[eDebate] A Message to the Debate Community

J T jtedebate
Mon Apr 7 17:48:54 CDT 2008

no excuses, just thoughts intended to highlight productive discussions--I'm no authority on life or debate, just space and nuclear war....

1. not all hive-fives in the hallway were to praise Towson losing---I would be willing to say MOST...but definitely not all...were racially motivated---certainly NOT an excuse, just say speak against universalizing these claims about everyone. Some were praising the winner, who might have been their good friend.  I understand possible skepticism on the issue---but people in power want the powerless to box themselves into an universalist stance to discredit the message..In fact, the powerful often push the powerless to adopt those universalism to isolate exceptions in the public, then say "Towson is crazy!"

2. I think describing the entirety of debate or the world as white supremist is, for me, inaccurate and inappropriate.  For me, it is a very different thing to say the white majority (a fact) maintains structures that are racist than the former.  It is a tactics issue, not content of message. i.e., this doesn't mean don't call out racism at every site (everyone should), just that the tactic is not something I feel to be productive--same args, presented differently without universalisms...but I am also conscious of social location and would not condemn Towson for their tactics...However, regardless of the relative truth, statements like:
"Have we been "too black" lately?"  " We're not assimilating fast enough for ya?" are intentionally antagonistic...I realize you speak from frustration, but presenting your advocacy in ways to expressly just piss people off does nothing to create change...you might say that just means we have to speak about racism in a "white" way---I have no idea what this would mean---and I do not think you would have to sacrifice anything of yourself or arguments to present them another way that is not universalist, that ignores individual difference within races and that is not offered as a way to incite equally empty responses (i.e. bigotry and high fives)


3. I think asking the question: "What have black people done to deserve the treatment we get in this activity?" gives in somewhat less to those universalisms given the under-representation of black people in debate.  However, it also obscures the larger notion of privilege---privilege is not only race.  I see these two concepts often conflated. There are definitely non-white privileged persons in debate "hierarchy" so to speak.  This could also be a social location issue though.

4. Comments I made:  "Why are people having so many problems with answering these arguments straight up?" 
"I predict they will not clear at the NDT."  Clearly I was inaccurate here.  I thought the backlash would have been stronger in the judging pool
"Winning CEDA was the worst thing that could have happened for their project."--While I shouldn't lump Towson into the amorphous "project" label, my feeling at the time was that it set Towson up for the devastating question: "What now?"  The thought was that white people that are receptive to their thinking might feel--OK, so Towson won CEDA--racism solved!  So the question has been asked, "What now?"---in the debate public imagination, where do we go from here? 

5. Critic of argument:  I don't give a damn what you want to talk about in debates..do you thing whatever it may be.  However, with other teams that have made similar arguments in the past, I got called a racist because I voted on framework...but the team straight dropped it---never discussed!  Why then am I a racist?  This is merely a cautionary tale for Towson and future debaters---don;t piss on judges that try very hard to be objective--it's not easy.  You win your arg, I'll vote for you plain and simple.  The difference is when people ask the critic to personally endorse that racism in debate is maintained by white supremacy (I have heard the same argument in terms of sexism)---in or out of my own social location, I may disagree on your prescription for change, but agree with the premise...does that make me racist or sexist?

Josh <jbhdb8 at gmail.com> wrote: Hey,
 Not sure I follow you entirely here (sure thats me being stupid).  I know I am also the original "debate if ok" guy...and that probably colors (no pun intended) how people respond to what I have to say etc.
 You say:

   When you say something like:

 "I honestly hope that none of the "backlash" you are referring to has to do with race....If you have felt that way that is really too bad.  If the community really was that reactionary and unaccepting how could Towson have won the CEDA tournament?"

 I think it illustrates the point I'm making. It's important that Deven and Dayvon were black in relation to winning the tournament. When you say "how could they have won", it was because they had good arguments, and in a lot of ways, the community (for the first time) had to be held accountable for the decisions it makes on the national stage.
 Thats kind of what I was saying.  People recognize the truth of their arguments and were/are willing to see past their own self-interest to vote for a good team making good arguments that implicate the judges own participation in a imbalanced system.
 They were/are black, made arguments about the whiteness of debate etc...and won because people couldn't defeat those arguments.  My point is many people implicated by their arguments voted for them.....so, at the very least, a portion of the community who was implicated, saw past self-interest and voted for them.  This is part of why I think "debate is ok" for the most part.  Obviously, Andy and others have seen things I did not see and that is too bad.
 I did try to suggest that much of the "suprise" probably had to do with the fact that the team in question had not had a very good record prior to the NDT.  When Louisville made their run a few years ago, they had been very good all year long.  I personally have felt that Deven and Dayvon had just not put it all together yet and that CEDA was the breakthrough.
 I cant speak to the rest of the feelings....You have to also remember there are all kinds of different "anger" triggers involved in the style of debate embarked upon by Towson....Nothing in the world seems to get white folks fired up like being tied to racism....Nothing gets policy debaters fired up more than "music, performance, K" affirmatives that look at the topic metaphorically....etc etc etc.  So between, coming sort of out of nowhere to win one of the two biggest tournaments of the year, running arguments that fire up whitey, running arguments that fire up Mr. and Ms. policy debater (me included), there are also other explanations of why "backlash" occurred.....Despite all that, they WON THE NATIONAL TOURNAMENT....pretty cool despite all that right?
 Maybe its just because I live in a state that stripped affirmative action in higher education...But, debate can improve in many ways....but still about a BILLION times better than the "real world." 
 Now, that said, I am obviously not the team from Towson....I hope that they have been able to celebrate in the victory...Nobody can take away what they did.  They are National Champions.

 I would like to think that at the core, a lot of the debate community has no problem with the aesthetic of Deven and Dayvon winning the tournament, but I want to know what is the core reason behind why it is so difficult for people to accept that there are PROBLEMS with the debate community, and there are screwed up people in the debate community that must be held accountable for their screwed up justifications.

 Besides that, back to my original question...

 What have black people done to deserve the treatment we get in this activity?



   On Mon, Apr 7, 2008 at 4:33 PM, Josh <jbhdb8 at gmail.com> wrote:

   First, I think there has been a large outpouring of support and cheers even on edebate for Towson.  I personally have seen about twenty letters just on edebate (and personally tried to find every coach and debater and offered congrats myself in email and face to face at the NDT).
 Second, I think anytime a team that hasn't cleared at most major tournaments it comes as a suprise that they won a tournament.  In this case a happy suprise.  I honestly hope that none of the "backlash" you are referring to has to do with race....If you have felt that way that is really too bad.  If the community really was that reactionary and unaccepting how could Towson have won the CEDA tournament?
 I also think given the back-to-back nature of CEDA-NDT sometimes congratulations are not loud enough.
 If people have not said it enough, CONGRATS to Towson and all of their coaches.  As a former CEDA national champion, I am very pleased to welcome Towson to the list of former champs!  What you accomplished is incredible and should be celebrated,

  On Mon, Apr 7, 2008 at 4:25 PM, Adam Jackson <baltimoredebate at gmail.com> wrote:

  As a sidebar from the obviously important topic discussion...

I have a question for the debate community...  

 What have black people done to deserve the treatment we get in this activity?

 All of you can run ANYTHING you want and people stay silent (i.e. Imperialism good, the "gangsta mentality") . At almost every tournament, the majority of the top debaters who win are white men. AND you are regarded within the highest levels of success in policy debate, politics, economics and class.

 But why is it when two black men win a tournament like CEDA, arguing for things we care about, there's a public outcry to how "wrong" it is?

 I know this hasn't been a subject of too much controversy on eDebate, but it has been on a lot of news sites and blogs, and I'm totally sick to my stomach with all the disgusting and deplorable comments made in Towson's direction.

 Have we done you wrong or something?

 Have we been "too black" lately?

 We're not assimilating fast enough for ya?

 All the work we do to liberate ourselves psychologically from this white world, of white supremacy according to your white standards, and YOUR the one's who are mad when WE get sick and tired of adhering to them.

 The part that makes it even worse is that the majority of you won't even recognize how fucked up it is, and I'm pissed off about it.

 I've been quiet the past few week, but now I'm done being quiet...


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Adam J. Jackson
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