[eDebate] Apology

Ede Warner ewarner
Sun Apr 13 17:15:50 CDT 2008


Dear Josh,
 
On April 11, 2008 I received a post via edebate from you entitled, "Alternative Stories".  In that post, you read two quotes from a Jack Rogers study identifying the cost of travel on student participation.  The following quote occurred as part of said post, 
 
"I want to suggest, that coming to agreements about how best to deal with the disparate impact of travel costs on different programs, coming to new agreements about how to best use technology to replace the need for "as much" travel, and using technology to decrease the costs of travel might have MORE of an impact on WHO gets to compete and what privilege means then changing a TOPIC or METHODS of debate.  That is not to say I am un-supportive of different topics (I am in support of topics that address all of the concerns raised) and am supportive of most alternative methods (presuming they are predictable and fair so that meaningful debate can occur. "
 
Clearly, I misunderstood and over-reacted to the post, inferring that you were trying to shift a discussion that I initiated about the educational goals of debate.  I over-reacted by incorrectly concluding that you were attempting to move the discussion away from the educational goals to a different topic about resources.  In fact, you were simply providing an "alternative story", as a friendly reminder to us of what we all already knew, I guess.  I have received several responses suggesting that my tone was over the top, including Michael Korcok, and I in fact understand that my lack of civility was a contradiction given my personal demand of respect, and the political goodwill necessary to have such a discussion.
 
And when you posted evidence from me about the importance of dealing with resource issues, leaving out the part where I said that resources must be addressed in combination with other things like community norms, I clearly misunderstood your purpose for doing so.  I didn't realize that you felt we had agreement on the issue of working on resources in addition to community norms instead of incorrectly jumping to the conclusion that you weren't trying to use my resource evidence to prove I thought it was more important than community norms back in 1999.
 
In light of these misunderstandings on my part, demonstrating my lack of critical listening, thinking, and writing I would like to apologize:
To Josh for over-reacting to issues and arguments that I clearly misunderstood as demonstrated by my tone.  I should have respected your tone and civility and not focused on the implication of your argument, in terms of how I responded.
To Scott Elliott and Mike Korcok: for failing to properly concede and respect their wisdom and knowledge about issues of institutional oppression, and for engaging them in ways they found disrespectful.  My compassion should trump my anger for how your communication styles make me feel.  I'm sorry that my words are reduced in your mind to "blah, blah, blah", because those words are my real life experiences.
To those in the community that were unable to have sympathy for and hear the content of my words because my style and tone was a barrier.  I'm sorry that I was not better able to communicate the history of stylistic difference, and a better understanding of where Black anger and white expectations of "civility" come from, as well as how power frames the context for that discussion.  It is still my sadness that "we" can't seem to move from theoretical understandings to application of these principles in our day to day existence.
To the community for embarking on a search for the truth a decade through an experiment that clearly has divided this community more than brought it together.  The discomfort and divisive methods we embarked on clearly have worked to the net detriment of this community's growth.  We need to find better ways to productively engage difference or just stop trying perhaps and segregate by similar interest.
To those who chose to follow me under the promise that I could make a difference in their lives as it relates to this debate community.  I clearly was in over my head, and put too much respect into the empowering promise that debate holds.
To Deven, you were partially right.  The decision to move anyway from "debate is institutional racism" was a mistake, but the bigger mistake was ever creating the argument and the experiment called the Louisville project in the first place.  It has serve to create false expectations that I don't think CEDA/NDT debate can ever meet.  And in the end, that we only created more alienation, pain and suffering for Black students, not moving any closer to a notion of debate as a tool of Black liberation.  And you were right, I'm too weak to do this.  The costs are too high and every time I see the rainbow start to get built, it moves away as I walk towards it.  
To Adam for not remembering to take my own advice.  I deserve this treatment as a Black in debate because I choose to participate.  Somewhere along the way over the last couple of weeks, I forgot.
To my family as I made plenty of sacrifices not made by many debate coaches in general, and even fewer Black professors by choosing to spend the majority of my life's work in the non-respected academic discipline of debate instead of following more traditional routes of professional activity to better serve my professional and financial responsibility to my family.
To Black people who are in a state of crisis and I should be looking for the most effective places and strategies to help our plight.  Clearly, the promise of finding that in the CEDA/NDT is unlikely given our differences.
To myself for putting myself in a position where the only way I can hope to improve my credibility and goodwill is to make choices that gut my identity and personal beliefs so I can make others feel better about who they are and how they exist in the world.  I must come to grips that Blacks must still face the crossroads of three ugly choices: accepting what the majority believes at the risk of turning one's back on their own identity; disagreeing with the majority perspective and staying silent to reduce the significant backlash the majority's power can inflict; or disagree with the majority view of the world and face the backlash, knowing that's a suicide mission.  There is no other option, but a reliance in the love of a God that can provide the coping mechanism of sanity through any of those choices.
For the record (for whatever that's worth) Josh, it was not my purpose to limit the benefits of educational goals discussion to just increasing participation of Black students, something you keep saying over and over as if that was my primary goal.  My current and primary goal was to utilize the Black experiences we've had during the 40 years of CEDA, the 65 years of the NDT, and the 80 years of interracial debates, to try and construct a superior debate community for all of us by including those experiences to address the reasons that policy debate currently can't produce the Best Policy Option in any round.  That got lost somewhere along the way in your rhetoric.  
 
But the need for consideration of such an objective would first require community agreement that there are problems with the education EVERYONE receives in debate, and clearly not everyone agrees with that claim.  The evidence of the alienation found in the Black experience and the recurring spectacular clashes increasing with frequency haven't convinced everyone that there is something wrong with policy debate, and even those who agree that something is wrong, don't agree on what that is.  My prayer is that one day perhaps, everyone will understand the value and the urgency for such consideration and finding that common foundation to move forward.
 
I hope people accept my apology as sincere, because it is truly from my empty heart, and from my social location after the exhaustion of the last week and the understanding that this is not sustainable for me or for those I'm engaged with.  I apologize because today I believe it is more important to co-exist peacefully than to fight every moment for the right to one's dignity and right to speak without the backlash of institutional power through the word's and actions of the majority.  The truth is that I don't have the power to bully or beat or force this community to do anything and the history of the last eight years is living evidence that Blacks can't hurt the majority in this community, but some, maybe most, fail to see that.  I don't know why.  I return back to the job that I'm paid for and I'm sorry for any stress or inconvenience that I have caused.  I sincerely made every effort to communicate my experiences and the beliefs resulting from them, for the purpose of bettering this community.  I'm sorry that I failed this time, perhaps I will try again.
 
With the last bit of love and compassion that my God allows me to muster,
 
Ede
 
 
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