[eDebate] Why a reparations topic uniquely moves the discussion forward

Andy Ellis andy.edebate
Wed Apr 16 09:20:45 CDT 2008


We are working on our paper but i thought i would take this opportunity to
make some arguments in favor of a reparations topic.

1) Reparations is better as a topic than an affirmative on a topic. For some
reasons i get to below i think reparations is a good topic for every one to
debate, but more importantly than that i think making it the central
question of debate provides more opportunities to get to the heart of the
questions involved. Say its an urban policy topic, one team runs reparations
as an aff, but because of the way the topic is worded key aspects of a
reparations scheme are prevented from being topically implemented, one of
two things happens a) either the ability to explore the moral ethical and
political questions raised by a full and open debate about reparations are
truncated and perhaps uniquely valuable educational opportunities are lost,
and the reparations discussion is less pushed when it is only one aff...this
allows negs to get away with broader less nuanced criticisms, and simply
less time will be spent investigating the questions...or b)people will still
run full on reparations and generate artificially competitive framework
offense. while i am as big of a fan as artificially competitive framework
offense as the next guy, that doesnt mean i think it is the best ground for
an educational debate, simply a necessity in topics that dont provide good
entry points, besides this is not really where the question of reparations
lies, and its a sidestep to win debates on "not letting us talk about
reparations bad" as opposed to "reparations good". In November i discussed
how modern switch side debate has disconnected itself from the premises that
underly switch side debate and i think making reparations an aff recreates
that problem, simply put i think its better if everybody has to say yes no
to reparations than it is if some people say yes, might have to be ready to
say no, and others simply have to be ready to say no.

2)Reparations cuts to the heart of many of the most important discussions
regarding race, history, whiteness, and progress that we have been
discussing in the context of debate in the last weeks. By forcing the
affirmative to make a race specific remedy to past injustices in order to
make progress the debates  are focused on the  solution instead of the
problem.  Discussions of  backlash, reverse racism, group accountability,
blackness, indegenousness, whiteness, collective responsibility, agency,
movement, history, structural inequities are core case ground centered
around a specific political advocacy(with a lot of good mainstream
literature). These debates are perhaps divisive, but they are issues we must
address and debate if we are to have any chance of moving forward. In fact
in a way the divisiveness of these debates is perfectly suited for our
activity in this particular moment in time, if we can learn to discuss and
debate these issues with the divisiveness debate brings we can engage them
better as we become policy makers (either using the ross smith definition or
the more typical less nuanced definition.)

Karyn McKinney Writes in 2005 "Being White" pg 10

Thus white students constitute perhaps the most appropriate population for a
study of contemporary whiteness for several reasons 1)in their often more
subtle, covert or colorblind attitudes, they exhibit a different style of
racism than their parents or grandparents, who may have engaged in more
overt and blatant hostility and discrimination. 2) with acts of young white
male violence being commonplace and sometimes racialized, more research is
needed to address the racial components of their hostility and alienation 3)
because of the nations changing racial demography, most young whites will
have more contact with people of color than their parents or grandparents
and 4) young whites will become policymakers and voters and as they replace
the older generation, they will have a greater impact on whether racism will
be eradicated.

The argument McKinney makes is important, we as a community pride our selves
on producing policy makers of all varieties, and if we do not see whiteness
and questions of race as central to that process it is likely that not only
internally but externally our practices help to support a policy making
system that also doesnt force white folks to encounter race. A reparations
topic and the debates it spurs will teach people necessary skills and
debates that very few other topics ever will, other topics can inlcude
issues and debates centered around race, but McKinney and my argument is
that that confrontation and debate should not be optional, to make it so
replicates the policy making processes that have been so damaging to racial
relations and understanding in America.

3)Reparations is not only about black/white history. The topic in fact
should and would include the possibility of reparative justice to different
american racialized identity groups. This allows a coalescence of research
around a specific question(one that is obviously contentious even here, read
debater xy's message to see the kind of contention it can cause, for example
the argument typically referred to as give back the land would become
legitimate affirmative ground. Not only does this change the parameters on
which we debate this argument (not just a k or non topical aff) but it also
puts the practical political questions and not the desirability of the
debate argument or framework at the center of the debate. This means that
affirmatives non constrained by framework debates can craft advocacies which
get into the legal and political demands that even churchill agrees are
crucial to building real political possibility of reparative justice. Of
course us off the planet becomes a very competitive strategy with this
argument, as do a whole lot of other things.

4) The neg has links a plenty, reparations for trans Atlantic slavery or
indigenous genocide most certainly link to many typicaly grounded negative
positions, but the aff has specific literature based criticisms of such
arguments as they are often at the core of the solvency mechanism, this
effectively balances a presumption toward big catastrophic impact scenarios
within the impact evaluation and affirmative desires to have literature
based impact turns and debates.

5) To borrow from david marks, this topic brings 1 and 3 together (more) and
2 to entertain their open mindedness to difference while giving them more
ground to engage that without wholesale abandoning the kind of debate they
like with 1

6)Claims of its boring, not relevant, and im ok with race just not all the
time are subjective, and frankly probably somewhat ethnocentric, we have
almost never had a topic that directly engages debates about structural
racism head on, these debates are relegated to those that care, and that is
part of the problem that mckinney refers to, but also what has led to the
feelings of ostracization and pain that describes our current condition as a
community and to a broader level as a nation.
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