[eDebate] Knowing when NOT to debate

Ede Warner ewarner
Tue Apr 8 21:19:32 CDT 2008

1) What do you call situations that create disproportional consequences
on a racial group?
2) What, if any, difference do you see between your definitions of
"racism" and "racist" versus definitions of institutional racism?  
3) Can you name an example of covert racism that couldn't be also
argued to be something other than racism?  Given that your definition
requires expressed intent, is not everything that doesn't have that
express overt intent?
4) In debate Duane, we can factor in quantity of evidence.  What
quantity of experiences can Dayvon look at for evidence before he can
convince you that he has seen enough to draw conclusions.  Scientists
certainly draw conclusions based on correlations, don't they?
5) If Davyon has hundreds of experiences about race and you
substantially less, does he get credit in your mind of being more
qualified on the issue than you are?  Or do you think that both of your
voices are equally credible?
6)  Duane, can you not understand how your attempts to get Davyon to
see other possibilities, assumes that he hasn't already considered them
and rejected them?  And your choice to assume he hasn't forces him to
constantly have to be interrogated by you.  Given that you and he might
disagree about the first three questions, when does he have the right to
stop considering your alternatives and conclude that he is right about
what he believes?
7) Finally, your definitions of "racism" are just that, your
definitions.  They completely ignore his discussion of "institutional
racism" so much so that you seem to treat them the same?  Does Dayvon
have the right to define things differently then you do?  And if he
does, why should we just accept your definitions as the "correct ones"
and why should he be given the burden of proof to justifying using yours
instead of his?
Most importantly, none of this gets at the central question of whether
your attempts at forcing him to think differently, functions to
marginalize and minimize his feelings and his experiences.  You seem
very dismissive of that reality.  Duane would you engage some of the
examples I have used in previous posts, making analogies of the
emotional toll of racism, whether real or perceived, and why critcism is
a productive response to those feelings?
You seem stuck in your box based on your experiences Duane and that
justifies for you not listening to the full context of what is being
said at so many levels, that even I'm not sure this is productive.
Ede Warner, Jr.
Director of Debate Society/Associate Professor of Communication
University of Louisville
308E Strickler Hall
ewarner at louisville.edu 


From: Duane Hyland <privethedge at yahoo.com>
To:Steven D'Amico <stevendamico at gmail.com>, Ede Warner
<e0warn01 at gwise.louisville.edu>
CC:<edebate at ndtceda.com>, Dayvon Love <dplove05 at yahoo.com>, Duane
Hyland <privethedge at yahoo.com>
Date: 4/8/2008 07:02 PM
Subject: Re: [eDebate] Knowing when NOT to debate
Hi, Now that I'm home from work..hopefully I can construct something
worthy of discussion.
I think it help this discussion if I first shared my view on the words
"racism" and "racist." To me, these are very powerful words - words
which can cause lives to be lost, words which can ruin careers, ruin
perceptions, ruin people. I don't think they should be used lightly at
all. I will be the first to say that racism happens, and I will be the
first to say that there have been times in my life where I have been
guilty of racism - I will say however that not EVERYTHING is racist nor
does my skin make me a racist. My skin makes me a human, and my brain
embues that humanity with the ability to reason, to feel, and to
screw-up. Nobody is anything because of their skin color - something we
should all remember..it's the brain that gives us the thoughts which
make us what we are.
I've no doubt that as a young African American male Dayvon has
experienced things beyond the pale. I've no doubt th
at he has enountered
racist thinking and actions in his life. My point was that the examples
he brought forward could be viewed as racism, or could be viewed as
ignorant 16 year olds being ignorant 16 year olds. I know the man who
runs the BCFL tourneys - I know him, he's someone who I wish I were -
and I know that if he made a ruling to deprive kids of wins, I know he
did not make it lightly and that he had good reason to make it. So, that
is why I would ask Dayvon to consider the remote possibility that what
he encountered wasn't racism...but rather something else. If we start
calling everything racism - then where's the power in the word?
I'm not depressed -well..OK..maybe I am..but it's nothing to do with
debate - debate is a source of joy in my life, it keeps me going. I
found his post depressing because it seems as if he has cut himself off
from alternative views, from the consideration that things might not be
X but rather Y. I feel sad to see a person so sure of the intentions of
others that he would isolate himself from them before he even got to
know them - by his own admission he's not socializing (that much) or
reaching out, or using college debate to make life-long friends - he's
judging people and their intentions, and reaction to phantom fears. In
short - he's cutting himself from the remote possibility of being hurt,
even while isolating himself from possibly making a friend for life -
and that's what saddens me. In my own life, Dr. Warner, I used to be
afraid of you - I thought you were a wild eyed radical who hated the
activity I loved and was tryign to destroy it. I could have continued
this line of thought - but I reached out to you, and we've talked - I
wish we'd talk more because my old coach says that you're a very good
person to talk to - and I now understand you, and appreciate your
viewpoints (even if I don't agree with all of them, or even understand
some of them) and that is the type of thing that Dayvon is cutting
himself off from. He can have his views, and of course he should act as
his mind dictates he should - but I think the world is poorer for it.
I do not percieve that I'm taking away Dayvon's right to think as he
wishes - to draw whatever conclusions he wants from his life..it's his
life..and he should draw those conclusions. But, as a coach (and an
educator) I think we should be more about talking, and coming together
than judging (in the sense of pre-judging actions) and pulling apart. I
grow concerned when I see kids isolating themselves from experience. If
Towson's argument is true, that we should adopt their asthetic (sic)
then I'm not sure why retreating from the world helps them prove that we
should embrace their way of thinking. We are communicators, and we train
communicators - shouldn't we be encouraging the young man to reach out,
to form personal connections, rather than to withdraw into a world where
he's afraid to reach out to form those connections?
I don't think that Professor Tolson would have labeled everything in
life racism - I may be wrong, but I doubt it. From watching the movie, I
think he wanted the kids to realize that life is hard - but he also
wanted them to realize that you can't get very far from blaming others
and not engaging them. He was actively trying to get his kids to debate
white schools at a time when that wasn't done - to show the world this
his kids were just as smart, just as bright, and just as able to win -
and, oddly enough, he did this by having the kids debate in the style of
the day - in the style of what, at that time, constituted policy debate
as it was normally done (Something to think about - they didn't waste
time trying to show that Harvard (USC in history) was racist, or that
the way Harvard wanted to debate was "white centered," They just
debated, and they won. To me..that movie shows debaters don't need odd
strategies, or need to spend time analyzing the activity - they need to
go and debate and win! Winning is what gets you noticed - Dayvon proved
that himself wh
en he wrote about how the other team respected him more
after he kicked their heads in. I'm not sure what Professor Tolston
would have made of Towson's strategy (or yours, or Ft. Hays, or any
other non-traditional team)..I'm not sure he would have approved of it -
I'd like to think he'd of said that that's all well and good, but not
necesary - you're good enough to win the way the game is traditionally
In the end - I think the words racism and racist have power, and that
we shouldn't dillute that power by branding every negative experience as
"racism," or accusing every idiot we encounter in our lives as "racist."
IT's cliche, but sometimes hoofbeats are zebra, sometimes they are
horses - more often than not, they are horses. I think once we start
looking at things through one mindset we do ourselves diservice.
Perhaps, we'd be better off to analyze things through all angles of the
spectrum before we reach a label for it. I hope that Davyon will reach
out to his fellow debaters, get ot know them, socialize a bit with them
- I think contacts like that work and go a long way to solving the
overarching problem of race relations in America. Which, in my mind,
have more to do with seperation and ignorance than pure hatred of skin
color. Perhaps if Dayvon, or other African American debaters, got up in
the face of white debaters and engaged in them - or the other way around
- acceptance and communciation is a two way street - then perhaps myths
would be disproved and some barriers would be lowered.......
I look forward, as always, to your reply.
1) He said that there were many other experiences that validate his
feelings; he chose not to share them all.
2) Don't you see that your attempts to debate/rationalize his feelings
stem from your depression, not whether or not his feelings are valid;
3) Your attempts to "debate" his logic, only creates more alienation
from those with a different set of experiences, feeling that your
concerns Duane have more to do with us making claims that reinforce
white personal comfort.  Is it possible for you to
accept/concede/acknowledge that Dayvon's experiences are sufficient for
him to draw his conclusions in the same ways that you do?  And if not,
do you not realize that his hesitancy to post/participate and engage the
predominately white debate community is because of what you just did,
minimize his experiences by imposing your attempts at proving his logic
4) Again, that is institutional racism at work Duane.  The collective
experiences of the majority don't have to be right or correct, but will
be popular because they are shared by the majority.  Could Dayvon's
experiences, if accepted not be an important starting point for you to
consider what needs to be done to create productive change, if you could
suspend your desire to critique his experiences?  Can you not see why
your rhetorical move is not productive?  Or is your only goal to prove
to Dayvon that you are right and he is wrong, whether or not the sum
total of experiences, yours and his, supports such a claim?
5) What if everyone in the Great Debaters, had done what you just did? 
Would the room full of whites have learned anything from the black
experience of lynching as it relates to civil disobedience?  But it was
only a few whites that created legal lynching, right?
Feeling depressed that the same stuff just happens over and over
With love and frustration, 
Ede Warner, Jr.
Director of Debate Society/Associate Professor of Communication
University of Louisville
308E Strickler Hall
ewarner at louisville.edu (
http://us.f509.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=ewarner at louisville.edu )

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