Racial tensions seem to be high these days, even within the workplace. As a result, more and more accusations of “reverse racism” are being levied by white people, who often cite examples like TV channels marketed exclusively to minority groups or calls for a more diversified workplace. But how valid are these criticisms and is it possible for a white person to be discriminated against in a place of work? Business Insider aims to answer these questions.
To get to the bottom of claims of reverse racism, one must first look at what the term racism actually refers to. Unlike prejudice, which entails having a preconceived notion about a race or group without direct experience, racism has a component of power. Racism is a systemic issue, where the group in power routinely prevents minority groups from accessing rights and privileges that the majority group is privy to. In this sense, racism is “prejudice plus power”. That means that a person who lacks power in a society, such as a minority, can be prejudicial, but not be racist.
In the same token, the examples of reverse racism that are often used are not representative of a real issue. Calls for more diversified workplaces originate from the fact that minorities don’t always have equal representation. The same can be said about TV channels or entertainment being created with a specific minority audience in mind. The goal is not to exclude the majority; rather, creators of this content are merely looking to engage with an audience that shares in their thoughts and struggles.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), all workers are protected against racial or color discrimination. This means that a white person could conceivably file a complaint about workplace discrimination based on color. However, it’s up to the person alleging discriminatory practices to present evidence that he or she is being discriminated against based on skin color. This is a difficult process in most cases, and some courts require additional evidence for white employees claiming discrimination.