Reverse discrimination is the intentional discrimination of members of a majority group, such as white people or men, due to their race, religion, gender, age or other protected characteristic. Most people may not realize it, but reverse discrimination occurs every day in almost every society. It is sometimes also referred to as affirmative action, as it can be used to promote the rights of minorities especially where inequality is concerned.
In most societies, discrimination, if it exists, is usually against a minority people or those who are seen as inferior. Throughout modern history, there have been campaigns and movements to promote equal opportunities and rights for all people, regardless of what group they fall into. However, there are also times when reverse discrimination is practiced, resulting in discrimination against people in majority groups, usually in favor of the minority.
While some instances of reverse discrimination are deliberate, reverse discrimination could also be practiced by individuals who do not even know there is a term for it. Examples include a salesperson pricing higher for white customers, an employer rejecting a young applicant in favor of an older applicant, and promoting only women in the workplace, when the difference in people’s minority and majority status is the only differing aspect. Of course, it can be difficult to prove that reverse discrimination is being practiced. One could always try to justify their actions especially when the criteria is not set in stone. As such, it is often also difficult for a victim of reverse discrimination to prove as such.
If someone suspects they are a victim of reverse discrimination, they are required to provide evidence that they belong to a majority class and that others not in the same class have received favorable treatment, similar to a discrimination suit. For the case to legally be considered reverse discrimination, the evidence must be extremely convincing. Even so, it is still easy for the accused to oppose the claim and prove that others received favorable treatment not because of their minority status, but because of other aspects, such as attitude, experience or similar merits. Most cases of reverse discrimination probably go unnoticed or without action taken against them. Either way, it is important for people to be aware of their rights and responsibilities in the corporate world as discrimination, or reverse discrimination, can occur at any time.
Although most people may think of laws as covering only discrimination against the minorities, most laws are actually structured so that all forms of discrimination are prohibited. This means that regardless of whether the victim is from a minority or a majority group, they are protected from any form of discrimination, reverse or otherwise. As such, it is implied that there is a fine line between reverse discrimination and affirmative action, with the former prohibited in all forms while the latter has been signed into law.
The difference between reverse discrimination and affirmative action is often a grey area, with many claiming they are one and the same. Although the Civil Rights Act protects minority groups from discrimination, discrimination still occurs today, leading to affirmative action being taken. Affirmative action was first signed into law by President John F. Kennedy on March 6, 1961. It was intended to bridge the gap between inequalities in employment and pay, namely between women and men, and blacks and whites. Affirmative action primarily promoted non-discriminative actions, with groups of different minorities coming together to achieve their common goal of equality. Measures taken in affirmative action include setting up quotas or preferential systems for minority groups. For example, a college may set aside a percentage of its vacancies to be specially for women in each year’s intake. This has been a very controversial act especially in places where the competition is high. Moreover, where it crosses the line into reverse discrimination – or if affirmative action itself is indeed already reverse discrimination – is highly contended.
Is reverse discrimination justifiable? Well, this question is still up for debate. From certain perspectives, reverse discrimination is still discrimination, even if it came out of motives to promote equality. Those against reverse discrimination usually acknowledge that discrimination against minority groups has been a problem in the past. However, they do not believe that the way to combat discrimination is to implement more measures of favoritism. After all, two wrongs do not make a right. These people believe that as per anti-discriminatory laws, discrimination is illegal regardless of who is affected by it and who benefits from it. As such, reverse discrimination cannot be justified.
Others believe that reverse discrimination can be justifiable because it is an effective way to arrive at the end goal of equality for all. In some cases, without the measures of affirmative action, nobody from the minority groups would be included at all. Consider the medical school of the University of California. With 100 vacancies each year in a highly coveted institution, competition to enter is tight, and up to sixteen of those spots are reserved for non-white students as part of affirmative action. The university reasons that if it did not keep these vacancies for minority races, the intake will comprise of solely white students – shutting minority races out from a future in the medical industry. In this way, affirmative action is possibly the only way to ensure that all races are adequately represented in the school and in the state’s medical field.
Yet others feel that reverse discrimination may be justified for the purpose of raising awareness for the minorities and making opportunities fair for all. Without introducing reverse discrimination, it may be unlikely that the current situation will ever pivot towards equality. For example, if a majority group has long been on the receiving end of certain rights or benefits, they may not realize what it feels like to be in a minority group that has been denied those rights or benefits. They may not even see the existence of inequality, or perhaps ignore the extent of it. In such a case, reverse discrimination may be one of the only ways to give the oppressing group a taste of their own medicine and bring about change for equality.
In the end, it is likely that the issue of reverse discrimination and affirmative action will continue to be a sensitive one for as long as there is a divide between the majorities and minorities. Whether reverse discrimination is justifiable is likely dependent on each individual case. Sadly, it may be that we will continue to see more cases of discrimination, whether reverse or otherwise. Ultimately, the question is: are we uniting as one with reverse discrimination, or is it simply dividing our society further?
Author: Kelly Felder