Reverse Discrimination

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.

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. The law in some countries, such as the UK, draws a distinction between ‘equality of provision’ and ‘equality of outcome,’ recognizing 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.’

Critics of reverse discrimination contend that penalizing a person based on the color of their skin is wrong, even if the person being discriminated against is not a minority. Additionally, 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. They also argue that past wrongs do not justify discrimination based on race even if the person subjected to discrimination is not a minority.

Another theory holds that reverse discrimination should be 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.

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.

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.

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. Consequently, 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. 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. Critics also argue that what is termed ‘reverse discrimination’ against majority groups is, in fact, not punitive 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.

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. 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, 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 late 2002.

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.

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