The Instigator
Pro (for)
3 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
12 Points

Affirmative Action

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Post Voting Period
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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/8/2012 Category: Politics
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 6,875 times Debate No: 20929
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (13)
Votes (4)




I am Pro in this debate, and will make a case for affirmative action. My opponent is Con, and will make a case against affirmative action.

Burden of Proof is shared.

Some basic rules, no play with semantics, and no new arguments in the last round.


Thanks to Pro for the challenge. I'm looking for to a good debate.

The Resolution

Pro did not define terms or provide context to establish the debate resolution and its meaning, so I will do that as part of acceptance. the ordinary meanings in context are therefore assumed.

I assume the resolution to be "The United States should adopt laws requiring affirmative action."

Wikipedia gives a definition of affirmative action:

"Affirmative action
refers to policies that take factors including "race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or national origin" into consideration in order to benefit an underrepresented group, usually as a means to counter the effects of a history of discrimination." [1. ]

The key is that a benefit is conveyed based solely upon membership in the designated group. In a famous case, the University of California at San Diego added 200 points to the SAT scores of Hispanics applying for admissions. The benefit (200 points) was conferred to counter past discrimination against Hispanics.

The law related to affirmative action is unsettled. [2. ] It may require a Constitutional Amendment to allow some or all forms of affirmation action. With our "should" resolution, if a Constitutional amendment required, then we assume it would be enacted.

Pro will now make his opening case affirming the resolution. He may dispute my definitions if he chooses.

Debate Round No. 1


First, I'd like to thank RoyLatham for accepting this debate, and wish him the best of luck. From his record and past debates on the site, I can already tell this will be an educational debate, hopefully for both us and our readers.

The Resolution

For the most part, I accept the way Con frames the resolution, “The United States should adopt laws requiring affirmative action.” That said, the resolution is still somewhat ambiguous, as it does not designate specifically what kind of affirmative action laws should be required. I don’t think that should be a problem, however, for this debate.

I accept the resolution, then, on the caveat that we replace the Wikipedia definition of affirmative action with a more accurate and precise definition. The problem with the Wikipedia definition is that it does not include any relation to the stated purpose of affirmative action, which is to achieve non-discrimination/equal opportunity. I provide two revised definitions, the first from Cornell’s Legal Information Institute, the second from Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary:

1) “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.” [1]

2) “Policies of governments and other institutions, private and public, intended to promote employment, contracting, educational, and other opportunities for members of historically disadvantaged groups. Because they may favor some groups over others, affirmative action policies must be narrowly tailored to meet the institution's legitimate goals, such as remedying the effects of past discrimination or promoting full diversity in a school setting.” [1]

For this debate, these definitions are more accurate than a Wikipedia definition, as they present affirmative action within a legal system, and the resolution provided by Con is explicitly about affirmative action law, not affirmative action as an abstract concept. I prefer definition 2, but accept 1 as well.

I still think Con’s analysis of the Wikipedia definition holds: Con writes that “a benefit is conveyed based solely upon membership in a designated group,” and also notes that affirmative action law is still “unsettled.” I accept these points.
I will now proceed to make my case for adopting laws requiring affirmative action.


As I understand the issue, there are two questions at stake: do we need affirmative action, and does it work? I answer yes to both questions. In this round, I will take up the issue of whether we need it or not. We need affirmative action for the following reasons: 1) for the sake of non-discrimination and equal opportunity, which implies 2) to make up for disadvantages in opportunity that are the result of past discrimination, the sufferings inflicted for generations on others, and 3) in some limited cases and institutional settings, affirmative action for the sake of promoting diversity as a value.

I believe that these three (definitely the first one, arguably the latter two) reasons for adopting affirmative action are legitimate concerns of the United States’ legal policy. To argue for affirmative action, then, I will make a case that these stated reasons intersect with United States interests.

Non-discrimination and Equal Opportunity:

I will begin with the famous phrase, “all men are created equal.” It was first used by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, who held it was “sacred and un-deniable.” Benjamin Franklin also took up the phrase, claiming it was a truth that was “self-evident.” It is a central concept in the founding of the United States, and has figured prominently in public policy. [2]

Following this “self-evident” truth, I turn to the Fourteenth Amendment, which marked a shift in constitutional law: “No State… shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” [3] For our present purposes, the Equal Protect Clause is significant, as it suggests non-discrimination/equal opportunity as an explicit State interest.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education explicitly placed non-discrimination on the agenda of public policy. In 1961, Present Kennedy enabled a presidential committee on equal opportunity. [4] Following this was the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which provides further legal reasoning in support of government initiatives/policies supporting equal employment opportunities, i.e., non-discrimination. [5]

The list of Acts and Court decisions goes on and on, the point always the same: non-discrimination/equal opportunity is at the heart of United States legal doctrine, and is therefore in the interests of the United States vis-à-vis public policy.

Correcting for Past Discrimination:

I argue that it is in the United States interests to correct for disadvantages caused by past discrimination. This argument logically follows from the State interest in non-discrimination and equal opportunity. The question, then, is whether it is enough to make discrimination illegal, or whether further measures are needed to correct for the disadvantages caused by past discrimination.

I argue that simply making discrimination illegal is not enough. The reason is simple: a hard look at the undoubted facts reveals that systemic discrimination has not changed as a result of making discrimination illegal. For example, glass ceilings and redlining practices still keep neighborhoods all white and deny loans to well-qualified African Americans.

According to a recent article in the academic journal, Annals of Finance, “Firms owned by minorities in general and blacks in particular are much more likely to have their loans denied and pay higher interest than is the case for white males.” The same study shows that, although this is sometimes “explained by their lack of creditworthiness,” it is more “consistent with a finding of discrimination in the credit market by banks.” [6]

Other studies have shown that there is ongoing discrimination in the workplace, particularly because of gender differences. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research and, women are disadvantaged and discriminated against regardless of current anti-discrimination laws. For example, doing the same job with the same qualifications, women today are still only paid 72 cents for every dollar a man earns. [8] The case is explicit in higher education, where a man and women equally qualified for a Professorship are nonetheless faced with a pay gap that favors men. [9] And this is 50 years AFTER the Equal Pay Act became law in 1963. Clearly, laws making discrimination illegal have no worked.

Because systemic discrimination has not ended, it is clear that further initiatives by the government must be taken for the sake of non-discrimination. This is where affirmative act law comes in. Some of the studies I have referred to, as well as many, many more, demonstrate that affirmative action has furthered the State's interest in non-dicrimination. In other words, it works. I will take up that issue of whether affirmative action works as a solution to the problem in the next round.



The Resolution

We agree upon the important aspect of affirmative action, which is that it confers benefits based solely upon membership in a group, such as race or gender. Affirmative action acts to require racial discrimination and other forms of discrimination based upon a person's group rather than his individual ability. Pro's definitions say such goals are legitimate, but whether discrimination is legitimate or not is what we are debating. I will argue that discrimination based upon group membership is not legitimate.

I reject diversity as a legitimate goal. Societies that are monocultural, like Japan and Norway, are neither better nor worse than societies that are multi-cultural like the United States and Brazil. We should be concerned with true legitimate goals of equality under the law, equality of opportunity, excellence in education, and prosperity. Making a society or institution diverse is secondary.

Government Discrimination is Wrong

Pro asks if affirmative action is needed and does it work. We'll respond, but before that we ask if policies of institutional government discrimination are allowable. Should government be allowed to violate equal treatment under the law?

Affirmative action is institutionalized discrimination, and is therefore contrary to the principle of equal opportunity. The government decides which groups will receive benefits and, by implication, which others will suffer losses. Martin Luther King was correct in his assessment that discrimination hurts not only those who suffer from discrimination, it harms the perpetrator as well. In the case of affirmative action, government is fundamentally corrupted by punishing some to benefit others.

The example of UCSD adding 200 points to the SAT scores of Hispanic applicants is instructive. A primary beneficiary was the group of applicants from South America, who were not suffering from discrimination and who were competitive without the 200 points. Foreign applicants are generally an elite, because it costs a lot to attend a foreign school. Discrimination is obviously unfair.

Affirmative action in California was ended by a voter initiative, Proposition 209, banning discrimination. The initiative was modelled on the 1964 Civil Rights Act. [3. ]Like the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the voter initiative demanded equal treatment of all people. The impact on University of California student population was was to quickly raise the population of Asian students from about 3 , Proposition 209Asians make up about 10% of the California population. With affirmative action in place, Asians were about 37% of the students population. With affirmative action ended, the Asian student population increased to about 44%. The numbers at the Berkeley campus are now approaching 50%. The mantle of affirmative action had been used to impose a quota on Asian students.

In the history of California, Asians have been discriminated against as much or more than any other group. [4. ] However, the government decided it was okay to now discriminate against Asians. So why do Asians do so well. Asians have a five point IQ advantage, but that's not nearly enough to explain the success. Clearly, success came as a consequence of a strong culture that places a high value on education and initiative. Whatever factor discrimination plays, it is minor by comparison.

Affirmative action is not needed: A "Consistent" Theory is Not a Proven Theory

The affirmative action premise is that lack of opportunities due to past discrimination accounts for differences in the success rates. That's false. Yes, some groups lag behind the general population in outcomes, but that doesn't mean the reason is discrimination. It's about cultural values and tradition. There are fewer male nurses than female. That does not prove that men are discriminated against in pursuing that career. It's more likely that fewer choose that career path. The same is true for there being fewer women CEOs and women scientists. The culture is changing and the numbers in non-traditional career paths are increasing.

Perhaps the numbers will never equalize in some cases. Perhaps there are more alpha-type personalities among males than among females, so that there would naturally be more male CEOs than female. It's not the job of government to trump human nature by attempting to force outcomes.

Affirmative action damages cultural values by teaching that the key to success is for the government to reward one person's group at the expense of others. At the same time, granting government the power to discriminate corrupts government. Discriminating against Asians is a corrupt practice obvious to all.

Pro cites the abstract of a paper that studied bank loans to entrepreneurs. The paper costs $35 to read, so I cannot examine their methods. I suspect the authors used the typical social science methodology in which the authors diddle with a statistics package, adding and removing "correction" factors until they get the result they wanted. The study is suspect on it's face, because entrepreneurs are rarely financed with bank loans. Banks don't take substantial risks, and they will only loan against substantial collateral, usually the entrepreneur's house or the accounts receivables of the company. Entrepreneurs are financed by personal savings or by "angel" investors. On the face of it, the study may indicate that minorities have fewer personal assets and fewer wealthy investor contacts. those are cultural problems, not discrimination. The authors claim they took all the factors correctly into account, but it's doubtful that they did.

The authors only claim that their results are "consistent with" discrimination. The results are probably also consistent with minorities have less wealth, minority communities being less financially supportive, or with minority cultures having fostered less business acumen.

Supporters of affirmative action made dire predictions about the consequences of it's repeal. A careful study of the data shows that incompetent firms given preferences under affirmative action did go out of business, but that minorities then continued to advance steadily under fair competition. "Proposition 209 in no way hindered the progress of minorities and women in public employment. Predictions about a future deterioration of labor market positions for women and minorities proved utterly unfounded."..."In 1999, black students earned a total of 1,139 bachelor’s degrees from the UC. In 2006, that number had increased 3% to 1,170. In 1999, Hispanic students earned a total of 3,984 bachelor’s degrees from the UC. In 2006, that number had increased 33%, for a total of 5,287 degrees." [5.; ]

Discrimination by institutions is against the law, yet affirmative action claims that there is significant discrimination that cannot be proved to legal standards. It is fundamentally unfair to punish people who have not been convicted of a crime, and who in all probability have done nothing wrong. What exactly did Asians do wrong that justified discriminating against them in education? "Today, Asian-American students make up 40 percent of the student body at the state's top school--the University of California, Berkeley. That's more than double the amount of Asian Americans at Ivy League institutions. The difference? Ivy League schools may consider race in the admissions process." [6. ]


Government cannot be trusted to discriminate against people. It corrupts government and it works against resolving the cultural problems that affect outcomes far more than discrimination.
Debate Round No. 2



Con agrees that non-discrimination and equal opportunity are legitimate goals. Con also agrees that "some groups lag behind the general population," but disagrees as to the cause. Con argues it is the result of "cultural values," not of "discrimination." But Con fails to realize that such cultural values are the product of past discrimination.

Con thinks discrimination as a result of "cultural values" is not discrimination. What Con is saying, then, is that cultural values are a valid excuse to discriminate because it is cultural, and therefore, not really discrimination. This logic is flawed, as anyone can see: such cultural values are themselves already discriminatory. Culture is not a valid excuse for the obvious systemic discrimination that continues in this country, it is simply another form of discrimination that affirmative action attempts to account for.

In fact, Con admits as much when he does not dispute the fact that women with the same qualifications as men are paid less for performing the same jobs. This is discrimination, precisely because of patriarchal cultural values, and Con has not disputed this.

Last round, I cited an article about a racial gap in self-employment; the article shows that this gap is the cause of racial discrimination in the credit market by banks. Con assumes the article uses social science methodology, and then assumes that this methodology is suspect. To say the social sciences are suspect is a huge claim, for which Con provides little proof.

Blacks and Hispanics get worse public education, because the urban schools they go to don't have as much money as the schools in white suburbs. The reason this happens is because public schools are financed from local property taxes, so in communities where houses and businesses are less expensive, the schools provide worse education. This is unfair, and is a form of institutionalized discrimination. [1] It has also been shown that the racial gap in scores on the SAT is not the result of absolutes like native ability but of accidents like social position, access to libraries and quality of public education, and the opportunity to take SAT prep courses. [2]

Other studies and data show huge racial disparities in access to Medical treatment and in the quality of care received, which again is accounted for by systemic discrimination. [3] Mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine primarily affects the African American population, because White's generally can afford cocaine powder, which does not carry such severe sentencing guidelines. [4] It has also been shown that racism exists in today's advertising, through the perpetuation of discriminatory stereotypes. [5] And finally, according to the ACLU and Rights Working Group, racial profiling is pervasive in every state, and has created material challenges and disadvantages for African Americans as a group. [6]

Systemic discrimination is a fact. The question then becomes, what do we do with that? Affirmative action is the proposed solution.

Affirmative Action is Discrimination?

Con argues that affirmative action is "institutionalized discrimination," and that "government discrimination" is not allowable. This is Con's most deceptive argument, as it seems like good reasoning but it is actually very flawed.

Con's logic goes something like this: if it was wrong for Jim Crow laws to penalize people just for being black, then it is equally wrong to give preference to some people for being black. It is reverse racism.

But this reasoning only works if the two practices are removed from their historical contexts and declared to be the same because they both take race into consideration. According to this bizarre logic, those who favor affirmative action are the moral equivalent of Ku Klux Klanners.

This is the same logic that says, killing in self-defense is morally the same as killing for money because in either case its killing you're doing. Of course, no one actually thinks killing in self-defense is the moral equivalent of killing for money. When the law distinguishes between these two scenarios, it recognizes that the judgment of an action varies with the motives informing it.

Now apply this logic to affirmative action: it was the explicit purpose of some powerful white Americans to disenfranchise, enslave, and later exploit black Americans. It was what they set out to do, and it is a clear example of racism. On the other hand, the express purpose of affirmative action is to end discrimination and provide equal opportunity. Two very different motives.

It is important to recognize this distinction. Affirmative action does not set out to deprive you of a place at Harvard, it sets out to end discrimination. The statistically negligible disadvantage that white male's have when applying to college cannot be compared to sufferings inflicted for generations on blacks. Doing so is to neglect the particular history and motives informing each action.

But this is what Con wants to do, to neglect the purpose and historical reality informing affirmative action law. Con says affirmative action is discrimination, and therefore it must be wrong. Sure, affirmative action may be discrimination, but it is the one kind of discrimination that is allowable: discrimination that protects against discrimination.

Free speech law is comparable. The government regulates and censors speech (for example, the giving of information to our country's enemies). Does this mean the government has violated the first amendment? Yes and no. The government has violated the first amendment with the express purpose of protecting those same freedoms. And when the purpose and end is protecting that which it itself violates, it is legally allowable.

And that is exactly what affirmative action does. It discriminates with the express purpose of protecting and furthering non-discrimination.

And that is why we need affirmative action. Not doing anything about the systemic discrimination in this country is the same as saying, non-discrimination is good even when it leads to discrimination.

The US government has historically given legal precedence to ends over means, and the case of affirmative action is no different.

Higher Education

Since Con provides no source for the UCSD case, I skip it until hard evidence is provided and go straight to the case of Asian-Americans. The question at stake here is, are the Asian-Americans better qualified than other ethnic groups? The answer is sometimes.

The key here is how "merit" is defined. According to studies, "affirmative action beneficiaries have succeeded in higher education and various occupations despite not having the required test scores or GPA, therefore exposing reified concepts of merit" as "intellectually biased." [7] Asian-Americans are more qualified according to the standards used by the UC system, but not according to the standards used by Harvard, where it is recognized that being Black may provide qualifications for certain jobs based solely on group membership. Affirmative action simply affirms that there are other factors that determine "merit," and corrects against discriminatory concepts of merit.


Illegalizing discrimination has not worked. Many minority groups still face systemic discrimination and serious disadvantages. Affirmative action is thus a legal necessity. And contary to Con's opinion, it is allowable.



Affirmative Action is Unjust

I asked Pro what Asian Americans had done to deserve being the subject of government-authorized discrimination. Asians where historically discriminated against as badly as any other group. Yet government deems it correct to punish them. Why? Pro didn't respond, I think that the answer is that advocates of affirmative action do not car in the least if people are actually victims of discrimination. Fairness is not an issue. The only issue is equality of outcome. If Asians happen to do better than others, they need to be taken down to achieve equal outcomes. Indeed, supporters of affirmative action have no measure of discrimination other than equality of outcome.

Pro grimly pronounces that I am approving of discrimination based upon cultural values. I don't approve of government discriminating upon cultural values, but I do approve of people finding there own paths in a free society. If Frenchmen value cooking more than the British, that's fine with me. Back in the 40s and 50s, Ivy League schools worried about the problem of having "too many Jews" and actively discriminated against them. Now it's "too many Asians." The relevant concern should not be what groups people belong too, it is about the individual's competence. Government should work to provide equal schools and equal protection under the law, not to require preferences.

Women are paid, on average, 77% of what men are paid. However, that statistic does not account for differences in the male and female workforces. One factor is that woman tend to work fewer hours, and part time employees are paid less. "Just comparing men and women who work 40 hours weekly, without accounting for differences in jobs, training, or time in the labor force, yields a ratio of 87.2 percent, with a smaller pay gap." Other factors include the choice of college major and years of uninterrupted employment. Even though more women graduate from college than men, they tend to major in lower-paying liberal arts. "Generally, the more information about women that is included in the analysis, the more of the wage gap that can be explained, and the less is the residual portion attributable to “discrimination.” An analysis that omits relevant information finds a greater unexplained residual, and concludes that there is more discrimination." [7. ]

"Factor in occupation, industry and whether they belong to a union, and they jump to 91%." [8. ]

Pro cited a study of ban loans to entrepreneurs that followed the same pattern. Everything that was not factored into the analysis is attributed to discrimination. The tipoff is that the authors only claim that the results are "consistent with discrimination." That admits they don't know why the differences exist. If they knew it was discrimination they would have claimed it. Another tipoff is they are studying bank loans to entrepreneurs, which is odd because entrepreneurs do not commonly get bank loans. Pro did not respond to either point, but wrongly asserted that the study proved discrimination. Neither Pro nor I can read the actual paper because it costs too much, so we cannot tell what factors they figured ad what they did not.

Any discrimination that can be proved is illegal. Affirmative action only treats discrimination that cannot be proved. Pro points to cases of inferior schools and other disadvantages associated with minorities. There is not problem with providing remediation for any disadvantage. For example, a student who went to a bad high school can be given makeup courses in college. That's not affirmative action. Affirmative action requires that every member of the group be awarded a benefit, without regard for actual experience. President Obama's children must be given extra points, Never mind that they attended an elite private school and are guarded by the Secret Service. It's doubtful that they would want preferential treatment.

School quality can be measured. There are more subtle forms of discrimination. We could allow a person to self-identify as being a victim of discrimination in order to get remediation. Hispanic students applying to UCSD from South America are unlikely to have claimed they were victims of discrimination. Taking any measure of actual experience into account is not affirmative action. Some institutions are using genetic testing to award affirmative action benefits. People who acknowledge that the never suffered any discrimination because no one thought they were minorities are given benefits when tests show they have some combination of Black and Native American genetic markers exceeding 20%. [9. ]

Affirmative Action Does Not Work

Pro claims I did acknowledge the difference between government-required racial discrimination done for good purposes and government -required discrimination done for bad purposes. The US constitution has the same problem, with it's blanket requirement for equality. Pro argues that the Courts can carve an exception to equal protection for good purposes. My argument, which Pro did not address, is that government is not qualified to make a correct distinction between good and bad discrimination. Affirmative action only applies when there is no evidence of actual discrimination and it applies when there is no claim of discrimination and ample evidence of there having been none. Government decided to discriminate Asians on the sole grounds that the group succeeded.

The power to discriminate based upon membership in a group is inherently corrupting. Martin Luther King as right: "Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority." [10. ] Affirmative action completely subordinates the human personality to a person's group.

Pro claims that affirmative action serves to cure cultural disparities. He asserts that without evidence. The contrary is true. It works the way that Dr. King said discrimination always works, harming both sides.

Thomas Sowell, an African-American researcher at the Hoover Institute at Stanford, reveals that "today many Americans will refuse to visit a black physician or dentist because of their assumption that he or she was admitted both to medical school and to the position held through 'special preferences', set-aside quotas, and relaxed standards. The same is true for many other professionals and for other beneficiaries of 'affirmative action.'" [11. ]

"Tragically—for blacks, women and other “oppressed” minorities—affirmative action indirectly communicates a demoralizing message of inferiority that reinforces the same separatism it set out to solve. It is pure illogic to think that you can fight fire with fire and get anything but scorched earth." [12.

The data show that students admitted to the top level schools under affirmative action did not do well. When affirmative action ended in California, minority applicants applied to school suited to their qualifications, and both admissions and graduation rated increased. [5]


Discrimination due to race and gender exists. If any person is disadvantaged, it's reasonable for government to extend extra help through remedial education and the like. The key difference from affirmative action is that remediation ought to be based upon what has happened to the individual, not to his group.

Debate Round No. 3



Con concedes that, even though discrimination is illegal, “discrimination due to race and gender exists.” Con admits that “if any person is disadvantaged, it’s reasonable for government to extend extra help.” But, Con says, “the key difference from affirmative action is that remediation ought to be based upon what has happened to the individual, not to his group."

But given group discrimination, is group-thinking wrong? No, group-think is reasonable because AA responds to discrimination that targets groups, not individuals. Con's argument is thus an ironic attempt to salvage a flawed argument. Con simply makes another argument equally as flawed, and conceals the "relevant concerns," systemic group-targeted discrimination. I will flesh this out later.


Con claims “Pro didn’t respond.” False. I advise Con and readers to take a look at my discussion of Higher Education from last round.

As I explained, a discriminatory concept of merit is ALREADY in place. SAT scores and GPA reveal a “reified concept of merit”; discriminatory because it shows little correlation with success. SAT scores may show access to "SAT prep" that many couuld not afford. Allowing discriminatory concepts of merit is discrimination.

As such, turn Con's argument, Asian-Americans are an example of AA working. Asian-Americans are benefactors: if they are accepted because of a discriminatory concept of merit, it is discrimination. But if that concept of “merit” is corrected, then Asian-Americans are no longer discriminated against. Thus, AA ensures that Asian-Americans are not discriminated against.

Con claims AA benefactors do not succeed, but the source data is questionable: from a blog, it is limited to the UC system, presupposes a discriminatory measure of merit (SAT/GPA), and uses the same social science methods Con himself dismisses.

My peer-reviewed source from last round provides countless studies showing AA beneficiaries were successful at "top level schools" across the nation. Con drops this argument.

All these arguments were made last round. Yet Con claims I “didn’t respond.” I have to say, it is really upsetting that I have to take up character space to deal with Con's misrepresentation.

Motive, Context, Outcome

Con claims AA provides "no measure of discrimination other than equality of outcome.” Again, Con ignores what I wrote. Motive, express purpose, historical context – these are all measures that, with outcome, inform AA law. Because Con neglects the relevant facts, including my explicit references to “motive” and "historical context," Con's conclusions are consistently questionable.


Con admits women are paid 77% of what men are. Yet Con cites evidence that the pay gap is actually 87.2%. 87.2%? That is still a pay gap. Con concedes, and my argument holds.

Con's other source puts pay gap at 91%. But the article cautions, this number is for "more-educated women." It continues, “That number drops to 68% for African-American women and 58% for Latinas.” It concludes, the "77% estimate too optimistic."

Thus, we conclude Con pulls numbers out of context to conceal facts which prove not only gender discrimination, but racial discrimination as well.

Thomas Sowell’s Argument

The source is questionable, a Yahoo "Voice," similar to Opinions or blogs. The argument itself is pure pseudo-psychology: Americans do not visit black physicians or dentists because Americans assume AA gave blacks those jobs? That's bad psychology and racist.

Why would someone reasonably conclude that it had to be AA that gave blacks those jobs? An underlying assumption that blacks are inferior; without "extra help," blacks can't get those jobs. That's racism.

I say turn the argument around: Americans refuse to visit black physicians because of racial discrimination. Thus, we need AA.

Self-identifying and genetics

Self-identifying is not institutionally acceptable. Con's source explicitly states, "given the tests' speculative nature, it seems unlikely that colleges, governments, and other institutions will embrace them." Again, Con pulls quotes out of context to conceal facts.

Con's argument is thus negated by the fact that colleges, governments, and institutions are not accepting these genetic tests. Again, note how Con consistently misquotes to make conclusions that don't take all the relevant facts into consideration.

Is the “relevant concern” groups or individuals?

Con claims “relevant concern” is not the “groups people belong to, it is about individual.” I began to unpack the flaws here earlier. As I noted, insistence on the individual does not correspond to the manner in which harms were inflicted and experienced.

Blacks were not historically discriminated against as individuals. They were discriminated against for being black, for belonging to a group. Racial discrimination and gender discrimination are group-targeted discrimination. Therefore, the "relevant concern" is not individual identity, it is collective identity.

Any solution to group-based discrimination must take the relevant group into account. It makes no sense to critique group-thinking when the discrimination was toward a group, not an individual. Claiming that group-identity isn't relevant is simply another way Con attempts to conceal relevant facts (collective identity, historical context, motive) to further his agenda against AA.

Con continues, AA “completely subordinates the human personality to a person's group.” Completely? That's a big claim, and again, it's bad psychology. This time, Con provides no evidence, not even a source. I counter, AA acknowledges the fact that group membership affects human personality, but not "completely subordinates" it.

Again, I say turn the argument around: AA can correct AGAINST racial discrimination (racism) that does subordinate human personality to a person’s racial identification (that is, their group). AA solves the problem, not causes it.

The argument against group-think is not only flawed, it is ironic that after practicing racial discrimination for so long, people would now decide to make amends by proceeding through unsystematic partial measures (individual remediation), and leave the larger systems of exclusion that racial discrimination has fashioned firmly in place. That is simply bad logic informed by bad ideology.

Cultural Values

On the issue of "cultural values," you can have any cultural values you want (including racist ones), but these values cannot be used as an excuse for institutional discrimination. Con implies they can.


Con claims I did not respond to the argument, “government is not qualified to make a correct distinction between good and bad discrimination.” Actually, I did. That was a central part of my argument last round. Con disregards my points, so I will repeat some again.

As I explained, Democratic government is predicated on good/bad distinctions, not just for discrimination, but for other democratic ideals: for equality ("separate but equal" is bad), and for free speech (government regulates speech that compromises free speech). There are other examples.

In each case, implicit in each basic right is the inevitability that at some point, government will have to perform its opposite to uphold the basic right. It's an inevitable catch-22.

The key, for government, is distinguishing acts (in this case, discriminatory ones) by reference to motive, historical context, and outcome.

We do this because
AA is clearly NOT the moral equivalent of racism. AA amends disadvantages caused by years of racism, racism discriminates out of sheer hatred.
Con agrees that race/gender discrimination persists; AA is therefore justified.

Throughout the debate, I have refuted Con's case against AA, whereas Con has consistently dropped or misrepresented my arguments. I advise voting Pro.

Also, I advise voting conduct against Con, as anyone can see the kind of neglect Con consistently shows is bad conduct; it is not an isolated case, and forced me to use up character space for no reason.


Racism is putting the group ahead of the individual

The principle of all racism is that what you are individually does not count. What counts is your group. If you have never discriminated against anyone, that doesn't matter if your group is deemed guilty. You are then punished. If you have never been discriminated against and don't want to pretend to be a victim, that doesn't matter either. All that matters is that you are part of a group that is deemed a victim group. You are to be rewarded for your membership in the victim group. You don't even have to know you are in victim group. Affirmative action supports the principle of racism,and that's all that's need to determine the outcome of this debate.

The counter argument is that racism is okay if the government believes it is justified. Whenever racism is coded into law, the government always believes it is justified. That cannot be a justification. Again as Dr. King pointed out, there harm to both sides. Government in it's role of justifying discrimination holds itself as superior to individuals. It believes it's superior position justifies whatever it wants do. The people cast as perpetual victims are correspondingly diminished and made inferior.


Asian Americans are discriminated against by being refused admission to elite schools based solely upon their race. We know that because when affirmative action is banned, the Asian student population increased substantially. Where affirmative action is allowed, they remain under represented. I admit I could not understand how Pro's rebuttal was supposed to answer the question of what Asians did not justify discriminating against them. It still seems to me to be a non-sequitir given the facts of the situation.

If I understand Pro, that what Asians did wrong was to score well on the SAT. The idea is that the SAT is invalid so that they should not deserve admission. However, data clear showed that students who were admitted with a bonus 200 points subsequently had grad point averages significantly lower than those with the higher SAT scores. So the SAT certainly predicted academic success. Moreover, everybody agrees that being admitted to an elite school is better than no being admitted, since the whole point of the affirmative action was to reduce the Asia population and increase the Black and Hispanic population. Asian students did nothing wrong by working hard to meet the criteria for admissions.

The idea that Asians benefited from affirmative action is not supported by the evidence. There was a long history of discrimination against Asians, but an equally long history of Asian culture placing a high value on education. But, for the sake of argument, suppose Pro's contention is correct that Asian-Americans benefited from affirmative action. That implies we should not look at individuals shut out by discrimination, but instead value the past benefits given to the group. It is again the racist principle that the individuals must be subordinated to the group.

For Affirmative Action, Only Outcome Counts

Pro never pointed to any proof of discrimination other than outcome. Affirmative action is justified by accounting for some of the factors that lead to differences in the outcomes among groups, and then saying that whatever is left is "consistent with discrimination." Pro cited the odd paper on bank funding of entrepreneurs, odd because banks do not do much funding of entrepreneurs, that said that differences were "consistent with discrimination. Studies of the reasons why women are compensated less showed that as more non-discriminatory factors were taken into account, the pay gap substantially decreased. Women are more than likely to interrupt their careers for child rearing and that lowers their earnings. Women are also less likely to go into union-dominated trades or higher-paying industries. The pay gap is decreased by every factor taken into account.

Pro says that because the gap has not been completely explained by other factors his point is proven. No, it is not reasonable to attribute everything unexplained to discrimination. No one claims to have done an analysis so thorough as to take all factors into account, so what is unexplained may be due to factors other than discrimination. Pro offered no study that specifically identifies discrimination as the cause, the only measure supposedly proving discrimination is that the outcome is not the same. Men make more, that's all that's supposed to count.

The logical premise is innocence until guilt is proven. women are discriminated against. We know that because cases are taken to court and it is proven. However, it is unjust to punish men and reward women as groups until such time as women give up taking time off to rear children and give up teaching in favor of timber harvesting.

Thomas Sowell's argument that affirmative action casts doubt on credentials

Pro claims that Sowell's opinion carries no weight because he is the equivalent of a random blogger. Sowell was identified in the article. He was one of the nation's foremost Black intellectuals. "A National Humanities Medal winner, ... He is currently a Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University." His is an expert opinion well-founded on experience. Pro did not offer a contrary expert opinion.

Moreover, the logic is well-founded. If it is established public policy to award credentials on a basis other than merit, it is reasonable to doubt those credentials. That's bad for everyone. The data after affirmative action was abolished in California showed that minorities advanced based solely on merit.

Pro questions whether the California experience with affirmative action can be generalized. California is a textbook case because affirmative action was shut off all at once in 1996, so the consequences are easily identified. California is an especially good example because California is an extremely liberal state. Academia is liberal to a fault. it's fair to assume that everyone administering affirmative action sincerely wanted it to succeed. The results showed that giving unjustified advantages did not make people competent or successful, but that they could succeed on their own.

Government is not qualified to discriminate

Pro claimed that the only way to determine fairness is by democracy. If that were true, then Jim Crow laws must have been fair because they were arrived at democratically. The argument is not prima facie. Some put it as "Democracy is the right of the 51% to pee on the corn flakes of the 49%." The alternative is establish core rights by sober process and then have an independent judiciary enforce those rights. If the Constitution does not prohibit discrimination, it should.

We also had in evidence that the voters of liberal California voted n favor of equal rights and against affirmative action. Pro offered no example of affirmative action discrimination being approved by voters.


Affirmative action is unjust, damages both government and the people it is supposed to help, and has not worked as claimed.

Pro says that I should lose conduct for ignoring some of his arguments. I admit to being unable to relate some of Pro's arguments to the questions of the debate. They seem unrelated. However, if voters find Pro's arguments compelling and unrefuted, and that they are more important than other contentions argued, then they stand as unrefuted. that's for voters to decide. The conduct category is about insulting the opponent or using obscene language. Debaters are free to judge their opponent's arguments non-responsive. voters get the final say on the validity of the arguments.

The central issue of the debate is whether the principle of having government award benefits based upon race, gender, or ethnicity is a good principle or not. It is unjust and ineffective.

The resolution is negated.

Debate Round No. 4
13 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by magpie 6 years ago
So, if I, a white male, grew up in a black neighborhood, was beaten and robbed, and received bad grades in school because of discrimination, then I should be further discriminated against when applying for college admission, simply because some other white guy discriminated against black guys who are not actually in competition for admission at this college. The argument that discrimination can be ended by perpetuating it, is false on its face. Affirmative Action is a Marxist canard to redistribute wealth and maintain a divided populace, based on race or sex, or some other imagined or real difference.
Posted by RoyLatham 6 years ago
The group argument works to justify all racism. It works equally well to justify discriminaton against Blacks, Jews, gays ... The logic (?) is: some members of the group perform bad acts > that is a problem for the group as a whole > therefore the group must be punished. Doesn't work.
Posted by FourTrouble 6 years ago
@Roy, Okay, I understand your outcomes argument a lot better. It definitely is a problem for AA to determine the cause behind disadvantages, and it is equally a problem to know how much discrimination exists and when AA should be ended. I think this is definitely the strongest argument you present against AA.That said, I don't think anyone can deny that racial discrimination still exists. Blacks, especially, face challenges that I'm almost certain you and I have never had to go through.

I don't like the idea of substituting individual cases for AA because, as I said in the debate, racism is directed at a group, not individuals. The amends somehow have to take that into account. The other problem with dealing with discrimination on a one by one basis is that it is unsystematic and ineffective.

The 8000 character limit was a real pain, AA is a really huge and complex topic, with so many factors to take into account. As of yet, I am not fully convinced by either side. I recognize the problems with AA, but I'm also not comfortable waiting around for another solution. Until a better solution can be thought up, I'd rather settle for AA than simply let racial discrimination continue.
Posted by RoyLatham 6 years ago
@FourTrouble, I thought the debate covered the issues well. Good debate.

The "outcomes" I was referring to was with respect to the test for determining that discrimination exists. How do we know that women are suffering discrimination in pay? AA supporters say that the reason we know there is discrimination is because we observe that women are paid less. The outcome of discrimination is lower pay, so that's proof of discrimination. But the outcome of lower pay might be substantially explained by factors other than gender discrimination. One factor is that women tend to put careers aside for a long period of child rearing. Other factors were listed in the debate, and still others may not be known. For example, men with low intelligence may be paid more for heavy physical labor than women with low intelligence can earn.

A factor I doubt anyone has considered is that women have a tighter distribution of IQ than men. There are somewhat more high intelligent men and also somewhat more low intelligence men than women, who tend to be more in the middle.. It is probably the case that high intelligence is rewarded more than low intelligence penalized. I don't know -- it's an unknown.

The problem is that it impossible to know how much discrimination exists, and therefor impossible to know when affirmative action should be ended. Attempting to drive wages to being equal through AA may be impossible. there is no such problem with individual cases of discrimination that can be proved in court.

Factors like tradition explain causes of discrimination, but they do tell how much. Measures are by definition quantitative.

8000 character debates on broad topics are bound to be sketchy, but if they were longer no one would read them. It's hard to know what points to dwell upon and which to say only a few words.
Posted by baggins 6 years ago
Excellent debate. I just had a quick look. I will read it completely ASAP...
Posted by FourTrouble 6 years ago
@Roy, Also, thanks for the opportunity to defend AA. I enjoyed the debate, you definitely brought up some points I hadn't considered before.
Posted by FourTrouble 6 years ago
@Roy, I don't understand one thing, why do you keep insisting AA only takes "outcome" into account. My whole argument was that "motive" and "historical context" was the key to differentiating between acts, not just "outcome."
Posted by FourTrouble 6 years ago
The link didn't take me to the right place, but I googled it and was able to find it. Just letting you know, your link doesn't go directly to the source.
Posted by RoyLatham 6 years ago
I label my sources sequentially throughout the debate. [5] was in the previous round. Note the current round started with [8].

It's probably better to use C1, C2,... and P1, P2, ... to distinguish the references of the two sides. Another way is C2.5 for Con's fifth reference in the second round.
Posted by FourTrouble 6 years ago
Roy, what is the source for this:

"The data show that students admitted to the top level schools under affirmative action did not do well. When affirmative action ended in California, minority applicants applied to school suited to their qualifications, and both admissions and graduation rated increased. [5] "

I don't see a link for [5]
4 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Vote Placed by Maikuru 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro's support of equality is undermined when he concedes that AA is a form of discrimination. While he deems this as a corrective act and thus allowable, Con strongly counters by showing how such a mentality harms previously disadvantaged groups (i.e. Asians). Pro's rebuttal - attacking SAT standards - demands reforms for curricula, not admissions. Con's solution of individualized assistance is the less harmful of the two offered here. Con's selective rebuttals do not warrant loss of conduct.
Vote Placed by larztheloser 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Fair debate. Pro proved a harm, and provided a solution, but needed to justify it more in response to con's attack. Con provided a reasonably compelling set of reasons why affirmative action can be the cause of more discrimination, although I wasn't convinced about corruption, which needed more development. 3:1 neg win.
Vote Placed by KRFournier 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Both sides gave very compelling, well written arguments. Pro convinced me that racial discrimination is a problem that needs addressing, but Con convinced me that affirmative action wasn't the answer.
Vote Placed by 16kadams 6 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: The discrimination argument, the best argument, still stood for con in the end. Further more pro never refuted (well didn't refute well) the it is not needed argument. Cons rebuttals, in my opinion, where better. Sources pro as: A. He had more B. due to the sources provided pro has slightly more accurate sources.