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Is Affirmative Action Racist?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/31/2013 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,316 times Debate No: 36206
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (5)
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The year is 2004, and you’re applying to the University of Michigan’s law school. You’ve worked hard throughout high school and college preparing for this day. You have the grades, the work experience and the extracurricular activities to gain admission; you’re not worried at all. You fill out the paper work, submit it and wait anxiously for your acceptance letter. The letter finally comes, and in your excitement you almost rip it in half. This is everything you have worked so hard for. You open the envelope, pull the letter out, unfold the letter and you see, “The Michigan Admissions Committee has completed is evaluation of this year’s candidates, and I write with sincere regret to say that we are not able to offer you a place in the Class of 2007.” All that work for nothing; obviously, you are crushed. Imagine how you must be feeling. Now take all that pain and rejection and add to it why you were not accepted.

Affirmative action allows the University of Michigan to take race into account when accepting students into its law program. In 2003 the Supreme Court even upheld Michigan’s use of race as an admissions factor by a 5-4 vote in Grutter v. Bollinger. (Patterson 167) Due to affirmative action, Michigan decided that a minority student should be admitted over you. Not because they were more qualified or had better credentials, but because Michigan wanted to appear more diverse. This is racism in action.

In 1964 the Civil Rights Act was passed in hopes of ending discrimination in employment, education and other areas; however, disadvantaged groups did not immediately receive equal opportunities. (Patterson 165) At this point affirmative action programs were put into place to help groups that had been discriminated against in the past obtain jobs and education opportunities that were previously reserved for white males. This policy sought to eliminate de facto discrimination, the fact that disadvantaged groups have fewer opportunities and benefits because of prejudice and social and economic conditions. (Patterson 166) Affirmative action allows companies and schools to takes factors such as race, gender or religion into account when an individual is applying for a job or to a school. Some people find this to be a positive thing stating that these groups were disadvantaged in the past and are now owed some kind of penance for these actions. They state that discrimination based on an individual’s belonging to a minority group is still present and without affirmative action minorities would receive fewer opportunities and have less chance to advance. While affirmative action may have been instated with the best of intentions, it’s plainly obvious that it is actually a detriment to minorities and that it is racist toward majority groups.

To begin with, there is an abundance of evidence that supports the fact that affirmative action is actually hurting minorities. In 2007 Gail Heriot wrote an article about a study done by Richard Sanders on the consequences of affirmative action. To put it simply, Mr. Sanders stated that there are less African American lawyers due to affirmative action. The reason for this statement is a term called mismatching. Mismatching happens when, due to affirmative action, an under qualified minority is granted admission to a school that is too difficult for him. This student does not have the resources or the ability to compete at this level. Affirmative action causes an increase in dropout rates and failure to pass the bar. Mr. Sanders stated that there were actually 7.9% fewer African American attorneys then there would be if we had no affirmative action. (Heriot) It has also been found that affirmative action actually reduces incentives in some minorities to perform their best, this being due to that fact that it is unnecessary for them to advance. Affirmative action tends to devalue the accomplishments of minority groups. It allows people to say that said individual could not be where he is today if not for affirmative action; which in some cases is entirely false!

Moving on, we find that not only does this policy cause a cycle of deprivation among minorities it is essentially racist toward majority groups. Less qualified individuals are receiving opportunities over more qualified individuals based on race. This is obviously discrimination against the individuals who are more qualified. This is sometimes known as reverse discrimination or positive discrimination. Personally, reverse discrimination does not exist. Discrimination is discrimination is discrimination. Whether an individual is Caucasian, African American, Hispanic or any other race, when an opportunity is denied someone based on the color of their skin, that individual is being discriminated against.

A prime example of this is the Supreme Court Case, currently under review, Fisher v. University of Texas. The University of Texas accepts all applicants who graduate in the top 10% of their graduating class. This policy may not seem discriminatory, but if you look closely you can see how this falls into a racist category. By accepting the top 10% of graduates they are denying students who attend academically harder high schools. Abigail Fisher graduated in the top 12% of her school, had a grade point average of 3.59 and scored an 1180 on her SAT. (Fisher) These scores put Fisher above many of the students accepted under the top 10% clause. However, due to affirmative action students from academically inferior schools were allowed admittance over Fisher. This is another example of racism in action.

The evidence provided here proves, without a doubt, that affirmative action is more a detriment then an advantage for anyone. The only problem is that people believe, ignorantly, that it is helpful. The New York Times took a poll that found that 53% of Americans favor affirmative action. However when the Washington Post asked:

"In order to give minorities more opportunity, do you believe race or ethnicity should be a factor when deciding who is hired, promoted, or admitted to college, or that hiring, promotions, and college admissions should be based strictly on merit and qualifications other than race or ethnicity?"

92 % of those who responded, and 86% of African Americans who responded, said that these decisions "should be based strictly on merit and qualifications other than race/ethnicity." (Riley) This proves that even those who claim to support affirmative action are actually against it. With a more informed America, we can, hopefully, achieve a country that recognizes affirmative action as racism in action.


Abigail Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin. No. 11-345. Supreme Court of the United States. 2013. UTexas Documents. Web. 17 June 2013.

Affirmative Action/Negative Reaction. Digital image. News One. N.p., 22 Feb. 2012. Web. 17 June 2013.

Heriot, Gail. "Affirmative Action Backfires." The Wall Street Journal. N.p., 24 Aug. 2007. Web. 17 June 2013.

Patterson, Thomas E. We the People. 9th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011. Print.

Riley, Jason L. "Do Most People Support Affirmative Action?" The Wall Street Journal. N.p., 7 June 2013. Web. 17 June 2013.



I accept this debate. I did a project on Affirmative Action for National History Day a few years back. I was staunchly against Affirmative Action, because I'm in one of the supposedly disadvantaged group. This shows people can change! The Web entry is in Sources below [1].

BoP is mostly shared. PRO must prove that Affirmative Action policies are mostly racist, while CON must provide sufficient evidence otherwise.

I will debate under the following definitions:

“Affirmative Action” shall be defined as an active program that is meant to counter discrimination, past or present, against minorities and women, in workplace and education.

“Racist” shall be defined as discriminatory action taken against a certain social group, such as blacks or women.

Since my opponent made arguments in the first round, I’ll assume there is no acceptance round. So I’ll start my arguments here. I will do an argument here, and only rebutt in the second and third rounds. So please don’t say I ignored arguments yet.


I. The concept of Affirmative Action is meant to counter discrimination.

Affirmative Action (AA) originated from Executive Order 10925, signed by President John F. Kennedy in 1961 [2]. It states “...The contractor will take affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to their race, creed, color, or national origin (or gender)” [3]. There were subsequently other acts enacted to help certain groups achieve greater opportunity, such as the Civil Rights Act, Equal Pay Act of 1963, and the “official” 1965 AA Executive Action 11246. After that, there were more AA laws passed in various states. As defined by Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute, AA is defined as “a set of procedures designed to eliminate unlawful discrimination between applicants, remedy the results of such prior discrimination, and prevent such discrimination in the future” [3].

As you can see, AA specifically claims to counter, “eliminate”, and “remedy” discrimination toward minorities. To claim AA encourages racial discrimination or is racist is to miss the point.

How exactly does AA counter discrimination? First, before the 1960’s, and to some extent today, racism had been institutionalized, to the point where it was “normal” to deny someone employment of college admittance solely because of race, and where “black sounding” names on resumes would have a 50% lower chance of being even considered. It was ridiculously easy to circumvent policies like Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. AA was one step closer to practically eliminating discrimination. Second, minorities, blacks and women, have been oppressed in a systematic fashion in the past. They already have a handicap: poor background. This handicap is unfair and is meant to be fixed by AA.

Contrary to popular belief, AA does not usually choose an unqualified minority over qualified whites. The usual policies are selection among “equally qualified” or “comparable” candidates [5], “increase efforts to find qualified minorities”, and bettering outreach programs to minorities [1]. AA is less about race than about social class and opportunity.

II. Affirmative Action can be credited with helping previously discriminated groups.

In the past few decades, women and minorities have made significant progress in the fields of employment; African Americans have progressed in the fields of academic achievement, job equality, and middle class strength. A University of Maryland study finds that “Between 1940 and 1980, the gap in earnings between black men and white men was substantially reduced…” [6], especially in the 40’s, 60’s, and 70’s. The years after the Civil Rights Act showed a large jump in Black employment. The unemployment gap has closed from a ratio of about 1 to 2.05 to 1.90 (my calculations from data). From 1960 to 1980, the gaps in earnings closed by 4%. The study attributes: “Federal civil rights programs and policies have undoubtedly contributed to a reduction in discriminatory behavior in the labor market.”

According to a series of USAToday/Gallup polls around 2003 [4], Americans favor AA of some sort by 56%, while 59% believe that AA has done good for the country. Also, given the current state of AA, opinions on whether whites or minorities are favored are statistically the same, which means the net discrimination is around zero. In addition, Pew Research found that between having AA or not having AA at all, 70% said having AA. [5]

III. It is racist to NOT implement Affirmative Action.

In the specific case of African Americans, AA is very necessary. In American history, almost all blacks have been systematically enslaved for about 250 years, then systematically discriminated against for another 100 years. This is far from trivial. Blacks were denied any kind of good education or work. It takes more than nothing to pull them out of such a deep hole. Benjamin Franklin also wanted to do more than free the slaves [5]. There have been cases like Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, and Grutter v. Bollinger, where the Supreme Court judges have ruled in favor of the essence of AA.

There’s this quote by former President Lyndon B. Jonson that I like to use: “You do not wipe away the scars of centuries by saying: Now you are free to go where you want, and do as you desire, and choose the leaders you please. You do not take a person who, for years, has been hobbled by chains and liberate him, bring him up to the starting line of a race and then say, "You are free to compete with all the others," and still justly believe that you have been completely fair. Thus it is not enough just to open the gates of opportunity. All our citizens must have the ability to walk through those gates. This is the next and the more profound stage of the battle for civil rights. We seek not just freedom but opportunity. We seek… not just equality as a right and a theory but equality as a fact…” [1].

To NOT implement AA, is to neglect action because a thief’s target is no longer being stolen from, to forgive a rapist because his victim is no longer being raped, and to leave a man who was maimed to rot in the streets..

IV. Affirmative Action has negligible effects on the majority (i.e. white males).

Math shows that even if every single unemployed black person replaces a white person regardless of qualification, only 2% would be replaced [5]. Going from there, the amount of white people actually displaced by black people due to AA probably under 0.5%. Compare that to 100% of blacks disenfranchised just 50 years ago.

AA is not meant to be permanent. In 2003’s Grutter v. Bollinger, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and others Supreme Court Justices ruled that “race-conscious admissions policies must be limited in time… The Court takes… that it [school] would like nothing better than to find a race-neutral admissions formula and will terminate its use of racial preferences as soon as practicable. The Court expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.” [7]


I agree that Affirmative Action has imperfections and is not meant to be the only solution, and certainly not meant to be permanent. In fact, I believe that it will become unnecessary in at most 20 years. But it still does more good than harm, and is not racist. I thank my opponent and look forward to her rebuttals, or more arguments.


[1]. (More sources on the “Sources” page)






[7]. (Had to use Wikipedia)

Debate Round No. 1


Jaz.H forfeited this round.


Extend all arguments.

If PRO doesn't post any arguments for the next round, I'll still do the rebuttals.

Vote CON.
Debate Round No. 2


Jaz.H forfeited this round.




“Grutter v. Bollinger” and “Fisher v. University of Texas"

I explained why race can be used as a determining factor at the current time period in my arguments. It is necessary to use race as a factor in determining admission because of the systematic disenfranchisement of minorities and women in the past few centuries. I also stated why it is in fact racist to NOT use race as a determining factor at the current time.

Pro seems to concede this point: “This policy sought to eliminate de facto discrimination, the fact that disadvantaged groups have fewer opportunities and benefits because of prejudice and social and economic conditions.” However she goes on to say:

“There is an abundance of evidence that supports the fact that affirmative action is actually hurting minorities.”

PRO cites one article by The Washington Post written in 2007 on one study by Richard Sanders that was done in 2004. She claims that “Mr. Sanders stated that there were actually 7.9% fewer African American attorneys then there would be if we had no affirmative action… Due to mismatch.” I read the original study, and have the following criticisms:

1. There was very little peer review done on the study, and those that were done were very weak “replications” or from Sanders’ non-statistician friends from Stanford. [8]

2. The “7.9%” data was extrapolated from at least 5 numbers, ranging from admission to graduation rates. This many changes of numbers and data would have a large effect on the overall statistical significance of the final conclusion. Not only that, his sample pool is extremely non-random.

3. Mr. Sanders only concludes “Law” students. While the article also says he has noticed such a pattern in the “medical” field, it does not provide any specific statistics. Law is only a small part of the college population.

4. Mr. Sanders did not mention other factors in determining the admittance to universities other than AA. He ignores other factors have potentially much larger effects on admission, such as legacy admissions of alumni, scholarship admissions, and paid admissions.

5. Sanders apparently attribute ALL failures on black students in schools to AA and mismatch, when there are other factors such as economic background and the “stereotype threat”.

6. Source [8] sites a study by Ian Ayres and Richard Brooks (who have better credentials than Sanders) that shows if AA was removed, the amount of black lawyers would in fact decrease by 12.7%, instead of increase by 7.9%.

“It allows people to say that said individual could not be where he is today if not for affirmative action”

So what? There is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of there. Obama was a benefactor of AA, but he was elected president based on merit.

92% of those who responded… said that these decisions ‘should be based strictly on merit and qualifications other than race/ethnicity.’”

Of course decisions should be strictly based on merit other than race. But the fact is, this is the real world, and conditions are far from ideal.


I will agree that the current form of AA is not doing a good job of lifting disadvantaged students up. It needs serious reform in order to become effective. But, the inherent principle is sound.

My opponent Jaz.H has forfeited round 2 and round 3 of the debate. I have offered my arguments for why Affirmative Action is not racist and can be beneficial to society.

Please vote CON.


Debate Round No. 3
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by Bullish 3 years ago
Update your freaking system DDO.
Posted by Bullish 3 years ago
So many people who just come here to post 1 argument and go...
Posted by Fractals 3 years ago
Might want to define racism. Fairly easy way to circumvent a lot of your argument.
Posted by Bullish 3 years ago
Welcome to DDo indeed.

I'll take up this debate. Please wait for me to post my argument.
Posted by JustinAMoffatt 3 years ago
I must say, I'm impressed. For your first debate, you've done a great job of laying everything out and making a solid case.

Way to source as well!

Welcome to DDO :) and I hope that you enjoy the stay!
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by jzonda415 3 years ago
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: F.F.