[eDebate] Race and Debate

Kade Olsen kade.olsen
Sun Apr 13 17:35:05 CDT 2008

Hey Kade.  Can you forward this to edebate for me, thanks. (Jonah)

There are many, many upsetting things that have occurred during the
course of this discussion, but despite all the name-calling and
personal attacks I think there are a couple positive things that we
should focus on to move forward.

First, I think that it's great that this conversation is occurring.  I
know this isn't the first race related edebate thread, but it's
important that these dialogues continue until issues of discrimination
and low minority participation in debate are resolved.  I really
appreciate those who took risks to come forward to relate painful
personal experiences or give their opinion.  We need to hash this out
(maybe in a different way than some of the more egregious posts) and
bring these concerns to the forefront so there isn't a teeming
undercurrent of resentment that only gets articulated in private.

As an individual who does feel very defensive against claims that
debate must change it's been important for me to hear what Rashad,
Dayvon, and Dr. Warner have had to say.  I've been greatly persuaded
that attitudes and practices within debate need to be altered to
become a more open and accessible community.  I hope that debate does
evolve to address the obvious problems that currently haunt us.  As a
suggestion to that end, I'd say that there could be more clearly
articulated explanations of what debate practices those who argue for
change identify as constructing the institutionally racist nature of
debate, and why those practices are institutionally racist.  I know
that this has been said before, but I read edebate only intermittently
and I don't judge Towson or Louisville very often.  I would guess most
people are in the same boat.  I think this will be your toughest sell
because we are so attached to debate as it is currently constituted.
The more work you can do to lay out the "what" and the "why" questions
the more impact it will have.

Second, we should celebrate the incredible accomplishment of Towson
winning CEDA and clearing at the NDT for the first time in school
history.  It's sad that the fallout from those victories has been a
rather nasty interracial brawl instead of recognition at how much of a
positive sign it is that a team of two African Americans, using
innovative and untraditional methods, won a major national tournament.
 The debate community has a long way to go, but I think this was a
major breakthrough moment along the lines of Jackie Robinson that will
hopefully lead to more debate success for African American debaters in
the future.

With that in mind, I have to say that I find some of the claims made
in this discussion to be overly expansive and hyper vigilant.  I don't
say that to be dismissive, there is a race problem in debate and it's
a huge one.  But solving that problem will be more difficult if the
white majority is alienated, which I think some of the things that
have been said have the potential to do.  One way that occurs is by
treating the debate community as if it's a singular homogenous entity.
 There were a lot of different reactions to Towson's victory.  Some
people were pissed, some people were ecstatic, but I think most people
were either mildly displeased or mildly pleased.  Acting as if the
whole, or even most, of the debate community had a similar angry
reaction to Towson's victory is inaccurate and upsetting.

I was saddened further by Dayvon's admission that he chooses to
disassociate from white people even when they try to be social with
him.  I have no doubt that most white people suck at recognizing their
own whiteness and the privileges that inherently accrue from being
white.  But exposure to your ideas and to you as a person is an
essential component of overcoming racial ignorance and discriminatory
attitudes.  Segregating ourselves into racial niches creates a
devastating hurdle to creating an egalitarian debate community.  I
don't mean to put the onus for inter-racial cooperation on you solely
or even primarily.  White people should be taking a lot more
initiative towards integration in the activity, and I hope that when
we do you won't give us the cold shoulder even if we don't get it at

Let's all continue this discussion and be honest with each other about
our opinions and personal experiences even if it's upsetting to
others.  But let's do it in a way that builds communal ties instead of
entrenching divisions.
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