[eDebate] white devil's advocate

Kevin Sanchez let_the_american_empire_burn
Thu Apr 10 09:50:03 CDT 2008

josh b. addressed deven (http://www.ndtceda.com/pipermail/edebate/2008-April/074697.html),

"You've said (at least I think you're saying) with very little evidence
either way that I am inherently incapable of judging you fairly. That's
exactly what I'm talking about. I've never judged you before. You have
literally no idea what you're talking about. So the assumption is this:
because I dared to criticize the black kids that I must be totally
incapable of ever objectively evaluating an argument involving race.
Hmm.....divisive and alienating (and stupid), yes?"

divisive and alienating, perhaps... but not necessarily inaccurate. when we say someone is antisemitic, for example, even though they personally express no animosity toward jews, what're we saying? -- we might be saying that they're not consciously aware of their antisemitism - that is, they don't know how they really feel about jews. surely it's not unheard of for someone to dis out preferential treatment without realizing they're doing so. and once we acknowledge that racism today primarily operates on an unconscious level, then no, josh, you can't definitively say you're "objectively evaluating an argument involving race" anymore than stephen colbert or duane hyland can definitively call themselves colorblind. of course, everyone *thinks* they'll pass harvard's implicit association test - until they actually take it, that is. 

by the way, this also applies to other unconscious prejudices we don't much discuss: apropos, i know that i'm more likely to accept josh's arguments because he's tall. ...luckily, however, this is an online conversation. =P

lastly, another question i thought of : isn't saying "it's the nature of competition" (http://www.ndtceda.com/pipermail/edebate/2008-April/074687.html) when explaining the reported racial differences in the post-tournament reaction to towson's victory a little like saying 'it's the nature of the legal system' when explaining the reported racial differences in the post-verdict reaction to o.j. simpson's acquittal? ...needless to say, the examples are as unlike as they can be; however, the point i'd make is that saying it's customary to cheer or jeer an opposing side's downfall or success still begs the question of *why* we identify with the side we do in the first place. ...you think race plays no role in how we choose sides?


david g. wrote (http://www.ndtceda.com/pipermail/edebate/2008-April/074714.html),

"Let's think about that for a second.  These students won.   Now if there was
even a significant amount
of racism in the activity, one would expect that a team so-constituted would
be significantly disadvantaged when  even attempting to advance the usual, accepted arguments.  But this team went much further - they competed using approaches which are problematic for many judges and coaches on grounds of
debate theory, but were still victorious."

to reuse the jewish example, perhaps you've heard the cliche: "...but some of my best friends are jews". -- this represents a fallacious response to one's own antisemitism, as if befriending an individual makes you incapable of harboring prejudice toward that individual's group. in critical race theory (and elsewhere), this also relates to the subject of *tokenism*, whereby limited instances of inclusion create the false appearance of full inclusion. in any case, i think you'd agree that we can't infer from the success of one black debate team that the project of anti-racism in debate has been successfully completed, no?


ede and like-minded others, an unspoken accusation has been laid on the table which isn't often made as explicitly as it should be. allow me to state it outright so that it might be adequately refuted by you or those in debate who've taken similar positions. it goes something like this...

you all are playing the race card. when distilled, your argument reduces to the claim that whites should lose debate rounds because they're white and blacks should win debate rounds because they're black. you'll cloak this in different terms, of course: instead of white, you'll substitute your opponent's elitism and privilege, and instead of black, you'll substitute your personal experiences with racial prejudice. but in the end, this tactic will be unfair for precisely the same reason racial discrimination is: when a white debater walks into the round, they're unable to choose the color of the skin, they may've had as little choice in what skools they've attended or what their parent's income-bracket, and they can't tell personal stories about what it's like to be black. competitive debate, it's said, requires a minimum of *depersonalization* insofar as we must look away from the speaker's real-world subject-position to focus on the speaker's logical argumentation. we don't award trophies to short people because tall people are privileged in our heightist society, no matter how sympathetic we might find their narratives. all debaters should be judged on what they say, not who they are, and non-traditional and/or anti-racist arguments have crossed this line. they use the speaker's race strategically, which would be comparable (though obviously not equivalent given the legacy of white supremacy) to a white debater asking for a judge's ballot in order to advance the causes of their race and to disenfranchise the racial minorities who're destroying the activity. the same reason we should reject the one is the same reason we should reject the other. because, believe me, there are 'awesome cards' out there claiming that whites have much the worst of it in america - that their country has been illegitimately taken from them, that their jobs have been handed to immigrants - and we should think hard about whether academic debate wants to open this pandora's box of balkanization. how is it to remain closed if one's race is fair game, and being black can win you a debate tournament?

...what say you all?

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