Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Affirmative Action and Reverse Discrimination

In 2010, the NFL released a topic, Resolved: Affirmative action to promote equal opportunity in the United States is justified.  The topic is similar to a proposed LD topic for 2012/2013 so I have decided to release the following discussion.  It all started in school when several senior level debaters were discussing the resolution and one claimed Affirmative Action resulted in reverse discrimination.  Another took up the "debate" and read the following evidence:

Dr. Jan Garrett, 2004, Discrimination and Affirmative Action
"Manuel Velasquez, author of Business Ethics: Concepts and Cases (Prentice-Hall), defines (job) discrimination as follows:
making an adverse decision (or set of decisions) against employees (or prospective employees) who belong to a certain class because of a morally unjustified prejudice [understood as an unjustifiable attitude or belief with likely harmful consequences--J.G.] toward members of that class.
On this definition, three conditions must be met before an an action or decision counts as job discrimination. The decision:
1) derives at least in part from morally unjustified attitude against members of the class to which the target of discrimination belongs, viz. the assumption of inferiority.
2) has a harmful or negative impact upon the interests of the persons who are targets of discrimination.
3) is not based on individual merit, e.g., ability to do a job, experience, etc."
There was also a Supreme Court decision which cited several criteria for discrimination claims but the exact reference was not recorded.  I believe it was cited by Justice Brennan in the Bakke case.

Those criteria for discrimination resulted in a protracted three day debate which took place online and so I have decided to post it here in full because many of the points made are very relevant to the proposed LD topic, except the LD topic is limited to college or university admissions.  The older PF topic was wide open to all applications of Affirmative Action.

Please note:
  • The names are changed to protect the guilty. I have only edited out a few elements which are personal to the debaters involved.
  • Several resolutions from the time period are mentioned such as the LD topic about economic sanctions (seen in the debate as "ES") and the Jury Nullification topic ("JN").  Affirmative action is abbreviated "AA"
  • The debate is a mix of Public Forum, Lincoln Douglas and Policy elements so you will read many non-standard arguments so hopefully you won't get confused by the jargon or mixed up tactics.
  • The debate is so long it will be require multiple posts to get it all.
  • Because the discussion was semi-public there was concern about revealing sources online.

At the end of this discussion, I will post all of the sources.

And so it begins:

Day 1

Since Captain has switched to a theory argument that means he concedes that Aff. Action is not reverse discrimination.

Your definition of "discrimination" is ridiculously over-limiting; you gave me 3 burdens and said that I must meet ALL of them in order for an action to be considered discriminatory, so it only makes sense for me to go theory. Not to mention that none of the definitions listed on dictionary.com (from various sources) is one of yours, so I could easily win T/theory
But even if I don't win the theory debate that it's discriminatory towards the majority, it's still discriminatory (by your own definition) towards the minorities it's meant to help.

As well as toward the minorities it doesn't help

First, the warrant was not mine, but a group of legal analysts. Second, the warrant is ridiculous because you do not agree with it - but courts do, so I accept the court's opinion. Third, it is not discrim. against those it means to serve because Aff Action does not presume they are inferior thus does not violate the three part burden used by courts.

Ok, so if I find a "legal definition" that says what I want it to say, how do we resolve this definitional dispute? You must default to theory anyhow, in which case my argument still stands that your burdens are illegit because you're the only one that can meet all 3 of them. My definition promotes fairness which is key because we have to have a fair/predictable round, and if no one can meet your definition, you destroy clash. Clash is key because if we just wanted to learn about something, we could get a library card. You destroy the point of debate by over-limiting the topic.

However, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, inferior means: "A person lower in rank, status, or accomplishment than another." So, if a person isn't "inferior" then there's no need for AA. But if a person IS inferior, then a program that privileges the inferior means that it's discriminatory.

Since A-A is a legal remedy to a social injustice it should follow a legal definition.
A key point, however - we have A-A because we affirm that in the US there has been a history of discrimination and we affirm the lack of proportionality of minorities and women in institutions and workforces is a social injustice. But that disproportion is not the result of the affected population being lazy, ineffective, immoral, or unqualified. Do you agree?

Also I offer the distinction between intentional and unintentional discrimination. I think we can agree intentional discrimination is illegal and immoral so is not relevant to A-A.

I will concede that we had discrimination in the past, but I don't think it still exists today - outside the use of AA. I don't think you can fiat that people on the hiring committee will intentionally deny a minority a position unless we have some correction for past injustices. And I don't really agree about a lack of proportionality of minorities in the workforce. (I would want to see stats on this.) Even if you prove that, one could still argue that there's a lack of a proportional number of minorities in the government, but we still leave it up to the voters to decide who should be in government, not some arbitrary legal "solution" to "social injustice", so really AA is applied arbitrarily. You can't argue for social justice on college campuses and institutions, but not our own government.

I agree with your premise that the disproportionality is not due to being lazy, ineffective, or immoral. Unqualified is probably where I'd raise a point of contention. If someone that grew up in impoverished conditions is not qualified for a position, she shouldn't get the position just for the sake of proportionality. But if you mean we're dealing with two people with the same exact qualifications apply for a job, but somehow the minority is just more often not chosen for the job, I would need proof that says this is due to a racial bias. Correlation =/= causation. But the success of minorities in many high-profile fields I think is proof that there are no barriers that prevent a person from achieving success. (Obama is proof; he didn't become President because of AA.)

And sure, intentional discrimination shouldn't be part of the discussion, BUT it depends on how we define discrimination. But let's pretend you win your definition, but I prove the definition of inferior, meaning we have UNintentional discrimination; discrimination is inherently wrong, so the fact that we KNOW discrimination is happening--intentionally or not--perpetuates and entrenches discriminatory policies.

Do you doubt I can give you statistics when countless studies confirm the lack of proportionality? One must look at the figures BEFORE affirmative action since AA has been effective in evening out the proportions. If I show the stats it upholds disproportionailty on a basis other than laziness, immorality, and other perceived shortcomings of the affected.
You can not claim the disproportionality is the result of the affected being unqualified because AA does not require employers to hire unqualified people. If you make that claim, then I will need evidence from you.

No, I don't doubt that you can give me stats, but I would question whether AA is responsible for all proportionality. Like, if I can find an instance (or two or three or however many to counterbalance your examples) where proportionality has increased, but AA wasn't used, can we reject it?
I wasn't making the claim that AA hires only unqualified people; I was just trying to figure out your position on disproportionality based on qualifications. But I still want to see evidence that says that two people are equally qualified, but the minority is always rejected without AA.

Edit: not "always" rejected, but is rejected even 1% of the time based on minority status. Because if it happens 1% of the time, then ok, I will reassess the injustice of the system and the possible fix that AA provides. But if you can't prove that someone doesn't get a job because she's a minority, then I see no reason to discriminate against another.

Also, another point I just thought of: even if you can prove this, we still don't REALLY address the problems if social injustice. We may get minorities into colleges/positions in society, but we still have problems of equal pay, glass ceilings, etc, which I contend are real, provable instances of discrimination that can actually be addressed and corrected to minimize social injustice.

There is another form of discrimination more prevalent in america - class discrimination.
Before I prove that people have been denied opportunities because of unfair discrimination (basis of race, gender, nationality) I was sidetracked by your Obama warrant cited earlier. You'd think Obama would be against Aff Action, right?
Quote: He said such programs have not been nearly as helpful to minorities or damaging to whites as they have been portrayed....
"Crude quotas" are unnecessary and constitutionally impermissible, he said. But, "I do think that there are still circumstances in which on a college admissions or on a hiring decision, taking into account issues of past discrimination or taking into account issues of diversity of a workforce or a student body can still be appropriate,"

I'd like you to expand on class discrimination. I believe it exists, but I just want more information. I'm just not sure how it permeates society as much as other forms of discrimination, and what role AA plays as far as class discrimination in colleges, the work place, etc.

Tomorrow evening...and I'll open a new thread since this one is getting big.

haha ok. Depending on how you describe discrimination, I may be able to link it to structural violence; if you can do that, I will concede that AA is extremely necessary.

I would just like to point out that "he" is the grammatically correct third person singular pronoun, not "she" as my newly PC colleague mr. captain seems to believe! :p
Someone tag me in the new thread so I know when it's up, this is fascinating.

For part 2 click here

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