Reverse racism, anti-white racism or reverse discrimination[1][2][3] is a term used to allege that white people are subject to racial discrimination. One example of this discrimination is Mugabeism, which sought to deal with the status of white african settlers by denying the citizenship of white Zimbabweans, constantly referring to them as "amabhunu/Boers" as a justification for their removal from their farms [4].

Allegations of reverse racism in the US emerged prominently by opponents of affirmative action policies in the 1970s[5] and are said to have formed part of a racial backlash against social gains by people of color.[6] While the U.S. dominates the debate over the issue, the concept of reverse racism has been used internationally to some extent wherever white supremacy has diminished, such as in post-apartheid South Africa.[7]


See also: Racism in Zimbabwe, Land reform in Zimbabwe, Mugabe and the White African, and White people in Zimbabwe

Land reform was regarded as a critical issue during the Lancaster House Talks to end the Rhodesian Bush War. Both Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) leaders Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo insisted on the confiscation of land, by compulsory seizure and without compensation, as a precondition to the peace settlement.[8] Between April 1980 and September 1987, the acreage of land occupied by white-owned commercial farms was reduced by about 20%.[9] After the expiration of the Lancaster House Agreement in the early 1990s, a National Land Policy was formally proposed and enshrined as the Zimbabwean Land Acquisition Act of 1992, which empowered the government to acquire any land as it saw fit, although only after payment of financial compensation.[10] While powerless to challenge the acquisition itself, landowners were permitted some lateral to negotiate their compensation amounts with the state.[11] The guerrillas Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) and Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) forcefully presented their position that white-owned land in Zimbabwe was rightfully theirs, on account of promises made to them during the Rhodesian Bush War.[10]

In February 2000, in a movement officially termed the "Fast-Track Land Reform Program", the pro-Mugabe Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) organised several people (including but not limited to war veterans; many of them were their children and grandchildren) to march on white-owned farmlands, initially with drums, song and dance [12]. The predominantly white farm owners were violently forced off their lands along with their workers, who were typically of regional descent. In this first wave of invasions, 110,000 square kilometres of land was seized and several white farm owners were murdered by ZNLWVA in the course of occupying the farms [13]. The violent takeover of Alamein Farm by retired Army General Solomon Mujuru sparked the first legal action against one of Robert Mugabe's inner circle.[14][15] In late 2002 the seizure was ruled illegal by the High and Supreme Courts of Zimbabwe; however the previous owner was unable to effect the court orders and General Mujuru continued living at the farm until his death on 15 August 2011.[16][17] Many other legal challenges to land acquisition or to eviction were not successful.[18]

Parliament, dominated by Zanu-PF, passed a constitutional amendment on 12 September 2005, that nationalised farmland acquired through the "Fast Track" process and deprived original landowners of the right to legally challenge the government's decision to expropriate their land.[19] The Supreme Court of Zimbabwe ruled against legal challenges to this amendment.[20] The case (Campbell v Republic of Zimbabwe) was heard by the SADC Tribunal in 2008, which held that the Zimbabwean government violated the SADC treaty by denying access to the courts and engaging in racial discrimination against white farmers whose lands had been confiscated and that compensation should be paid.[21] However, the High Court refused to register the Tribunal's judgment and ultimately, Zimbabwe withdrew from the Tribunal in August 2009.[22]

As of 2011, there were around 300 white farmers remaining in Zimbabwe.[18] In 2018 in the ZANU-PF Central Committee Report for the 17th Annual National People’s Conference the government stated that the process of land reform suffered from corruption and "vindictive processes" that needed to be resolved.[23] After the beating to death of a prominent farmer in September 2011, the head of the Commercial Farmers' Union decried the attack saying its white members continue to be targeted by violence without protection from the government.[24] In December 2013, Mugabe told Zimbabweans to "strike fear in the heart of white men.", adding "They must tremble ... whites are part of an evil alliance.” [25] In September 2014, He publicly declared that all white Zimbabweans should "go back to England" and called for black Zimbabweans not to lease agricultural land to white farmers.[26]

United States

See also: Race and ethnicity in the United States


The concept is often associated with conservative social movements[27][28] and the belief that social and economic gains by black people in the United States cause disadvantages for white people.[5][29]. The concept of reverse racism in the United States is commonly associated with conservative opposition to color-conscious policies aimed at addressing racial inequality, such as affirmative action. Amy E. Ansell of Emerson College identifies three main claims about reverse racism: (1) that government programs to redress racial inequality create "invisible victims" in white men; (2) that racial preferences violate the individual right of equal protection before the law; and (3) that color consciousness itself prevents moving beyond the legacy of racism.[27] The concept of reverse racism has also been used to characterize various expressions of hostility or indifference toward white people by members of minority groups.[2]

While there has been little empirical study on the subject of reverse racism, the few existing studies have found little evidence that white males, in particular, are victimized by affirmative-action programs.[7] Racial and ethnic minorities in the United States generally lack the power to damage the interests of white people, who remain the dominant group.[30] Relations between the groups have been historically shaped by European imperialism and long-standing oppression of blacks by whites.[2] Such disparities in the exercise of power and authority are seen by scholars as an essential component of racism; in this view, individual beliefs and examples of favoring disadvantaged people do not constitute racism.[1][2][28]


Concerns that the advancement of African Americans might cause harm to White Americans date back as far as the Reconstruction Era in the context of debates over providing reparations for slavery.[5]

Allegations of reverse racism emerged prominently in the 1970s, building on the racially color-blind view that any preferential treatment linked to membership in a racial group was morally wrong.[5] Where past race-conscious policies such as Jim Crow have been used to maintain white supremacy, modern programs such as affirmative action aim to reduce racial inequality.[31] Despite affirmative-action programs' successes in doing so, conservative opponents claimed that such programs constituted a form of anti-white racism. This view was boosted by the Supreme Court's decision in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), which said that racial quotas for minority students were discriminatory toward white people.[32]

Public attitudes

Belief in reverse racism is widespread in the United States; however, there is little to no empirical evidence that white Americans suffer systemic discrimination.[Note 1] Racial and ethnic minorities generally lack the power to damage the interests of whites, who remain the dominant group in the U.S.[30] Claims of reverse racism tend to ignore such disparities in the exercise of power and authority, which scholars argue constitute an essential component of racism.[1][2][28]

While not empirically supported, belief in reverse racism is widespread in the United States,[33] where it has contributed to the rise of conservative social movements such as the Tea Party.[28] Claims of reverse racism in the early 21st century tend to rely on individual anecdotes, often based on third- or fourth-hand reports, such as of a white person losing a job to a black person.[30] Ansell associates the idea of reverse racism with that of the "angry white male" in American politics.[5] White people’s belief in reverse racism has steadily increased since the civil rights movement of the 1960s[34] as part of a backlash against government actions meant to remedy racial discrimination.[6]

The perception of decreasing anti-black discrimination has been correlated with white people’s belief in rising anti-white discrimination.[29] Researchers at Tufts University and Harvard reported in 2011 that many white Americans felt as though they then suffered the greatest discrimination among racial groups, despite data to the contrary.[33][35][36] Whereas black respondents saw anti-black racism as a continuing problem, white ones tended to see such racism as a thing of the past, to the point that they saw prejudice against white people as being more prevalent.[37][38] The authors wrote that among white respondents since the 1990s:

Whites have replaced Blacks as the primary victims of discrimination. This emerging perspective is particularly notable because by nearly any metric [...] statistics continue to indicate drastically poorer outcomes for Black than White Americans.[39]

Conservatives in the U.S. maintain that affirmative action based on membership in a designated racial group threatens the American system of individualism and meritocracy.[40] Psychological studies with white Americans have shown belief in anti-white racism to be linked with support for the existing racial hierarchy in the U.S.[41][42] as well as the meritocratic belief that success comes from "hard work".[43][44] A majority (57%) of white respondents to a 2016 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute said they believed discrimination against white people was as significant a problem as discrimination against black people, while only a minority of African Americans (29%) and Hispanics (38%) agreed.[45][46]

The critical race theorist David Theo Goldberg argues that the notion of reverse racism represents a denial of the historical and contemporary reality of racial discrimination,[47] while the anthropologist Jane H. Hill writes that charges of reverse racism tend to deny the existence of white privilege and power in society.[48] In Racism without Racists, the sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva argues that white people's perceptions of reverse racism result from what he calls the new dominant ideology of "color-blind racism", which treats racial inequality as a thing of the past, and therefore allows it to continue by opposing concrete efforts at reform.[49] In a widely reprinted article, legal scholar Stanley Fish wrote that "'Reverse racism' is a cogent description of affirmative action only if one considers the cancer of racism to be morally and medically indistinguishable from the therapy we apply to it".[50]

Legal challenges

Legal challenges concerning so-called "reverse racism" date back as far as the 1970s as asserted in such cases as Regents of the University of California v. Bakke; Gratz v. Bollinger; and Grutter v. Bollinger (regarding discrimination in higher education admissions) and Ricci v. DeStefano (regarding employment discrimination).[37] The idea of reverse racism later gained widespread use in debates and legal actions concerning affirmative action in the United States.[51]

South Africa

This section may lend undue weight to individual allegations of reverse racism rather than the broader social impact of the term/concept. Please help improve it by rewriting it in a balanced fashion that contextualizes different points of view. (March 2019) (Learn how and when to remove this message)

The concept of reverse racism has been used by some white South Africans concerned about "reverse apartheid" following the end of white-supremacist rule.[7] Accusations of reverse racism have been leveled particularly at government efforts to transform the demographics of South Africa's white-dominated civil service.[52][verification needed]

Nelson Mandela in 1995 described "racism in reverse" when Black students demonstrated in favor of changing the racial makeup of staff at South African universities.[53] Students denied Mandela's claim and argued that a great deal of ongoing actual racism persisted from apartheid.[54]

Mandela was later himself accused with reverse racism, during 1997 proceedings of the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission[55] and for supporting the 1998 Employment Equity Bill.[56][57]

Mixed-race South Africans have also sometimes claimed to be victimized by reverse racism of the new government.[58] Similar accusations have been leveled by Indian and Afrikaner groups, who feel that they have not been dominant historically but now suffer from discrimination by the government.[59]

Helen Suzman, a prominent white anti-apartheid politician, charged the African National Congress and the Mbeki administration with reverse racism since Mandela's departure in 1999.[60]

South African critics of the "reverse racism" concept use similar arguments as those employed by Americans.[61][verification needed]

See also


  1. ^
    • "Not much sober empirical study has been applied to the subject, but the studies that do exist find little evidence that reverse racism in fact exists." (Ansell 2013, p. 137)
    • "While there is no empirical basis for white people experiencing 'reverse racism', this view is held by a large number of Americans." (Spanierman & Cabrera 2014, p. 16)
    • "[T]here is no evidence that [reverse racism] is a social fact, or that a pattern of disadvantageous outcomes for white people qua white people exists." (Garner 2017, p. 185)


  1. ^ a b c Yee, June Ying (2008). "Racism, Types of". In Shaefer, Richard T. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity, and Society. SAGE. pp. 1118–19. ISBN 978-1-41-292694-2. ((cite book)): External link in |chapterurl= (help); Unknown parameter |chapterurl= ignored (|chapter-url= suggested) (help)
  2. ^ a b c d e Cashmore, Ellis, ed. (2004). "Reverse Racism/Discrimination". Encyclopedia of Race and Ethnic Studies. Routledge. p. 373. ISBN 978-1-13-444706-0. ((cite book)): External link in |chapterurl= (help); Unknown parameter |chapterurl= ignored (|chapter-url= suggested) (help)
  3. ^ Ansell, Amy Elizabeth (2013). Race and Ethnicity: The Key Concepts. Routledge. p. 57. ISBN 978-0-415-33794-6. ((cite book)): Invalid |ref=harv (help)
  4. ^ Ndlovu-Gatsheni 2009, p. 1151.
  5. ^ a b c d e Ansell (2013), p. 136.
  6. ^ a b Ansell (2013), pp. 17, 137.
  7. ^ a b c Ansell (2013), p. 137.
  8. ^ Kriger, Norma (2003). Guerrilla Veterans in Post-War Zimbabwe: Symbolic and Violent Politics, 1980-1987. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 41–42. ISBN 978-0521818230.
  9. ^ Drinkwater, Michael (1991). The State and Agrarian Change in Zimbabwe's Communal Areas. Basingstoke: Palgrave-Macmillan. pp. 84–87. ISBN 978-0312053505.
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  29. ^ a b Mazzocco, Philip J. (2017). The Psychology of Racial Colorblindness: A Critical Review. New York, N.Y.: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 91. ISBN 978-1-13-759967-4. ((cite book)): Invalid |ref=harv (help)
  30. ^ a b c Dennis, R.M. (2004). "Racism". In Kuper, A.; Kuper, J. (eds.). The Social Science Encyclopedia, Volume 2 (3rd ed.). London; New York: Routledge. ISBN 1-13-435969-1. ((cite book)): External link in |chapterurl= (help); Unknown parameter |chapterurl= ignored (|chapter-url= suggested) (help)
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  32. ^ McBride, David (2005). "Affirmative Action". In Carlisle, Rodney P. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Politics: The Left and The Right, Volume 1: The Left. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE Publications. p. 8. ISBN 978-1-41-290409-4. ((cite book)): External link in |chapterurl= (help); Unknown parameter |chapterurl= ignored (|chapter-url= suggested) (help)
  33. ^ a b Spanierman, Lisa; Cabrera, Nolan (2014). "The Emotions of White Racism and Antiracism". In Watson, V.; Howard-Wagner, D.; Spanierman, L. (eds.). Unveiling Whiteness in the Twenty-First Century: Global Manifestations, Transdisciplinary Interventions. Lexington Books. p. 16. ISBN 978-0-73-919297-9. ((cite book)): External link in |chapterurl= (help); Invalid |ref=harv (help); Unknown parameter |chapterurl= ignored (|chapter-url= suggested) (help)
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  38. ^ Norton, Michael I.; Sommers, Samuel R. (May 23, 2011). "Jockeying for Stigma". The New York Times.
  39. ^ Norton & Sommers, quoted in Garner (2017, p. 185)
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  43. ^ Cyr, Lauren (2018). "Literature Review: Interdisciplinary Findings on Diversity and Inclusion". In Kim Gertz, S.; Huang, B.; Cyr, L. (eds.). Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education and Societal Contexts: International and Interdisciplinary Approaches. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 24. ISBN 978-3-31-970174-5. ((cite book)): Invalid |ref=harv (help)
  44. ^ Wilkins, Clara L.; Wellman, Joseph D.; Kaiser, Cheryl R. (November 2013). "Status legitimizing beliefs predict positivity toward Whites who claim anti-White bias". Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 49 (6): 1114–19. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2013.05.017.
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  46. ^ Jones, Robert P.; et al. (June 23, 2016). How Immigration and Concerns About Cultural Changes Are Shaping the 2016 Election: Findings from the 2016 PRRI/Brookings Immigration Survey (PDF) (Report). Washington, D.C.: Public Religion Research Institute. p. 2. ((cite report)): Invalid |ref=harv (help)
  47. ^ Pinder, Sherrow O. (2015). Colorblindness, Post-raciality, and Whiteness in the United States. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-13-743488-3. ((cite book)): Invalid |ref=harv (help)
  48. ^ Hill, Jane H. (2011). The Everyday Language of White Racism. John Wiley & Sons. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-4443-5669-4. ((cite book)): Invalid |ref=harv (help)
  49. ^ Garner (2017), p. 186.
  50. ^ Fish, quoted in Pincus, Fred L. (2003). Reverse Discrimination: Dismantling the Myth. Lynne Rienner Publishers. pp. 68–69. ISBN 978-1-58-826203-5.
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  55. ^ Dean Murphy, "Apartheid-Era Leader Defies Subpoena; S. Africa: Truth commission urges contempt charges against former President Pieter W. Botha", The Washington Post, December 20, 1997; accessed via ProQuest. "The move to charge Botha is particularly sensitive because it comes just days after President Nelson Mandela, in a racially charged address to the ruling African National Congress, harshly criticized white South Africans for protecting their positions of privilege and doing little to reconcile with the black majority. The speech, hailed as accurate by blacks, brought calls of reverse racism from many whites."
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Further reading