Reverse discrimination has been practised in the United States for several decades. The practice has been applied to university admissions, employment, and other situations.
While the term is used in casual speech, many academic and expert opponents of racial or gender based affirmative action policies, such as Carl Cohen, would avoid the term "reverse discrimination" on the grounds that "discrimination is discrimination" and that the label "reverse" is a misnomer. Groups such as the American Civil Rights Institute, run by Ward Connerly, have opted for the more legally precise terms "race preference", "gender preference," or "preferential treatment" generally, since these terms are contained and defined within existing civil rights law, such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Cohen, who was a supporter of Michigan's Proposal 2 (see below), and other academics, have argued that the term "affirmative action" should be defined differently than "race preference," and that while socio-economically based or anti-discrimination types of affirmative action should be permissible, those that give preference to individuals based solely on their race or gender should not be permitted. Cohen also helped find evidence in 1996 through the Freedom of Information Act that led to the cases filed by Jennifer Gratz and Barbara Grutter against the University of Michigan for its undergraduate and law admissions policy, cases which were decided by the U.S. Supreme Court on June 23, 2003.
Ward Connerly has promoted a series of ballot initiatives to remove "preferential treatment" in the states of California (California Proposition 209 (1996)), Washington (1998 - I-200), and Michigan (the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative - MCRI, or Proposal 2, 2006).