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White males who are against affirmative action betray doubt in their own true merit.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 9/9/2015 Category: People
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 927 times Debate No: 79560
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (5)
Votes (1)




Resolution: Able-bodied white males who are against affirmative action betray doubt in their own true merit.

I will present an argument in an attempt to prove the above mentioned resolution. It will be my opponent's task to refute my evidence and therefore my conclusion. I will therefore carry the BOP.


To reveal something

Without physical or mental handicap

A state of uncertainty or insecurity

Actual, as opposed to perceived.

The quality of being particularly good or worthy, especially so as to deserve praise or reward

By accepting this debate the contender agrees that these definitions are valid. To the best of my knowledge these are acceptable definitions; however, I am open to other interpretation of these definitions and will consider any that are posed by my opponent.

Please note that I am South African and so will be following British syntax accordingly. I trust that this is acceptable.


Thank you for this debate. I accept your definitions and your use of British syntax.

I will be arguing that able-bodied white males have a different reason for opposing Affirmative Action. I will also show that Affirmative Action requires a higher standard of merit for white males than it does for black males. Thus making it able-bodied black males that betray doubt in their own merit by accepting employment under Affirmative Action preference.

For brevity, I will henceforth refer to Affirmative Action as AA.

Thank you, and good luck on the next round.
Debate Round No. 1


No, thank you for accepting this challenge, NotThatClever. Best of luck to you.

Affirmative action is necessary to shake up the contents of our current society"s stagnating barrel of privilege. This privilege is perpetuated by a racist system that has been set against previously disadvantaged groups. I therefore posit that to understand the phenomenon of privilege one must first understand human groups.

Sub conclusion 1: The psychology of group dynamic is a the heart of the problem of privilege:

The following information on group theory is widely accepted by psychologists and can be located online with ease, but citations are provided at the end.

The members that make up a particular group define that group by the common bond or bonds that separates them from others who do not posses that bond or characteristic. It must be stated that a spectrum of membership does exist within membership of these groups, with some members identifying more and some less strongly with their group; however, this is irrelevant in the context of discrimination as those discriminated against are not and/or often cannot be involved in the process of their membership qualification.

Two further points of importance that need to be raised before progress can be made in this argument are group identity, and the evolutionary importance of groups, namely the survival of a group competing with other groups in an environment with scarce resources. This is competition is clearly no longer necessary in today"s resource-rich world in which one per cent of the global population are alleged to hold half of global wealth. Privilege is therefore very much an important aspect of identity, and vice versa; it is also unnecessary.

It is commonly accepted that group identity is formed through the dynamic of "us" and "them", this means that people agree that those of the in-group have a characteristic that is common only to them (us), and that those without that characteristic are not permitted to join that group (them) and therefore belong to the out-group. The group"s identity is then strengthened when it is directly compared to another group (or a number of other groups) not sharing its defining characteristic/s. This is especially so when those perceived (because these characteristics are in fact often not necessarily exclusive) to not share the group"s characteristic/s are made to seem inferior in some way, therefore heightening the status and desirability of that first group. Superiority and inferiority is, in this context of identity, unfounded, and more often than not a creation of information-bias. This is subtle but infectious process creates and coagulates chauvinism, racism and general bigotry.

Sub conclusion 2: Minority (defined as stake in power as opposed to sheer number) groups have more difficulty making a living:

It is no wonder then that a group will favor its own members at the expense of those partial to another group when dividing today"s abundant and intangible resources such as trust, compassion and empathy (to name a few) that are directly and causally related to more tangible and more scarce resources like employment, education and charity (again, to name but a few). This is evidenced by a yearlong study that has concluded that American"s would rather do business with white people than black people. This is, explains the study "" why unemployment has consistently been significantly higher for black people than for white people, both during recessions and boom times." It is important to remember that often people have no say in their memberships to groups, and this is particularly true of racial groups. Unfounded and racist stereotypes like "blacks are lazy" are an example of why this seems occur. A person"s anecdotal evidence is applied to the entire group of people who then suffer in turn.

Sub conclusion 3: Privilege affects the present day economy:

The above tendency has been more overt in the far past with the American slave trade, which predominantly and almost exclusively targeted black people as a whole group, and more recently with political segregation, for example, in America and apartheid in South Africa. Although these inhumane practices are no longer in existence their effects are clearly still visible as in the previously mentioned hiring practices (as well as in the facts found in the next paragraph).

Sub conclusion 4: Previous advantages grow with each new generation and decedents of those groups therefore unduly benefit:

Recent advantages that have impacted current generations include The Wagner Act of 1935. Under this act unions were permitted to exclude non-whites and deny them access to better paid jobs and union protections and benefits such as health care, job security, and pensions. This continued for nearly 40 years into the 1970s. Another example is that much of the wealth that many white families enjoy today was created by The new Deal programme and the Federal Housing Administration. These programmes made it possible for millions of average (almost exclusively white) Americans to own a home for the first time. The government put up $120 billion worth of home loans, of which more than 98% went to whites. How does this reflect today? Well, today, Black and Latino mortgage applicants are still 60% more likely than whites to have their loan application turned down.

Sub conclusion 5: Programmes that address inequality are therefore justified:

It appears that we have begun to address this problem with an almost global system that is in a transitional phase; a phase that has put laws in place to afford everyone equal rights and freedoms. As has been shown though, these laws are by no means enough and an attempt to share economic power and goodwill must, and is, being made with programmes like affirmative action. According to Prof. Dr. Karl Matthias Meessen in his book, Economic Law in Globalizing Markets, economic-redress programmes, like affirmative action are necessary to actively facilitate market entry needs and are meant to make market entry possible for those of previously disadvantaged groups after a long period of racial discrimination of those groups.

Sub conclusion 6: It follows then that there is no colour-blind clean slate from which we can, right now, with clear conscious, begin anew:

The playing field is severely unequal and to pretend otherwise, in the face of factually verifiable proof, is not a worthy argument. To employ a meritocracy, as many opponents of affirmative action do, denies that there is a history of privilege-skewed merit. One"s merit has a casual link to their privilege and is therefore not only due to their own hard work as is often argued. According to a study done in conjunction by Stanford University"s Graduate School of Business and Department of Psychology and Social Behavior: "" embracing meritocracy as a distribution rule causes whites to deny the existence of racial inequity. On this view, whites who endorse meritocracy seek to regard themselves as high in merit, and maintain this self-view by denying racial privilege." No one is denying that grit and hard work are important factors in success, merely that one needs the opportunity to display that grit and that such opportunities are in fact a privilege, a privilege that only a modicum can afford. Such privileges, in the context of today"s society are not as palpable as yesterday"s. For instance, the author, Peggy McIntosh, list of some of the more subtle privileges that white people can exclusively enjoy today, titled: Daily effects of white privilege.

Main conclusion: Therefore being an able-bodied, white male and against affirmative action is admitting insecurity in your own actual merit:

It is plainly clear then that due to the undeniable historic obstruction to the flow of resources to these previously disadvantaged groups that these privileges do not easily manifest themselves with grit and determination alone. Further more, programmes like affirmative action are necessary to right previous wrongs and redistribute goodwill equally in all spheres of public and private life, thus doing away with rampant undeserved privilege. With all of this in mind, to insist on keeping an unfair, 400-year head start, or to deny those starting late (not of their own accord) a means to catch up, is to admit insecurity in one"s ability to compete on an even footing, and therefore to admit that one"s actual merit is in fact actually due to privilege. Therefore being an able-bodied, white male and against affirmative action is admitting insecurity in your own actual merit.



Thank you for your thoughtful and expertly stated position.

Sub conclusion 1. We are in agreement. The group dynamics you state are well supported by empirical evidence. I therefore do not contest that point.

Sub conclusion 2. We are also in agreement here. Typically when someone has stake in a company and controls hiring, they will often show bias towards their own race, religion, gender, or political ideology. Because whites own the majority of businesses in the US, it stands to reason they would show a preference to whites. While blacks, Asians, Hispanics, and other minority groups will also show this preference for their own race, they are not large enough to have a limiting affect on whites.

Sub conclusion 3. We are in agreement here for the most part. While it is technically true that past privilege has an affect on today, I would argue that there is a diminishing return every generation.
This is not a point that affects my final rebuttal of your initial assertion though, so I will leave it alone.

Sub conclusion 4. I disagree. Your assertion removes a person's agency. Your assertion basically states that the next generation will automatically use and leverage the the advantages given as birthright. It would be more accurate to state that when advantages are handed down as birthright and exercised by the following generation, they tend to grow. As an example: I did not go to college even though there is an admission advantage for whites and my parents are both college educated. Neither did either of my siblings. That limited example is one of regression, not progression.
This is not a point that affects my final rebuttal of your initial assertion though, so I will leave it alone.

Sub conclusion 5. I both agree and disagree. Programs are not what is needed; legislation is. We have made a very many anti-discrimination laws that are meant to reduce discrimination of minorities in all facets of life. Those laws seek to set right what was once wrong. It will take time to work and those laws have been leveraged in many cases to force compliance on non-compliant people. Demanding the system be equitable and punishing those that seek to inequitable, is the thr correct course of action.

Affirmative Action (AA) does the opposite of the anti-discrimination legislation by giving preference to one race or gender over another. In other words, it tells white males that they are not allowed to show preference to anyone or they will be guilty of discrimination; however, those same white males are mandated to show preference to everyone that is not a white male. So AA is a contradiction. AA must then be resolved as white males must discriminate against white males to make non white males equal with white males.
Mathematically it looks like this:
Non White Males = +1
Non White Females = +2
White Females = +1
White Males = 0

That would be the theoretical value calculation if groups were looked at with no interrelation. However, once we look at them together and their interrelation value, a different value is made evident.
Non White Males = 0
Non White Females = +1
White Females = 0
White Males = -1

This then shows that AA is not elevating anyone but non white females. Furthermore, AA is devaluing white males in order to give the appearance of elevation to everyone else.

The path to equality can not be paved with inequality. You can not state that all discrimination is bad and then advocate discriminating against one group. That is morally bankrupt and worth fighting against.
The lesson we should be teaching our subsequent generations is that everyone is equal. We should not be teaching them that everyone is equal except white males, who are less than equal to everyone else.

Sub conclusion 6. While I agree with the conclusion, I do not agree with the logic that follows. Because we can not simply create a clean slate, we must work to erase the marks of the past with even eraser strokes. We must not mark over the whole slate with new inequality and declare a moral victory in wiping the slate clean.

Main conclusion: As I have demonstrated in sub condition 5, those that decry AA are not doing so because non-white males are now equal with white males. They are decrying the devaluation of white males solely. They are opposed to it, not because they don't think they can compete on a level playing field, they oppose it because all discrimination is wrong and the road to equality is not traversed with unequal footing.

I point you to the landmark anti AA case that was just won by white male firefighters.
"The men sued the city in 2007, claiming the fire department illegally allowed promotional lists with their names on them to expire so they could promote African-American firefighters instead "

In that case, not enough non-white firefighters made the promotion list because they scored too low on standardized advancement testing. So the State allowed the promotion list to expire and therefore denied promotions to the white firemen that deserved promotion based on their scores in the standardized advancement testing.

Now your argument necessarily states that those white firefighter were unfairly advantaged because of past discrimination and birthright advantage. Furthermore, your argument makes clear that we need AA to step in and lower their scores because they did not earn them alone. They were aided by skin privilege. On top of that, we must also elevate the non-white firefighter's scores and/or we must lower the standardized advancement testing requirement for non-whites. This would then make it so that less whites were promoted and more non-whites were promoted.

That may sound reasonable until you think about standard of care and standard of response the standardized testing is meant to show. We are, in effect, lowering the standard of service firefighters provide in order to equitably promote people based solely on race and not their ability to provide the required service. That is unequivocally unacceptable. People that rely on a certain response from these firemen should not suffer unduly as a result of AA.

Lastly, I point you towards another group of firemen:

In this story non-white firefighters used existing anti-discrimination laws to successfully sue for discriminatory hiring practices. They allege discrimination on the basis that the city is about 50% non-white, yet the fire department hired less than 10% non-whites. The Judge looked at applicants and determined there was validity to the discrimination claim.
Not based on AA though. Based on demographic of the city and demographics of the qualified applicants.

Conclusion: Existing anti-discrimination laws are the correct route to equality. AA is not because it is discriminatory in nature. White men decrying AA are doing so out of a sense of fairness and equality. They are not doing it out of fear that they can not measure up on an equal playing field. After all, we are not giving them an equal playing field with AA. White males are justified in their fight against AA for moral reasons.
Debate Round No. 2


I am grateful for the care with which you combed through my position and for the challenging argument posed in return. I commend the overall line of argument and its level of sophistication.

I have summarised your argument below (I trust you find this an accurate representation):

Sub conclusion 1:
The path to equality cannot be paved with inequality.
AA is discriminatory and promotes inequality.
Therefore programmes like AA are not what are needed; legislation is.

Sub conclusion 2:
Based on a mathematical model of AA and using interrelation, you propose that those who decry AA are not doing so because non-white males are now equal with white males. They are decrying the devaluation of white males solely.

Sub conclusion 3:
Using a case study you argue that we are, in effect, lowering the standard of services in order to equitably promote people based solely on race and not their ability to provide the required service that the public are reliant upon.

Sub conclusion 4:
Here you present a further case study that is supposed to promote the use of legislation over AA.

You then conclude that:
Existing anti-discrimination laws are the correct routes to equality. AA is not because it is discriminatory in nature. White men decrying AA are doing so out of a sense of fairness and equality. They are not doing it out of fear that they cannot measure up on an equal playing field. After all, we are not giving them an equal playing field with AA. White males are justified in their fight against AA for moral reasons.

I will begin with our first disagreement, and so will attempt to defend sub conclusion 4 of my original position. I do not see it as integral to your argument but I think this a necessary structure to my original position and I will attempt to refute your attack.

My assertion has not denied agency, it has, to the contrary, controlled for agency; insofar as it is irrelevant whether or not one actually takes the opportunities that they are provided. It is more important to consider whether or not there have been opportunities provided in the first place. To ignore that these opportunities are far less available for blacks et al to apply their agency to, is to miss the point.

It is my opinion that the majority of your disagreement with my argument lies in your critique of anti-discrimination laws and Affirmative action having contradictory effects; however, this is simply not true. I will illustrate this by unpacking the differences between anti-discrimination laws and Affirmative action.

Desmond and Emirbayer write in their book Racial Domination, Racial Progress, "Affirmative action programs differ from anti-discrimination laws in that the former are proactive--they attempt to prevent discrimination from occurring -- while the latter are reactive: they redress specific people who have been victimized by discrimination" (193 "194). Whether we are dealing with cancer or discrimination, we all know that prevention is better than cure.

These two concepts are easily maneuverer to sound contradictory but are in fact just two sides of the same coin. Similar to say punishment and reward; in that they are complimentary methods used to produce the same outcomes.

This leads me to your claims in sub conclusion 1:
"The path to equality can not be paved with inequality""

Firstly, I must forward that not all forms of discrimination are bad. I would actually go so far as to say that if discrimination was the tool that caused the problem, then surely it is necessary that we use that same tool to reverse engineer it. Much like if a screwdriver was used to drive in the screw, surely we will need a screwdriver to remove it again. The wording used in the South African legislation is far more in line with this thinking, calling it: "unfair discrimination" as opposed to just "discrimination".

Secondly we should most certainly not teach subsequent generations that everyone is equal, because that is an inaccurate statement. For example, you and I hold different views on Affirmative action; on average men are physically stronger than women; relatively speaking, whites occupy more positions of power than blacks do; blacks are more likely to be unemployed than whites, and so on and so on. It is clear then that we must discriminate, categorise, distinguish or differentiate those who have privilege of opportunity from those who do not, as was originally suggested.

This then dovetails rather neatly with your following point that is used to support sub conclusion 1:

"... Because we cannot simply create a clean slate, we must work to erase the marks of the past with even eraser strokes. We must not mark over the whole slate with new inequality and declare a moral victory in wiping the slate clean."

Let us picture this slate of society as a relief sculpture, such that many layers have been skilfully eroded away to reveal negative space, and therefore a pretty image. The layers that have remained unscathed, the upper most layers, are white males. They hold this position at the expense of the oppressed layers below them. To remedy this bias and keep the pretty picture would be impossible, because the changes required are too extensive and the picture would become grotesque. The solution to finding an equally pretty relief, bar discrimination, cannot be achieved without two drastic measures. The first would be to fill in the negative space and the second would be to erode the top layers down until equal with the bottom layers. Using both prevention and cure; or, addition and subtraction.

This is what was I proposed in my own sub conclusion 5, which posits that we need a transitional phase to ease market entry for non-whites. It is vital though that these two solutions not be interpreted as inequality, because to elevate the bottom or erode the top is a process of equality. Another apt metaphor would be book keeping; receiving payment from debtors and then paying one"s creditors is a process of equalising. White males have purchased, on credit, their positions in society; equality dictates that they now pay for it. They are not being robbed; in fact; by not paying their debt, they are the thieves.

I will now address your position as described by sub conclusion 2:

Your mathematical modelling of the situation is a superb strategy and I agree, for the most part, with what you are trying to imply by it; until, that is, you begin to use interrelation. I therefore accept that theoretically the model looks like this:

Non White Males = +1
Non White Females = +2
White Females = +1
White Males = 0

It looks like this because it must contextually reflect what it is currently attempting to model, i.e.: white privilege. This is simply how linear models work, they must, by nature, be dependent upon context1. Now, what that actually means is that zero the norm in our current context; furthermore, by setting non-white males to zero what you are implying is that they are the norm. I then take that to mean one of two things is happening; one, that we have moved forward in time (into a new context) and the programme has been overly successful as a means of redistribution and must therefore be reassessed; or, that you think that non-white males are the norm in the current day. Both of these inferences are clearly not the case today; therefore, to set non-white male at zero in today"s context is not an accurate use of that linear model.

This, along with my earlier tool and slate metaphor, therefore refutes your attack on my main conclusion that those against affirmative action are that way inclined because of: ""the devaluation of white males solely. They oppose it because all discrimination is wrong and the road to equality is not traversed with unequal footing."

Regarding the your sub conclusion 3:
"We are, in effect, lowering the standard of service fire fighters provide"

This is an emotionally charging point, because it sounds like peoples" lives are at stake, and that should take precedence over a promotion every single time. But are peoples" lives really at stake? Those test scores were thrown out because they were irrelevant, at least since U.S. District Judge, Nicholas Garaufis, has ruled that New York City fire fighter recruitment exams used between 1999 and 2007 were racially biased against African-Americans and Hispanics. Going further he stated that the written tests had "discriminatory effects and little relationship to the job of a firefighter."2 Therefore those test scores prove nothing about the actual performance of those fire fighters and therefore nobody is suffering unduly as a result.

I accept and agree with your proposal of legislation as proven effective by your case study in sub conclusion 4; however, I still stand by my claim that prevention (in the form of AA) is better than cure (in the form of legislation).

It is surely apparent then that the moral hinge from which your argument hangs (namely that white males are justified in their fight against AA for moral reasons.) is unsound.

I conclude then, that if we are to accept the following points:

1.That there is inequality;
2.That anti-discrimination laws and Affirmative action are indeed just two sides of the same coin (prevention and cure);
3.That both are necessary to find equality;
4.That the means of a preventative, transitional phase using AA, with the ends of equality requires the use of discrimination;
5.Which, in and of itself, is not unfair, but rather a necessary tool;

Then my original position therefore remains intact:

That being an able-bodied, white male and against affirmative action is admitting insecurity in your own actual merit.



NotThatClever forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


I choose to forgo this final round based on the absence of my opponent's position in round 3 and instead choose await their closing argument, if in fact one is forthcoming.


NotThatClever forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by Reasonableman 2 years ago
Accepted. I hope that you are better. If you would be so kind as to make a closing argument in the comments I would appreciate the effort. I would really like to read your closing thoughts on the matter.
Posted by NotThatClever 2 years ago
I apologize for my abrupt departure from this debate. I was taken ill and spent more than a week in the hospital. I regret not being able to finish this debate. Please accept my humble apologies.
Posted by Reasonableman 2 years ago
Those are good enough reasons for me. Please continue with your original line of argument.
Posted by NotThatClever 2 years ago
I will be doing both out of necessity. If I can prove that it is not white males that lack faith in their own merit, but actually black males that do, then I will have weakened your argument. I am new here as well and am not entirely sure if there are rules that are unspoken or not. As far as I understand it, I could argue completely off topic and it would be up to the voters to determine who won. I can not think of any debate where both sides have not formulated their own conclusions and hypothesis. At least none that I have seen.

But I will yield to your rules as this is your debate. If you would like me to simply disprove your statements without drawing separate conclusions of my own, I will acquiesce.
Posted by Reasonableman 2 years ago
I'm new to this but I am under the impression that your role as con in this debate would be to disprove my argument, not formulate your own, as I take your intentions to mean. Please clarify.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Balacafa 2 years ago
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Total points awarded:10 
Reasons for voting decision: ff