[eDebate] Yet more apologies aka That Closet is Really Dirty

Ede Warner ewarner
Tue Apr 15 16:07:32 CDT 2008


Hello community,
 
Just when I thought I had swept up all the skeletons...
 
I would like to apologize to Will Baker.  For University personnel documents, intra-University squabbles, and a host of reasons, I have consistently made the argument that I am the only current and active Phd African American Director of Policy Debate in the Country.  At times I made the argument that I was the first, but I have since learned that starting with Dr. Larry Moss, but I'm sure there are others given the history of the HBCU's, so I stopped making that argument.
 
But I said in my volumes and volumes of unedited, un-proofread work on edebate, that I was the only Black Director.  Not only is that a backwards, wrong argument, the PhD distinction likely makes an artificial distinction which isn't productive to the conversation.  
 
Will Baker, as the other, Black Director, and the only contemporary Black Director to win a National Championship has far surprised my efforts in every category, that I would be remiss to not stop and say, "I apologize" for forgetting you.  I received a backchannel the other day that I haven't answered telling a story about a debate Will judged and proof that he never forgets the other "fat, Black man" in debate.  I've learned so much from him, been given so many opportunities from him, that I should remember him.  There are others that likely deserve apologies too, but that must come with time.
 
My second apology extends to one in particular but a group of folks that taught me debate coaching, debate strategy, and shared the experiences that lay the foundation for what I became.  The Wake Forest Demon Deacons won the NDT and in the midst of the Towson discussion, few are remembering and/or celebrating their accomplishment.  I want to personally congratulate Ross, All, the staff and all of the debaters.  The artificial distinction that Louisville and Wake don't share "debate" is as much hyperbole and stereotype as any of the others I've apologized for.  Ross Smith, Sherry Hall, Dallas Perkins, Scott Harris, Karla Leeper, Jon Bruschke, Shawn Whelan, Rod Phares, and Steve Mancuso are just a few of the people that helped me find my foundation in policy debate.  They are my personal foremothers and forefathers
 
My third apology goes to Joeseph Zompetti for what I'm about to say.  I want to concede to you personally, since I don't know how much of these other posts you have read, that I have already backed off my claims about the tools of debate.  Much like Plato, I don't believe the tools are bad, but rather it's about how we use the tools.  I apologize to you for not figuring that our sooner.  
 
However, that concession doesn't prove your claim that personalized debating is bad.  You see Joe, debate, since the Sophists has always been personalized.  It was personal in Ancient Greece, it was personal when George told stories of Wayne State walking to Ann Arbor or East Lansing, it was personal when Black debaters walked onto white campuses and discussed segregation, it was personal when XY's teams beat Liz and Tonia, it was personal when Towson won their championship, and it was personal when Wake GL beat Dartmouth KO at the NDT.  Debate is personal.  I know your caring heart wants to stop incivil and less than compassionate debates filled with anger and hate, but it's not an artificial distinction about some personalized versus non-personalized style of debate that doesn't exists.  It's about the inhumane way we are trained to debate.
 
Why?  Because debate is human interaction.  No matter how "objective" and depersonalized one attempts to make it, it's still personal.  When the community has a debate about race, it is no more personal than a debate about warming, or first striking Iraq, or economic downturns.  Now debaters may choose to find arguments that are more or less personal to them, and perhaps the more universal and general the argument, the less personal, but certainly as a Communication you can't run from the truth:  debate impacts are about real people, whether they are in the room or not.  And remember XY's words, it involves real people: as competitor's, as judge's, as coaches, and as debaters.  From the time policy debate became more specialized, from the my generation to yours, policy debate was alway personal.  The kritik just reminded us that some people who wanted to debate were less likely to get to debate about issues they found important because those issues weren't strategic in the game.  That's personal and must be addressed.  Debate hid from these issues when it was more homogenous because like minded debaters picked impacts that had the same relationship to each person.  But as debate becomes more diverse that changes, and Joe, you must come to understand that the genie can't go back into the bottle.  Their isn't a good old days of debate to return to.  The population will never be as homogenous as it was when I debated and even for most of your career.
 
Finding ways for different people and perspectives to feel comfortable debating a common public policy controversy in ethical and respectful ways must be the goal of this generation.  We were trained as debaters to debate in specialized ways that lack humanity, civility, and empathy.  That's why I can't build more coalitions.  But I'm not alone.  We need a policy debate that allows us to learn as much about one another and how we are similar and different, as it does about the public policy impacts we advocate and evaluate.  
 
Humans start with their self-interest.  No matter how you slice it, that's why edebate doesn't work and that's why we have such a split in debate ideology.  We don't respect Machivelli's fundamental premise as it relates to education because we want to believe that human nature isn't self-interested.  The one common element of every edebate post is self-interest: whether it's grounded in tools of debate, emotions, strategy, or whatever.  People post to protect their self-interest: all of us.  Honest critical introspection would find that to be true.  But it extends farther than that.
 
The content of XY's debate in 2004 with Lousiville was faith and love that we would be alright as a community and here we are five year's later:  we are not alright.  Debate holds the promise of expanding notions of our self interest: that the "other" has something to offer our understanding of the topic that makes us better.  Policy debate holds the possibility of broadening our self-interest.  It is the only aspect of education that holds the potential for teaching true empathy, true compassion, and the relationship of these things to policy decision making.  And that is something to have hope and faith for.
 
This morning when I told Tria that I apologized, her immediate reaction was anger. She said that DuBois thought Sociology would convince whites to rethink race.  Later, he gave up asking Blacks to "Go back to Africa".  Malcolm believed that debate held the promise of changing whites with regards to the problem of Black humanization, because it allowed a confrontation with the truth.  But he had to find the compassion and empathy of MECCA and bring that to his debating.  But someone who hated him, killed him before he got that opportunity.
 
Tria looked at me, frustrated and said, "either you stay in debate living on more hope and faith then anyone else that they will change" or you let it go like "we" all have.  She said, "Ede you have more hope and faith in the good of this community than 'they' do or than any member of Louisville ever has or ever will."  I told her that without that hope and love, and the promise that the world is better for my children, and the lack of an understanding of where to go if I say the answer is not debate, then I will die.  
 
A few minutes later after personal reflection, she hugged me and said she appreciated my efforts. Yes, Joe, debate is personal.  And we can't run from it, but must tackle it head on. 
 
That doesn't mean the tools of debate have to go away, but it does mean that we need to think critically and honestly about the problems in debate, and what means can best overcome those problems.  I happen to personally believe that it may not take that much adjustment to make it work.  Randall Robinson says that acknowledging the problem is the hard part, fixing it is much easier.  We just need some political will and the hope and faith that a group of smart, really smart people can come together, let go of their agendas just enough to talk, and see if there isn't a productive place to go. 
 
My fourth and final apology for now goes to my forefather in debate.  After asking Mr. Brady to consider his foreparents in the struggle, which he has, I am remiss to say that I haven't done the say.  Had it not been for a young graduate assistant in Texas, looking for a way to equalize the playing field for those with personal interests in debate, the Louisville project aka the Crazy guy's experiment, aka MPOWER, could never have occurred.  bill shannahan, with all of the same passion and intellectual skills policy debate has afforded me, that I see in my wife Tria, that I see in Daryl Burch, that I see in Rashad Evans, that I see in Shanara Reid, that I see in Ross Smith, that I see in Brett O'Donnell, that I see in Melissa Maxcy Wade, that I see in Andy Ellis, that I see in Jackie Massey, that I see in Will Repko, that I see in Alfred "Tuna" Snider, that I see in Sarah Green Snider, that I see in Sylvia Symonds, and that I see throughout this community.  bill's created a framework for me to replicate, duplicate, and innovate.  Then he nurtured and supported us as we grew, evolved, and changed, even when that evolution moved away from his interests in debate.  I would be remiss not to thank him and demonstrate my love, compassion, and empathy for him, even though as I, he is a work in process.  I hope others can find room in their hearts to forgive one another, and search for points of commonality as we struggle to learn how to respect each other's difference.  It's really, really important that everyone give a little of themselves, meaning some of their self-interest, to find broader change.  XY's call for love and respect for difference is a call for everyone, not just me, not just Rashad, not just Nicholas, not just anyone person.  It's an invitation for us to think beyond our personal self interest, to think honestly and critically about where we want to go, but most importantly to think about how we can get past our training: the lack of civility and compassion for each other long enough to create a new system to retrain ourselves.  It's a tall order but I'm up for the challenge if you are.
 
Love,
 
Ede
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