Reverse discrimination

Reverse discrimination is discrimination against members of a dominant or majority group, in favor of members of a minority or historically disadvantaged group. Groups may be defined in terms of disability, ethnicity, family status, gender identity, nationality, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation, or other factors.

This discrimination may seek to redress social inequalities under which minority groups have had less access to privileges enjoyed by the majority group. In such cases it is intended to remove discrimination that minority groups may already face. Reverse discrimination can be defined as the unequal 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]

Conceptualizing affirmative action efforts as reverse discrimination began to become popular in the early- to mid-1970s, a time period that focused on under-representation and action policies intended to remedy the effects of past discrimination in both government and the business world.[2]

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

In the workplace

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 or opportunity. Therefore, a group already existing in the workplace will be discriminated against, even if they’ve never been denied employment previously. An example of this would be an organization's efforts to hire more women in order to meet federal guidelines. However in thus doing, the organization may deny opportunities of equal measures to men.[3] 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.[4] 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 argued 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.[5] Many feel that basing a decision to discriminate against a group of people should not be based on symbolism but on objective, verifiable fact. Thomas Sowell said that the meaning of "qualified" has been stretched to mean "qualified to be trained", and the "available" supply includes women who no longer work (usually because of their husbands' prosperity).[6]