhere cause disadvantages for white people.
Belief in reverse racism is widespread in the United States; however, there is little to no empirical evidence that white Americans suffer systemic discrimination.[Note 1] Racial and ethnic minorities generally lack the power to damage the interests of whites, who remain the dominant group in the U.S. Claims of reverse racism tend to ignore such disparities in the exercise of power and authority, which scholars argue constitute an essential component of racism.
Allegations of reverse racism by opponents of affirmative-action policies began to emerge prominently in the 1970s and have formed part of a racial backlash against social gains by people of color. While the U.S. dominates the debate over the issue, the concept of reverse racism has been used internationally to some extent wherever white supremacy has diminished, such as in post-apartheid South Africa.
The concept of reverse racism in the United States is commonly associated with conservative opposition to color-conscious policies aimed at addressing racial inequality, such as affirmative action. Amy E. Ansell of Emerson College identifies three main claims about reverse racism: (1) that government programs to redress racial inequality create “invisible victims” in white men; (2) that racial preferences violate the individual right of equal protection before the law; and (3) that color consciousness itself prevents moving beyond the legacy of racism. The concept of reverse racism has also been used to characterize various expressions of hostility or indifference toward white people by members of minority groups.
While there has been little empirical study on the subject of reverse racism, the few existing studies have found little evidence that white males, in particular, are victimized by affirmative-action programs.Racial and ethnic minorities in the United States generally lack the power to damage the interests of white people, who remain the dominant group. Relations between the groups have been historically shaped by European imperialism and long-standing oppression of blacks by whites. Such disparities in the exercise of power and authority are seen by scholars as an essential component of racism; in this view, individual beliefs and examples of favoring disadvantaged people do not constitute racism. Sociologist Ellis Cashmore writes, “This qualitative difference is disguised by the term ‘reverse racism’, or ‘reverse discrimination’, which implies too simple a comparison with its white counterparts.”