The first thing you really need to understand is that the definition of racism
that you probably have (which is the colloquial definition: "racism is
prejudice against someone based on their skin color or ethnicity") is
NOT the definition that's commonly used in anti-racist circles.
definition used in anti-racist circles is the accepted sociological
definition (which is commonly used in academic research, and has been
used for more than a decade now): "racism is prejudice plus power". What this means, in easy language:
Anyone can hold "racial prejudice" -- that is, they can carry positive
or negative stereotypes of others based on racial characteristics. For
example, a white person thinking all Asians are smart, or all black
people are criminals; or a Chinese person thinking Japanese people are
untrustworthy; or what-have-you. ANYONE, of any race, can have racial
People of any race can commit acts of violence, mistreatment,
ostracizing, etc., based on their racial prejudices. A black kid can
beat up a white kid because he doesn't like white kids. An Indian person
can refuse to associate with Asians. Whatever, you get the idea.
C. However, to be racist (rather than simply prejudiced) requires having institutional power.
In North America, white people have the institutional power. In large
part we head the corporations; we make up the largest proportion of
lawmakers and judges; we have the money; we make the decisions. In
short, we control the systems that matter. "White" is presented as
normal, the default. Because we have institutional power, when we think
differently about people based on their race or act on our racial
prejudices, we are being racist. Only white people can be racist, because only white people have institutional power.
People of color can be prejudiced, but they cannot be racist, because
they don't have the institutional power. (However, some people refer to
intra-PoC prejudice as "lateral racism". You may also hear the term
"colorism", which refers to lighter-skinned PoC being prejudiced toward
darker-skinned PoC.) However, that situation can be different in other
countries; for example, a Japanese person in Japan can be racist against others, because the Japanese have the institutional power there. But in North America, Japanese people can't be racist because they don't hold the institutional power.
If you're in an area of your city/state/province that is predominantly
populated by PoC and, as a white person, you get harassed because of
your skin color, it's still not racism, even though you're in a PoC-dominated area.
The fact is, even though they're the majority population in that area,
they still lack the institutional power. They don't have their own
special PoC-dominated police force for that area. They don't have their
own special PoC-dominated courts in that area. The state/province and
national media are still not dominated by PoC. Even though they have a
large population in that particular area, they still lack the
institutional power overall.
So that's the definition of racism that you're likely to encounter. If
you start talking about "reverse racism" you're going to either get
insulted or laughed at, because it isn't possible under that definition;
PoC don't have the power in North America, so by definition, they can't
be racist. Crying "reverse racism!" is like waving a Clueless White
Person Badge around.