[eDebate] More Apologies - Cleaning out my Closet

Ede Warner ewarner
Tue Apr 15 01:35:34 CDT 2008

Dear XY, Towson, the UDL's, and Mike Bryant/Okolona,
I've spent the day thinking about more of the conversations, and this post has but one purpose: to continue my list of apologies and attempt to offer a context for the choices I've made, the errors those choices have created, and where I'm at today, as a human being in the process of evolving.  The choices I've made over the last eight years have touched most everyone's nerve in this community in some type of way: some have found excitement and a new or renewed passion for the most important activity that I believe exists in society while others have found deep seated anger, resentment, frustration, and disrespect for unfair and racist practices towards a game that is love.  And all of the many feelings in between.  Some have even felt a part of both camps. I choose to take complete and full responsibility for the choices I made that created these emotions, and I choose to believe in a future that moves productively for all of us, whether that future holds on to debate as we know it, or whether there is interest in some type of evolution or change.  Either way, this is the most fascinating collective of individuals I have ever met and my prayer begins and ends with the welfare of all the people that have stood to read, perform, give a 1AC or any of the 7 other speeches that follow.
Part 1 - My apology to XY 
I know you may not see this for a few days, and for what it's worth, I will keep you in my prayers during that time.  I can see after reading your 23 pages over two posts that I have created a lot of pain and frustration for you over the years.  And to think it all began with our first edebate throwdown over speed.  I hope you can have a little empathy for the volume of posts I've dealt with over the last few days.  Truthfully, I missed the first one because Josh Branson posted it, and frankly I wasn't in a place to engage him at that moment.  When I saw Rashad's answer, I didn't pay it much attention.  But I heard and saw your second post loud and clear.  I stopped reading after the first paragraph, in part because I was tired and just shut down from dealing with all of the other arguments.  A backchannel post asking some of your questions brought me back to it today.  You more than deserve the right to be engaged.
The first level of apology starts with a concession of something you said in the second post, that said, you can hate a bunch of people or the institutions and accept the damage or you can try a little empathy and forgiveness.  "No identity is free of trauma and we need to be respectful careful and forgiving when we discuss them."  I  apologize for not always embracing these important concepts, central to my beliefs as a Christian.  I've always assumed people would find empathy for me as "long as I told the entirety of my story."  I've always assumed that if people understood the road I traveled, they would see how I went from one of the most loved folks in CEDA/NDT to probably the most hated.  I always thought that my credibility as someone who loved CEDA/NDT but made some choices that lead to the criticism would be seen as someone who never fell out of love with contemporary policy debate.  But I made a lot of assumptions.  More importantly, I forgot.  As I dealt with the difficulties of creating a different debate squad, with the hostility they received when we tried to slow down and debate the topic, and their hostility grew, I became closer to them than to the community, so I lost sight of the pain that we inflicted on the community, including you.  
As someone stated earlier, "it became a war" and even until this day, that's the rhetoric I began to use as a substitute for "caring" for the community.  Right or wrong, I generally saw little compassion and respect for my students and over time my allegiance became more about them, then everyone else.  Ironically, Tiffany is right because inside the squad room I defended the community to the death, to the point it created a mutiny, complaints that almost cost me my job, and did cost my wife hers.  So I apologize for not being more public about those choices.  I felt at times that I was on an island, trying to love the debate community, at least an idealized belief that transformative change could occur, ironically never just for "Black" students or Louisville students.  I always believed that our pursuits would make the community better, but I apologize because I lost the importance of mutual respect along the way.  But at the end of the day, you are right XY you gotta give respect to get respect, and I've often engaged in less than respectful ways.  I don't know whether you know it or not, but in the fall of 2005, we abandoned our strategies to go back to the drawing board, and even though it cost us extremely competitive success and alienated many angry black men and women who lacked the connections to this community that I have, we tried to find a different entrance point to express our beliefs.  Had I not entered into Towson's discussion to "protect" what I saw as growing animosity towards a group of Black students by several elders in the community who had little compassion for their frustration, a lot of the last four days likely wouldn't have happened.  I do recognize that the compassion I desired couldn't come until I figured out how to once again show some compassion and empathy for the community.  Trying to do that while showing love to my population who generally have felt unwilling to engage the community was a precarious balancing act.  But let's talk about your particular concerns, likely shared by others.
Working backwards from the 2nd post, I can't really engage too much about the 3rd point about mischaracterization of Jews.  I think most of that is engaging Rashad's post, but I'm unclear.  It is likely that Louisville debaters conflated the relationship between whites and Jews, I'm sure I have along the way.  As Director, I apologize for either.  I agree that debate should support a respectful sharing of personal experiences.  I personally believe that debate should be about sharing ideas and perspectives about the topic, although I know this is a highly controversial perspective.  It can't be sustainable if not respectful.  And I don't think that the protest strategy used by Louisville and others is a step in that direction, I will say more about this in a moment.  As far as understanding of Black white race relations and the evolving and mutual hate it has produced, that's real and must be addressed.  No side feels good about it, but all sides have to take responsibility and address it.  I apologize if disclosing communication styles and trying to understand their history of Black anger is received as a cop-out, but I'm not sure simply dismissing it as something Blacks can just change because Whites say they don't like it.  I don't know but this seems complex, requiring some serious consideration from all sides. Many times these issues, especially as discussed on edebate, became personal to a variety of people for a variety of reasons.  I apologize that the analogy I chose was so personal for you, it was not my intention to offend you.  It was my effort to use what I thought to be a strong analogy to create understanding.  Given the sensitive nature of debate separate from race, make any example subject to offending someone.
Your second point, no solutions are coming when you hurt people is true, and the last eight years of my life I have hurt a lot of people.  My personality has repeatedly alienated the people around me in the last eight years of my life, both inside and outside of debate. However, the irony I struggle with is that I think I'm a much happier and stronger person than I was in my previous life before 2000.  When I was well-liked in debate, as my racial consciousness grew, I was miserable.  I felt under appreciated as a coach, exploited and undervalued in the community.  The more I understood about Blacks in debate, the more I got more alienated and frustrated from a world that I gladly and happily assimilated into prior to thinking about race.  All of this creates my identity.  When I took and internalized what I felt was unfair treatment in my predominately white department, I went home made, self destructive to me and unattractive to my wife.  When I started to speak my mind, others left upset and I left at peace.  I will say that I hope you can have empathy that this all goes both ways and even when our speed criticism attempted to respectful argue in non-racial tones, the response of the community was still difficult to say the least.  But perhaps it was never devoid of a racial context because of my choice to have a group of predominately Black debaters talk about Black issues related to the topic by speaking slow.  But even then, the response of the community was less than compassionate or caring from Blacks debating fast, to UDL instructors, to the broader community.  Had our choice to engage switch side debate about the topic not using speed been "allowed" and "accepted", I'm not sure we would ever have gotten to this point. The question of is the analogy correct, I'll save.  I would ask you to consider this:  the culture of aggression that I learned was taught to me in part by the debate community, as it does to most.  The lack of civility in debate and the aggression charge against Louisville exists far beyond us uniquely.  The only difference, we created a racial component to that aggression.  I'm not sure I should apologize for that or not.
I will address the "emotional bully" charge.  Guilty as charged.  I have learned the rhetorical skills and strategies of the game, and it teaches us how to do these things when we go into the real world.  But I turned my learned behavior back onto the community for reasons beyond it's normal purpose: competition.  That created some unique and tense moments, but I hope you can see that it's not very unique in our community.  I will say that adding a racial component heightened the stakes and the emotion.  
Your first point, probably the most important one, the predictability of a race conscious remedy.  It's funny in the non-competitive world of understanding one another, I believe that race conscious empathy is necessary and justified, probably by all sides as I thought I pretty well stated in earlier posts.  But where I must apologize is my inability to connect one of the many compliments you sent my way: that we demonstrated that this was about more than competitive success for us, to my big picture hope for this community.  XY, as we made the move from--a debate team taking a racial perspective on the topic, something that aside from the decision to talk slow, went relatively without criticism, especially as it relates to the evaluation process--to a team protest the institutional racism we felt existed in the norms of the community, competition wasn't my primary big picture objective, even though we figured out a way to make it competitive, in large part because of suggestions made to us from the critical/performative judges on the left.  Now I suspect many will say that's not true, but honestly it is.  Here is what I thought: the "protest" strategy was a temporary strategy that had a short shelve life.  Actually the length of the strategy would depend on the community.  I never saw the strategy as competitive, in other words as fair, anymore than I saw the gendered language debates as "fair" or the decision to vote against a team with a tape recorder for card clipping.  I thought our strategy would lead to some type of structural change like the other two did.  Card clipping norms were created literally after ONE debate; while it took a couple of seasons for gendered language, the culture made a decision to change after many wins by a couple of teams.  I thought this wouldn't be any different.  I thought our argument was true and that the response of the community to true theory arguments had historically been evolution and change.  Truthfully, I was wrong and I apologize.  It never happened.  
With regards to Tiffany, I think she is not only one of the best judges in the country, she is one of the best coaches.  What her and Burch have done in the last eight years goes very underestimated by this community.  Burch has taken teams to major championships in every conceivable style possible.  Dillard, who debated for one year, has been our primary coach for a year, we shared the load the year before, and had a profound impact on the 2004 run.  She is the classic outsider who has been around enough, that her criticisms and big picture observations are right on.  I can't apologize for the way she judged that debate, even though what she did was radical and non-traditional.  I can say that I have seen numerous times in this community, teams and judges have an expectation of what they want to do in debate, and our judges usually force consideration out of the comfort zone a lot.  Panels present a unique problem for everyone.  How much each side should move is still up for consideration.  I think Tria was actually the first coin flipper, I've done it once and Tiffany's done it a couple of times.  The only thing I've stressed is communication, the more clear the method, the better for everyone involved.  XY, perhaps if you could see how our judges choose to align their education with our students, and focus less making choices based on pure competition, you might see why they make some o f the choices they make.  Some of your concerns are procedural and I think are fair to engage her on.  Others seem to prove her/our point: the inability of this community to really deal with difference.  You won't convince me that Tiffany or Tria don't know what's going on, but require adaptation well beyond what is normally considered adapting.  But for every disgruntled debater from their judging, you will find 10 that enjoyed the experience tremendously, because these ladies pay attention to the whole debater when engaged in ways they find respectful and an important educational experience always follows.  That's my history with Tiffany, but I understand your concerns.
I thought it would change after our 2004 run.  I thought we would win in massive amounts until there was some type of change.  Standing in a hallway with 2 coaches, my wife overheard "the argument is true".  Now upon reflection, the solution to this problem was complex and lacked the easy fixes of card clipping and gendered language.  But given competition was the number one priority and given no one had an easy solution, or even agreement to what the problem was, no matter how true the argument, no one was going to continue and consistently put debaters in the unenviable position of taking a loss simply because they debated in an institutionally racist system.  But even as late as fall 2006, the strategy still won more than it lost.  But after watching the widespread emotional damage created by the strategy and the liklihood that change wasn't coming, I made the most unpopular decision to move away from it, again a decision that almost cost me my job from the backlash of my team.  So, no I don't have any standards for "fairness" or any magical solution beyond, Blacks should win until there is change, which is "functionally" the end result of the argument, because of the dilemma created, even if the warrants are more nuanced than that.
What should happen?  I think that the truth that 1) identity (everyone's) can have an important impact on learning and knowing the truth about a policy in a given debate; and 2) sharing experiences and ideas is key to our identity; and 3) allowing for an evaluation that doesn't privilege bigger, high risk impacts over issues of less magnitude need to be understood.  Fixing these issues in debate will create a different policy debate experience.  I think that people are so polarized on protecting particular tools of evaluation: the flow, speed,  line by line, etc.  that Plato's big picture is missed, and this is the biggest untruth of our position: the problem isn't the tools of debate, it's the way the tools are used.  If people would make a sincere effort to tear down and rebuild, I suspect we would keep all the tools, although how much and when and how they are deployed may be change some.  I think that compromise can create new and better outcomes, while also protecting the competition and the enjoyment currently found in the "game".  In the same way we find enjoyment in some classes more than others, we can consider that tinkering with the objectives and tools of debate can produce a better outcome.  The resistance to consideration of change XY is in large part my fault, it's the legacy of tying the educational discussion to racism.  But sadly, the evolution of debate theory is exactly the identity of this community.  For that, I apologize.
For me, style aside, the goal of our activity should be similar to the process of the movie, the Great Debaters, where the Black experience informed the topic and made better policy.  And why wouldn't that also be true for the gay or woman or Asian or poor or white or insert your experience as relates to the topic.  Does that limit the evidence for a topic to idenitity, but the goal has got to be NOT to exclude those possibilities for production of evidence.  The game is too rigged to fairly and consistently include those experiences now.  I still sincerely believe that college debate can change the world.  If we can compete AND produce better policy decisions, in ways that others in academia and outside interest would want to really look at, the spillover can be tremendous, just like the interracial debates.  Just think if all cultures are represented and sharing all types of different evidence on a common topic, how unique and beneficial that would be to society.  That needs to change, but I believe it can.  Anyway let's move to the first post, the 9 pager called Congrats Duck.  Only going to engage what does not seem directed to RW.  One other thing from the first post:  I'll concede that I'm a lazy Black man.  Many different choices along the way might have created different outcomes faster.  I'm not sure that's true but...dunno.
#3) Policy debaters are lazy; frustrates privilege/race/identity folks.  Probably, not qualified to comment.
#4a) Unpleasant to debate identity.  Yes, now it's a reaction to the call for consideration of a method to fight racism.  Makes it uncomfortable.  If it was in a more voluntary world that rewards finding connections between one's identity and the topic, I suspect that trepidation would transform to something similar to a persuasive speech, where those personal connections are revealed in controlled and comfortable ways.  I don't know if you were battle-hardened, but I know you were good.  The tape doesn't lie.  I do think the win at almost all cost nature of the activity is part of the problem that creates so many bad situations.  Reigning that in some has got to be part of the goal.  A lot of less than healthy and educational choices are made because of competition fury.
I didn't see a 4b?
#4c)  Got to move from the current "protest" strategy that isn't contestable to an informed method of using identity as evidence on a topic.  Then we can do what we do now or want to do, make policy.  I'm thinking the Civil Disob. example from the movie where Wiley shares an experience that is unique to the predominately white thoughts about the topic.  That's what we should be striving for, using one's identity if and only if, it makes everyone better or a more informed understanding of the policy question.  
#4d) Not applicable to identity as evidence of the topic, again related to the protest strategy.  I agree with your preempt.
#5b) You win too much.  Louisville would be a big school with a couple of bids and a Copeland.
#5c) I wish Duck all the best.  I'll be talking about some UDL issues in a moment.  I debated Scott a few times.  Scott's record will likely never be matched and he should be acknowledged for his accomplishments.  He won but that was his partner. :-)
#7)  I won't say that I never said we got screwed, if I did, I'm sure someone will post.  I'll say this: I tell debaters if you get beat on a unanimous decision, you got no beef.  I have never watched this debate, and while some people thought we won (our students, CSTV, shannahan, Hester), my confidant said we lost (Burch).  He watched the tape several times and each time he thought we lost.  There was a huge squad fight during the summer over this.  Tiffany thought we won :-)  Sorry, I had to.  You should be respected for winning.  I apologize for not appropriately respecting you.  This is where that bad God stuff comes out that Korcok talks about: I thought we were a team from destiny.  Guess what?  We weren't.  God allowed me to make some bad choices....
#7a) ??? Is this some of that p-funk critique numbering?  (inside joke that i think you'll get...)
#7b)  I'll be honest, I couldn't understand his post the first time I read it.  I thought that was the point.  But that's beside the point.  Let me apologize to the winning team and coach in that debate.  What we did (let's not forget that Tria started it, I piled on :-)  was disrespectful to you.  In particular, my comment about the "wiley 2AR" was uncalled for as well.  I will remind you that your argument was for hope and faith which is what triggered Tria, but the time and place were inappropriate.  It took me a while to figure it out, but I sincerely, sincerely apologize for that moment and wish I could take it back.  Second, I/we personally apologize to Tonia and Liz.  We took away from their historic moment as well.  I knew it was time to go when Liz interrupted me, something that she had never done before, win or lose.  Third, it's Andrew's turn.  It wasn't personal, he just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  And he didn't deserve our lash-out in that moment.  Fourth, I/we apologize to all of the judges and the audience.  We made a tense situation worse and strong leadership would have made it better.  Once Tria initiated the criticism I was left with a choice, support her, stay silent, or criticize her.  She reflects now and recognizes that she handled the post rounds badly all weekend.  I recognize that as Director, having my wife present, doesn't exclude my taking responsibility for a situation.  I get that now.
The one thing I wish we could get some empathy for because it's true is that it wasn't about losing, for either of us, it was the argument we lost on and what we felt that meant.  It was Andrew's articulation of "hope and faith" that change could come that set Tria off.  And I felt that too...even if we didn't handle the moment appropriately, our intentions weren't not about the win, although I'm sure given what I said earlier about destiny, my emotions were in part driven by those thoughts.
8)  Debaters are children/it's a game.  XY, this is where I agree and disagree.  I generally agree that 18-22 year olds act in ways that lack maturity and responsibility.  That said, I also recognize that the students during the interracial debates helped set the stage for the one of the most significant social movements in the world ever.  Young adults are almost always at the forefront of movements.  I really believe that the Black experience in struggle allows me to see a transformative view of debate as something more than a game in ways that can preserve it's role as a competition, just like the movie.  This is the one and only time I'll make a generalization but I see a recurring White reading of debate as a game and as something that lacks social power, which seems somewhat opposite the framework arguments being advanced.  And I think that our collective experience can serve White America very, very well.  But perhaps we disagree.
I think that covers what seemed applicable to me.
Part II - Towson
I was disrespectful to the coaching staff during parts of this.  As XY says in #8, I saw a group of young adults being attacked by folks twice their age and I engaged in hostile ways.  I apologize.  I've received backchannels that I'm jealous of your success.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Andy is right that at first I distanced Louisville from their performance, only later to make arguments in the opposite direction.  Much of that was a reaction to feeling heat from both sides, and feeling that our educational approach has been unfairly criticized.  I still must admit that I have a lot of baggage about race and educational practices and how privilege has operated with regards to the more centralized choices we've made.  But I want to publicly apologize to Beth, Chris, Andy, Daryl, Shawntia, Pam S., and all of the Towson staff for their performance.  I want to apologize to Dayvon and the rest of the Towson squad for anything I said that didn't properly respect the program or the debaters making the arguments.
Part III - UDL's
Let me start by sharing a story:
Jon Bruschke and I tried to write a book together.  When we got to the conclusion, he wrote the first draft.  His conclusions were exactly opposite what I felt represented our experiences at Louisville.  Much of his conclusion outlined very similar strategies of coaching.
After hurt feelings and lengthy discussion, here is what we figured out: we both choose to confront our racial privilege, but what that means given our vastly different social locations is very different.  I, as Black Director, confront privilege by creating a very centralized debate team operating as a social movement to challenge the problems in contemporary debate.  My choice forced white students and staff to confront their racial privilege, while it trained Black students in how to effectively engage in social protest activism.  Jon, as a White Director, also confronts privilege by creating the most decentralized debate team possible, often taking bits and pieces from the parts of our work that ignite his debates.
The problem enters when one or the other model of debate are essentialized as the "right" or "correct" model of debate.  As the lone Black Director in college, and one of the few early Black teachers in the UDL movement, my growth in understanding how and where I should best challenge privilege has developed in almost diametrically opposed ways to how and where whites have ultimately gone with it.  Can you not see how white debate educational structure has dissed these methods, to privilege it's own, while simultaneously now taking credit for the ability of these methods to be incorporated into the current structure of debate? 
In the end, Louisville became isolated by the criticisms beginning with the choice to become a collective, the choice to challenge speed, the choice to challenge other stylistic norms, to the choice to challenge the entire culture.  At the same time, white debate educators, especially at UDL's, criticized my choices, they had to ultimately deal and address the reality that their growing and evolving student populations had significant interest in our choices, at least bits and pieces.
The other day, Beth Skinner sent me a post suggesting that I was accurate in my words and descriptions.  I apologize today for being wrong at times and not being accurate enough at others regarding my relationship with UDL students, teachers and partners.  I love the students of the UDL's, I love those who make huge sacrifices and commitment.  Beginning with the plantation reference I created a divisive situation that was uncalled for.  My frustrations should be with how all debaters are trained and how debate pedagogy privileges one way of challenging privilege while ignoring others.  I was hurt by the reaction I received going to UDL's after the 2004 season, blaming much of that on the instruction of UDL populations.  I now recognize that I was in part responsible for my approach to those students in alienating ways.  I hope that others can see how many of the assumptions inherent in training perhaps make other forms of training appear retrograde, when depending on the situation and the context, they may not be.  There's probably more to say about this, but it's 2:29, people are asking me to stop posting, and my brain hurts.
Part IV- Mike Bryant/Okolona/Bullitt County
I was wrong to marginalize and mock Mike's fair and just concern.  I was wrong to generalize about Okolona, where I live as well as Bullitt County where my boy plays baseball.  The reality is that Mike is right, I have met nothing but good people in both places, and my overbroad conclusion only negatively stereotypes communities that doesn't deserve such treatment.  While there are Klan in Louisville and my experiences force me to think about these issues, I need to more carefully engage my rhetorically choices.
That's all for now.  I will really try to step aside this time, but XY's post, and backchannels with others, required some consideration.  I'm not sure that I'll ever have the credibility to build the coalitions necessary to move forward, but I hope that a window of opportunity has been created for others to move through.  There are problems, but there are relatively simple solutions, if the political will is there.  Community goodwill to get past the divisions of race, of political ideology, of gender, and a host of other artifical divisions, keep us away from our common strength: a belief in debate. Goodnight.
Love to my friends, hoping to work towards reducing my enemies, and respect to those who earn it,
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