[eDebate] race and debate

Michelin C. Massey michelinmassey
Wed Apr 9 16:34:44 CDT 2008


This has been a fascinating time for me.  I used to be
a very active participant on this list in my younger
days.  This list service was critical to my education
about policy debate.  Even though I never did much
policy debating, I wanted to learn more about it.

I've never thought too much about how debate modes can
be exclusive.  I always felt that debate itself was
more structurally racist than the way in which the
debates were done.  The barriers to copy machines,
etc. are pretty high.

What is really crazy for me are the similar feelings
of hurt that other black men have expressed in their
debate journeys.  In debates that I've been in as a
competitor or judge, I've broken down my typically
tough exterior because the arguments made by the
students were painful (and not in the usual sense of
the arguments poor quality causing feelings of
unhappiness).  

A debater on another team in a debate I was in once
called me "boy" in the not good way.  I expressed my
frustration to that comment.  His reaction was similar
to the reaction of others in the room "c'mon,
Michelin!  Bobby wasn't being a racist".  They might
have well just called me a "silly negro" instead.  I
learned then that you're damned if you do, damned if
you don't.  I could've taken that person calling me an
old school racial slur and let him continue thinking
it was okay.  Or, I could highlight myself and be an
ABM.

It's even more hurtful when I read Rashad's words.  He
doesn't know me, but I saw him debate when he was in
high school.  I was extremely impressed with his
ability to frustrate his opponents.  I always saw his
accomplishments at the college level and admired them
from afar.  I felt like he'd be able to find great
success at the college level.  And he did.  Little did
I know that he felt such tremendous sadness and
isolation. 

In the end, we are all obliged to make debate
something that we can all touch and experience in a
positive way.  Granted, competition and resources will
make that difficult.  Yet, being kind does not cost us
anything.  That is revolutionary.  Am I saying that
love will solve everything?  No.  I am saying that the
answer to the question of "what are you doing?"
doesn't have to end with hurt feelings if we're thick
skinned in listening to and hearing some of the bad
shit that debate can do to people.  If debate
communities are really willing to make themselves at
least somewhat inviting, then that's an important
first step.  

Michelin Massey

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