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Does the U.S. Government Have the Authority to Address Perceived Acts of Racism?

79.4% yes
20.6% no

President Biden has signed a number of executive orders in his first few weeks in office. A few of these have been civil rights measures designed to bring an end to perceived discriminatory policies. These orders have raised important constitutional questions regarding the role of the federal government in addressing racism.

Those who argue that the U.S. government has the authority to address perceived acts of racism claim that there are multiple indirect references to this power written in the Constitution. They argue that the power to “provide for the general welfare” includes the power to combat racism. They may also point to the Constitution’s Preamble, which establishes the purpose of our national government as to “establish justice.” Finally, those who support this idea claim that if state governments are not taking adequate measures, the national government has an obligation to interpose itself in order to protect the rights of Americans.

Those who argue that the U.S. government does not have the authority to address perceived acts of racism claim that it is neither an explicit nor implicit power granted to it in the Constitution. This side may argue that it would be a violation of the principle of federalism to allow the national government to have such an ability. They may also argue that combating racism requires changing people’s hearts and minds, and that having the federal government conduct this policy would be tyrannical.

So, what do you think? Does the U.S. Government Have the Authority to Address Perceived Racism? Students can answer Yes, it does; No, it does not; or a nuanced answer in between!

Note: Ideal Think the Vote responses include the following:      

  • Address the question asked in a thoughtful and meaningful manner     
  • Use cited facts and constitutional arguments when appropriate to support their answers      
  • Are expressed in cohesive sentences and are free of distracting spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors      
  • They address counterarguments and opposing concerns in a respectful manner      
  • They organize their answer in a manner that flows logically and reads clearly   


For this question, BRI will be giving away two $25 gift cards, one to each person providing the best defense of each side of the debate. Both students will also win BRI swag. Each student winner will also be entered for a chance to win a grand prize of a $1,000 cash scholarship. Additionally, the referring teachers for both students will each win a $25 gift card and BRI swag.

Be sure to submit your answers in time to be considered for our prizes!

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