I got into an interesting conversation a little while back with a couple I met at a neighborhood restaurant. They had just relocated from Australia to NYC, and were part of the wave of new people who weren’t very familiar with but were considering living in Bed Stuy.
We’d all had a couple of drinks by then, and the conversation was starting to get a little more candid as time went by. They said they loved the architecture in the area, as well as the cool places to eat and drink, but pointed out that they felt like they were being thrown a certain amount of shade from some of the local folk.
It was at that point that the girlfriend blurted out, “It’s reverse racism! As a black man, do you believe in it? It’s real!”
To that I responded with 2 reasons that I take issue with that notion:
1) Bigotry is bigotry. It’s simple-minded and ignorant, and rebranding it as something more nuanced than it is is just another step toward suggesting that it’s justifiable in some instances.
2) It’d be pretty much impossible for one group of people to effectively disenfranchise and oppress another without a power structure based in a history of hierarchy and privilege.
That said, racism is never okay, not in either direction. I just think it’s noteworthy that for some, history often seems not to apply in the ongoing conversation on it.
Failing to understand that you’ve benefited from the disproportionate amount of privilege the world’s uneven playing field has afforded you because it approves of your race/sexuality/religion/etc. is one thing.
Feeling just as socially victimized as those who have struggled their entire lives not to be defined and embittered by exclusion from that same privilege is another.
While having to live in an inherently biased world doesn’t excuse the supposed reverse-racism coming from the systematically oppressed, it does contextualize it.
Here’s the thing about that, though:
As long as context and history can be ignored, the validity of racism as a real and very powerful thing can be, too.