[eDebate] No Justice, No Peace

Ede Warner ewarner
Mon Aug 4 11:00:21 CDT 2008

Dear Peacemakers (Josh, M.L., Ermo, Christopher Thomas, Scott Elliott, and anyone else who wants us to "build bridges"),
First and foremost.  I care about each and everyone one of you, even if I don't know some of you.  I care about you because you care about something I love passionately, policy debate.
Second, pain sucks.  I don't wish it on anybody and I certainly try to avoid it in my personal life most of the time, even though I choose to inflict it on others from time to time, sometimes intentionally, and other times lacking intent.  I recognize there exists some level of contradiction and hypocrisy in that choice, and I pray for resolution of that dilemma.
Third, the "fight" didn't bother me much at all.  In fact, much like a lot of the other violence around me that I enjoy without apology: football, boxing, hardcore political rap like old NWA and Ice Cube, the Real World on MTV and Celebreality on VHI, Shawn Whelan's version of basketball, rough sex, I'll stop there.  My cultural reality is what I saw exists in many of the worlds I live in, and I could appreciate and enjoy watching bill and Shanara scrap as part of that cultural upbringing.  I live in a culture that has fights like this, we kiss and make up and move on, no worse for the wear.
Fourth, had their fight occurred in the Birmingham basement where MLK, Rosa, Abernathy, and others "fought" over how to execute the bus boycott strategy, in private and not on camera, it would never have bothered me at all.  But in the quarter-finals of our professional National tournament, that is akin to MLK having the fight during his Sunday service.  Aaron's right: appropriateness is the issue.
Fifth, my concern with the bridge builders is that the call for coalition building sounds one sided to me.  I keep hearing the need to "rethink" the inappropriate choice (making the decision to discuss the strike) with little discussion of what should happen on the other side (how to FIX the problem of racial and gender exclusion).  Even in ML's eloquence, I heard more discussion of Towson's strategic choice than I heard of what everyone else should do to fix the problem: that Shanara's culture difference likely led, at least in part, to reasons she made the Ft. Hays debaters uncomfortable.  Even if that difference was a decision to give lower points last time.  This one sided approach to building bridges bothers me a lot more than the altercation, which frankly, I at many levels respected on both sides for different reasons.  
Sixth, using "white standards" of what is appropriate (which I might add are driving the entirety of the discussion about this incident), it is easy to make the claim that all of this is Shanara's fault.  After Towson made the choice to argue that striking her was an act that protects white privilege (which it was), and won the debate, she baited bill by calling him out for how he was reacting to the decision.  She could have sat back with her victory, let him vent, and Towson could have gone to semi's.  But she didn't.
Seventh, and perhaps this is where the Black angst comes from (not saying that Andy or Beth and other Whites of good conscience don't share in this angst but this angst is a result of common shared experiences that I choose to define as Black), the reason this escalated in terms of tenor and tone is a feeling of powerlessness and betrayal by Shanara and Towson, and a similar feeling from Ft. Hays.  How could Shanara and Towson feel that way, given they made the argument and won the debate?  It's easy.  For them, bill and Ft. Hays represent a very public and private group of individuals that make very, very public statements, both inside and outside of debate, that they are in solidarity with the goal of Black participation in debate.  No one can question bill shanahan's overt support, both as a judge and a loyal follower regarding these issues.  Listen to Deven's cry in the background as the chaos exploded, he is astounded that bill doens't see that the argument in this debate is no different than the argument bill repeatedly voted for when made by Liz and Tonia in 2004.  And Deven is absolutely correct, there was little, if any, difference, other than the argument was being made against Ft. Hays instead of against someone else with bill judging or watching.
I suspect Shanara's callout was because she expected an apology and for bill to immediately see the hypocrisy.  Knowing bill, I suspect he would have gotten there, but in the moment he too wasn't in a good place.  From his perspective, he sees himself as a loyal soldier to the cause, and even if he did misstep, probably believes that this should have been handled outside of the competitive framework, as coalition partners and all.  I have seen this time and again, this rhetoric of coalitions without an appropriate structure to hammer out the details of what it means to be in a partnership or coalition. Truthfully, this is usually done in the context of a competitive debate, with strategic aims (and that includes Louisville, Towson, and anyone else who attempts to win with coalition and identity politics in debates).  What isn't done is meeting outside the competition to create ethical rules of engagement of what coalition debates look like.  Often Louisville debaters felt their coalitions where not what their opponents felt they were, so once in competition, both sides ended frustrated with how they engaged one another.  That level of mis-communication was heightened in this particular debate.
Eight, I don't want bill to lose his job, or anyone else.  I want him to learn.  He has to learn that the balance between competition and being done with a cause is a tenuous and difficult one to walk.  He has to learn that Blacks will likely perceive that his white privilege extends to his rationalizations for the decision to strike a Black judge.  Towson has to learn that the debate was won in part on strategic surprise.  Had Ft. Hays known about what the debate would be about, they likely could have prepared better answers.  New affirmatives and surprises produce competitive bitterness in an activity that creates it's primary foundation around competition, and this debate was no different.  Shanara probably needs to recognize that the competitive moment, wasn't a realistic moment for critical reflection by bill and Ft. Hays about what happened.  And the decision to make the debate about her pain can't ignore that bill has pain produced from this moment too. His disrespect of Towson and her after the debate was a product at least in part of him feeling disrespected too.  I have lost enjoyment for many a Louisville debate because the opponent is incapable of showing respect.  I ultimately learned that I was asking too much of a culture that simply allows these behaviors to exist.  Both sides of this are a reflection of personal politics being a part of debate.
Ninth, and this is to those deeply bothered by the way things are, like most everyone should.  Live in the moment, not the romanticized past, or a unrealistic future.  Don't wish for all of this to simply go away, or pick a side and wish they go away or be condemned.  It's difficult living in a multicultural society where similar people think and act differently.  Recognize that there are problems on all sides but with critical thought and effort, they can be addressed.  Listen to the other and try and understand what is being said and felt.  If you are the other, make sure that you go beyond your issues to engage the fears and concerns of making changes solely to accommodate your issues.  In other words, we are a smart community that can construct a great policy debate community that embodies many of the issues people are discussing, advocating, protesting, etc.  We have the power to fix and overcome the issues.  I'm sure during the bus boycott, no one in the beginning saw an equitable resolution, no one certainly saw major Civil Rights legislation.  If there is political will to move forward productively, then people can.  Personally, the journey has brought constant self-reflection and thought about how to make policy debate the best activity on the planet, because I personally believe it is the most important activity on the planet, and the passion shown that day by all, only verifies that for me.
Tenth, I offer the challenge that the community has put forth for Louisville many times.  Think honestly and reflectly about what the ideal world of policy debate is for you.  And if it is some product of the past, then critically examine that past.  Were there criticisms by yourself or others at that time?  How do you engage those criticisms?  That honest reflection and willingness to engage instead of leaving is what can address these issues.
With love,
Ede Warner, Jr.
Director of Debate Society/Associate Professor of Communication
University of Louisville
308E Strickler Hall
ewarner at louisville.edu 


From: Josh <jbhdb8 at gmail.com>
To:"Adam Jackson" <baltimoredebate at gmail.com>
CC:eDebate <edebate at www.ndtceda.com>, <christopher.scott.thomas at gmail.com>
Date: 8/4/2008 12:53 AM
Subject: [eDebate] Peace - Seriously
I am decloaking both because like twenty people have asked me to and also because I feel some friends are really involved in a mess here - I dont want this to be about me at all...I just want to say a few things:
First, good people do bad things sometimes.  I have friends who are homeless, friends who have done the worst drugs, friends who got in violent altercations and hurt other people, people who have been hurt badly by other people.  As some of you might know, I have a temper myself......I often wonder if there are people in prison right now who made one terrible mistake and every other thing they ever did was good....Its a hard world....people make terrible choices.  What we should do sometimes is find it in ourselves to care about all the people we encounter not just the perfect ones.  I mean we should certainly not excuse the terrible things people do...but we also have to consider that all of us have, at times, been less than our best selves.  And that good people do bad things.  Lets also be honest NOBODY was acting at their best in that room from what I saw.
Second, part of what I believe Eric was trying to say was that the personal turn in debate has an odd ability to make people take things personally in ways that defy propriety.  He wasnt saying that it was GOOD that things like that happened he was saying it was a predictable outcome.  One thing we need to ask is if we could predict that more things like this might be a predictable outcome of the personal turn in debate.  Before poo pooing this I would suggest that a) in the instance on tape Fort Hayes likely thought that the choice was anonymous b) that they could very well REALLY respect Shanara and just have thought in this instance she would not be the best judge for that particular round and then BOOM the whole round becomes about that personal private choice and the accusation might not have met the actual reason...next thing you know the whole year is over...and on that very argument.....People have gotten in fist fights for much dumber reasons.  
Third, while I think I get why Ede said what he said...I have always felt it was great when I got struck....because the worst thing I could imagine was being someones deciding judge at nationals, which they worked for sometimes for four whole years, when they did not want me deciding that round.  I totally get what Ede is saying too, not from his or Shanara's perspectives....But I do get this.  
Finally, I wanted to say something before you totally throw Bill Shanahan or anyone else in this discussion to the wolves (Shanara is an awesome fierce person and intellect, the Towson guys are awesome, Andy is one of my fave people in the activity etc).  Very few people have EVER made me as mad as Bill.....There are times when I was certain Bill and I were going to break down the whole building we were arguing in.  We virtually agree on nothing but baseball....He can be a total asshole (so can I obviously) and have terrible moments.  But, as much as I hate to say it sometimes, debate is a better place with him and the Towson guys and Shanara and Ede and everyone else in it.  
Should he have done what he did....Of course not....There are lots of things I think Bill should not have done over the years.....He is a very rough and tumble strong intellect from a tough neigborhood with a crazy temper....But he also is a caring coach and a great Dad and cares about people if he wants to admit it or not.  He will probably hate me again for saying any of this...But try to remember debate coaches live a really odd life....the stress is fantastic sometimes. I often think back in horror on some of my post round altercations in my younger coaching life.....but I think we all try to grow and get better.  None of us should be in the business of trying to ruin other peoples lives or livelihoods.
On the traditionalists side we really need to try to "build some bridges" with our performative/personal friends.......On the performative/personal side maybe some people should realize that asking for a professional response to deeply personal attacks or seeming attacks might be asking for more than some people have.  Maybe I am wrong about this....I frequently am wrong...but this business is hard enough for all of us without trying to literally go after each other this way....At least I hope we can all try to care enough about people despite themselves or ourselves to try to have some peace?
Ok, back to silencio,

On Sun, Aug 3, 2008 at 9:24 PM, Adam Jackson <baltimoredebate at gmail.com> wrote:

1. I'm not your fucking "dear" or "sweetheart".

2. No one's making backhanded statements at anyone. I never said I had
any problems with Chris or Avery, there were arguments in that debate
that they decided to ignore and it illustrated the problems that we
have in this debate community (did you even listen to Hester's RFD?)

3. You're not my parent, guardian, friend or acquaintance, so don't
sit at your computer screen, commanding me to do anything. I am the
only person who actually had the footage, and it was important that
everyone else actually saw what went down so we can discuss it, rather
than let rumors circle and allowing people to make shit up about what
actually happened.

4. I am not "attacking" anyone, Bill, Chris and Avery decided to make
those arguments and they defended their decision. The underlying
problem is that we don't like it when we see that raw uncensored
clusterfuckery that is our debate community, and that we would rather
cloak it and ignore rather than discuss it.

5. Be an adult? What about Shanahan? Everyone discussing this footage
seems to be ignoring his actions. He MOONED EVERYBODY. He should be
the first on the list for the "Be an Adult about It" discussion. Don't
try to talk down to me like I'm a first year novice debater who
doesn't know what the fuck I'm talking about. You want to talk about
face-to-face interactions, why don't you come to me and speak on it
instead of ignoring the obvious.
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