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Thomas Sowell Disproves Systemic Racism in the US


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this is a debate about whether Thomas Sowell's famous arguments disprove the existence of Systemic Racism (in the US). Sowell has said that the disparities between minority and whites have existed for a long time, and cannot prove Systemic racism. This has been very problematic for my vast literature of evidence in favor of Systemic Racism, but I have managed to come up with a counter argument. Come support Thomas Sowell if you wish.

Burden of Proof is shared.

Round 1
Just in case it is confusing, as I am CON, it means that I will show Thomas Sowell's claims fail to refute the idea that Systemic Racism is a current problem in the United States. PRO must do the opposite to win (Show that Thomas Sowell's claims refute Systemic Racism's existence in the US)

By its definition, systemic racism refers to the policies and practices of society. Systemic racism can thus result from implicit biases, unequal access to resources and opportunities, and other systemic factors. The marginalization of persons of their race has grown to a pervasive and intrinsic level. This fulfills the idea of “systemic”. [F1] There doesn’t need to be any explicit laws that allow for systemic racism.  
Through my argument, it's clear that Systemic Racism is impactful against minorities such as blacks and Hispanics. Furthermore, the individuals include police, doctors, educators, government entities, so on and so forth, as my evidence highlights. Through poor treatment of minorities due to personal biases, the people and the government perpetuate Systemic Racism in the US.  

The Wealth Gap of Minorities
Opponents bring up an interesting point: Is racism the cause of the divide of wealth? At first, there are some doubts. They may be naturally poor, and poor people are treated worse off than rich people. But the mere cause of the cultural divide does not explain fully the socioeconomic inequality. 
An in-depth paper explains that institutional racism has been a long cause of this wealth gap. The accumulated wealth from past family travels from generation to generation, propelling an unstoppable quest for a fortune for privileged people. The unique power of wealth ensures that "this intergenerational transmission create[s] an unequivocal link between the present and our racialized past of enslavement, extermination, and expropriation". [GAP1] In other words, the cycle of money loops back to help white males who are treated well and will be treated well, while the blacks who were treated poorly in the past are doomed to repeat their mistakes. The obstacles in the way inherently prevent them from reaching the goal.
If this wasn’t enough, a 2010 study conducted by Shapiro also agrees with the same idea. The difference between blacks and whites was not caused by market, family, personal attributes, but rather direct and indirect effects of discrimination, especially homeownership. [GAP2] The present housing discrimination overcomes the similar income and work history and results in our current economic disparity. 
Even if readers don't buy this, I have another source that speaks of a vast social transformation as the main solution. On a report of the wealth gap, the source opens up with "There are no actions that black Americans can take unilaterally that will have much of an effect on reducing the racial wealth gap" [GAP3]. Already, something is suspicious. If the wealth was caused by problems of capitalism, surely all you'd have to do would be work harder, or get lucky with education, or have connections. But no. This problem has gotten out of the hand of citizens. This is the true extent of the systemic level of racism.

The major dissenter: Thomas Sowell
Of course, this is not to say that racism is the sole cause of the disparities demonstrated in this paper. A famous paper from Thomas Sowell argues that statistical disparities are inherently common in the US and that the system alone doesn’t create barriers to economic prosperity. However, as also warns, “nobody is arguing that racial or ethnic discrimination has been eliminated”. [GAP4] In addition, Sowell’s main argument was against unnecessary government interventions, rather than addressing the vast mistreatment in different sectors. The mere economic standpoint is rather weak when measured up against my argument overall. His lack of engagement with current theory and empirical evidence ultimately falls short of disproving any part of my case.

Not only does Sowell heavily ignore the swathes of literature in the argument, Sowell had argued the studies on the income differences overlooked age, location, and other differentials. However, the Journal of Economic Literature references 81 published articles beginning in 1960’s. They used independent variables ranging from family size, occupation, experience, putting them into every kind of regression and covariant analysis possible. Regardless of which statistical test, after controlling for age, income, occupation, health condition, et cetera, there was still a 70% difference in earnings gone unexplained. [GAP5] With Sowell’s lack of empirical analysis for the economic analysis, his lack of sources further prove his bias.

If this wasn’t enough, James Stewart in his book Black Redneck and White Liberals, he points out that Sowell does not acknowledges publications concerning the racism. [GAP6] He highlights Willie Rose who demonstrated African Americans resisting efforts by northern abolishments in a social experiment concerning the profitability of cotton. There are clear self-improvement efforts in the African Americans, thus proving they were not lazy or did not try hard enough to escape their poverty. Similarly, Sowell did not address the wealth of evidence showing discrimination being the barrier to eliminating disparities. Various studies in Race, Class and Convervatism by Thomas Bostom critiques Sowell’s interpretation. Sowell’s arguments do not match the timing of current evidence, especially as “new insights emerge regarding the role of group identity in economic advancements”. 

In summary, the literature of evidence does not rely by solely demonstrating disparities exist, but also the historical, observational and experimental research done by the various experts.

Call to Action
Understandably, many people still agree with the opposing side of the argument. Some are simply not knowledgeable enough and only know about one side of the debate. But learning history and the truth paves a path towards greater understanding. As yet another study highlights, educating history lets us learn about how and why systemic racism exists today. The researchers stated, " Participants listened to ... the federal government’s role in creating Black ghettos, and how racialized space still perpetuates structural inequality today (cf. Bonam, et al 2015)", [SUM2] and as a result, they were able to further the battle against Systemic racism in the present, changing people's point of view for the better.
It is near impossible that so many experts and news articles would waste time about an already-resolved problem. It would be even more unlikely for major corporations and powerful people to invest in the name of equality. With so many credible people speaking up about systemic racism in the US, it’s undeniable that it is a significant problem. 
Friends, the time to act against systemic racism is here and now. Already, six corporations have donated millions to billions of dollars to fight the inherent bias within people. [SUM3] Police and judges have not self-reflected or educated themselves enough, and the evidence I have provided is as resounding as any scientific theory. To deny the existence of systemic racism is to deny the very effort to fight for equality, and potentially return to a world where white males dominated and minorities are snuffed out like a candle. It is true that the Supreme Court has established a baseline with Brown V Board of Education. But it takes more than 12 to change the world and to demonstrate the lack of systemic racism.

This is a sensitive subject, for which many will be biased against me. And the reason many progressives of color like me have a disadvantage when discussing racism is because we approach the topic from a place of emotion.

Thomas Sowell is an African American economist who specializes in political commentary. Being black and in politics should indicate that his take is not affected by a bias, but a position formed from sufficient education and expertise.

Notice how Con doesn’t define or explain what Systemic Racism is. Neither in the description or in his first argument and there’s a reason for that.

Systemic Racism exists only in theory.

Since systemic racism is an umbrella term, it logically follows that it has a very loose definition for which it constantly gets misused. The major disagreements people have over systemic racism is an interpretation of semantics. Systemic racism is often used synonymously with Institutional Racism and the version of systemic racism Thomas Sowell refutes follows a tighter criterion which limits its usage to its intended meaning, which differs significantly from Institutional Racism.:

  • Systemic racismcan be defined as an infrastructure of rulings, ordinances or statutes promulgated by a sovereign government or authoritative entity, whereas such ordinances and statutes entitles one ethnic group in a society certain rights and privileges, while denying other groups in that society these same rights and privileges because of long-established cultural prejudices, religious prejudices, fears, myths, and Xenophobia’s held by the entitled group. In the year 2020, there exist no U.S. federal government or state government statutes or ordinances that will accommodate systemic racism. 

This is what Thomas Sowell is referring to when he refers to systemic racism. And he’s right, it doesn’t exist. And he’s also right that it isn’t a real term for which it has a universal definition.

  • Institutional racismcan be defined as the racial attitudes found in a ethnic group’s traditions, beliefs, opinions, and myths that are firmly ingrained in the very fiber of the ethnic group’s cultural paradigm, where such traditions, beliefs, opinions, and myths have been practiced and sustained for so long, that they are accepted as common facts, understood to be normal behavioral practices whereas, such practices in effect marginalize, and demonize the human worth of another ethnic group. Institutional racism has been practiced in American culture for so long by American Europeans and even American Africans that the foundations that keep racism socially perpetuated are now today expressed in common social traditions following socially accepted occurrences, and practiced as normal social behavior in the educational, governmental, political, and even religious arenas

Institutional racism exists, however. 

To get an understanding of just how confused people are on public discourse of racism, see from Thomas’s own words.:
  • “If we are to examine discrimination and its consequences today, we cannot be as indiscriminate as the racists of the past or present. We must make distinctions—first as to some consistent meaning of the word “discrimination” and then in deriving criteria for determining when it applies.”

The people who argue about Systemic Racism do not even know what it is, what damage it has caused, and what evidence there is to prove that it exists. Forcing Thomas Sowell to prove a negative is just misdirecting the BOP.

Round 2
Aha, the classic Semantic argument. Should we really accept Thomas Sowell’s argument as good enough to cover all the different papers on systemic racism? Wouldn’t that be like someone arguing microevolution is the same as evolution. And disproving one is good enough to disprove the general idea of evolution? In the Oxford dictionary, we see Systemic generally refers to the overall system. Nothing shows that Sowell singularly allows us to overtake the hundreds of studies that cover the general nature of systemic racism.

While it is true that there can be various interpretations of the term "systemic racism," it is important to note that Thomas Sowell's interpretation is not the only valid one. In fact, his definition seems to be limiting and narrow, as it only considers systemic racism as an infrastructure of rulings, ordinances or statutes promulgated by a sovereign government or authoritative entity.

However, systemic racism can also refer to broader social, economic, and political structures that perpetuate racial inequality, such as discriminatory practices in housing, education, employment, and criminal justice. These structures do not necessarily require explicit laws or policies, but are often embedded in societal norms and cultural attitudes.

Furthermore, even if there are no current federal or state government statutes or ordinances that explicitly accommodate systemic racism, this does not mean that systemic racism does not exist. It simply means that the manifestations of systemic racism have evolved over time and may be less visible or explicit than in the past.

Therefore, it is important to recognize that systemic racism can take various forms and is not limited to Thomas Sowell's definition. By acknowledging and addressing the various ways in which systemic racism operates, we can work towards creating a more equitable and just society for all.

Con has dropped all the evidence and arguments. I shall extend them, and add on more evidence to prove the implementations of policies that show systemic racism.

Housing Policy
Laws like redlining -- that is, refusing a loan to people because they are a financial risk -- continue in the present. Blacks still have a problem obtaining loans to buy housing. The grandchildren of those who suffered under the racist policy result in a compounded disparity. Whites were able to buy houses and grow rich, while blacks lost those opportunities. [POL.H1] The discrimination within the mortgages and lack of wealth kept the communities separated by race. Home ownerships’ importance links back to racial inequality. Back in 1998, mortgages have been denied to minorities, widening the existing disparity. [POL.H2]

An expert named Richard Rothstein delivers more on the decisions within federal, state, and local policy that separated blacks from whites. Starting with a personal story from Ferguson, the discrimination from real estate agents is reinforced by policies. These include, but are not limited to racially explicit zoning decisions, housing projects, restrictive covenants, subsidies excluding blacks, and annexation designed to remove blacks. [POL.H3] Even though these effects are no longer explicit, they endure due to a lack of government action. And so the racial zoning continues, the penalty of those living in black neighborhoods increases, and in the author’s words, “we may be replicating segregation on the European model”.

These examples of housing discrimination demonstrate how systemic racism operates in society, as policies and practices perpetuate inequality and prevent minorities from accessing the same opportunities as white individuals. By excluding minorities from homeownership, these policies contribute to a compounding of disparities that have lasting effects on communities.

i.a) Impacts or Intentions?

Some opponents suggest that the disparate impacts do not relate to racism, and thereby weaken the claims of further sections in this paper. However, as the Supreme Court decided, the Fair Housing Acts do not need to show explicit discrimination. Racial justice is designed to reduce the racial wealth gap. Even the Justice Department agrees with this idea. The impact matters because “no official policy required blacks and Latinos to get worse loans, but rather subtle racial biases driving the result” [POL.H4].

In particular, the case summary realizes “ the Supreme Court determined that disparate-impact claims were cognizable under the FHA because of the FHA's results-oriented language”. [POL.H5] Connecting to the rest of my argument, the Title VII discrimination must be shown in the results according to legal precedent. Beyond the explicit racism, we must take into account the subtler, implicit racism, deeply embedded in the US system. Even now, “poor whites end up living in richer neighborhoods than middle-class Blacks and Latinos”. The results of housing discrimination shine through, and the impacts must be addressed to resolve the unfair practices contributing to economic disparities.

The problems, of course, are not so easy to solve. Brookings 2019 realizes that the problem goes beyond merely living in the red-lining area, as our practices have blurred line across different regions. Neighborhoods within these areas are "more likely to have a higher concentration of Black residents, as well as lower incomes, lower home values, and other negative economic characteristics relative to the rest of their cities." [POL.H6] Brookings argue that Redlining effects have still continued, and current policies fail to completely resolve the disparity issues. The big segregation in Dallas drawn from its history of intense racism proves that Red Lining is merely one small piece of the puzzle; the housing policies in general are powerful and unstoppable even with actions taken against them. Therefore, the policies remain implicitly discriminatory as they fail to defeat the existing issues.

Though some opponents dispute the validity of present issue, it’s clear that housing practices are still controversial. Native Americans also face disproportionate amount of housing problems, at a higher rate than average US Population. [POL.H7] This is similar to my argument that blacks inherently have problems in housing due to the previous segregation and the existing practices. The specific statement is that public policies use the guise of creating new spaces in order to "[strip] Black communities of the wealth and financial stability found in property ownership and affordable rental housing". Our policies reproduce the effect of redlining, with little evidence of "long term benefits from these revitalization efforts".

The site further explains that gentrification has caused blacks to live in particularly poor areas, resonating with my core idea that whites tend to live in richer neighborhoods overall. Just to list a few more examples, there are exclusion from homeownership programs, abdication of responsibility for civil rights protections, and intentional government policy (especially Chinatowns). As key take-aways to each of these sections, blacks are much less likely to own their own homes, lenders continue to target people of color with limited oversight, and city planners zoned areas for industrial and commercial use. The last point is the one that especially produces the environmental hazards that specially target minorities -- echoing the psychological research above. The racial zoning tool is basically nearly identical to redlining's intentions. The less access to crucial services combined with hazardous waste puts the nail in the coffin.

As Pro has made no attempt to define Systemic Racism and relying only on the resolution, I can only infer that the subject is referring to Thomas Sowell’s version of racism, not some other variation of it. 

In order for me to argue the topic as Con, the resolution requires me to rely on the definition I laid out. As the BOP is shared, I have already proven my side because the form of Systemic Racism I gave still counts as Thomas Sowell disproving Systemic Racism in the US. 

The only way for Pro to win is to counter me on this by providing proof that this version of Systemic Racism is present. If not, I’ll consider it dropped. 


Round 3
Con is being completely unreasonable and offers no credibility to Thomas Sowell’s extremely biased and narrow definition. In order to win a debate, one must show why a source can be trusted. Otherwise, couldn’t Thomas Sowell also do something absurd and claim 1+1=3, thereby destroying all foundations of math? The titular claim is that Sowell’s definition should somehow be taken precedent over all the other hundred expert papers that have researched and went in depth about the evidence regarding systemic racism. Con has not addressed Sowell’s incredible bias, especially with claiming that the poverty was eternal and the basic cause of the current disparity in racism. If Sowell was truly only needing to show there are no laws, he could simply push the burden of proof instead of offering excuses and using the red herring of “black people are mistreated because the poor are mistreated”. Otherwise, even Sowell’s own arguments would be irrelevant to his own case, and he would thus destroy his own foundation. There’s no need to make theories about poverty if the burden of proof is truly on the experts to show there are laws that discriminate against minority.

Con offers a poorly thought out logic to Sowell’s arguments, further proving they are shallow and not to be trusted. I ask you again: why should we take Sowell’s narrow minded version over the general version of systemic racism? Con repeatedly says I have not given a concise definition, yet the statement regarding the policies and actions that discriminate within society show “systemic” in a general sense. I don’t see anything wrong about that.

Con has dropped that Redlining policy is basically the societal regulations dropped in place to prevent blacks and minorities from advancing. I highly encourage people to re read that argument and know that it is highly relevant to my case. Con has not addressed that redlining is very much a systemic issue.
All of Pro’s studies and arguments are irrelevant, as they aren’t addressing the Systemic Racism that I mentioned.

If the confusion over the actual meaning wasn’t convincing enough, just observe Pro’s contradiction.: 

  • However, systemic racism can also refer to broader social, economic, and political structures that perpetuate racial inequality, such as discriminatory practices in housing, education, employment, and criminal justice. These structures do not necessarily require explicit laws or policies, but are often embedded in societal norms and cultural attitudes.
Pro is describing institutional racism that I elaborately defined in Round 1. Now here is where he contradicts himself.

  • By its definition, systemic racism refers to the policies and practices of society.
What is missing here in any of these arguments is a sovereign government or oppressive entity. Thomas Sowell points out the absence of such a thing in the United States, which is why there is no Systemic Racism in America. 

Wouldn’t that be like someone arguing microevolution is the same as evolution. And disproving one is good enough to disprove the general idea of evolution?
This is a False Equivalence fallacy. Evolution is an observable scientific phenomenon which is substantiated by fossil records, genealogy testing, and data. Micro-Evolution is a subcategory of Evolution and a requirement for Evolution. 

Systemic racism has no singular definition and is therefore an unreliable term, but the one Thomas Sowell uses does not actually exist in real life. 

Thomas points out that some races do better than others and this doesn’t necessarily implicate racism because other reasons are left out of the equation and rarely considered.: Cultural traditions and values. 

Immigrants do not underperform because of racism. Thomas Sowell points out the major success rate of asian immigrants as an example.:

Round 4
Con is still relying on the fact that a lot of experts use slightly different definitions for the overall systemic racism, and attempts to say Thomas’s definition despite overly strict is the true definition. Yet none of the research articles developed are arguing for laws explicitly discriminating. All of them agree there is the implicit foundation of racism in the US as shown in the rise of power of white in exchange for mistreatment of minorities. I didn’t want to be forced to prove all seven caveats from the race theory as that would take too many characters which we simply don’t have time for. In the end, systemic may be nebulous but based on the vast majority of research, there has been no credibility to Sowell, especially since I pointed out his ideas are outdated regarding black culture and his assumption in their inability to escape due to nature of poverty. How can we trust Sowell on anything when he was wrong on his theory of Wealth Gap? The reality is that they are in trouble due to the inherent discrimination in society and the practices of the government or the government employees. This is the crucial idea that con has failed to address. He has not told us why Sowell is more credible than hundreds of research papers implying otherwise. Sure, they might not outright define Systemic, but it seems like an intuitive idea. If it’s pervasive through the US society even without showing up as a law, then it counts for the purposes of an expert research paper. For most experts, it looks like institutional and systemic are one and the same. Don’t the institutions comprise our “system” in the US? 

My case is closed.