[eDebate] Race and debaters.

David Glass gacggc
Thu Apr 10 07:10:31 CDT 2008

Hi Kade,

Your email resonated, because you touch on the issue that for me distorts
these frequent conversations
and discussions...  which is that in the current setting race" is being used
as an instrument to win debate rounds...  so  if there was an actual
concession that people were coming together, and that everyone did actually
did have their hearts in the correct place, then there would be no argument
left, and a strategic advantage would be lost.

To me it is somewhat amazing that there would be this intense set of
discussions after an all- African-American team won a major championship
using a non-traditional argument.

Let's think about that for a second.  These students won.   Now if there was
even a significant amount
of racism in the activity, one would expect that a team so-constituted would
be significantly disadvantaged when  even attempting to advance the usual,
accepted arguments.  But this team went much further - they competed using
approaches which are problematic for many judges and coaches on grounds of
debate theory, but were still victorious. So  when I listen to these
continued charges and counter-charges in that environment, I filiter the
discussion the following way:  "just because there was victory at CEDA,
doesn't mean we can't keep running this argument."  In other words, there is
a strategic need to rebuild the case, in order to continue the strategy.

I have a similar issue with the approach when I'm judging.  In that setting,
you have a situation where students are called together in a competitive
framework to affirm or negate the resolution, and as a *strategy* to win the
round, one team directly indicts the community, which of course includes the
opposing team and the judge, with racism.   This puts the judge in the
interesting position:  either she/he votes for the strategy, which endorses
the idea that there is systemic racism in the community, including the
judge, and that this needs to be recognized - or the judge votes the other
way, which from the specified perspective of the team that introduced the
argument, quite clearly labels the judge as a racist.

The way I deal with such a clearly loaded approach is to filter the
arguments for their strategic potential, and understand them on that level.
But as a child of the 60s, who grew up on 155th Street in New York City, and
who was dragged onto the picket lines in the NY City school wars by mom when
I was six,  I must say that for me there is a real real problem in having to
dissect the arguments for their truth-value versus the particular needs that
come in play when these approaches are brought into a competitive
environment, for the purpose of getting a win in a debate round.

So the only contribution I have to all of this is that it is useful to do
what we do - and to "unmask" all approaches in all their forms, to find
their purpose.   Let's not kid ourselves - every argument in a round is
about power, it is about gaining an advantage or precedence over the
opponent.    That understanding should be applied equally, to every

I dunno if that helps or not...

Good luck in your marathon (or is it half marathon?) coming up...


On Thu, Apr 10, 2008 at 12:11 AM, Kade Olsen <kade.olsen at gmail.com> wrote:

> I don't have much to say or any answers to these discussions.  Many of
> them are just painful to read and the problems with race and gender
> discrimination in debate still make me sick to my stomach when I think about
> it.
> The thing I would like to briefly mention is that there are hardly any
> current debaters involved in this discussion.  Or well, any E-debate
> discussion for that matter.  I've read Adam, Deven, and Dayvon's posts, but
> if I unless I am missing something, they are the only people who debated
> this year who have written anything on the subject (I may have missed posts,
> if so, I'm sorry).
> I'm the first to say that I owe everything in debate to the people that
> have coached and judged me. But this conversation, like all of them on
> e-debate, will soon end.  But we'll only hear from a couple of debaters.
>  This is quite sad given that these are the people making  arguments and the
> reason why the activity exists.
> I can't speak for everyone that debates or most normal people generally.
>  However, I think something that is quite lost in all of these conversations
> is the role of competition and what it does to debaters.  Even though there
> are million reasons people debate, most everyone debating goes into a round
> to win.  I haven't coached yet, but I'm guessing they feel the same (given
> how much time and effort with little thanks they put into debate).  The
> extreme importance on winning means often times debaters don't really care
> about who is hurt in the process (If I was debating the 2nd coming of Christ
> I would want the decision to be a 5-0).  I can't say that debate tournaments
> bring out the best in people.
> I'm not sure what this means for responding to race and gender
> discrimination.  Part of me wishes we could do "something" (I have no idea
> or the answers) that isn't at these pressure cooker tournaments; if these
> means substantially changing debate, so be it.
> I think a lot of people might be missing how intense it has to be to put
> Yourself on the line in a debate.  I couldn't have managed debating longer
> than a couple tournaments if I had to talk about myself in a debate; And
> Then listen to judges tell me I'm wrong.  I can't, for the life me,
> understand how anyone wouldn't have the utmost respect for debaters that can
> talk about their identity in a debate and let people JUDGE THEM.
> The problem might be the only place any discussion about race or gender
> can happen is in an extremely competitive environment.
> But if the only way change can happen is by watching a bunch of debaters
> destroy themselves in debate rounds, thats life.  I always hoped for the
> better,
> kade
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