By Phoenix Calida
The problem with reverse -isms (racism, sexism, etc) is that they imply everyone is starting from an equal place. Of course, members of marginalized groups can be bigoted or prejudiced. But marginalized groups don’t have the same structural ability to behave oppressively.
Saying “racism goes both ways” or “women can be sexist too” etc. etc. actively ignores existing power dynamics. It also leads to victim blaming because structural oppression should be able to be overcome *if* the victims are actually societal equals to the person being an asshole.
If racism was truly a mutual 2 way thing, there would be equal incidents of oppression. The consequences of bigotry would go both ways.
So if the black community actually hated white people and decided to reinforce stereotypes that say white people are dishonest, bad workers, poor students etc. If the black community refused to hire, give raises, or allow white people into black universities, what would happen?
Most companies are not owned by black people. Most hiring managers are white. Most professors are white. Most supervisors are white. Most CEO’s are white. Most college professors are white, most admissions counselors are white.
So white people would still be able to find jobs with white employers the majority of the time. White people can submit resumes to white hiring managers, and have white supervisors. White people will still be accepted to university. Even if somehow the black community made a collective effort to “make racism go both ways” it would never happen because there is no systemic power.
On the other hand, we have so many negative stereotypes about black people, most folks can’t even recognize the damage they cause anymore. Now if there’s an underlying idea black people are bad students, how many admissions counselors and professors will treat black students differently? How many white hiring managers ignore resumes with “black names”? How many bosses will find reasons to dislike black employees? What happens if the white community overall decides to exclude black people?
So this isn’t a “both ways” issue. There is a power imbalance. Ignoring that imbalance doesn’t help people of color, it makes it harder for marginalized groups to overcome adversity, because we all believe the myth that “everyone faces racism” even though that racism is not intentionally designed to prevent white people as a class from moving up the social ladder.
We have an entire range of words and ideas, let’s use them to actually define and solve problems instead of being lazy and acting like every form of oppression goes both ways.