[eDebate] Remedying Exclusions - Can we change?

Massey, Jackie B. debate
Thu Apr 10 10:15:04 CDT 2008

To follow along with the longest posts in edebate history!

Towson is not whining, and they are enjoying their victory.  I am pretty confident that the response of the white aesthetic to their winning the National Championship was somewhat expected.

I made the claim that people were celebrating in the halls.  Yes, some of you have identified good reasons as to why that happened. I know that there were about 12 debates going and the MSU victory over Towson seemed to be the most celebrated   (by non Mizzou St. people).  Andy was walking around the corner of the hallway, to come find out the decision and all he saw was people celebrating.   More people than usual to say the least.  We made eye contact as someone re-announced the decision for those who did not get to hear.  Only those celebrating know why they were celebrating.  Yes Ozzy has many friends, and that may have been some of it.  But you didn?t see such outside of squad celebration for any other round.  For me, maybe ever.  Only those who celebrate know why, I agree with that.  That is why no names have been mentioned thus far.

What does our community do?

This is my opinion based on my experience that I suspect many might want to arguably deny.  But, I can offer some ideas, not thinking I have the answer, but realizing that healthy conversation about change can be productive.

I have isolated three areas of exclusion that we all need to consider in relation to our debate team and the activity.  I will only discuss one at a time.

1 ? Physical exclusion
2 ? Intellectual Exclusion
3 ? Cultural Exclusion


Reality Check:

Because of socio-economic factors, many schools do not ever face the choice of including or excluding marginalized groups from their debate team.  There is this whole admittance process.  Many schools have such high academic standards that many students of color do not have the educational credentials to attend say a Dartmouth or a Harvard.  This is not the fault of the coaches or the history of the team, its part of the larger socio-economic reality that this country was built of stolen land and slavery, and those with the same cultural and ancestorial background of those who stole and enslaved have a huge advantage over those who have were not.  From day one of kindergarten, or even pre-school, some people are socialized to succeed at one way of life while other groups work to survive their Cliffside crawl to socio-economic existence.  There is no one individual responsible for this, this is how it is.
Can we change it?  Probably!  Can we make these things less important within our community as we wish to call it?  Yes, but only with an adequate understanding of how we got here.

I have had many experience with students who have a hard time grappling with basic reading skills.  Whenever you roll up to teach a lab at camp, do you step back and think about what if someone cannot read?  What happens when reading at blazing speeds from a secondary source is required to succeed?  If you couldn?t read would you be scared?  Would you show up an get destroyed?  Maybe embarrassed, sometimes debaters might even think their funny make that claim in the round  ?the other team cant read?.  Not because this student necessarily chose not to read, but maybe the educational setting, experience, home life or other substantial factors that get excluded from a life of privilege play a role in deciding what is important.

I had the security of a bedroom with  a desk and snacks to study after school.  Many students have the privilege of baysitting, working and living in fear sometimes.  None of  us get to choose where we start from, and sometimes we don?t get much choice where we end up.  Many of us get extreme freedom in making choices, but we cant assume that everyone has that opportunity.

Back to my question, have you always assumed your students could read when you taught a lab?  Have you ever wondered why someone didn?t show back up?  This is important to other forms of exclusion we endure without notice that I would like to discuss in another post.

In line with the discussion on physical exclusion, lets say we get past the admittance process and you have not got past the first hurdle of making your team less white.  (honestly, some teams are really white)  Then there comes the issues of support.  I have had some trials and errors with this issue, which is why I am willing to share.  I got my debaters out of state waivers, and assumed the income status of their families would justify financial aid for the students and then they would be taken care of.  Guess what?  I was absolutely wrong.   Just basic finances speaks for itself.  The feeling of being around students who can do anything they wish, eat anywhere, take a spring break anywhere, flatscreens in their rooms, x-box?s, sweet CPUS ? all of this takes a psychological toll on the students of less privilige.  What do you say?  And then, the bursar. ? Your late on your bill, your gonna be dropped, you owe for housing!  ?

If you choose to address this problem from increased physical participation of students of color  (which is a good idea if you haven?t caught on yet) make sure you have the financial support in place for such an endeavor.  Don?t set the students up for failure as I felt I may have done, please pay attention to detail of pride and humility that goes along with being there.

Some people are right about one thing, that we cant heal these wounds of exclusion with divisiveness.  Divisiveness is needed sometimes to identify how power relationships exists  -- IE the colonized and the colonizer.  Things won?t change overnight, but people change, become more informed, and learn to listen better to other peoples pain and struggles.  Everything is not debatable.  Change must occur outside of the debate rounds along with inside of the debate rounds.

I ask not that you act for tokenism, but because you care about the specific students you are trying to help. (by name)  Remember, it can always be labeled tokenism by someone who doesn?t know your true motivations, and that is where you have to dig deep and question your own consciousness!



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