*MERIT* - was 1st round bids
Wed Feb 16 11:39:43 CST 2000
>From: Chris Lotz <Lotzca at AOL.COM>
>I don't know why you have to single out non-white male first round
>recipients for accolades . . . Maybe the day when people don't focus on
>immutable individual characteristics will be the day when pure merit can be
>the only distinguishing factor, as it should. So kudos to all first
>rounders, white male or not.
*Merit* is such a loaded word - loaded with a host of gendered and raced
characteristics. It is not nuetral or natural.
*Merit* in debate is determined by standards that were originated largely by
white males, who passed it on to their largely white male students, who
passed it on to their largely white male students . . .
Debate is judged largely by white males, coached by mostly white males, and
most debaters are, you guessed it, white males.
These standards are not written down in stone somewhere either - what we
think is "good" debate is determined by a host of norms and conventions that
aren't universal or catholic in their adherence. This is the way
communication and language work - as humans we understand best when people
talk and think like us. Debate is no different - reasoning that resembles
your own and speech that resonates with you tends to earn your ballot.
Gender, race, region, sexual orientation - any/all of things tend to change
the way you think and communicate.
You are quite right to argue that "immutable" characteristics shouldn't be
relevant to the success of any debater. However, the fact remains that
non-white males are a distinct minority of competitors who are forced to
communicate to mostly white males in the judging pool.
This doesn't mean that we should promote a race/gender blind conception of
"merit." Rather, it means that each of us as judges and critics has a
special and particular responsibility to reflect on how our concept of
"good" debate are rooted in our race, gender, sexuality, economic status,
The especially seductive part of the cry for *merit* is a desire for critics
and coaches to claim that the activity that they referee and guide is
somehow nuetral or natural - that the guidelines for adjudicating debate are
common and consistent. A quick check of the people and friends I know who
judge and coach reveals that fantasy to be just that, a fantasy. However,
the desire remains, on my part and on the part of others, for each of us to
claim that we have a corner on the market of truth. It would certainly be
comforting if that were the case, but the fantasy is damaging because the
idea that merit in debate is natural or nuetral is to lose track of how our
own privilege plays in determining the "winner."
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