[eDebate] Knowing when NOT to debate

David Cram Helwich cramhelwich
Wed Apr 9 00:54:46 CDT 2008

Perhaps transmuting the question may help re-frame the discussion:

How does a person's status as "white" benefit them in debate?

On Tue, Apr 8, 2008 at 6:02 PM, Duane Hyland <privethedge at yahoo.com> wrote:

> 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 that 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 when 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 played.
> 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.
> Duane
>  Duane,
> 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 irrational?
> 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 again...
> With love and frustration,
> Ede
> Ede Warner, Jr.
> Director of Debate Society/Associate Professor of Communication
> University of Louisville
> 308E Strickler Hall
> 502-852-3522
> ewarner at louisville.edu<http://us.f509.mail.yahoo.com/ym/Compose?To=ewarner at louisville.edu>
> http://uofldebate.com/
>     "You may be whatever you resolve to be." Thomas J. Jackson"
> "If all mankind minus one were of one opinion and only one person were of
> the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that
> person that he, if he had the power, would be in silencing mankind? If the
> opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error
> for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the
> clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by  its
> collision with error." John S. Mill
>  Who said Dr. Who isn't Funny: "Rose: You Didn't Have to Kill him! Dalek:
> "Neither did we need him to live."
> Dalek to Cyberman: :"You are Superior to us in one respect." Cyberman:
> "What is that?" Dalek: "Dying!"
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