Debate Community Flees from Honest Race Discussion

Mary Bonner mrygln
Mon Feb 15 14:35:00 CST 1999

I'm not trying to say that wearing a Malcolm X t-shirt is inherently bad.
And I'm not so sure that I agree that my (and others') being alienated does
not outweigh the benefits of social consciousness.

First, I think that my (and others') being alienated is an indicator that
this social consciousness is not working as well as you may perceive.  What
is one of the purposes of increasing social consciousness on such issues?
Is it to possibly welcome (as opposed to alienate) those in whatever class
the issue centers around?  If that is a purpose (which I think it is), and
that isn't occurring, doesn't that mitigate the solvency?  (oh god, here I
go again....debatespeak)  And if the course taken to increase this social
consciousness does in fact have an effect of alienating, thus decreasing,
wouldn't that be an argument against that path?

Second, I'm not really advocating not wearing Malcolm X t-shirts, but I do
think it is often an easy out for many "progressive" people.  After all,
some think, since I'm wearing this t-shirt, I'm progressive, I'm against
racism (how many would claim they are for racism?), I'm part of the
solution, not the problem.  But then, often, some people no longer look to
their own actions, figuring they've already solved that by buying the
t-shirt and wearing it in public.  I've seen this in many people.  The very
people that have run arguments of black feminism sometimes don't even
realize that their daily actions contribute to an environment that alienates
women/minorities/homosexuals/etc.... This sometimes manifests itself in
self-righteous attitudes that since I can debate the merits of gays in the
military and believe those merits, my prejudices have already been solved,
so I don't need to look at myself any more.

Third, maybe it is partially bad to wear Malcolm X t-shirts.  Take, for
example, the image of Che Guevara.  He had become a cult hero of sorts,
often times with his actual work unknown by the very people that slap
stickers bearing his image on their bumpers.  But now, Pepsi Co. decided to
take advantage of him and his "revolutionary" battles and slap his image in
the form of a chihuahua for a "revolutionary" taco.

I'm not trying to say that wearing a Malcolm X t-shirt is not an
option/attempt to increase social conscious, just that it is not proof that
a person is now no longer racist, or less overtly, now no longer creates an
environment that alienates persons of other ethnicities than their own.

Kate O'Konski wrote:

> Having someone champion your cause (i.e. by wearing the Malcolm-X
> t-shirt) may trivialize your concerns/problems, but consider the
> alternative.  The implications of your argument, that you are being
> alienated, do not outweigh the benefits of increased social
> consciousness.  The fact that people are trying to overcome their own
> racist/sexist/homophobic tendencies by advocating equal rights cannot be
> a bad thing; otherwise, what option do we have?  We need more
> champions...
> Kate O'Konski
> MWC Debate
> >From owner-edebate at Mon Feb 15 09:46:16 1999
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> >Date:         Mon, 15 Feb 1999 11:41:51 -0600
> >Reply-To:     Mary & Glen <mrygln at SIU.EDU>
> >Sender:       Team Topic Debating in America <EDEBATE at LIST.UVM.EDU>
> >From:         Mary & Glen <mrygln at SIU.EDU>
> >Subject:      Re: Debate Community Flees from Honest Race Discussion
> >To:           EDEBATE at LIST.UVM.EDU
> >
> >> In a message dated 2/14/99 9:33:44 AM Mountain Standard Time,
> >> parcherj at CWIX.COM writes:
> >>
> >> << Before, I comment on what Steve has to say - I want to ask a
> question - why
> >>  have only 5 people participated in this discussion?  Recently it
> seems only
> >>  Coop has the bravery to jump in publicly atleast.  The back channels
> are
> >>  helpful and insightful - but why not go public?  It seems to me that
> Steve
> >>  and I have touched on some very fundamental race issues that effect
> the
> >>  community.  Sure, it has gotten aggressive and personal at times.
> So what?
> >>  There is much to be gained by airing these differences. >>
> >>
> >> Carolyn O'Neill replies:
> >> "So what?" you ask...Well I can't speak for anyone else, of course,
> but
> >> personally I have had little, if any, invitation to dialogue in this
> forum on
> >> such personal and important issues. It is difficult enough reading
> and
> >> reflexively considering these subjects in such a competitive,
> insulting,
> >> "aggressive"(hostile?)  and personal environment. Why should I invite
> such
> >> nastiness into my personal space? Do not think, though, that you are
> the only
> >> ones so engaged in this discussion, as some of us have just chosen a
> more
> >> affirming, positive discussion with ourselves. I'm open, though, to
> more
> >> personal (face-to-face) conversations with anyone who has a
> constructive and
> >> caring (not competitive) approach and attitude.
> >>
> >> peace,
> >> carolyn o'neill
> >
> >I'll second that.
> >And to add a bit of my own thoughts (not at all claiming this is what
> Carol
> >meant/would or would not advocate):
> >As a debater, I often found it interesting that I was submerged in a
> community
> >that repeatedly would debate the the problems created by and that
> create
> >racial/gender/age/sexual/etc. inequality/discrimination/whatever other
> related
> >word you choose... debating/discussing these in rounds, in squad
> meetings, at
> >debaters' houses cutting cards (or other gatherings), in hotel rooms at
> >tournaments, many different contexts... yet all the while never
> realizing their
> >own actions/discussions/etc. could also play a part in these problems.
> It's one
> >thing to say that language creates reality; it's another thing to fully
> realize
> >both the language that one is using and the manner in which that
> language is
> >created/used.  Using the generic "she" (or simply "one") instead of
> "he", or
> >writing "womyn" instead of "women" is perhaps a good effort (though for
> some, not
> >really that good an effort at all), but it often seems to work as an
> excuse to
> >avoid reflecting on one's own actions.  "I'm not sexist, I belong to
> NOW," "I'm
> >not racist, I reject racist jokes," "I'm not homophobic, I have a pink
> triangle on
> >my wall."  While one may, in fact,  not be
> sexist/racist/homophibic/whatever
> >else.. , these do not prove it as such.  But I'm getting on a tangent
> here.  But
> >I've been around too many debaters and other people who consider
> themselves
> >"progressive" because they may be discussing certain "progressive"
> issues, never
> >realizing that all the while they are continuously alienating me and
> others.  So
> >instead of fighting for my space in that arena, I gave up and searched
> (still
> >search) for a different arena.
> >Just because you wear a Malcolm X t-shirt does not mean you are immune
> to racism
> >or racial alienation.
> >
> >I've had several years of thoughts/anger bottled up since leaving the
> debate world
> >(and few of you probably even know me), and revisiting edebate has
> perhaps brought
> >some of them more to the surface.  While this is only a glimpse, I
> thank you for
> >your attention.
> >
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