Origins of the phrase "reverse discrimination"

Do any commenters have information about when this term was first used, and who thought it up? The earliest use in a court case I have found is in a New York decision in 1964, but there appear to be prior uses starting at least in the 1950s. There is an urban legend that the term was invented by a Klansman. Do commmenters have any knowledge about that claim?

Bill Poser (mail) (www):
In addition to legal sources, since this is a term in popular use you might check the Oxford English Dictionary, which keeps track of first attestation.
10.22.2008 2:14pm
Ari (mail) (www):
It's used in a 1963 article entitled "Total and Private Rates of Return to Investment in Schooling" in the sense of helping, not hindering, its recipients.

See the JSTOR link (page 133):
10.22.2008 2:21pm
Robert S. Porter (mail) (www):
Well Merriam-Webster dates it to 1964, so that seems logical. And there's not much in Google Books to believe it any eariler.
10.22.2008 2:23pm
Can't find a good name:
Google News Archive has a few hits between 1951 and 1956, but they're all for pay so I can't see the context.

The oldest free cite I can find on Google News Archive is in a syndicated column by Robert Ruark, appearing in the Victoria (Tex.) Advocate in 1963: "But there can be as much danger in reverse discrimination, in terms of future harmony, as in the kind of discrimination which is in process of eradication."
10.22.2008 2:30pm
Todd I. (mail):
Hodding Carter used the term in the December 17, 1955, edition of the Saturday Evening Post, accusing the NAACP of "reverse racism." Google News brings up a result for the [Greenville, MS] Delta Democrat-Times from January 29, 1950, but I cannot access it. That author could very well have also been Carter, since he wrote editorials for that newspaper at that time.

Carter was not a Klansman, though; he was a liberal and a critic of such groups. However, he did defend segregation and advocated only very gradual integration in the South.
10.22.2008 3:09pm
Melancton Smith:
This term is a particular pet peeve of mine. I find it a racist term.

'Reverse' descrimination implies that the descrimination is somehow deserved.
10.22.2008 4:19pm
I would be surprised if it appeared much earlier than the 1950s, for the simple reason that prior to the civil rights acts in the United States, the term "discrimination" didn't so strongly have a sense in which it meant "negative treatment in dealings with a person as a result of that person's personal identity." It simply meant "the act of distinguishing" and had somewhat positive connotations.

Also, the phenomena discussed is largely a product of efforts to remedy racism, so it should be roughly contemporaneous and indeed probably a bit earlier than the distillation of this activity as "affirmative action."
10.22.2008 4:58pm
Todd I. (mail):
ohwilleke, you're absolutely correct. The term, in as much as it makes any sense, only makes sense in describing efforts to remedy racism. Hodding Carter is specifically addressing the Brown decision, for example.
10.22.2008 5:55pm
I'm a beneficiary of "reverse affirmative action," having won the only Hispanic scholarship for my class at UT Law back in the bad old days of Affirmative Action.

I'm a regular Irish white guy, with prior U of Chicago academic silver spoon and all, who was utterly surprised to find himself, by virtue of birth in Paraguay, entitled in 1980 to treatment as a Hispanic. I imagine that, because my SATs, grades and general credentials were better than those of my Latin peers, I got the scholarship for a class of 140.

Being a libertarian already well opposed to the rampant socialism of UT and Austin, I wasted no time rubbing the liberals' noses in the irony of it all! And to top it all off, I was at the Law School only because I'd been blackballed in my application to a PhD program at the UT Econ department by a professor who was one of Ray Marshall's socialist minions. Had I known that I was actually Hispanic at the time of my rejection, the Econ dept would have had legal hell to pay, as UT Law did in Sweatt and Hopwood!
10.22.2008 6:33pm
Curt Fischer:

I'm a regular Irish white guy, with prior U of Chicago academic silver spoon and all, who was utterly surprised to find himself, by virtue of birth in Paraguay, entitled in 1980 to treatment as a Hispanic.

Very interesting. Does that mean if two married white American citizens conceive a child and travel together to South America for the childbirth, but then promptly return to the US and raise their child there, is the resulting child Hispanic? It would seem that the child is of "a person of [...] South [...] American [...] origin", which is the definition apparently used by the US OMB.

Will people start doing this soon to set up their kids for better access to scholarships and jobs which favor "underrepresented minorities"?
10.22.2008 7:40pm
J. Aldridge:
I remember a phrase "reversal of a discrimination" in the context as evil as the creation of a discrimination in some 1870's congressional proceedings.
10.22.2008 8:09pm
Can't find a good name:
I checked the Oxford English Dictionary online, but the only cite they gave for "reverse discrimination" was from 1976.

However, they define "reverse discrimination" as "positive discrimination," and for the latter term their earliest cite is from 1963.
10.23.2008 2:08am
Loyalammash (mail) (www):
10.23.2008 3:59am
Michigan got rid of the legal concept about 5 years ago.

For those who don't know, under federal law and in most states that have reverse discrimination doctrine, a white plaintiff is required to prove, before being allowed to go to trial, that the defendant "is the rare defendant who would discriminate against those of the white race."
10.23.2008 3:21pm
Bill Mullins (mail):
_The Syracuse [NY] Post-Standard_, 1/12/1949 p 9 col2.
"Will He Tell All?" by Leonard Lyons
"The N. Y. C. housing authority is faced with a reverse discrimination attack, regarding the new Riverton housing project in Harlem. Eighty white applicants, who otherwise are eligible, were turned down and now threaten collective action."

If searching for the early uses of words/phrases (antedating existing citations in dictionaries) is of interest, look at the mailing list of the American Dialect Society: Enter "antedating" into the search window for many examples.
10.23.2008 5:01pm