[eDebate] A Sober Louisville Answer

Ede Warner ewarner
Sat Apr 5 10:17:27 CDT 2008


Isaac,
 
First congratulations on finishing a completed college season.  That in
and of itself is an important accomplishment.  Including all divisions,
retention numbers say that less than 50% last a year, and only about 10%
will make it over four years.  Second, the fact that you compete for a
small school and have to fight for resources to survive is yet another
reason to celebrate.  Statistics show that inevitably most small schools
eventually leave NDT/CEDA, and now are leaving Parli for places like
NDCA and the Great Western Forum styles of debate.  Given that the NDT
once boasted 300 member schools and CEDA reached as high as 275, the
reality that finding 90 paid members today in either organization is a
stretch, Southwestern's continued participation should not only be
acknowledged, but perhaps, preserved and protected on a policy debate
endangered species list.  With current budget problems here at
Louisville, the program's continued survival is going to require much
dedication, creativity, and opportunistic leadership.  I'm sure many
others fight similar battles today.  Third and finally, congrats for
defeating Louisville in 2 of the 3 debates you had.  Clearly, you were
able to persuade the majority of judges during your Louisville
experiences that your team did a better job of debating 66.7% of the
time in Wichita.  Clearly you and your partner are persuasive and can
relate to the judges you preferred this weekend.
 
But your note conflates things that aren't accurate about the CEDA
Nationals weekend, in an effort to combine whatever you have decided is
part of the "Louisville style".  Many of the arguments you refer to were
made by this year's national champions, Devon Cooper and Dayvon Love,
from Towson University, not Louisville, and in fairness I'm not sure
they would appreciate you or anyone else defining them as the
"Louisville style".  I don't think that is fair to them, their small
program trying to survive just like yours, nor is it fair to the folks
that helped them along the way.  
 
The reality is that Devon transferred to Towson after debating two
years for Louisville.  He left because we had philosophical
disagreements about the direction of the Louisville collective.  Devon
was committed to debating the arguments and style he came to the school
to debate, a fair and rationale perspective to take.  He transferred and
persevered, even though my choice to change the nature of our arguments
and the direction of our mission created difficulties and frustration
for him, in the same way it did for a group of debaters in the late
nineties, when we made our initial decision to debate "differently". 
His commitment, dedication to his beliefs, and talent were rewarded, and
no one could be happier than I, in spite of any past differences we've
had or have.  
 
Very little similarity existed in Towson's strategies and Louisville's
during CEDA Nat's, but your post doesn't reflect those differences, only
conflates them.  You speak of e-debate archives over two years ago,
ignoring where Louisville is at today, and failing to give Towson their
due for the arguments and style they generated and created on their own.
 They chose not to criticize speed, and they used a Black aesthetic
framework never used by a Louisville debater, ever.  And they should be
given the credit for what they did, they won.  They won in historical
fashion through a commitment to be different, and they won in ways that
support small school debate more than your criticisms demonstrate that
you understand.  And you're inability to show them "love" for their
efforts, only further demonstrates that many in this community would
rather cut off their nose to spite their face, often not recognizing who
and what is truly in their best interest.  But I attribute that
inability in your case Issac, to your youth, and perhaps your
intoxication.
 
I chose to appreciate, respect, and learn from the Tigers championship.
 Towson's choices have already helpe
d guide the future direction of the
Louisville program in our squad meetings since returning from CEDA Nats,
as decisions are being made here to study, understand, and reflect on
Towson's success.  However, your decision to conflate and reduce many of
their argument choices to the "Louisville style" is wrong, oppressive,
and yes, even institutionally racist.
 
And that brings us to the crux of the issue: how we define terms.  You
define "racist" as intentional acts to hurt a group of people motivated
by racial difference.  That is a very common definition used by whites,
and some blacks to define racism.  However, that is likely not what
Towson's white aesthetic was speaking of, and it is definitely not what
defines institutional racism. Institutional racism occurs when racist OR
race neutral decisions have a disproportionately negative impact on a
race of people.  You see Isaac, this discussion is the difference
between understanding a link argument versus an impact analysis.  The
link of "is that act racist" has no relevance to the question of does an
act have a disproportionate negative affect on a race.  Your decision to
conflate Towson and Louisville, given the number of Black directly
debaters involved in your conflation, and the perceptions created by it,
can easily be argued to have a disproportion impact on Blacks, even
though your actions certainly have no racist intent.  And until you
understand that difference, you won't be able to understand what is
revolutionary about Towson's performance last weekend.
 
Since you seem convinced that your socialist grounding somehow proves
that institutional forms of racism don't exist, let me offer an example
of how capitalism in institutional ways that perhaps if you could
understand the concept in that context, it may be easier to see how the
more prevalent forms of racism function today, especially in the debate
community.

A youth organization decides to teach people how to swim for a fee. 
The first time they charge $10 per child and 1000 kids join the 4 week
program.  But the second session, they bump the fee to $200 and only 100
kids join.  Now the organization had the right to charge what they
wanted each time, and each choice wasn't on face exclusionary since
anyone who could pay the fee could join.  BUT, the reality is that their
fee structure had a disproportionate negative consequence on families
who made less money and only those with the largest amounts of
disposable income still decided to join.  The organization's act was not
exclusionary on face, deciding what they wanted to charge was their
choice and did not on face exclude anyone, but the consequences of such
a choice clearly created a class-based consequence.
 
In the same way, we can look at racially-neutral actions that on face
apply equally to everyone, but have a disproportional racial
consequence.  Perhaps a shift to a specialized style of tournament
debate that guts the motivation for participating in debates for an
entire group of colleges like the HBCU's.  Ironically, HBCU's were
created based on intentional racial exclusion. Or perhaps the use of
race neutral preference systems that disproportionately reduce the
amount of debates judged by a race of people is a way that a community
doesn't take actions with the intent to hurt a race, but makes
self-interested decisions that disproportionately hurt a racial or
ethnic group.  Just a couple of possibilities.
 
Anyway, thank you very much Isaac. Your decision to intoxicate
yourself, reflect and share your frustrations, gave me the opportunity
to say a few things about my observations for how Towson has been
treated since their amazing performance, offer some insights to the
Louisville debaters and staff about my perceptions of our arguments, and
perhaps offer the community the opportunity, away from competitive fire,
to reflect on some of the bigger picture issues facing it, issues that
are perhaps related to but of more consequence than some of the latest
discussions on the listserv
  
 
Take care and remember that moderation is good,
 
Doc
>>> 

From: derek dude <dark_hallway15 at yahoo.com>
To:<edebate at www.ndtceda.com>
Date: 4/5/2008 03:49 AM
Subject: [eDebate] Louisville Debate
  (Loved the post Jimbo, I almost feel guilty posting this, but hey,
I'm bored)

Ok, so I'll admit I was trolling edebate archives on a friday night,
possibly under the influence of multiple intoxicating substances, but I
won't confirm it. Also, I'm still just old enough to be graduating from
high school, so I link hard into the high school jokes, go ahead.
(Disclaimer: I'm quite sure I'll come off like a racist and I'm positive
this post will be far too long)

But more to the point, given the fact that I happened to hit Louisville
3 times at CEDA Nationals, I would like to at least voice my thoughts
and possibly engage in some discussion with the advocates of Louisville
style debate, including Ede Warner. 

I'll start with my social location. I'm a 18 yr. Old white male, 1/8th
American Indian, but yeah. I was born in Mexico because my parents were
missionaries who traveled throughout Latin America and Mexico for the
better part of ten years (religion critique anyone? Sorry I'm an
agnostic). I was home-schooled up until age 14, when I subsequently went
to High School for almost 1 year before testing out and landing in a
community college at age 15. I have currently finished my first year of
debating at Southwestern Colllege?a modestly funded, extremely diverse
community college. 
Our squad consistently advances a criticism of capitalism/imperialism
and offers a socialist alternative, we critique the competitive dynamic
your teams identify and we defend orthodox marxism against many
different perspectives. We maintain this advocacy (for the most part) on
both Aff and Neg, we do have a plan text, we do argue that there is room
in the resolution for anti-Imperialist advocacy, we do think our
advocacy has an impact on debate and the world, and yet we still think
that debate is an awesome activity.

First, I think you mischaracterize ?racism in debate.? These arguments
range from ?white privilege? to debate is grounded in ?white
aestheticism,? including the arguments Ede Warner makes about how debate
is mired in whiteness and white institutions. 

1. Let's start with speed and the spread. My school lobbied hard to
scrape up enough money to send some of us to debate camp, I went to
Wyoming (Stannard is awesome). The scenario I want to isolate at debate
camp is the practice round me and my classmates watched at camp. Not
surprisingly, it was an extremely fast-paced round and ALL of us were
relatively clueless and 100% scared. My ?whiteness? did nothing to
prepare me for ?fast debate,? I had no advantage over the Latino and
African American students from my school on an intellectual, emotional,
or comprehensional level. 

2. If speed is something that people of all different cultures are
unprepared to deal with at first, if speed is something that people from
all different backgrounds have to adapt to, have to practice and work
at, how then is ?fast debating? a racist practice? The analogies that
white people have been ?talking fast for longer? or ?debating longer?
just don't work out for me. The ability to interpret and make arguments
at an extremely high speed is a LEARNED ABILITY, not some white, racist
cultural phenomenon. I was just as unprepared and wary of speedy debate
as anyone else, I was given no advantage.

3. The argument that ?debate is racist? assumes one of two things or
both: (1) that people, specifically judges within the activity are
inherently racist and will vote down your team based on racial bias,
and/or (2) that the practices of debate are inherently racist and
prevent equality based on skin color and culture. 
4. I'm not going to sit here and tell you there aren't biased judges
out there, I've met them, I've heard their decisions. So yes, there are
racist judges, there are judges that have been brainwashed by the
capitalist media to naturally despise socialism, and there are judges
that stick to a strict policy framework, for one reason or another.
This, to me, is a general problem of judge bias, rather than an inherent
racist framework. For example, I think you'd be hard pressed to find
more than 10 judges, if that, who will vote your teams down simply
because of their skin color.


5. This brings us to the question of whether the practices of debate
are inherently racist. I'll defend that the answer to this question is
no. The majority of the judges I've met, even the biased ones, are not
ignorant enough to vote your team down because of their skin color?they
will evaluate the arguments that you make. Arguing that rules in debate
are an extension of racism is similar to arguing that rules in
basketball are racist. Is it racist because basketball rewards the team
that scores the most baskets? By your standards, how is basketball not
10x more racist, given that it favors specific physical builds that
aren't specifically popular in white males? Doesn't it count for
something that debate is a intellectual competition, not one based on
physique or skin color, but an activity where any judge who gets ANY
respect at all is a judge who evaluates the arguments of both teams and
ultimately tries to let the debaters paint the picture (I think the fact
that your team can win rounds only proves this point). I've already
answered your speed arguments above.


6. I think the strongest argument you have, and the one I agree with
most since I'm a socialist, is that the white supremacy that permeates
through American society has created gross inequalities between blacks
and whites. That racism perpetuates unequal opportunities, etc. Let me
state this clearly, I believe you are correct, but I also believe that
your focus on ?race? fundamentally misunderstands the way this system
functions. ?Inequality? is a product of capitalist social relations and
it is inevitable in a capitalist framework (we defend racism is
reinforced by capitalism). Look at it this way: there are some ?rich?
schools out there who have way more resources than we do, their debaters
probably have more time to cut cards then we do, and chances are the
majority of the individuals at these schools are white. Now, there are
multiple reasons for this, racism, white supremacy, and the extension of
the imperial order being among them, but my argument primarily is that
this is a class issue. This is a hierarchy that is specifically
financial and it necessitates a material explanation. This means that
EVERY squad that is under-funded, EVERY team that is composed of
individuals from poor backgrounds, EVERY person that was deprived
similar opportunities and access to resources similar to those of
Harvard and Dartmouth is a victim of this Hierarchy. It is an issue that
impacts the fairness of debate and it is a hierarchy that has been
influenced by racist tendencies. However, it influences all of us,
White, Black, Chinese, Indian, you name it. The economic inequality that
exists in our society cannot and should not be trivialized as a
racial/cultural contradiction, it is a product of our economic system
and it is a problem that every ethnicity in America is feeling in
increasing numbers. So (1) Economic inequality changes the fairness
debate, but racism is only factor of it, and (2) Even if you eliminated
racism 100% in debate we would all still be facing this same problem of
inequality, where the bourgeois schools have more resources. In this
sense I do feel like you are ?playing the victim,? as racism does not
adequately explain the inequalities within debate and I'll admit to
feeling alienated and frustrated at hearing Louisville blame debate's
problems on ?whiteness.?

7. I'll answer your assimilation arguments next. You argue that debate
forces a specific style of debate down your throats and what you really
want is freedom to ?argue how you want to.? But isn't your advocacy of a
strictly ?persuasive? styl
e of debate a direct exclusion of fast,
technical debate? Aren't you arguing specifically for the exclusion of
the type of debate that some of the most committed, hard-working
debaters love and work hard at? Why is it that debate in its current
form isn't more inclusionary than your interpretation? Isn't it true
that Towson won the NDT advocating black aestheticism on the Aff? Given
that policy debate is one of the last forms of communication that takes
place at break-neck speeds, why do you feel it is important to advocate
the extinction of our communication style? Just because it takes time to
learn to speak fast and it takes even longer to get your brain to
process arguments at break-neck speeds doesn't mean the activity is
flawed. Isn't it true that there is room for any team, whether critical,
performance, policy, revolutionary, etc, to excel in the current debate
structure given that they can defend their advocacy? You claim that the
current debate structure forces culture assimilation, but I still fail
to understand how your ?alternative? does not link into this. But also,
it's just plain wrong. Towson won CEDA!!! Debate forces culture
assimilation in the sense that it is founded in argumentation and the
answering of arguments, not in that you are forced to embrace ?white?
culture. You don't have to be insanely fast to be an excellent debater,
you don't have to advocate policies to be a debater, you can argue from
whatever social location you want about whatever issue you want and
defend the illusory of fiat and the idiocy of policymaking?you can do
all of these things without calling us racist or saying debate is bad. 


8. I'll admit you've probably got to be pretty fast to win the NDT, but
I still think it's asinine to assert that fast argumentation forces an
abdication of ?black? culture.


9. My next few points will address the issue of ?identity? and arguing
for what we believe in. Louisville argues that current debate forces us
to give up our identity, to argue things we don't believe in, and
neglect the issues that really matter. First, what would Louisville do
if they were NEG and they had their whole block of ?debate bad/racist?
and the AFF got up and read that same block? Would you concede the round
and just spend the next two hours hugging each other? I think you
fundamentally dismiss the notion that your interpretation leads to
non-competitive debates where teams have nothing to talk about because
they ?really believe,? but you also grossly discount the value of
evaluating the other side of issues. You believe that current debate
gives us bad, dangerous education, but there is just no justification
for this. I honestly believe that teams who embrace debate's current
form rather than memorizing blocks of ?debate bad? read WAY more about
the real exploitation and oppression that is occuring in the Middle
East, read WAY more critical literature that evaluates a whole host of
issues from different perspectives rather than embracing a singluar
concept of ?truth,? and are ultimately more informed and more educated
as a result of the diversification of arguments. You get pissed when
people read Pro-Heg and Pro-Zionist arguments, lol. WHENEVER our team
goes Heg Good or Cap Good, we look at it like we're spotting the other
team 10 yards by taking the openly wrong side of the debate. Why should
we be forced to formulate a view of the world and ALWAYS defend that
without being able to question it and engage the other side? Besides the
importance and value of switch-side debating, I think your assumptions
that you can't discuss the ?real? issues in a debate round represent is
complete bull. Racism is a real issue, Towson won on it AND broke at the
NDT. Socialism vs Capitalism is a real issue and we find a way to talk
about it in every debate round.


10. Lastly, I feel like your opposition to fast, technical debate, your
disdain of the line-by-line, and your criticism of ?arguing what you
don't believe,? are all just appeals for 
judge intervention. Is the
judge there to deal some sort of moral or ethical judgment from some
predisposed position, or is he simply there to interpret the arguments
the debaters make and operate in the framework they offer him? The
FAIREST, and therefore most inclusive style of debate will be the style
of debate in which the judge checks his beliefs, morals, and values at
the door, and simply is a judge of argument interaction and competing
advocacies, etc.    This is a quest for truth, which is in itself not an
absolute concept, but I definitely think your project is the wrong way
to go. 
 
With respect,
 
Isaac

You rock. That's why Blockbuster's offering you one month of
Blockbuster Total Access (
http://us.rd.yahoo.com/evt=47523/*http://tc.deals.yahoo.com/tc/blockbuster/text5.com
), No Cost.
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