Racism against white people & sexism against men
One touchy subject is whether racism can be against white people, sexism can be against men, and so on for other analogous types of prejudice and discrimination. A lot of white people think they face more racism than black people, and a lot of men think they face more sexism than women. Are they deluded because they can’t even suffer from prejudice? If they were right, would that mean black people couldn’t suffer from racism at all?
Regarding systematic and institutionalized racism and sexism, I can understand why people would say racism can’t be against the most privileged in that regard (white people and men). This issue is somewhat complex because stereotypes can be positive and negative, but there are arguments that stereotypes against men are a result of a system meant to give men unfair power. When it comes to who is being given unfair power from prejudice overall, some groups are privileged (tend to have more unfair advantages) and that is a reason to be very concerned about those who are oppressed (tend to have more unfair disadvantages) due to a system of discrimination. Who benefits or is harmed overall seems to be important rather than merely the irrationality of it.
Everyone agrees that white people and men can be harmed by people who have negative views or unintended prejudice to white people or men. Whether it counts as racism or sexism is the issue. Unintended (or “implicit”) bias is identified through hidden bias tests, and some people do have such biases against white people and men, even when the person has no beliefs against those groups, but unintended bias is much more common against black people (and some other racial groups), women, and other gender identities. I personally see no reason to say such biases against white people or men don’t count as racist or sexist, but that is partially determined by success at communication.
It is possible using language that accepts racism against white people and sexism against men can cause miscommunication. For example, they might think you are saying that bias against white people is bad, and it’s just as bad against bias against black people. Bias against black people contributes to systematic oppression against them, and bias against white people is almost never enough to take away their unfair advantages from several other interactions that privilege them in unfair ways.
On the other hand denying racism against white people and sexism against men can also cause miscommunication. Many who hear this denial think it is being denied that there’s bias against white people and men, or that harming white people or men because of disliking those groups is wrong. Almost no one actually thinks either of those things. We know bias against white people and men exists. We know there are stereotypes against them. We know harming them due to bias is wrong.
How all this applies to affirmative action is complicated and I don’t want to discuss that in detail here. There are likely a lot of other intersecting related issues beyond that as well.
What do you think?