[eDebate] Race, Debate & Tow

Josh jbhdb8
Thu Apr 10 19:25:41 CDT 2008

Hello Rashad,

I am suprisingly well informed on the "problem" of the bootstrapping
metaphor in its application to race (I actually wrote about it several times
in this very forum in a debate with Parcher years ago).  I kind of figured
this was going to be where this headed.  I know its hard for people to
square my seeming conservatism with me knowing anything about race
literature...But, its actually one of my passions (not being conservative -
in fact outside of debate I am looked at as a lunatic fringe liberal oddly
enough - in my division at U of M the diversity people think I am too

My argument is not (in fact I said literally - "I dont expect everyone else
to be as crazy as me" to preempt bootstrapping) that I did it so you can do
it.  My argument is that to be the BEST at something there are expectations
- not everyone will meet those expectations - but thats because not everyone
has what it takes to be the best.  Should you be able to debate if not
motivated in those same ways - hell yes.

RE: 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.

JBH: Agreed despair can be so pervasive in poor neighborhoods that even
seeing where to start is near impossible.  And in total honesty, success is
managing to keep food on the table sometimes when you live like that.  In no
way do I think all people should have to "get it together" and succeed.
However, I would probably not take one of the people from that neighborhood
and coronate them as chief research scientist for the prevention of
infectious diseases at the CDC either.  My point is not everyone must work
until they question their own sanity or quit debate.  My point is that to be
the best debater you should have to work pretty hard.  I often felt, when
judging you, that if you just would learn some of the substance of what you
were discussing you would maybe the best ever (without that you won a
National championship for gods sake).

RE: 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.

JBH: Many people who were in your lab said you were an excellent lab leader
for just these reasons.  You were great at helping them with whatever they
needed help with and cared deeply about helping them.

RE: 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.

JBH: I think you are reading different messages if you think I am not
experiencing feelings of compassion in the face of these stunning and
disturbing narrarives.  Compassion and reflexivity R us.  Doesnt mean I will
agree all the time with the RX but trust me some of those stories tear me
Out of that is a world of possibilities.

RE: 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.

JBH: Agreed, just dont want us to start giving championships to people just
for being in the right position.  Championships should be hard. Luckily,
both  championships this year were won by teams that seem to be awesome and
work hard....Good stuff....Rigor good.


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