All across this country, from Feb. 1 through March 1, we celebrate the achievements and reflect upon the history of African Americans. During such a celebratory time, it is not uncommon to hear remarks, mostly uttered by white people, about the inherent inequality that a month dedicated to black people represents. Of course, there lies an important difference between equality and equity that is necessary to explore.
There is no counterpart to Black History Month called “White History Month,” because white people and their accomplishments remain at the forefront of history. Much of what American children have learned about history from textbooks and curriculums was generated by white people, which represents their version of history.
Recently, a charter school in Utah agreed to allow students to opt-out of Black History Month education at the request of parents. According to CNN, a school official explained in a letter to Maria Montessori Academy families that parents are permitted “to exercise their civil rights to not participate in Black History Month at the school.” This example is one of many that illustrates the inherent, systemic racism that goes beyond discrimination; this way of thinking permeates institutions from education to government and healthcare. This is racism.
The bottom line is this: we live in a society dominated by whiteness. Although certain stereotypes exist about white people, white people cannot experience racism. Racism is a term that describes an unequal distribution of power among races, and while a White History Month may seem like an equal option on the surface, it doesn’t have any basis in truly balancing the scales of history.
Racism is not only a uniquely American concept but is understood around the world to mean that a certain group, societally and systemically speaking, faces oppression due to their race. Racism is a weapon the oppressor uses against the oppressed. Reverse racism is a myth that white people can experience the same oppression that has held down black people for many centuries.
Although racism presents itself in the way of small interaction or passive-aggressive behaviors, it is more important to think of it as an overarching, omnipresent problem, rather than an inconvenience.
A topic that falls under the umbrella of the reverse racism trope, especially within academia, is affirmative action. Though the education system is typically fixated on the term’s definition as it applies to race, to take affirmative action broadly means to do something decisively through government action in order to change existing circumstances rather than allowing injustice to continue.
Affirmative action policies and practices at colleges and universities such as Drexel work to promote and increase the representation of marginalized groups. Affirmative action takes initiative in challenging cultures, whether in education, employment or otherwise, from which minorities have been historically excluded. Policies like these work to create a better future for all. Don’t let a superficial phrase such as reverse racism distract you from seeing the big picture. In order to uproot a system of oppression, we have to first understand who fits the roles of oppressor and oppressed.