By Noelle Martin
In almost all instances of prejudice against people because of their race or gender, we hear the shouts: Racist! Sexist! In almost all instances of prejudice against people who just happen to be of a certain race or gender, we still hear the shouts: Racist! Sexist! These cries are the most incorrectly and grossly overused cards dealt in our society.
Racism and sexism are more complex than just mere prejudice. The terms stem deeper than an individual being prejudiced towards a member of another race or sex. Racism or sexism is being prejudiced towards a member of a race or sex, where that race has experienced systematic and institutionalised oppression in society. This systematic and institutionalised oppression has manifested itself right back in time to the dark history of western colonialism or invasion of foreign lands. To black slavery. To the White Australia Policy. To the Stolen Generation. To the unequal right to vote. To the prejudice against ethnic named individuals in employment. To the gender pay gap and the list goes on. In other words, prejudice + power = sexism/racism.
Now, the phenomenon of reverse racism and reverse sexism is emerging, where some members of the dominant white race or male gender feel discriminated against by minority races or the opposite sex. Members of the white race and male gender feel discriminated against when minority groups undermine their struggles because they are the ‘privileged’ ones. Dominant groups feel discriminated against by affirmative action policies, and a range of supposed double-standards in society, such as the permissibility of ethnic minorities or females to establish safe-spaces and groups, but if the roles were reversed it would be “racist” if white people or “sexist” if males did the same.
While members of the dominant groups may feel discriminated against or prejudiced by minority groups, they have never and do not face any systematic or institutionalised oppression. No legal rights, civil liberties or freedoms have been compromised or taken away from the dominant groups. Moreover, these feelings of being discriminated against by minorities come about when minority groups attempt to seek redress for the wrongs of systematic and institutionalised oppression, at the hands of the dominant groups!
But many of these supposed wrongs occurred in the past, we can’t hold it against dominant groups for eternity!
While it’s true that we cannot hold past wrongdoings of systematic and institutionalised oppression against members of dominant groups who may never have participated in such oppression. However, members of dominant groups, particularly males and white people, have benefitted from this system whether intentionally or unintentionally. It may be true what they say- “privilege conceals itself from those who have it.” Dominant, ‘privileged’ groups have always benefited, their fundamental, basic civil liberties and freedoms have remain unchanged and intact throughout time but…
This does NOT mean dominant groups can’t face discrimination!
Of course members of the white race and male gender can and have faced discrimination and prejudice. Nobody can deny that. In fact many minority groups recognise it exists. It’s completely wrong and society needs to be expanding its discourse on the issue. However, it’s not reverse racism or reverse sexism- its prejudice and discrimination. It’s reverse discrimination. This is an important distinction and no, it’s not just mere semantics!
For anyone in society that has ever fallen victim to racism or sexism, it’s a deep-rooted emotional and sensitive issue. For members of the dominant race or gender to use racism and prejudice interchangeably is to undermine the gravity of the hurt and damage caused by the systematic and institutionalised oppression of minorities, that members of dominant groups have benefitted from.