[eDebate] peremptory challenges and fort hays

Jason Regnier jregnier
Sat Aug 9 08:40:11 CDT 2008


Just to clarify things a little...

While the discussion of peremtory challenges is an interesting and important
one, it is also important that we not confuse what happened in that round as
equivalent to a peremptory challenge based upon race.  If you listen to what
Bill says in the video (and, crazy idea, if you were to actually talk to him
about it), they did not strike Shanara because she is black.  They struck
her because of the history that they had with her as a judge.  In the
previous debate she had not only voted against them, but done so with bad
points.  I don't know the details, but my understanding is that the
post-round left the Hays debaters unhappy.  The proof of this happens in the
video when Shanara shouts something like, "It's because they fucking suck."
Of course, I can't imagine that she would have said such words in that
post-round, but the fact that it comes out here with such virulence suggests
that maybe the Fort Hays debaters had reason to be uncomfortable.  And while
I cannot speak to the recent decisions made at Fort Hays, I can speak with
complete confidence as a former student of Bill's that there is *zero*
chance that they struck Shanara under the logic that since she is black she
would be more likely to vote for Towson.  I can also say that Shanara used
to be one of the Fort Hay's squad's favorite judges.  She gave support to us
and our arguments before it became popular to do so--even when we, too,
sucked.  I believe that the rounds that she judged us were a crucial
part of the early development of our confidence as debaters.  That is why we
prefed her.  And if the current debaters at Fort Hays began to feel the
opposite about her, then I can see why they would strike her from an
important elim.  I will not deny that the twisted dynamics of raced
interpersonal relationships play a major roll in all of the feelings that we
have within those relationships, but lets not confuse that with the type of
racism embodied in the peremptory challenge.

I won't argue that this answers the question as to whether there should be
an affirmative obligation to pref minority judges, but the Fort Hays strike
cannot be equated to a peremptory challenge because there was cause, even if
some might argue that this cause is outweighed by other concerns.

And for those of you who would string Bill up for committing battery on
ML...  When he pushed her arm, it was because her hand was at his throat.
I'm not saying that its right, but nor is it some unspeakable act of
violence.  He pushed her arm away from his throat.  Thats it.  He didn't
threaten her.  He didn't hit her.  If anything, the first act of physical
interaction in the entire tape is that initiated by ML.

Bill coached me for 5 years.  I would not be the person that I am today
without his presence in my life.  We had our battles, in large part because
we had very different styles of interpersonal communication.  I tend to be
quite and conflict-averse, which we all know is not Bill's style.  However,
one thing that I figured out over those years (and I think that anybody else
who considers Bill a dear friend would agree) is that he's a package deal.
The good comes with the bad, the productive with the destructive.  He
doesn't just violate the norms of politesse and decorum merely to get
attention or to be a dick.  The impulse that leads him to moon and shout at
somebody is the exact same impulse that compels him more than anybody who I
have ever met to be constantly concerned with the ethics of his actions.  I
don't know who Art Kyriazis is (other than a classist bigot), but the
suggestion that Bill was having a "tantrum" could not be further than the
truth.  I guarantee that if anybody had suggested a "peremptory challenge"
to Bill, he would have brought the same fury and passion to bear against it
as you saw him display against Shanara.  If its true that Bill's
communication style risks violence, it is no less true that politeness and
decorum risk allowing the unacceptable to continue unchallenged.  Bill
doesn't allow things to go unchallenged.  That's what makes some people so
uncomfortable around him.  They know very well that they engage in
unacceptable behavior, but nobody calls them out on it so it continues.
When you live around Bill you have to be prepared to defend those behaviors
or you'll hear about it.  This is also the impulse that has enabled every
contribution that Bill has made to the debate community and its
argumentation theories.  The debate community has a short institutional
memory, so it bears remembering that *all* critical debaters owe an
unpayable debt to Bill, without whom the face of debate would be radically
different.  Bill cares, not just about his own team, but about the entire
community, and that is why he is who he is.  It is why he constantly puts
himself out there while many of the rest of us feel all too comfortable
expressing silent indignation.

I have finally grown tired of my own complacent indignation at the appalling
treatment that this community has given to one of my dearest friends.  You
know, for years people have repeatedly tried to put me in the position of
defending Bill's actions, which I would, thinking that maybe if I just put
them in different words or in a different tone, then perhaps I could show
the thought behind them.  Over time I've come to realize that its not really
the actions that need explaining.  Its the ears that are not listening and
the minds that are not thinking.  No matter how I would interpret
or explain, people would always come back with the same attitude: "OMG!?!?!
That Shanahan is so CRAZY!!!! Did you hear about X? OMG!!!!!"  I suppose
maybe that means that I'm a bad explainer.  I don't know...

Jason Regnier
Fort Hays State Debate '98-'03
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