The idea of reverse-discrimination is widely criticized as a non-starter but any idea that has mob approval behind it or against it deserves to be looked at closely. I am a brown man from a country with plenty of colonial baggage; to me, the idea of racism is real as an undeniable fact of my people’s collective history. The same applies to colored people across the world; this much is not in dispute, regardless of avowals of a “benevolent, paternal racism” advocated by white groups on the fringe. This awareness, however, has not engendered a grudge against the past, but has rather contributed towards a worldview of “never again”, and a readiness to do whatever is needed towards that end.
When one takes the entire experience of the colored man’s subjugation by whites over the centuries into account – all the time ignoring the many instances of colored-on-colored internecine injury – it becomes easy to see why talk of reverse-racism is prone to ridicule. The West continues to conduct military operations in the poorer parts of the world with no accountability, and though these endeavors have a predominantly geo-strategic and economic slant to them, it is hard not to read a culturally hegemonic character into them also. From the perspective of the colored man, then, the idea of reverse-racism becomes the petulant, mealy-mouthed whine of a bully used to getting his own way.
But if reverse-racism – or reverse discrimination, generally – has to have a leg to stand on, it needs to be understood that it is not the colored man, or the previously oppressed party, bringing it into realization. Rather, reverse-discrimination is brought about by the active participation of members belonging to the group in power. How else could it occur? The group traditionally oppressed couldn’t do it all on their own, else they wouldn’t qualify as being oppressed in the first place; it requires the will and impetus of already-empowered members of the oppressing class to switch sides and to lend their voice to the disenfranchised. In the earliest stages of such a movement, those switching sides are few in number and do so for no reason other than the courage of their convictions. They risk being ostracized from their own groups, but accept this liability in order to follow their moral imperative.
In time, the numbers of switchers swell, till a critical mass is reached. At this point, the movement has achieved some level of sanction, both in popular consciousness and through instruments of power like laws, media, etc. This juncture sees a correction, or at least a concerted movement towards correction, of the grievances harbored by the oppressed class. Initially, this is a development which no reasonable person can conscionably disagree with. Modes of oppression stunt the spiritual growth of a people, an effect seen long after said modes have ceased to be. If at all a people are to exist together, it behooves a civilized society worth the name to give all of its denizens the benefit of equal opportunity, and then let nature take its course.
Later on down this timescale, however, the initially revolutionary, emancipation-driven counter-narrative comes to be seen as the sole, dominant narrative. It is embraced across the spectrum of mainstream discourse, taught in schools and centers of higher education, and broadcast upon hapless consumers throughout the day; in other words, it becomes institutionalized. This narrative tries to make permanent victims of those once oppressed, and ignores the progress that may have been made since the birth of the movement; it absolves the once oppressed of personal accountability, in effect treating them as lost babes in the woods caught in a vicious vortex of generational prejudice. This newly dominant narrative achieves something of the status of dogma, and is wholeheartedly endorsed by fresh cycles of switchers who lack the gravitas and genuine moral fiber of the original crusaders, and are instead driven by vanity and populist sentiment. Foremost among the statutes of this dogma is a complex of collective shaming indicting a person for perpetuity through his association with the oppressing class’s past transgressions. Not only is legitimate and constructive criticism vetoed without a hearing, but a wholesome expression of faith in one’s lineage gets treated with disdain, too.
And all along, the drivers of this process are not the oppressed – those are simply responding to a dog whistle – but rather members of the dominant class, spurred on by an all-cannibalizing self-hate. They forget the zone of reasoned moderation, and instead, in their zealousness to prove their credentials, swing to the other extreme to disavow and ostracize their own kind. Whether it is Antifa in the West, or western educated Hindu liberals in my country denouncing traditionalists and nationalists as bhakts (Sanskrit term for devotee, used pejoratively in this case in the aftermath of the right-wing BJP coming to power at the centre), the mode of operation remains the same: arrogate all claims to intelligence exclusively to oneself under the pretext of progressiveness, and cast dissent in the shadow of unenlightened obstructionism.
One might ask at this stage: so what? Surely, this reverse-discrimination thing can’t be held on par with previous outrages like genocide, slavery, and apartheid. Why can’t those claiming protection from it simply man up and accept it as chickens belatedly come home to roost? To be frank, a large part of me treats this phenomenon in just such a flippant manner, partly because of historical expediency, and because victim-whining in this sort of hazy situation holds little personal appeal for me. Having said that, it should be mentioned that the framework within which subjugation occurs is not static in nature; where oppression once took the barbaric forms listed above (some might say it does to this day to varying degrees), it today dresses itself in a more understated garb; whether it be traditional modes of discrimination, or reverse-discrimination, the aim remains the same: to suppress avenues of expression, drain mainstream political credibility from the target of the attack, and eventually isolate him.
As admitted, I have no real horse in this race, at least not as of now, but this in any event is my understanding of reverse-discrimination. Whether it exists or is a phantom conjured by assorted insecurities ultimately devolves to how one answers the following question: which of two political narratives is likely to have greater social and legislative traction in today’s climate? The one based on appeasement arising out of an unhinged globalism or the one interpolating a trenchant conservatism? Notwithstanding developments across the Atlantic, I believe it to be the former, from wherein it follows that those sounding the cry of reverse-discrimination have legitimate grievances.