Tuesday, January 3, 2017

What Do We Mean When We Talk About Race? Reverse Discrimination

In this series of posts, [1], [2], [3], I have been describing racism and its various forms. In the previous post I spoke about reverse racism. I thought it would be best to add an exercise and graphic to illustrate the point.

A Depiction of Racist Versus Reverse Racist Sentiments: Racelandia.

For this exercise, let's construct a place called Racelandia:

  • There are 10,000 people in Racelandia.
  • In Racelandia, whites make up 90% of the population and blacks, 10%.
  • Reverse racism is racism directed from the minority to the majority: black against white.
  • Forward racism is directed from the majority to the minority: white against black.
  • We'll call a unit of racism, 1 rc.
  • An individual person produces an average of 2 rcs per year*. Some produce none, others much more.
  • The average person from each group has an equal degree of racism, i.e., the average white person is as racist against blacks to the same degree the average black person is racist against whites.
From the above, we can calculate.

  • 18,000 rcs directed against blacks.
  • 2,000 rcs directed against whites.
  • 18 rcs directed against the average black person. (18,000 rcs / 1,000 persons)
  • 0.18 rcs directed against the average white person. (2,000 rcs / 9,000 persons)

Conclusions from above exercise. Reverse racism exists. It is much smaller in force and effect than "forward" racism.

*Don't get hung up on these numbers. It's a thought exercise which illustrates a point, not any sort of precise quantification.

The numbers in the above exercise, illustrated.

Individual Versus Institutional Racism.

The above exercise illustrates individual racist sentiment and individual action. One of the major forms of racism is based not on individuals, but on institutions. In this case, racist effect is not measured by population, but by power. In 1860, South Carolina was 41% white, 57% black slave, and 1.4% free blacks. The black population had little to no power or rights and the laws reflected the institutional racism of slavery. For example, in South Carolina as in every Southern state, it was illegal to teach a black person (free or slave) to read or write.

Many other and less extreme cases exist. It is still possible to have "minorities" as the majority population, but with little influence. One prime example of this has been the history of women's rights. Although in a slight majority in terms of numbers, in terms of governance, women have been in the minority and many laws have reflected that.

In the final installment in this series I will look at how we can recognize racism inside ourselves. 


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