[eDebate] Louisville Debate
Sat Apr 5 02:48:46 CDT 2008
(Loved the post Jimbo, I almost feel guilty posting this, but hey, I'm bored)
Ok, so I'll admit I was trolling edebate archives on a friday night, possibly under the influence of multiple intoxicating substances, but I won't confirm it. Also, I'm still just old enough to be graduating from high school, so I link hard into the high school jokes, go ahead. (Disclaimer: I'm quite sure I'll come off like a racist and I'm positive this post will be far too long)
But more to the point, given the fact that I happened to hit Louisville 3 times at CEDA Nationals, I would like to at least voice my thoughts and possibly engage in some discussion with the advocates of Louisville style debate, including Ede Warner.
I'll start with my social location. I'm a 18 yr. Old white male, 1/8th American Indian, but yeah. I was born in Mexico because my parents were missionaries who traveled throughout Latin America and Mexico for the better part of ten years (religion critique anyone? Sorry I'm an agnostic). I was home-schooled up until age 14, when I subsequently went to High School for almost 1 year before testing out and landing in a community college at age 15. I have currently finished my first year of debating at Southwestern Colllege?a modestly funded, extremely diverse community college.
Our squad consistently advances a criticism of capitalism/imperialism and offers a socialist alternative, we critique the competitive dynamic your teams identify and we defend orthodox marxism against many different perspectives. We maintain this advocacy (for the most part) on both Aff and Neg, we do have a plan text, we do argue that there is room in the resolution for anti-Imperialist advocacy, we do think our advocacy has an impact on debate and the world, and yet we still think that debate is an awesome activity.
First, I think you mischaracterize ?racism in debate.? These arguments range from ?white privilege? to debate is grounded in ?white aestheticism,? including the arguments Ede Warner makes about how debate is mired in whiteness and white institutions.
1. Let's start with speed and the spread. My school lobbied hard to scrape up enough money to send some of us to debate camp, I went to Wyoming (Stannard is awesome). The scenario I want to isolate at debate camp is the practice round me and my classmates watched at camp. Not surprisingly, it was an extremely fast-paced round and ALL of us were relatively clueless and 100% scared. My ?whiteness? did nothing to prepare me for ?fast debate,? I had no advantage over the Latino and African American students from my school on an intellectual, emotional, or comprehensional level.
2. If speed is something that people of all different cultures are unprepared to deal with at first, if speed is something that people from all different backgrounds have to adapt to, have to practice and work at, how then is ?fast debating? a racist practice? The analogies that white people have been ?talking fast for longer? or ?debating longer? just don't work out for me. The ability to interpret and make arguments at an extremely high speed is a LEARNED ABILITY, not some white, racist cultural phenomenon. I was just as unprepared and wary of speedy debate as anyone else, I was given no advantage.
3. The argument that ?debate is racist? assumes one of two things or both: (1) that people, specifically judges within the activity are inherently racist and will vote down your team based on racial bias, and/or (2) that the practices of debate are inherently racist and prevent equality based on skin color and culture.
4. I'm not going to sit here and tell you there aren't biased judges out there, I've met them, I've heard their decisions. So yes, there are racist judges, there are judges that have been brainwashed by the capitalist media to naturally despise socialism, and there are judges that stick to a strict policy framework, for one reason or another. This, to me, is a general problem of judge bias, rather than an inherent racist framework. For example, I think you'd be hard pressed to find more than 10 judges, if that, who will vote your teams down simply because of their skin color.
5. This brings us to the question of whether the practices of debate are inherently racist. I'll defend that the answer to this question is no. The majority of the judges I've met, even the biased ones, are not ignorant enough to vote your team down because of their skin color?they will evaluate the arguments that you make. Arguing that rules in debate are an extension of racism is similar to arguing that rules in basketball are racist. Is it racist because basketball rewards the team that scores the most baskets? By your standards, how is basketball not 10x more racist, given that it favors specific physical builds that aren't specifically popular in white males? Doesn't it count for something that debate is a intellectual competition, not one based on physique or skin color, but an activity where any judge who gets ANY respect at all is a judge who evaluates the arguments of both teams and ultimately tries to let the debaters paint the picture (I think the
fact that your team can win rounds only proves this point). I've already answered your speed arguments above.
6. I think the strongest argument you have, and the one I agree with most since I'm a socialist, is that the white supremacy that permeates through American society has created gross inequalities between blacks and whites. That racism perpetuates unequal opportunities, etc. Let me state this clearly, I believe you are correct, but I also believe that your focus on ?race? fundamentally misunderstands the way this system functions. ?Inequality? is a product of capitalist social relations and it is inevitable in a capitalist framework (we defend racism is reinforced by capitalism). Look at it this way: there are some ?rich? schools out there who have way more resources than we do, their debaters probably have more time to cut cards then we do, and chances are the majority of the individuals at these schools are white. Now, there are multiple reasons for this, racism, white supremacy, and the extension of the imperial order being among them, but my argument
primarily is that this is a class issue. This is a hierarchy that is specifically financial and it necessitates a material explanation. This means that EVERY squad that is under-funded, EVERY team that is composed of individuals from poor backgrounds, EVERY person that was deprived similar opportunities and access to resources similar to those of Harvard and Dartmouth is a victim of this Hierarchy. It is an issue that impacts the fairness of debate and it is a hierarchy that has been influenced by racist tendencies. However, it influences all of us, White, Black, Chinese, Indian, you name it. The economic inequality that exists in our society cannot and should not be trivialized as a racial/cultural contradiction, it is a product of our economic system and it is a problem that every ethnicity in America is feeling in increasing numbers. So (1) Economic inequality changes the fairness debate, but racism is only factor of it, and (2) Even if you eliminated
racism 100% in debate we would all still be facing this same problem of inequality, where the bourgeois schools have more resources. In this sense I do feel like you are ?playing the victim,? as racism does not adequately explain the inequalities within debate and I'll admit to feeling alienated and frustrated at hearing Louisville blame debate's problems on ?whiteness.?
7. I'll answer your assimilation arguments next. You argue that debate forces a specific style of debate down your throats and what you really want is freedom to ?argue how you want to.? But isn't your advocacy of a strictly ?persuasive? style of debate a direct exclusion of fast, technical debate? Aren't you arguing specifically for the exclusion of the type of debate that some of the most committed, hard-working debaters love and work hard at? Why is it that debate in its current form isn't more inclusionary than your interpretation? Isn't it true that Towson won the NDT advocating black aestheticism on the Aff? Given that policy debate is one of the last forms of communication that takes place at break-neck speeds, why do you feel it is important to advocate the extinction of our communication style? Just because it takes time to learn to speak fast and it takes even longer to get your brain to process arguments at break-neck speeds doesn't mean the activity
is flawed. Isn't it true that there is room for any team, whether critical, performance, policy, revolutionary, etc, to excel in the current debate structure given that they can defend their advocacy? You claim that the current debate structure forces culture assimilation, but I still fail to understand how your ?alternative? does not link into this. But also, it's just plain wrong. Towson won CEDA!!! Debate forces culture assimilation in the sense that it is founded in argumentation and the answering of arguments, not in that you are forced to embrace ?white? culture. You don't have to be insanely fast to be an excellent debater, you don't have to advocate policies to be a debater, you can argue from whatever social location you want about whatever issue you want and defend the illusory of fiat and the idiocy of policymaking?you can do all of these things without calling us racist or saying debate is bad.
8. I'll admit you've probably got to be pretty fast to win the NDT, but I still think it's asinine to assert that fast argumentation forces an abdication of ?black? culture.
9. My next few points will address the issue of ?identity? and arguing for what we believe in. Louisville argues that current debate forces us to give up our identity, to argue things we don't believe in, and neglect the issues that really matter. First, what would Louisville do if they were NEG and they had their whole block of ?debate bad/racist? and the AFF got up and read that same block? Would you concede the round and just spend the next two hours hugging each other? I think you fundamentally dismiss the notion that your interpretation leads to non-competitive debates where teams have nothing to talk about because they ?really believe,? but you also grossly discount the value of evaluating the other side of issues. You believe that current debate gives us bad, dangerous education, but there is just no justification for this. I honestly believe that teams who embrace debate's current form rather than memorizing blocks of ?debate bad? read WAY more about
the real exploitation and oppression that is occuring in the Middle East, read WAY more critical literature that evaluates a whole host of issues from different perspectives rather than embracing a singluar concept of ?truth,? and are ultimately more informed and more educated as a result of the diversification of arguments. You get pissed when people read Pro-Heg and Pro-Zionist arguments, lol. WHENEVER our team goes Heg Good or Cap Good, we look at it like we're spotting the other team 10 yards by taking the openly wrong side of the debate. Why should we be forced to formulate a view of the world and ALWAYS defend that without being able to question it and engage the other side? Besides the importance and value of switch-side debating, I think your assumptions that you can't discuss the ?real? issues in a debate round represent is complete bull. Racism is a real issue, Towson won on it AND broke at the NDT. Socialism vs Capitalism is a real issue and we find
a way to talk about it in every debate round.
10. Lastly, I feel like your opposition to fast, technical debate, your disdain of the line-by-line, and your criticism of ?arguing what you don't believe,? are all just appeals for judge intervention. Is the judge there to deal some sort of moral or ethical judgment from some predisposed position, or is he simply there to interpret the arguments the debaters make and operate in the framework they offer him? The FAIREST, and therefore most inclusive style of debate will be the style of debate in which the judge checks his beliefs, morals, and values at the door, and simply is a judge of argument interaction and competing advocacies, etc. This is a quest for truth, which is in itself not an absolute concept, but I definitely think your project is the wrong way to go.
You rock. That's why Blockbuster's offering you one month of Blockbuster Total Access, No Cost.
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