[eDebate] Because Some People are Listening
Thu Apr 10 15:32:28 CDT 2008
I could easily let the recent anonymous post go unanswered and throw my hands in the air and walk away. It's very tempting to do so. In the past I have wondered why Ede hasn't done so and more recently, I have wondered why Deven and Dayvon don't do so. I think it is a commitment to making the community better for themselves and for others that keeps them responding. So, I will too. I also think that people are listening, and many of those people aren't posting.
I think the anonymous post and others like it prove the points made in my original email and the arguments made by Towson. In order to be accepted by the community you have to attend certain tournaments, make certain arguments, and debate a very particular way. It doesn't matter if you are successful and it doesn't matter if you try hard. Dr. Warner has highlighted several times how this has resulted in less participation in debate. If the concern here is education, then it should include making these educational benefits available to as many people as possible.
The gist of the personal attacks made against me were that I was a lazy debater, made awful arguments, and sounded like a donkey. These are sentiments I heard when I debated. But why does a person's choice of argument open them up for attack? Why has Towson's choice of argument opened them up for personal attack? Despite your criticism of my debate style I won debates. I won a lot of debates. It's a perfectly acceptable way of debating. There are other ways for other people. Similarly, Towson's choice of debate are perfectly within the rules as have been created by the community. As are Louisville's.
I really appreciate Scott Harris' email and I think it's very important. Debate rarely allows you to get to know the people behind the debates and debaters, and without that background it's hard to make assumptions about them. I didn't know Josh's experiences before he posted them yesterday and when I read that post I had a better understanding of his previous posts. I wasn't a lazy debater. I put as much time into debate as I could and as much as I thought was necessary. In college, I spent a lot of time becoming a better student. I know there are a lot of debaters who do a lot of work and are also great students, and there are other debaters who sacrifice school for debate. As I explained, I wasn't a good student in high school and I saw the effects. College was a fresh start for me. I entered with a 0.0 gpa. Instead of reading every Zizek book that came out I studied. In order to do well in college calculus, for instance, I had to teach
myself algebra because I didn't learn it in high school. It took time. It took a lot of time to figure out corporate finance too. I took the time to do it, and I took time with my other classes as well. This was time that I could have spent doing debate work. In 1997, I had a 1.98 gpa. In 2006, I graduated from Penn Law. It was half debate, half focusing on school. I wouldn't reallocate my time one bit no matter how much you may want me to mirror the mistakes of many black NCAA basketball players.
I also spent a lot of time enjoying my new found freedom. I was quite happy to be away from Newark and with more money and more freedom, I went out and explored life. I could have been cutting cards, but I didn't have to. A couple of weeks before my sophomore year of college I lost both of my parents. I spent a lot of that year in isolation and everything was a task from class to debate. I dealt with it on my own and didn't really share it, not even with my partner and coach really. In college, I also spent some time exploring my own sexuality. Another thing I kind of dealt with alone, but it was very important. I also worked for obvious reasons. There were a lot of things I did with my time. I also did quite a bit of debate work.
I tell this in story form because it's background and it helps explain that behind arguments are people. I found a way to do all of those things and win a national championship only to be told that I was a terrible debater. All I did was win. Oddly, the more I won the more terrible of a debater I became in the eyes of many. And, that would expand to terrible person for some reason. Now, you are doing this to Deven and Dayvon. This isn't really about race anymore. It's about respect and how the community doesn't respect the people because it doesn't respect the argument. While I think the anonymous poster has bigger implications about the community than race, I find your comparison of me to a (1) donkey (2)cartoon character problematic, and I find the anonymous nature of your post very similar to a hood. I know who you are and you made sure that the community could figure out who you are in your post, but you don't want your employer to know.
Why don't you want to be held accountable for your words? And to the community, why does this person think it's safe to say it here, but not safe to say it out there? Is there a lesson there?
There is a second part of this discussion as well and it involves debating race in debate rounds. I think this topic is so delicate and I personally struggle with it. One note, which I think is important, is that I don't think that Louisville and certainly not Towson called people racist because they were white. I know this personally because I had to defend against them and I am black. It is about a way of debating. The more I engage in this discussion the more I understand why Louisville debated me how they did and it's because I debated them the way you did. I applaud them for it now, but I also understand why many in the community are angry in the moment because in many ways Louisville's argument doesn't account for the people they are debating, many of which are very good people with very good hearts. So, you must think to yourself you don't know me? You don't know that I have done X, Y, and Z. I am not racist! I get that. As I have
detailed, I understand the frustration of being criticized by people who don't know anything about you.
However, the pressure applied by Louisville and Towson is just more visible and obvious. What my original post sought to reveal is how race, for us, is everywhere and in every debate. It may be difficult to understand, and I am indeed very sensitive to this, but in the same way you feel like you are being called racist (personally) we feel like we are being called something else in our debates as well. And, while you think you are merely reacting to Louisville and Towson I will posit that really Towson & Louisville are responding to you.
I think Towson and Louisville will tell you that their arguments are not personal attacks, but it certainly feels that way (I know). In addition to feeling personally attacked, you don't think you have done anything wrong. You probably don't understand how much black debaters feel under attack at all times by almost everything from the moment we get the resolution, to the moment we step on campus, to entering the debate, to getting the painful critiques, and then reading all about our inadequacies on edebate or flat out ignored.
Really, this is a struggle to figure out how this debate is going to happen because it is inevitable. It's the big pink elephant that crowded all my debates. The community wants it to happen on it's terms, which is a rigged game. Louisville and Towson wants to have it on their terms, which can be a rigged game as well. But, really I can't blame either of you. Except to say this: one of you wants to eliminate the other all together and you want to do it in way that is problematic and really mirrors the racist past (and present) of this country. You are trying by any means necessary to get rid of them and their arguments, when I don't get the sense that they are trying to do the same with you.
I can't help but think of a mirror. It's as if black debaters are forced to look in a mirror all tournament and see their own blackness staring back at them. And every once in a while, they turn that mirror around and force you to see your whiteness and you guys FREAK OUT. I personally enjoy this strategy. It's the same mirror I turned on Andy Ryan, who went on to show that it hurts to have your accomplishments diminished. I bet Deven and Dayvon take as much pride in their CEDA win as he took in his quarters win, which according to his standards is not even an important round. My moms used to always say: I can show you better than I can tell you!
I think a good starting place for all of this is respect. It's lacking here. It starts with listening and trying to understand these very difficult issues. It's going to require some thinking outside the box. And, it's going to require that some people who would rather imagine a world where they can rearrange our troop to imagine a world in which they participate in the oppression of others...even when they don't know it.
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