Column: Discrimination does not work in reverse
Published: Thursday, September 5, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 6, 2013 19:09
In an age when we raise social consciousness on issues of race, sexuality, gender and class, we still run across the issue of discrimination. The Oxford English Dictionary defines racial discrimination as “the making of distinctions prejudicial to people of a different race or colour from oneself.” I define discrimination as unequal treatment given to individuals based on preconceived notions about certain groups of people. However, we need to look at the bigger picture.
Discrimination works as a weapon of a society that gives certain advantages to some while others become disadvantaged. We look at racism and sexism as recognized forms of discrimination, but can white people and men experience reverse discrimination — that is, experience racism and sexism from people of color and women? I think not.
In my opinion, reverse discrimination is not discrimination. Frankly, I think it’s just people’s feelings getting hurt. But after engaging in several arguments with people who feel that they have experienced this kind of “discrimination,” I noticed a trend: when white people or men are discriminated against, they experience a little taste of what it feels like to be treated based on their social statuses. So they figure that’s what discrimination feels like and call it that. Almost but not quite.
Why? We all have prejudices about certain groups of people and act on them on some level. However, I think discrimination only affects groups of people if it carries the views of those with power and privilege. It then enforces negative evaluations about disenfranchised groups while raising privileged groups with positive evaluations. I feel that if you are white and/or male, you live in a system that benefits you and advantages you over people of color and/or women by virtue of your social status as such. This is not to say that if you are white and/or male you do not suffer hardships in life. Or that because you are a woman or a person of color that you cannot live a privileged life. However, men and white people’s prejudices played out toward women and people of color respectively have more substantial grip than the reverse.
Why is our standard definition of discrimination not apt enough for the word to apply to white people and men? Because when you’re white or a man and say that you are being discriminated against for your race/gender, I think that what you’re really saying is that your struggle is the same as the struggle of those whom society disenfranchises on a daily basis. No one should be judged and mistreated based on social statuses, but one has to acknowledge that the system we live in is so messed up that even individuals’ struggles are unequal.
Adrian Claveria is a philosophy senior and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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