McIntosh / Disparate impact
Thu Oct 8 18:47:29 CDT 1998
Yes, demographically, there are skews in female and minority representation in the activity and in out-rounds and speaker awards. I cannot argue that point. What is arguable however is something which the demographics do not suggest, the "unconscious" sexism and racism you allude to. Explicit bias is very easy to pin down, but "covert" bias is much harder to prove. Actually, I don't think it can be proven. The demographics presented only suggest that white male competitors performed better at the tournaments based on their awards and speaker points, nothing more and nothing less. The demographics you point out would support my position here, that merit-based sorting is involved and not sexism or racism.
Remember that in none of my posts have I claimed that sexism and racism do not exist within the community. I actually believe that, to a point, they do. So what is the solution to this "unconscious" discrimination? That's a question much easier asked than answered. I believe that what we are doing here is very productive. Discussing the issue and consciousness-raising, I believe, is important in any aspect of social life. But that doesn't solve anything in and of itself. Another very obvious step would be to get more females and minorities involved in the activity. Their representation can obviously not increase if their involvement stagnates or declines. Good coaching is also needed because debaters need to know how to argue their positions effectively and they need to know much of the theory that is batted around in rounds. Without that knowledge it would be difficult for anyone to perform well regardless of their race or sex. But in the final analysis, the problem of unconscious discrimination still exists. The only solution to this would be what we know as affirmative action within the community itself, the use of demographics to guarantee that everyone will receive an equal representation in out-rounds and awards. I believe this to be counterproductive because it would exclude many who have performed better and truly deserve recognition for it. One's sex or race should not be used as a tool for advancement. Qualifications and performance are the fairest measures. That being the case, I still have no solution for "unconscious" discrimination. I do know that shifting preference from one group to another does nothing but perpetuate the original problem. We would eventually have the same problem to solve and face the same questions.
One could even make the argument that representation of a particular sex or race is actually irrelevant. Those who perform best represent the best the tournament has to offer. At least the demographics you point out would hold that statement to be true absent refutation. Taking those demographics to a more subjective level requires us to leave them behind in pursuit of a solution because they no longer represent what we perceive to be the underlying cause of the problem.
You also fail to mention disparate treatment. In discrimination cases, employees are obligated to prove that they have been treated unfairly as a result of discrimination. Demographics alone as proof don't work. The demographics do go far in pointing out a possible problem, but even courts leave them behind when it comes to proving both disparate treatment and disparate impact. If I, as the employer, can prove that my company consists of individuals who are more qualified than other considered applicants, then that could very well be set forth as the reason that the demographics are the way they are. If, however, the employee in question can prove that her/his qualifications are better than what is currently represented within the company, it would seem that the employee would have a legitimate case.
How is a debater to prove that her/his performance and/or qualifications are better than what is represented in out-rounds and awards? I wouldn't know the answer to this question, but it would be necessary to make a claim of discrimination. Can past records be used as an indication? Again, I wouldn't know, but I can already see the problems with that. Simply because one has performed better in the past doesn't mean that one is better at any given tournament. Of course, that same argument could be made in employment situations. So it seems to become a vicious circle that collapses on itself. The beliefs that I have set forth and my interpretation of the demographics and attempted complete objectivity with them are just another part of that circle. This is a good thread which can hopefully bring about discussion to clear the whole mess up. If we keep it up, we may just run into a solution by accident. One never knows.
From: Gordon Mitchell [SMTP:gordonm+ at PITT.EDU]
Sent: Thursday, October 08, 1998 4:13 PM
To: EDEBATE at LIST.UVM.EDU
Subject: McIntosh / Disparate impact
McIntosh's hypothesis that the severe underrepresentation of non-white
male debaters in the elims of Kentucky could be due to merit-based factors
raised an eyebrow here. Particularly interesting is the overlap of this
discussion with the portion of Title VII jurisprudence on disparate
impact. The disparate impact standard provides a cause of action for
members of the protected minority groups to sue employers in exactly the
type of situation that McIntosh outlines: 1) There may not be explicit
bias exhibited by the employer, yet 2) There are serious skews in the
demographic hiring and promotion statistics.
Frequently, disparate impact discussions make a turn to consideration of
+unconscious+ aspects of discriminatory behavior that are contributing to
the statistical skews in question, and I would be curious to read
McIntosh's reply to the following counter-hypothesis:
The demographic skews witnessed at Kentucky were not the natural results
of merit-based sorting, but rather manifestations of unconscious
discrimination (embedded in institutional and interpersonal contexts).
>From Thu Oct 8 21:18:58 1998
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Date: Thu, 8 Oct 1998 21:18:58 -0700
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From: Omri Ceren <omcst+ at PITT.EDU>
Subject: Re: Wow, What Intelligence <-- not Brendan
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On 8 Oct 98, at 18:00, Brendan R Delaney wrote:
> Believe me, I didn't send it out...I don't know how it was forged or
> whatever, but it's someone's sick idea of a joke...Sorry that anyone was
> offended, but I had nothing to do with it...
To the best of my admitedly limited ability to figure out what
happened, this message originated from an anonymous account on
aca24b3f.361d0628 at aol.com
Can someone wiht a little more know how confirm that this is the
correct reading of the headers?
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