The absurdity of reverse racism

I’ve explained to friends and relatives who believe “reverse racism” (or “reverse homophobia,” “reverse sexism”) exists that it can’t happen because of the power dynamic on which exclusion relies. From James Baldwin’s 1972 essay “No Name in the Street”:

It must be remembered that in those great days I was considered to be an “integrationist” — this was never, quite, my own idea of myself — and Malcolm was considered to be a “racist in reverse.” This formulation, in terms of power — and power is the arena in which racism is acted out — means absolutely nothing: it may even be described as a cowardly formulation. The powerless, by definition, can never be “racists,” for they can never make the world pay for what they feel or fear except by the suicidal endeavor which makes them fanatics or revolutionaries, or both; whereas, those in power can be urbane and charming and invite you to those which they know they will never own. The powerless must do their own dirty work. The powerful have it done for them.

Whether those minorities resent or even hate you is another matter — and closer to the truth. I think of Baldwin again. If you live in the ghetto, you have to leave at some point and see whites; if you don’t live in the ghetto, you never have to see blacks.

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