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Affirmative Action is Fair

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/16/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,406 times Debate No: 70132
Debate Rounds (4)
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If you would like to debate that Affirmative Action in the US is fair, feel free to accept this debate. The first round is acceptance only.


Thank you for proposing this debate. I look forwards to seeing your arguments.
Debate Round No. 1


In his famous "I Have a Dream Speech", African American Civil Rights Legend Martin Luther King Jr. said "I look to a day when people will not be judged by the colour of their skin, but by the content of the character". King's vision is completely fair, as it is judging people by who they are and what they've accomplished, not their genetic makeup. However, Affirmative Action is the complete opposite of that, as those who come from races which are considered under represented at a certain school or workplace have higher chances of being admitted or hired than those who come from races which are considered over represented.

As far as admissions to top universities in the US go, Asian Americans are the most discriminated against. This can be demonstrated by the research of Princeton Sociologist Thomas Espenshade and researcher Alexandria Walton Radford. Their research showed that Asian Americans needed SAT scores of 1550 (this study was conducted back when the exam was out of 1600) to have the same odds of making a top private university as European Americans who scored 1410 and African Americans who scored 1100. (1) Essentially, Asian Americans who put in more work and accomplish more may be rejected simply because their race makes up more of the racial makeup of top universities than it does of the total American population.

Another major issue with Affirmative Action that makes in unfair is that many people from under represented races have more opportunity than many people from over represented races. Going back to the university admission example, due to Affirmative Action an African American who comes from an upper class family and top end high school will still have an advantage over an Asian American who comes from a lower class family and low end high school. This is even worse, because someone who already has more opportunity has a higher chance to succeed then someone who probably had to work extra hard to get to a similar position.



"The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination." (1) Because I agree with Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor, I must affirm that Affirmative Action in the United States is fair. Affirmative Action is the acknowledgement of the struggle of being part of a racial minority in America. It is the demonstration of respect and value for the accomplishments of individuals who make the most of disadvantageous situations. Above all, Affirmative action is a highly beneficial, long term solution to the problem of race based inequality in America.

The main basis of my case for Affirmative Action, is that the accomplishments upon which we judge individuals' characters must not to be limited to marks on a piece of paper. I wholeheartedly agree with Martin Luther King Jr., and my opponent, that people should be judged based on their accomplishments. However, my opponent is grievously wrong in their interpretation of King's statement. Their mistake is that they fail to include triumphs over adversity and discrimination, as valid accomplishments by which a person's individual worth can be judged. If Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, I believe that he would completely support Affirmative Action, because he experienced first hand, the effects of racial discrimination and inequality. He would view overcoming the challenges that minority citizens encounter today as an accurate and valid testament to strength of character, ambition, and resilience.

So what are these race based disadvantages that I speak of? To be frank, the list of disadvantages that many people of color (particularly African-Americans and Latinos) often face is so long that I could not possibly fit them all. For this reason, I will focus on the most important ones to the issue of Affirmative Action. Obviously, the most relevant issue is that of disparities in education opportunities. The US Department of Education has released data that many high schools with high percentages of African-American and Latino students fail to offer higher level classes, such as Calculus and Physics. (2). According to law professor, Sheryll Cashin, the future ability of a student to obtain a quality high school education is predetermined by their socio-economic status at birth. Socio-economic disparities between races are so extreme that 34% of African-American Children (2), and 27% of Latino-Americans (2) children live in poverty. This is compared to only 10% of Caucasian-Americans (2), and 13% of Asian-Americans (3). Poverty not only impacts education opportunities, but also increases crime rates, violence, drug use, malnutrition, and hunger. Rising above these conditions, and continuing on to be successful, even to a lower degree, is a major real world accomplishment. It takes initiative, determination, and inner strength. It should be valued just as highly, if not more so, than earning a high GPA or winning a debate tournament.

In addition to the aforementioned disadvantages that impoverished Latinos and African-Americans face, there is another problem that all African-Americans and Latinos face, regardless of economic status: discrimination. African-Americans and Latinos experience both systematic mistreatment, particularly in the criminal justice system, as well as general racist ideas in the population (4). These are social problems that all African-Americans and Latinos experience in their lives, based only on their race. Refusing the accept these ignorant stereotypes, and rising above the discrimination, is an accomplishment, in and of itself. The criticism human beings receive from others can have a huge impact on their mental health. Therefore, overcoming discrimination demonstrates a high level of self-respect, self-determination, and self-worth. These are all attributes that colleges and employers alike should desire in a prospective student or employee.

Now that I have explained the fairness and justifications for Affirmative Action, I will go on to explain the need for Affirmative Action, and point out it's benefits.

"Many of the gaps in my knowledge and understanding were simply limits of class and cultural background, not lack of aptitude or application as I feared." (5).

To again reference Sonia Sotomayor, disadvantaged students are not incapable of ultimately succeeding in their college careers. In her autobiography, "My Beloved World", Sotomayor states that she benefitted from Affirmative Action, when she was accepted to Princeton University. Although she wasn't nearly as academically prepared as many of her peers, she went on to be incredibly successful, and has had a huge positive impact on the world. The above quotation, which could apply to any beneficiaries of Affirmative Action, explains this success; Initiative, resilience, and determination are ultimately as important, if not more so, than knowledge and prior education. Without Affirmative Action, these qualities won't be a part of the application process. And these are qualities of character that have the potential to benefit the entire world.

And now to address my opponent's case:

To address their first argument, about Asian-Americans being harmed the most by Affirmative Action is based on the information included in a highly subjective, clearly biased article. Having read through it, I found that although the facts it stated may be true, it did not objectively analyze the actual cause. The article states that qualified Asian-Americans are being passed over by top level universities for the sake of diversity. It states that the "overachiever" Asian stereotype has caused colleges to disregard the qualifications of Asian students, in favor of diversifying their student bodies. However, it fails to acknowledge that there may be other causes of the issue. The example the article itself gives is of a student with perfect test scores and an incredibly high GPA, who was not accepted into some of the colleges he applied to. What the article fails to take into account is that most colleges want more than just a perfect academic record. They look for well rounded applications, with students who show their interests through a few extracurriculars, which they dedicate a lot of their time to. They also want well written and individualized personal statement essays. The fact that many academically qualified Asian-American students aren't accepted into all of the colleges they apply for, may have absolutely nothing to do with Affirmative Action. In fact, the pressures to succeed academically, which the article itself mentions, may cause problems with many Asian-American's students' applications, as a whole.

And finally, I will address my opponent's second argument, that Affirmative Action is unfair for Caucasians and Asians living in poverty, or in low income households. The fact is, this is simply not true. Even if they do use Affirmative Action, college admissions officers still take into account socio-economic status, as much if not more so than race (7). Affirmative Action is never the only factor that goes into admissions decisions. College admissions officers place great care and thought into their decisions. Contrary to the theoretical example my opponent has proposed, they are not going to make absurd, unfair decisions just by glancing at an applicant's race.

Debate Round No. 2


I do agree with my opponent that the ability to rise above poverty is in many cases more of an accomplishment than having high marks and lots of extra-curricular activities. In reference to Sonia Sotomayer's quote, "many of the gaps in my knowledge and understanding were simply limits of class and cultural background, not lack of aptitude or application as I feared". My opponent says that this could apply to anyone in Affirmative Action. However, that's simply not true. For example, most law schools will almost always admit the top LSAT scores and GPAs from each racial group. (1) However, this does not account for economic status whatsoever. For example, University of Missouri at Columbia Law School (who score all applicants out of an index of 100 [based on LSAT scores and GPAs]) in the 2006/07 admission cycles, only accepted 18/259 Caucasian applicants with an index score of less than 58, but accepted every African American applicant, but one with an index higher than 44. That is incredibly unfair as a Caucasian who scored a 50 would have almost no chance, but an African American who scored a 50 would almost be guaranteed admission. (1) One may argue that African Americans don't have as much opportunity, so you can assume that UMC was helping out those with less opportunity, but there are still many African Americans who come from wealth and Caucasians who live in poverty and since that index only accounts for marks, the poor Caucasian will have less odds than the wealthy African American. Law schools aren't the only ones doing this. For example, although Harvard is admitting more black students, it was found that the majority of them were West Indian or African immigrants or their children and biracial children. (2) This strongly suggests that these schools do not account for economic status nearly as much as one would hope, because although still higher than Caucasians, black immigrants do have fairly significant lower levels of poverty and unemployment than American born blacks. (3) This is why Affirmative Action is inherently unfair, as it tries to balance the playing field by race, even though class is the main dividing line in the US, not race. (4)

Back to the point I mentioned in my previous post about poor Asian Americans being rejected for rich African Americans, my opponent suggested that they may be being rejected due to lack of extra-curricular activities and personal essay statements. Regarding the extra-curricular activities, Asian Americans were shown participate in more sports than Hispanic Americans, more performance groups than Hispanic and African Americans, more leadership groups than Hispanic, European, and African Americans, and more clubs than Hispanic, European, and African Americans. (5) Also, my opponent mentions discrimination which unfortunately many Hispanic and African Americans have to endure. However, Asian Americans are also a minority and face discrimination as well. (6) Perhaps they do not at the same level as African and Hispanic Americans, but definitely more than European Americans. Yet Affirmative Action still favours European Americans over Asian Americans for most universities. Also, rejected an Asian American (or European American) because many of his/her race are already attending a school, is that not discrimination?



I would like to begin by pointing out a few misunderstandings on the part of my opponent. Also, I apologize for any lack of clarity on my part.

First of all, when I stated that the second Sotomayor quote could apply to any Affirmative Action beneficiaries, my purpose was to prove that they could all be successful, because their experiences were just as valuable and useful as the knowledge attained by receiving a better education. This argument has nothing to do with inequality or fairness, as my opponent thought. It's simply pointing out that Affirmative Action can be very successful. Therefore, I'm assuming that the example my opponent posed in that paragraph is an extension of their own second argument, that Affirmative Action doesn't take into account economic status, and I will treat it as such.

Second, in the second paragraph of their round three arguments, my opponent referred to their argument I addressed as both of their points combined:
"Back to the point I mentioned in my previous post about poor Asian Americans being rejected for rich African Americans."
From my understanding, these are two different points. The first is "Asian-Americans being disproportionately harmed", and the second is "Affirmative Action doesn't take into account economic status." Although they both have an effect on Asian-Americans, they are separate points, which I addressed separately in my first post. In the second paragraph of their round three post, my opponent addressed my rebuttal "Asian-Americans being disproportionately harmed." I just wanted to make sure this is clear.

My opponent provided further supporting evidence to counter my rebuttal to their second argument ("Affirmative Action doesn't take into account economic status"). There are two key flaws with this evidence, that basically render it invalid: First, and most important, is that it is the logical fallacy of 'Cherry Picking' evidence. After going into detail on the admittedly unfair policy of a single Law School, my opponent stated that Harvard does the same thing, as well. This brings me to the second flaw, which is in the Harvard example. In my opponent's own words, the actions of Harvard admissions officers only "strongly imply" that they care about race more than economic status. So basically, my opponent's entire warrant for claiming that colleges neglect economic status in favor race more is based on only a single example. The fact is, the majority of colleges and employers do take economic status into account. It's not just a dehumanized, automatic selection process for them. They will take economic status into account.
Also, the very existence of Affirmative Action does not imply that it is mutually exclusive with giving priority to Asians or Caucasians of low economic status. They could easily both be true, especially since colleges and prospective employers almost always put time, effort, and consideration into the selection process. There is no reason why they can't give an advantage to both an impoverished caucasian, and an African-American of a slightly higher income level.

My opponent attempted to address by rebuttal to his point about Asian-Americans being disproportionately harmed. However, the evidence they presented does not address the key point of my argument. Colleges may want applicants who demonstrate a more individualized personality. They want applicants who don't conform perfectly to each and every standard. This is because they desire diverse thinkers, as they want to be progressive and innovative. The pressure from families, mentioned in the article my opponent sited, may be the reason why some Asian-American students all conform to similar standards. The reason why a lower proportion of Asian applicants are accepted could also be because more apply. The main point is that there are a huge array of different possible reasons, which my opponent did not consider. Jumping to the conclusion that Affirmative Action is the cause is justified, because my opponent has failed to consider any other plausible causations.

Lastly, the only one of my arguments that my opponent actually tried to rebut was the one on discrimination. They stated that Asians are minorities as well, and thus they suffer from discrimination. Yes, Asians do suffer from some degree of discrimination. But so do Caucasians. So do every race, no matter if it is the majority or not. There is going to be some degree of stereotyping, no matter which race one is. But as my opponent admitted, Asians do not suffer to the same degree as African-Americans or Latino-Americans. In fact, much of the stereotyping that Asians are subject to is actually positive stereotyping, in regards to their education opportunities. The most widespread stereotype about Asian-Americans is that they are smart. This is likely to motivate them, and will certainly not serve as a hindrance to most. On the other hand, the stereotyping and discrimination that Latino-Americans and African-Americans often face is almost universally negative, especially when it comes to ignorant assumptions about their intelligence. So to conclude on this important point, the overcoming discrimination is only really an accomplishment when it is negative discrimination. When it is something that might otherwise limit a person from achieving their goals. Not something that pushes them forwards.
Debate Round No. 3


I'll address each paragraph of my opponent's last post and add anything else I'd like to end off on.

Whether or not Affirmative Action can be successful or not is irrelevant to the topic of this debate. The debate is discussing whether or not it's fair. Regardless though, I'll address how even though it worked well for Stomayor Affirmative Action can potentially harm minorities. It's due to a process called the "mismatch". Because more students are being accepted from inferior schools when they find themselves at a higher level university or college than they'd normally be at, it often leads to high dropout rates. (1) For example, although more African Americans tend to pursue science/engineering majors than Caucasians, African Americans dropout of the fields at twice the rate of Caucasians. (1) African Americans are also twice as likely to stop pursing a doctorate if they go to a school where they've been mismatched. (1) African Americans tend to rank in the bottom 20% of their classes. (1) Finally, African Americans tend to rank in the bottom 10% of their classes in law school and African American law school grads are 4 time more likely to fail their bar exams (I'll address this again later). (1) For all these students who are going to schools they may not normally go to, this is unfair to them because they may have had great success elsewhere. I'm not saying that universities shouldn't accept those who come from low income areas, but they shouldn't be expected to accept a certain amount of racial minorities and only accept those that have the greatest chance of succeeding (like Sotomayor), which can determined from personal essays and to a lesser degree SAT scores (should be at least somewhat close to the average for their institution). This is why so many schools accept African Americans from higher income areas, so they are following Affirmative Action.

Affirmative Action not taking into account economic status and an example of a poor Asian American being rejected for a rich African American are related, because it shows how Affirmative Action isn't really meeting its goal of balancing the playing field, because if they accounted more for economic status the Asian American would be accepted (even though there will be more people at a top school of his race than the African American).

UMC was just one example of a law school that has that policy, as I mentioned in my previous post most law schools follow this. The cited source made mention of that. This would explain why African Americans tend to finish low in their classes for law school and are much more likely to fail the Bar Exam. The "strongly imply" was more of a technicality, that was pretty much exactly what it was. Anyways, yes, they take into account economic status, but the fact remains schools want to take in the best candidates possible, while still following the Affirmative Action, so they will try to find richer blacks if they can. Like my opponent said though, they still take into account economic status which make involving race just seem completely unfair and unnecessary.

The facts are that universities are expected to even out the races at their institutions to be similar to the federal population and/or state population. At high end schools, this will almost always hurt Asian Americans. This ultimately why Asian Americans are not being accepted as much. To use another country with very similar culture, Canada, they do not focus in on race as much as American schools do. The result is that they often have lots of Asians on campus. In fact, at one of Canada's top universities, the University of British Columbia, people have joked for a long time that UBC stands for the "University of a Billion Chinese". (2) Canadian universities will have very similar application processes to US Universities, accept they don't have to account for race. Also, yes, Canada has a higher percentage of Asians than the US, but the amount of Canadian universities (especially in engineering/science departments) will be much higher than the total percentage. To end off on this point, even though Asian parents may be known for having their kids to study a lot, they also install a really strong work ethic in them that universities crave for.

Yes, Asians are known for being smart. But the reason people thinks they're smart is because they think they study all the time and do nothing else. This can act as a hindrance, because like my opponent mentioned, universities like to have individualized personalities, and that is not what many people think of Asian Americans. Like I mentioned earlier too, is it not discrimination for an Asian American who otherwise would have been accepted to be rejected, because there are too many of his/her race (something he/she cannot control) attending the school?

Overall, I believe Affirmative Action is unfair because it focuses on race, which can negatively affect someone based on a factor they cannot control.

To end off, I'd like to thank my opponent for accepting and participating in this debate.



To conclude this debate, I will begin by boiling it down to the main issues, and then giving my final word on them. I will end by weighing the voting issues for all potential voters, because ultimately, there will be clash.

Essentially, there three are main points of conflict in this debate. First, the issue my opponent brought up about Asian Americans being harmed by Affirmative Action. Second, the issue of whether or not Affirmative Action is in conflict with care for economic class. And lastly, the two main points I brought up, about the obstacles African Americans and Latinos have to overcome. (It's true that this debate is about the fairness of Affirmative Action on principle, so I will agree to drop my third point.)

Starting with the issue for Asian Americans. Ultimately, I have to concede to this point. Based on the correlations my opponent has presented, it is the most likely scenario that Affirmative Action is making it harder for Asians to be accepted into Universities. However, when looking at the weight of this issue, keep in mind the resolution and my arguments about overcoming difficulties. As an extension of my argument about overcoming disadvantages being considered an accomplishment, it logically follows that we must consider advantages in the same way. Therefore, the born advantage that many Asian Americans have of having parents who can and will fully support them in academic endeavors must also be taken into account. The main point of Affirmative Action is that it is judging people on a slightly different scale, because they come from different circumstances. So it's fair that the people who have the most direct path to success be judged on a slightly harsher scale than those who must struggle more to achieve the same end. For this reason, the entire issue of Asian Americans being harmed is less relevant to the resolution, because this could still be considered fair, at least for the vast majority.

Next, onto the issue of economic status. This is a very important point of clash, because if Affirmative Action and considering economic status were mutually exclusive, then it would be impossible for Affirmative Action to be fair. But this is NOT the case. My opponent has used extremely tenuous reasoning, based on evidence that relied on implications, to attempt to prove that the very existence of Affirmative Action would cause colleges to neglect economic status. Not only is my opponent's evidence weak, logic is also on my side. We are arguing over a realistic form of Affirmative Action, not some extremist interpretation of it. In real life, college admissions officers put time, thought, and effort into all decisions regarding who the accept. Going off on my opponent's original example, they are not going to compare impoverished Asian American with an upperclass African American and say that the later was disadvantaged. Ultimately, Affirmative Action and considering economic status are both good, and they can easily exist at the same time.

And lastly, let's go over my arguments. First and foremost, my opponent agreed that overcoming disadvantages should be considered accomplishments. This automatically validates my next two points, about poverty and discrimination.

My opponent never even attempted to refute my argument about overcoming poverty being an accomplishment. The fact that this is affecting a huge percentage of African Americans and Latinos also went uncontested. My opponent did bring up the fact that there are still some Caucasians and Asians living in poverty. However, these percentages are much, much lower, so this doesn't have as much weight, overall.

To address my opponent's final arguments on the issue of discrimination, I will provide a short example. Compare a young Asian male with a young African-American male. While one is likely to be stereotyped as doing nothing but work, the other is likely to be assumed a criminal, or even thought of as inferior. Although these are both the results of ignorance, it is clear that one is far more harmful than the other. So again, we must look at the weight of my opponent's arguments, when assessing how to judge this point of clash.

Finally, here are the main voting issues for voters to consider:

-How much weight should be given to the harms of Affirmative Action on majorities? (Taking into account the fact that they started out with an advantage in the first place, and therefore should be judged on a harsher scale.)

-Can Affirmative Action exist, and economic status still be considered in the application process? (I would recommend basing this on simple logic.)

-How much weight should be given to the small percentages of Caucasians and Asians who are in poverty or suffer from discrimination? (When also considering that employers and college admissions officers will be able to account for these, in their detailed selection processes.)

I would like to thank my opponent very much for such a wonderful debate. It was very interesting, and thank you for proposing the topic. Also, thank you to anyone who has taken the time to read through all of it and caste your votes.
Debate Round No. 4
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