Reverse discrimination

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Reverse discrimination is discrimination against members of a dominant or majority group or in favor of members of a minority or historically disadvantaged group. Groups may be defined in terms of race, gender, ethnicity, or other factors. This discrimination may seek to redress social inequalities where minority groups have been denied access to the same privileges of the majority group. In such cases it is intended to remove discrimination that minority groups may already face. Reverse discrimination may also be used to highlight the discrimination inherent in affirmative action programs. Reverse Discrimination can be defined as the unfair treatment of members of the majority groups resulting from preferential policies, as in college admissions or employment, intended to remedy earlier discrimination against minorities.[1][2] Conceptualizing efforts as reverse discrimination began to become popular in the early-mid-1970s, the time period that focused on underrepresentation and affirmative action intended to remedy the effects of past discrimination.

However, the concept of reverse discrimination has two different views: a broad sense and a narrow sense. In a broad sense, it refers to discrimination against Whites or males in employment, education, and any other areas of life. In a narrow sense, reverse discrimination refers to the negative impact Whites or males may experience because of affirmative action policies. The two views are often conflated, which leads to confusion and misinformation.[3]

The law in some countries, such as the UK, draws a distinction between “equality of provision” and “equality of outcome”, recognising that identical treatment may sometimes act to preserve inequality rather than eliminate it. Opponents of this distinction may label it as an example of positive discrimination.


Different perspectives

Discrimination Based on Race is Wrong

Discrimination against a person based on the color of their skin is wrong, even if the person being discriminated against is not a minority. Reverse discrimination does not ensure that the most qualified person will be selected for a job or promotion but rather gives preference to a minority. Past wrongs do not justify discrimination based on race even if the person subjected to discrimination is not a minority.


When reverse discrimination is viewed as compensation for groups who lost ability to compete on equal term. This group will benefit more because they are restrained. They will use this competitive edge to claim jobs, which the non-ability loss groups would have otherwise gotten. Thus, this group only stands to gain from the relevant effects of the original discrimination and that bypassed individuals stand to lose the most from reverse discrimination.[4]

Neutralizing competition

Reverse discrimination may be justified insofar as it neutralizes competitive disadvantages caused by past discrimination.

This "neutralization" is an oversimplification. In actuality, there are many ways in which a person's environment may affect his ability to compete and there are logical differences in these ways which affect the degree to which reverse discrimination is called for. Thus a way of restoring equal access to those goods which society distributes competitively is needed on the basis of merit, not accident.

Social change

Reverse discrimination need not be viewed merely as a way of compensating individuals for harms allegedly caused by historical discrimination; some proponents of reverse discrimination view it as a way of promoting certain forms of social change which they find desirable. Although the details of this account have tended to vary, their fundamental contention is that reverse discrimination is a necessary tool for improving the socioeconomic position of minorities and for providing role-models for both members of minority groups and women, and that these results are in turn essential steps toward bringing the present and future members of these groups into society's mainstream.

Reverse discrimination in the workplace

Reverse discrimination is ethically challenging and has many different viewpoints. For example, it is important to consider reverse discrimination in the work place.

When members of a particular group have been barred from a particular employment, it is said that this group has received less than its fair share of employment in question and deserves to receive more by way of compensation. Thus, this group is being compensated for past lack of employment. Therefore, a group already existing in the workplace will be discriminated against, even if they’ve never been denied employment previously. If the point of reverse discrimination is to compensate a wronged group, it will hardly matter if those who are preferentially hired were not among the original victims of discrimination.[5] Moreover, the current beneficiaries of reverse discrimination are not often the same persons as those who were harmed by the original discrimination, and those who now bear the burden of reverse discrimination are seldom the same persons as those who practiced the original discrimination. Because of this, reverse discrimination is said to be both irrelevant to the aim of compensating for past injustices and unfair to those whose superior qualifications are bypassed

It is often argued, by majority groups that they are being discriminated for hiring and advancement because of affirmative action policies. However, critics of this argument often cite the symbolic significance of a job has to be taken into consideration as well as qualifications.[6] Critics also argue that what is termed "reverse discrimination" against majority groups is, in fact, not discrimination against that group but rather positive discrimination assisting another group. In other words, rather than the employer assuming a trait or negatively discriminating against the majority, it is instead positively assisting a minority group.



Qantas Airways's board policy of not allowing male passengers sitting next to children travelling alone for fear of child molestation has been criticized by persons concerned as act of reverse discrimination against men.[7] According to Qantas, this policy has been shared by other airlines in Australia and around the globe.[8] However, following a public outcry, Virgin Australia has announced that it will review its policy.[9]

European Union

In European Union law, reverse discrimination occurs where the a Member State’s national law provides for worse treatment of its own citizens or domestic products than other EU citizens/goods under EU law. This can happen because of the legal principle of subsidiarity that EU law is not applicable in situations purely internal to one Member State.[10] For example, the situation regarding tuition fees in the United Kingdom is one of reverse discrimination: English, Welsh and Northern Irish students studying in Scotland would be liable to pay tuition fee. Students from outside the UK but from within the EU would not be required to pay tuition fees if studying in Scotland.


There was a controversy over reverse discrimination in Korea in 2003. After the President Rho took office in February 2003, there arose claims that natives of the Southwest region (so-called Honam region) were systematically excluded from top posts in the prosecutors office, the police, and the Ministry of Home Affairs and Government Administration. For example, as a result of the recent personnel change, only 1 out of the 20 top officials at the Home Affairs Ministry is from the Southwest. There are also claims that regional projects have been removed from the new government's priority agenda. Ironically, the Southwest region has been a core support of the incumbent party for decades and the President was supported by more than 90% of the electorates in the Southwest region in the presidential election in December 2002.


In India, among the limited positions for higher education, 50 percent are reserved.[citation needed] Reserved category candidates can select a position from the Open 50 percent if he or she has good merit. This results in further reverse discrimination of Open/General/Non Reserved candidates. Further, since there are no economic criteria in classifying Reservation, poorer sections of reserved class often remain poor whereas the affluent section reap benefits for successive generations.[citation needed] Also, the poorer sections of Open/General Category become devoid of access to higher education for even slightly low merit on competitive exams. The difference in merit on entrance exams is often very wide between the reserved and unreserved classes. In India, the term is often used by citizens protesting against reservation and quotas.[11][12][13]

United Kingdom

UK law draws a distinction between Equality of Provision and Equality of Outcome, particularly in respect to disability rights. The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the Equality Act 2010 make it clear that treating two people identically may not be sufficient to guarantee that they have been treated equally in law if the task, physical environment or service does not offer them equality of outcome. The law provides for disabled people to request the provision of 'reasonable adjustments' to ensure that they are able to access employment, services and the built environment with the same potential as non-disabled people. In November 2007, David Rosin, a former vice-president of the Royal College of Surgeons wrote in the magazine Hospital Doctor: “It is time that someone spoke up concerning the reverse discrimination with respect to merit awards” and saying that "female and ethnic minority consultants are being given preferential treatment to meet artificial quotas".[14]

United States

The number of reverse discrimination cases filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission doubled in the 1990s [15] and continue to reflect a growing percentage of all discrimination cases [16] In fact, reverse discrimination cases in various employment sectors (government, public service, higher education) have resulted in multi-million dollar settlements.[citation needed]

In a study conducted by S. K. Camara & M. P. Orbe, they collected narratives of individuals describing situations where they were discriminated against based on their majority-group status (cases of reverse discrimination). The population sample consisted of the respondents being 30% female and 70% male. Birth era of respondents were 3% in the pre civil rights era between 1900-1935, and 53% during civil rights era 1938-1969, and 44% in the post civil rights era between 1970 and 1985. Approximately 9% of the respondents were Hispanic, 3% African American, 77% Caucasian, 1% Asian, 1% Native American, and 9% identified themselves as other.


(Based on Table 1 of Sakile K. Camara & Mark P. Orbe [17])

Vast majority of these stories involved Whites describing discrimination based on their race = a value of 70. Men who were discriminated against based on their sex = a value of 19. Young people experience age-based discrimination = a value of 12., and heterosexuals experiencing discrimination based on their sexual orientation = a value of 4.[18]


In Grutter v. Bollinger, the Supreme Court allowed minority students a set of special considerations. The decision resulted in Caucasian students being denied acceptance regardless of their academic capabilities.

University of Texas had to defer the use of racial preferences in their college admissions after the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit barred the school from considering race in admitting students. The ruling came in a lawsuit brought by four white applications to the Texas Law School. They were denied admission even though their grade point averages were greater than minority applications that were accepted. The four white students also had a greater Law School Admission Test scores[19] In 2012, Abigail Fisher, a graduate school applicant, was offered a hearing from the Supreme Court. The University of Texas allegedly used race as a factor in denying her application. In which case, the lawsuit of Fisher v. University of Texas was filed.[20]


Opponents of Reverse Discrimination sometimes object that it cannot achieve its objectives because it inevitably creates two classes; those who gain their job or university place (or whatever) purely on merit and those who succeed only because of the existence of the program. So when women or ethnic minorities succeed on merit alone this is not recognized and their success is attributed to Reverse Discrimination.[21]

Statistics on the numbers and outcomes of complaints of employment discrimination suggest that reverse discrimination is rare. Most complaints are not claims against affirmative action policies. According to a report prepared for the labor department in the United States by Alfred W. Blumrosen, affirmative action policies have caused few claims of reverse discrimination by whites. The report found less than 100 reverse-discrimination cases among more than 3,000 discrimination opinions by Federal district and appears could from 1990-1994. The report indicated that a high proportion of the claims lacked merit. In Blumrosen's report, national surveys revealed only a few whites had experienced reverse discrimination, and only 5 to 12 percent of whites believed that their race had cost them a job or promotion. In addition, Blumrosen's report indicated that the reports filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission offer additional evidence that reverse discrimination is rare: 2% of cases were of white men charging, sexual, racial or national origin discrimination and 1.8% were of white women charging racial discrimination.[22]

Furthermore, newer reports by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have found that less than 10% of race related complaints were filed by whites, only 18% of gender related complaints and only 4% of the court cases were filed by men.[23]

Analysis of other evidence shows that when national samples of whites are asked if they personally have experienced the loss of job, promotion, or college admission because of their race, only 2%-13% say yes.[24]

See also






  1. ^,7
  2. ^ "Reverse Discrimination". 
  3. ^ Pincus, F (2008). Thousands Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. pp. 1160–1162. ISBN 10.4135/9781412963879.n480. 
  4. ^ Cher, George (1975). Philiosophy & Public Affairs, Vol 4, No.2 Winter: Justifying Reverse Discrimination in Employment. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 159–170. 
  5. ^ Cher, George (1975). Philiosophy & Public Affairs, Vol 4, No.2 Winter: Justifying Reverse Discrimination in Employment. Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 159–170. 
  6. ^ Baer, Judith (January 1982). "Reverse Discrimination: The Dangers of Hardened Categories". Law & Policy Quaterly 4 (1): 71–94. 
  7. ^ The Age: Nurse 'humiliated' by Qantas policy, 13 August 2012, retrieved 15 August 2012
  8. ^ The Age: Seat swap outcry moves Virgin to think again, 10 August 2012, retrieved 15 August 2012
  9. ^ The Age: Virgin policy change after male passenger was moved away from children, 11 August 2012, retrieved 15 August 2012
  10. ^ Cyril Ritter: Purely Internal Situations, Reverse Discrimination, Guimont, Dzodzi and Article 234
  11. ^ Devanesan Nesiah. Discrimination With Reason? The Policy of Reservations in the United States, India and Malaysia. 1997. Oxford University Press. 0195639839.
  12. ^ Excess reservation will cause reverse discrimination, cautions Supreme Court
  13. ^ R. Kent Greenawalt. Discrimination and Reverse Discrimination. 1983. Knopf. ISBN 0-394-33577-5.
  14. ^ Templeton, Sarah-Kate (2007-11-18). "'Doctor's Revolt at Anti-White Bias'". London: The Times. Retrieved 2010-06-30. 
  15. ^ Evans, W.D (2004). "Reverse Discrimination claims: Growing like kudzu". Maryland Bar Journal: 48–51. 
  16. ^ Pincus, F (2003). Reverse discrimination: Dismantling the myth. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner. 
  17. ^ Sakile K. Camara, Mark P. Orbe (09). "Understanding Interpersonal Manifestations of "Reverse Discrimination" Through Phenomenological Inquiry". Journal of Intercultural Communication Research: 111–134. 
  18. ^ Sakile K. Camara, Mark P. Orbe (09). "Understanding Interpersonal Manifestations of "Reverse Discrimination" Through Phenomenological Inquiry". Journal of Intercultural Communication Research: 111–134. 
  19. ^ Robert, Menache, Brian H Kleiner (1999). "New Developments in Reverse Discrimination". Equal Opportunities International 18: 41. 
  20. ^,7&as_ylo=2012
  21. ^ Wallace, Gerry (Autumn 1991). "Equality and Reverse Discrimination". Cogito: 129–134. 
  22. ^ Blumrosen, Alfred (1995). Draft Report on Reverse Discrimination Commissioned by Labor Department. Daily Labor Report. 
  23. ^ Schaefer, Richard T. (25). "Reverse Discrimination". Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity, and Society: 1160–1162. 
  24. ^ Schaefer, Richard T. (25). "Reverse Discrimination". Encyclopedia of Race, Ethnicity, and Society: 1160–1162. 

Further reading

External links