Reverse discrimination (sometimes called "reverse racism") is, in its simplest form[1], the practice of favoring members of a historically disadvantaged group at the expense of members of a historically advantaged group.

In the United States

In the United States, the terms "reverse discrimination" and "reverse racism" have been used in past discussions of racial quotas or gender quotas for collegiate admission to government-run educational institutions. Such policies were held to be unconstitutional in the United States, while non-quota programs such as affirmative action (whether based on race, ethnic minorities, and physical, mental, or learning disabilities) are legal.

Harvard professor Roland Fryer, however, has argued that there is no logically tenable difference between "quotas" and "goals." [2] The most significant United States Supreme Court case regarding reverse discrimination is Regents of the University of California v. Bakke.

In the United Kingdom

In the UK, the term also relates to university admissions or employee hiring.[3]

In India

For example, in India, the term is often used by citizens protesting against reservation and quotas.[4][5][6]


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The use of the term "reverse discrimination" or "reverse racism" is controversial, particularly among minority groups who benefit from the policies. Typically, the term is restricted to the group which previously had hegemonic power in society.

The term itself is criticized, as "reverse racism" is not the inverse of racism. Rather, it constitutes racist policies enacted to benefit a different group, one which was previously discriminated against.

Such policies are typically enacted in an effort to reverse previous discrimination - for example, in the United States whites and Asians are discriminated against in college admissions, with preferential treatment given to blacks, Native Americans, and Latinos in an effort to bring more of these minority students into the best schools. This can invoke resentment in those who are members of the "advantaged" group who do not get the same treatment as their peers on the basis of individual merit.

See also


  1. ^ Compact Oxford English Dictionary[1]
  2. ^ Harvard Econ Department
  3. ^ Encarta[2], Wordsmyth[3]
  4. ^ Devanesan Nesiah. Discrimination With Reason? The Policy of Reservations in the United States, India and Malaysia. 1997. Oxford University Press. 0195639839.
  5. ^ Excess reservation will cause reverse discrimination, cautions Supreme Court
  6. ^ R. Kent Greenawalt. Discrimination and Reverse Discrimination. 1983. Knopf. ISBN 0394335775.