To put this in context: This is a phrase I've heard (and here I'm only estimating) close to 1.853 bazillion times in the news/pundit sphere of late, due to making the rookie mistake of following the the confirmation hearings for Sonia Sotomayor. For those not following the news, in the efforts of the GOP (You know, the American political party that's internally consistent) to promote an abiogenesis of dissent, they have of course put forward a number of objections, ad hominem attacks, and in general bitching and moaning about "issues" ranging from offhand comments made by the candidate to her apparently highly partisan "activism" as a judge (ignoring that not only her decisions but her language in articulating them have consistently shown to adhere to a very strict and if anything overly literalist interpretation of law and established precedent). I'm not going to talk about Sonia Sotomayor. But the coverage of this "wise latina" objection has brought, time and time again, the term "reverse-racism" into the discussion.
To clarify: I'm not really big on the push towards more politically correct language. For the most part, I'm not convinced of the idea that changing the terminology will make racist attitudes or any other kind of attitudes vanish, and if anything, it will allow people to feel good about themselves for using the right words and cease to focus on becoming less prejudiced. I also recognize that in many cases, white people are now unfairly demonized. To say otherwise is as ignorant as saying that racist attitudes towards black people have fully vanished in the developed world.
But the term "reverse-racism" is something that needs to be fully eradicated from our vernacular. Here's why:
For one thing, in terms of pure technical semantics, it makes no sense. "Racism" is a broad term, encompassing any and all preconceived notions or actions based on said notions on the basis of race. In no way is this definition invertible. You can have a lack of racism, where you make no judgments based on race. You can be someone who intentionally dislikes racism, which could cause one to mistakenly understand prejudices as racially motivated.
For another, IT IS INHERENTLY RACIST. Since we can eliminate inverting a reasonably broad definition, we must assume that anyone seriously using that term to mean "prejudice against white people" is making the inherent assumption that "racism" means "white people being prejudiced towards non-white people." In short, this is bullshit. White people are, under our admittedly possibly outdated definition of the concept, a race. Behind the idea that racism against them is somehow "reversed," there is an underlying assumption that white people are the norm, and other races fall under the category of "those other kinds of people," which I would argue is the strongest reason there's still a lot of racism around among white people. I'm sure the same is true of many populations who rally under something they have in common. It's called "outgroup" mentality in sociology.
Racism against white people is called racism. Seriously, cut it out, guys.