Author Topic: Diversity in Debate Revisited  (Read 35578 times)


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Re: Diversity in Debate Revisited
« Reply #60 on: April 17, 2011, 09:31:55 AM »
This is it.  I mean it you guys.  This is really it...

« Last Edit: April 17, 2011, 09:53:16 AM by rwevans »


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Re: Diversity in Debate Revisited
« Reply #61 on: April 17, 2011, 01:44:55 PM »

I have a question that relates Rashad's proposal to focus on the judge to a couple of rounds that I judged you in.  You may or may not remember the post-round discussions.  If you do, sweet.  If you don't, then I'll try to be as specific as possible.

Rashad wrote something above that was provocative.  He said that when I debated him, I treated him as if he were any other debater.  There's a danger in this kind of color-blindness.  This reminded me of those rounds that I judged of yours.  One of the things that made it really difficult to decide those rounds was that I felt like you weren't thinking about the positionality of the judge.  While I thought that you did a great job talking about your positionality and about the problem of white aesthetics generally, I struggled to figure out how I should go about making a decision.  To use Rashad's phrase, it felt like you were treating me as if I were any other judge.  And by that, I don't mean that you treated me as if I were white (in fact, that may have been the problem).  I mean that you treated me as if I were a "blank slate" to evaluate the arguments objectively without reference to my positionality.  Specifically, I didn't know what was being asked of me.  I didn't know what I would contribute by voting one way or the other. 

A similar problem played itself out this year when I judged a Towson/Louisville debate.  It became a classic revolution vs. reform kind of debate.  Voting was a weird experience: a white dude telling four black debaters what he thought black people should do to best liberate themselves.  But more than that, it was made especially weird by some of the arguments being advanced by Towson, who argued that black people should stop looking to white people for approval and should just seize power... and that was the reason that I, a white dude, should give them approval.  I didn't think that they were necessarily wrong about the need to seize power, but I didn't know how to reconcile that with my decision on the ballot. 

I recognize that it's probably unfair to foist this responsibility on you because it is not exactly your problem.  But I am curious to hear your thoughts about how to account for the positionality of the judge that's called upon to make the decision.  Especially in a situation like I describe with the Towson/Louisville debate because the answer can't be to defer to the embodied performance of blackness.

I agree that it cant be just defer to blackness....however i do think that as a judge you should let the arguments be a way to decide as well as what you do know about the history of black struggle and resistance...i think you should look at it as who best advances a practical or more persuasive way to implement what each side is does this do for debate or what framework is set up for discussion...if that is the question...but i think for down with black people doing traditional/ alternative/ kritik whatever debate it is as long as they here and dont try to bump each other in a way to say they are wrong...but i do think they should be able to advance their arguments on the basis of method. As for you as a judge...after a while dayvon and i were like " look we aren't going to talk about diversity proper or what a judges' place should be unless that was something brought up"....we tried to think that people would be open minded and fair except the people i listed above.. it is kind of hard to launch an argument about how judges should be when we want to talk about literature that many people dont hear or see or read in this sorry if we didn't make the position you should take clear but at some point we just wanted to debate in a way that was true to an aspect of our culture and not have to totally be tied to some of the Louisville arguments of confrontation with the judge...maybe that was us falling into the narcissistic parts of debate but at the end of the day we had to live with ourselves and not the judges or what they was just the hope that we could make judges more open to any black debaters behind us


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Re: Diversity in Debate Revisited
« Reply #62 on: April 22, 2011, 11:58:43 PM »

I do care about you. 

I do care that there are people in the debate community who feel isolated, excluded, discriminated against, underappreciated, and misunderstood.  I do care that there aren’t enough African Americans in debate, enough Latinos and Latinas, and enough women.  I do care that debater’s return from a tournament feeling hurt by something a competitor, coach or judge carelessly, foolishly said; maybe something I said.  I do care that there are harmful interactions constantly at play that I don’t notice or can’t understand because I won’t ever be directly affected by them.

My problem is not that I don’t care; my problem is that I don’t know what to do about it.  Should I just do what you tell me to do because you’re black and I’m white?  Should I accept the changes you want to make to debate even though everything that I know tells me that it would be a less beneficial activity for the debaters after those changes?

I’m not sure.  Maybe the things I “know” about what’s best for the debaters are the result of my background, my privilege, and my skin color.  Maybe the things I “know” about what’s best for the debaters come from 17 years of intense involvement in the activity, from thinking a lot about what debate is and what it does for those who participate in it, from being (at times) a perceptive and intelligent person.  Maybe some of each…I’m not sure.

I say these things to hopefully provide perspective on what some people in the larger debate community may be thinking.  I can understand why it’s frustrating that nobody seems to be doing much about a real and obvious problem.  I can understand why it’s frustrating that most people, including myself, have more criticisms than solutions.

I appreciate that you started this conversation and I’m sorry that I took so long to join in….perhaps until after it was finished.  It’s a discussion that’s important and that we need to be reminded about.  But I hope you can understand that there are many people who do give a damn even if they don’t agree with your solution or have a better solution.