[eDebate] Winks and movements

Ede Warner ewarner
Thu Nov 15 16:03:11 CST 2007


David,
 
I'm not sure what Kade believes or thinks, and I'm in no position to judge his intent, so I won't try.  What I can do is express how his words, as he wrote them made me feel.  My posts expresses that and my feelings can't be judged persay.  They are what they are.  
 
I do think Kade is expressing his love and because the fairness debate as expressed in the conversation is used substantially more on the "policy" side of the debate house, with me being position by the house on the "critical/performance" side, there is reason to believe that he was affirming a certain group of people having a love.  His choice of words made an argument, and it created an emotion for me.  And while you can't "judge" how it made me feel, you can judge whether his statements were "productive" for our community, given the injury I felt.  And in fact, I think judge's must, when these offenses occur, must judge their productivity.
 
Now, somewhere in what I wrote, you decided that my criticism of David was his love for white privilege.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  My criticism is with the willingness of the community to play "pretend" with the legacy and history of racial oppression that contributed to his ability to have a game to love.  My criticism is not about how wonderful the game is for you, or me, or anyone else.  It's about a policy examination of whether playing a "game" is a "productive" societal use for debate, or are there others.  Given the legacy of debate, and the honest recognition, that debate was stolen from a democratic America by a few, and then changed in ways that made it less accessible to America, means that whatever fun or benefits you speak of, are illegitimate and you must give them back.  
 
You see, when a debate team wins on the argument that we stand on stolen property and must recognize that Native Americans deserve their land back, but then we walk out of that room, and spend little if any time acting on that recognition, we are recommitting the atrocity of land theft all over again.
 
And when the debate community plays "pretend" that they have a right to this game, ignoring the oppression created in the educational system and broader societal to legitimate this version of the game, Kade, you, and even me, as someone who played the game for many years, still has the moral obligation to give it back.  So no, I don't think that Kade likes his white privilege, I think that he likes the benefits of his white privilege, and in turn begins to believe he is entitled to such benefits.  And that is the problem. 

>>> 

From: "David Marks" <dgm2109 at columbia.edu>
To:<edebate at ndtceda.com>
Date: 11/15/2007 12:35 PM
Subject: Re: [eDebate] Winks and movements
Ede, I do not believe Kade thinks you love debate any less than he does. All I think he was pointing to is that there is some sort of love of the activity that drives many of us as former debaters and him as a debater to keep working and keep thinking and keep loving being in debate. 
 
You think that love of the activity is the love of white male privilege. But that's the problem. Debate's not as simple as racist or not-racist. It's not as simple as game or not-game. Ironically, I think that's what Kade means precisely when he calls it a game. I think the reason he called it a game was because debate should not be held hostage to what other people tell us is "productive." Instead, we should be able to dictate the rules ourselves. When people tell us it's a game, it puts the agency back in the players. If it's a game, the players can do what they want with it. Imagine if people told us, "school is a game, and you can argue about the rules." It would fundamentally change the role of the student and the teacher. 
 
At least for me, that's what I love about debate. I don't like its isolation per se. I don't like its exclusivity. I don't like the inequity. But I like that I have some control instead of someone grading me on a report card where I have no input as to what counts as an "A." 
 
As far as I see it, that's exactly what makes debate so awesome for activism. It gives you the tools to grab the game and change it for something different.
 
When I first debated Louisville in '03, I was among the backlashers. But as time went on I started to enjoy debating Louisville more and more. I liked the challenge of changing my style. I was moved by the music and the power of the words beyond their initial logical content. There was only one thing I didn't like. It was the assumption that Louisville is in an apocalyptic fight with the Devil and everyone who isn't Louisville is the Devil. Maybe those were just my particular debates and the emotions that I felt, but the feelings were there nonetheless. And the reason is this: debating the "game," whatever that means, had been really important for me during an emotionally difficult time in my life. Despite the fact that debaters are only supposed to care about winning, friends of mine stayed up most of the night at tournaments when I was upset even though they would be debating the next morning. Yet, to pretend that people's love of debate can be reduced to just the arguments they run instead of the loving context of people and friends in which they run it is to ignore what makes those arguments worthwhile: that it's fun to be with these people and struggle intellectually with them. 
 
Debate as the "game" you disparage in 2007 helped me when I needed it in 2003. Your apocalyptic description of debate cannot acknowledge that because it's got its eyes on the prize and nothing else. If there's one thing that makes debate beautiful for me, it's that we can challenge each other to think differently and see what we normally refuse to. The beauty of theory debates is not that they regulate debate - it's that they allow debaters to be in charge of the regulation. The existence of "fairness" as an argument in debate is precisely why your teams can change the rules of the game. They get to question fairness for what and fairness for whom. 
 
But your willingness to attack my friend by turning him into a scarecrow is the type of steamrolling that erases a real history of meaningful experiences for many people that can't be reduced to just white male privilege. And that's a real part of what causes a lot of unncessary backlash in people that really should be allied with you. 
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