[eDebate] Race, Debate & Tows

RW blackslaw06
Thu Apr 10 17:20:06 CDT 2008

My apologies for not responding sooner.  I didn't know any of these things about you or your experience and I appreciate that you shared them.  It reminds me of those who say "I did it, why can't you?"  I understand that perspective.  As someone who has pulled himself up from the bootstraps I often have similar feelings towards other black people who complain about the system.  I am someone who thinks the system can work if you work it, and if you work hard.  However, when I have those thoughts I think back to my life in Newark where there was a sense of hopelessness that was so pervasive and so deep.  I couldn't understand it and I couldn't explain it, but I could feel it.  It was so depressing I had to get out!  I saw this recently when I went to West Philadelphia a few weekends ago to try to get people registered to vote.  Again I saw that sense of hopelessness.  I just wanted to shake them and say shut up, pull yourself together, and fill out this
 here form... but I didn't.  I said I know you are right, the system sucks, and I would deliver a rant and then I would try to get them to hope with me.  It rarely worked, but when it did I was overjoyed.  
The only way I can reconcile my two experiences (system working for me and not for others) is to realize that I was blessed and lucky in so many ways.  I also realize that it will be harder for some people.  I know how hard it was for me growing up and I know how easy it would have been to give up, so I have compassion for those who find the world to be harsh.  I still hold out hope for them and I still try to help them.  It's like the kid in your debate lab who just needs a bit more help.  I remember these faces well because they were the faces of kids who were struggling to get it.  They need it explained differently.  They might need an analogy, a story, or a drawing to help them.  And, sometimes they need to be taught a new strategy all together that will work for them.  When I taught at debate camp I thought it was my responsibility to help them find their way.  In some instances, the best you can do over three weeks is teach a kid how to flow.  But
 if they couldn't flow before they got there the congratulations and praise that you give them is equally as important as those you give to the kid who cut the most cards, made the best arguments, and achieved the most success at the camp tournament.     
I guess I am saying two things in response to your post.  First, think back to those days of frustration and live in it for a moment.  Out of that will come some compassion.  Out of that is a world of possibilities.  Second, explore the possibility that some people would prefer a different strategy.  Your way isn't the only way and be happy for people when they find a way.  I admire your persistence.  I do, and I find your post inspiring.  I think it should be shared with others.  But, I think it should be used to lift people up and not to tear people down.

----- Original Message ----
From: Josh <jbhdb8 at gmail.com>
To: RW <blackslaw06 at yahoo.com>
Cc: edebate at www.ndtceda.com
Sent: Wednesday, April 9, 2008 5:30:40 PM
Subject: Re: [eDebate] Race, Debate & Tows

I am bit saddened by your response.   I think you worked very hard to package my story in unflattering terms. I will admit, some of what you said is true...especially that educators are patenalistic....sometimes me in particular.
That said, I will "quickly" address one part of your post because it personally had an effect on me.  The rest we can talk about later:

RE: Research is easier now.  But you have to have a computer to access google.  Can you imagine a world in which not everyone has a computer Josh? 
JBH: Yes Rashad.  Actually I can, I used to hand type cards before there were available and affordable copy machines.  I used to hand type all of my 1ACs in high school.  I used to spend 100s of hours in the libraries in Oklahoma monthly (we would go to OU and OCU weekly many times) using the card catalog.  I have NEVER owned my own personal computer (that is to this day - I know people think debate coaches make tons of money and all but thats a bit of an exaggeration)....I have always had to use a University lap top.  
Now, part two...I grew up poor, my parents had no money until I was 18-20 (lived in an apartment over a dry cleaners that was interesting to say the least) then they went broke because of taxes and havent had money again until I was about 37.  Luckily, they are doing well again now (in their 60s).  
You say "can poor people turn that into 5 tubs of topic specific evidence." Well, last time I visited the UCO squad room there was one of those monster safeway tubs down in the cabinet area with my senior year affirmative in it....I cut pretty much every card myself...I believe it was over 300 file folders finished...and I had to use an index at the first two tournaments.  Rememember, I had no computer....I had no coaches cutting evidence (although we had a very supportive assistant coach).  Also remember, this was my affirmative for the SECOND SEMESTER because we had two topics.  
Now you are right, I attended UCO on a full scholarship because I was a good debater....Not everyone gets that.  Totally true.  I do know I used all of my "allowance" every month on copying and got one credit card that I used for every single non-debate expense....Took me five years after college ended to pay it back...even though, after college, when I was a graduate assistant at UCO I made less than $500 a month.
Maybe everyone who is poor isnt motivated toward that kind of insanity....But some people are....Dont assume because you know poor you know everyone's poor.  Dont assume because some Marxists are academics means poverty didnt effect them.  
Perhaps I get so angry during these discussions because people assume "lots of cards" means "wealthy and privleged."  Sometimes its true that debate work is only possible for the white leisure class...However, there are a TON of exceptions to that rule...I am sick and tired of people ignoring the many poor debaters who have worked their ass literally off to get to bids or elims or late elims or even just to clear once in a while.  I remember sitting in a library, having no idea how to research and trying to teach myself which indexes would be the best (readers guide - green, sociolgy - yellow, books in print - red),,,,I remember trying to figure out how they would classify the "jargony" names the good teams used for their affirmatives.  I remember trying to figure out how to write a disadvantage sitting in a library by myself.  I remember sitting by myself and getting the crap kicked out of my ego time after time after time but going back to the damn
 library until I found the card that would save me.  I suspect (actually I know) I am not the only one.

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