The Dr. Shanara Reid-Brinkley Interview


Interview with Dr. Shanara Reid-Brinkley conducted by Scott Odekirk on 2/13/2012 at the University of Texas debate tournament. Shanara is the first black woman director of debate in the country, a professor of communications at Pitt, and a general goddess of knowledge.

Minor edits were done to this article on 4/8/2012 and can be noted by brackets []

Odekirk: ok, really 4 general questions… the first one is just, why do you think the same debaters win all the time?

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: I think there are a number of reasons, there are some structural reasons of course – resources are critically important in our community, number of coaches, how much time you have to devote to debate outside of the tournament space I think is a really important one, so it makes me sort of think about Iggy and Ben, when they are not at a debate tournament, life is about feeding their families and getting through college. You know what I mean. There is no like I get home from a debate tournament, and I spend every day until the next debate tournament sitting in the debate office, doing debate work and being able to produce all of this research. It’s like when you get home, it’s like does my sister have my food to eat tomorrow? Do we have like the things we are gonna need for the next month, there is just soo much that has to be done, and you don’t have time to just sit and work all the time. So I think there are resource disparities, yes, you know, Northwestern may have more money than somebody else, you know like a smaller team. But there is even internal resource disparity in terms of who has to work to go to school, who doesn’t have to work to go to school and has time to just invest in nothing but debate. So I think those are some of the issues.

Odekirk: What do you think about how debate chooses the ideal debater?

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: That’s where I was going next. Right? This is part of what I talk about in the dissertation and what sort of formed the idea for the dissertation, was coming back to the circuit after 3 years. And, I came back after Liz and Tanya had finished, so I did not get to see their run. I didn’t get to see any of their show. I didn’t even know it was happening.

Odekirk: I remember sitting in those rounds, and just GOD!

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: I know! And, I’m so sad I missed it! You know what I mean? But, I was through with debate at that point, I wanted to be a scholar, I had no intention of ever being back in this community what so ever. Ever! Had no intention of coming back, this is a hostile environment. I wanted to be a scholar, people here didn’t treat me like they respected me or wanted me to be here at all, whereas people in the academy did.  And, I had no interest in coming back to this community, and people started to approach me and ask me questions about ‘what do you think about what Louisville is doing?’ and I was like well what? ‘well they said people like you are Uncle Toms, and black folks can’t speak fast’ – all of these white people. No black people were talking to me about it. Cause I had a bunch of white friends in debate. So, all these white people were like coming at me: ‘Shanara, I don’t like it, I’m sure you aren’t gonna like it’ they were just indignant. And, so, I was like: “what then? why all these white people indignant?” That was my reaction. My reaction was not “they can’t say that about black debaters” my reaction was like “why are all these white people tripping?” So I came to a tournament, and watched a little bit of the after Liz and Tanya Louisville show, and Deven was really young at this point, but at Towson. And I started looking at it, and went back and looked at some of the Loiusville footage, and I was like, ‘oh its very obvious of whats happening here. Black people are talking about race, white people are uncomfortable. And what was very interesting to me, is that the liberal white people were the most uncomfortable. These are people that I considered allies, right? And for them to be having this reaction to these students, I was like ‘something is going on here.’ And so, as I looked at the situation what I began to realize was how, in terms of whiteness, and masculinity, and class privilege functions in debate, is that we have an ideal. Right, an ideal debater that has to do with speed, and ability to argue, and very fast and efficient line-by-line debating. But, it’s more than that. Because all of those technologies that we identify as success in our community are attached to certain bodies. Right? So if our history of success looks like white men with money, right? Then the very ideal of what successful debate looks like is white men with money. And, that became a real issue for me. And it was heartbreaking for me in a lot of ways, because when I was a debater there wasn’t enough black people in debate for there to be like, for your entire identity to be about being black. Right, so you came in to debate, you were successful, and your blackness had nothing to do with it.

Odekirk: Did you find your voice in debate?

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: I found my voice in debate. And temporarily lost my soul. Found my voice. I started debating as a freshman in high school in the pilot program that later became the urban debate league. And we were 1 of 2 black high schools that debated on the Georgia high school circuit. And so going to tournaments where there were no other black people, and then the bus full of black people that we had just brought from our 2 black high schools in Atlanta going to South GA, and being first and second novice speaker, and first, second, third, fourth and fifth novice teams. Right? And top varsity speaker, and we were the only black folks there. We were just spanking that ass all through the GA high school circuit. Right? So that gave me this voice, I was really shy before then, if you had met me then it would astound you that I am the person I am now. I was shy. I was overweight young black woman from a black high school, with a working class black family. You know, but, I had a lot of support. My family were ex-civil rights activists. I mean, my grandparent’s house was bombed by the KKK when my mother was 2 years old because they were active activists in Tennessee. I grew up with this aesthetic of ‘you are supposed to do something for black people, to push us forward.’ So I always knew I was supposed to do something special. And debate became that avenue for me to do something special. It gave me my voice. But when the urban debate league hit my junior year of college, like the summer before my junior year of college. That changed the debate community in a lot of ways. Rather than just being a good debater where people would take me under their wing, I was an Emory debater so I had a lot of resources. I had the ability to be good. People recognize talent. Will Repko. I used to run up to Will Repko and hug him every time we arrived at a debate tournament, because he was that supportive of my career. Literally, hug Will Repko. Now we don’t even speak to each other, because the urban debate league changed the debate environment. When it got to the point where I was no longer just a really smart cool good debater, and I was ‘oh, she is our black debater’ because I became a poster child for the program. So by the time I was a senior, and at CEDA nationals my senior year, and Melissa wanted me and Steven Bailey debate together and the whole tournament was a buzz with the potential possibility that an all black team was about to win CEDA nationals, that became the context in which I had to compete. And when that happened it confused me, because I no longer knew if I was Shanara the real person, right? The person who had all these experiences, the person that did well at debate, and like these people I was really accepted. Or, was I the image? Is this Shanara the poster child for the Urban [Debate League]…right? Who are you voting? If you are gonna be voting for me, am as I smart as I thought I was? Or as you are telling me who I am? Total psychic split. Total psychic split. There was me, and then there was her. The image.  It got so bad for me, that by the time I finished my last year of debating, or got close to that least year, my last year of competition I did not go to class, any class, that whole semester. In order to be psychologically prepared to go to debate tournaments, I had to just, not do school. At all. And so, I was on the verge of failing out at Emory. I had to take a year-long psychological withdrawal. Which didn’t mean I really needed counseling, I just needed an excuse to get out of school without them failing all of my classes and screwing my GPA. And, so I had to take that year off. And during that year off, I spent starting my treatise on what was problematic about the Urban Debate League. That’s when I wrote and I coached for Emory. Now, I’m writing this, and I’m talking to Melissa Wade about what I’m writing. And, Melissa has known me since I was 13 years old, this woman took me under her wing when I was 14, and I stayed under that wing straight through. And, so I’m telling Melissa I’m starting to recognize that this community has caused me to have this psychic split, and that split made me start to think about what the Urban Debate League really meant, and what diversity initiatives really meant in our community. And, I started writing about it. And, Melissa’s reaction was ‘oh no. No, you are just freaking out, you are just a kid, nothing that you say is a legitimate criticism of what’s happening here.’ Which started my break with Melissa, and that started my break with the UDL. So, I stopped getting the phone calls that said “Shanara I need you go fly to Baltimore and meet with the teachers and administrators and talk about the program. All of that stopped. I was very quickly removed.

Odekirk: This whole network, like you said is a crucial part of your identity, so I know you’ve said to me a lot of times you feel like an outsider. Do you think that, debate can solve that kind of a problem, or is it intrinsic to debate?

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: I don’t think its intrinsic to debate at all, cause if I did I wouldn’t be here. I love debate. I believe in it. I believe in us as a community, that we can deal with these issues. What is heartbreaking is the refusal to do so. Not that we can’t. But, the refusal to do so. By people who I thought of as allies in this fight to do something in terms of meaningful participation in terms of people of color in this community. When it became clear to me that Melissa and I were not on the same side, it broke my heart. It wasn’t just Melissa, it was Will Repko and David Heidt. Right, David Heidt was my personal coach for my junior year at Emory. He stopped traveling with the NDT side of the top teams. He would go where they went, but everywhere we went he went. That was Melissa’s agreement. D. Heidt your personal coach. David Heidt does not even speak to me. D. Heidt doesn’t talk to me. So it is just astounding that the debate community was only willing to accept me when I was saying what they wanted to hear. The moment I started being critical of that experience they were like ‘oh, well you’re just a crazy.’ When I was standing up telling funders for these multimillion dollar grants programs were looking into and attaching to their debate programs, right when I was standing up and saying ‘yes, this program works, I am an excellent example of exactly what this program is designed to do.’ But then, later I got to the point where, remember when one of Edde Warner’s posts back in early 2000 where he was like ‘UDL’s are plantations?’

Odekirk: I definitely remember that.

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: people freaked out about that! And I was right there with him. Because I understood that the UDL was a segregated space, and you don’t produce greatness through segregation. Separate is not ever equal. So, my UDL experience was getting to go to camp for free at Emory and Melissa occasionally sending some of the Emory coaches to come coach us at our high school. There were no separate debate tournaments. We started debating [white] people immediately. So, my rate of growth was quick. So by the time I was a senior, I was ready to go to anybody’s college. Good grades, good SAT scores. Got into Emory early decision, got into 22 other schools. I had over a ½ a million dollars in scholarship offers my senior year of high school. So all of that lead to Emory and the resources at Emory, and being who I was and being able to be competitive. I fundamentally realized I was in complete and distinct opposition compared to what the UDL students were experiencing when they entered into debate. And I had a problem with that. I didn’t have a problem with the program. I had a problem with the segregation. Segregation is never going to be equal and it didn’t make sense to me, and that was part of the problem, how are you going to talk about how we formed the program, and rather then people listening to one of the oldest of us that have come through this process and here me saying “no don’t end the program, but lets think about what we are doing, and for the response from the people who were in positions of power to be “Oh no! now you are out.” And, so I was out. Now that didn’t mean that there weren’t individual Urban Debate Leagues that I formed relationships with that were like “you were right about that” I had conversation with them and I continued to work with them, I worked for Seattle, I worked for the NY Urban Debate Leagues, and I worked for Baltimore. By that time they were developed enough that they weren’t under Melissa’s thumb or under NAUDL’s thumb enough that they wouldn’t refuse to hire me.

Odekirk: What do you think, if you had an idea, if you had one wish of what you could do with scholarship in debate rounds that could come to terms with these kind of like structural, the creation of scapegoats, the ostracization of structures, the symbolization of power, the reinforcement of power through different structural things. What can we do with our scholarship, or is there anything, maybe there’s not. What can we do in terms of our debating, to come to terms with this [ed]?

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: Well, step one is do some [ed] research. If your answers to Wilderson’s afro-pessimism argument is a Wilderson indict from somebodies book review, and that’s all you got to say to Wilderson you’re an [ed] idiot. You’re an idiot. You are an idiot. And so I’m astounded looking at debate coaches who I know who do nothing but cut cards who are refusing to do research! What the!? Where are we? I thought we were good at debate. I thought we are in debate. I thought we did research, I thought that’s what sort of defined our community. So you’re telling me you can’t go find the afro-optimists who answer the afro-pessimists? It astounds me. I don’t get it. So I think step one is; shut up about complaining about framework and do some [ed] research. There is black literature being produced every moment of every day. There is a whole area of the library, sections of the stacks, with relevant information that might be useful for you. Go read some African American history, go find the little out about Africa and Chattel Slavery and the slave trade. It is so simple to me that I don’t understand why the debate community is refusing to do research.

Odekirk: Yeah, fair.

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: So how about we just start there? Step 1: do some research.

Odekirk: Yeah.

Dr. Reid-Binkley: Now here is the fear. If that was the only answer, the debate community would do research, but it would be just to cut cards and nothing really would change. So it can’t stop at research, but that is literally step one: go do some reading. That would really help you have a language and a vocabulary for talking when you are engaging these teams that will produce very good debates.  So when people say that they don’t think that what performance/movement teams are doing is intellectual, it’s because they have already decided that they are anti-intellectual. Whereas they are very much so intellectuals, as a matter of fact they are few of the debaters in our community producing scholarship rather than regurgitating it. Our very frame of reference on how to engage in debate is about the regurgitation of information, rather than the production of it. That is where I think we have gone wrong, which is also why we are not having good – we are not able to advertise to our administrations in a way that makes debate something that administrations really really want to support and fully fund. And the reason is because we made it such this isolated solipsistic game that people who are really interested in knowledge production don’t necessarily see their relationship to it. We are losing tenure stream jobs for debate directors in our community. The reason is because our community is becoming more and more disconnected from the academy. What we can do in terms of how we produce scholarship for debate, in debate rounds, is that we need to change our focus from the regurgitation of information that is already produced in the academy to an engagement with it so that we are producing new knowledge. So rather than saying the only way you can have a plan for what to do different with democracy assistance is to find what the USFG has already defined it as, and get authors who, you have to find a solvency advocate for whatever change you are going to make. So somebody has already produced that idea and gotten it into print. Stupid! Stupid. We are so smart, this community of people, I have never been around smarter people than the people in the debate community. That’s why I find it exciting. Because I’m really smart, so I enjoy talking to other smart people. And, we are just not making use of the intelligence, the intellectual power that is at a debate tournament, especially when you get to the top of the game, it is amazingly powerful. I have met graduate students and professors that are nowhere near as smart as some of our undergraduates their senior year at the height of their ability to compete. Just have not.

Odekirk: Amen.

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: Given that this is the case, why are we not producing knew knowledge? Rather than coming at a plan as I have to have a solvency advocate who has already defined this, and I have to define this in the context of exactly how the USFG has previously defined it. I think we should be producing new arguments about what democracy assistance should look like and be like through the USFG. So rather than having a solvency advocate you would have evidentiary support to change parts of your argument. Just like writing an academic paper. If all academic papers were was regurgitation of someone else’s argument, it would never get published. The whole point of academic scholarship is for you to identify what’s being said in the field or around a particular issue and what’s missing from that, and then you do something to demonstrate why that thing that’s missing in that scholarship should be there, and you make an argument about how we need to expand our understanding of this situation. Does that make sense to you? So it doesn’t make sense that the ways we in which we engage in policy making is to simply chain it out to what something else someone has already thought of. When we have all this intellectual power, we should be producing new policy. That would be the change. That would change our very way of thinking about what the game is that we are playing, and what its potential connection is to both the academy but also politics. And that would create the space for teams who want to talk about anti-blackness or teams that want to talk about the defining nature of gender and how we engage in policy. It would allow all these different things because our very frame of reference for understanding what the game is that we are engaging in would change, it would open up fields of literature, it would make sense that people are saying we need a three tier methodology where we look at organic intellectuals we look at other scholars and we look at our personal experience, guess what, that’s how you write a [ed] academic paper now.

Odekirk: Strong.

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: How about you just get with the program?

Odekirk: Its so obvious, but I’ve never seen it. You are so right, but I’m having a major ‘a-ha moment’ right now, to be honest. You are so [ed] right. Its also so been there my whole life, but I have literally never thought that, and.. duh.

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: Yeah, that’s how I feel about it, like duh! Know what I mean? Then we have a much better argument to make to our administrations about the significance of our programs, we can start connecting debate tournament final rounds to what’s going on in public policy research institutions. What we produce could literally provide an entrance for our arguments to actually affect public policy because of the intellectual power our community holds. Why are we not making use of the things that would get our programs support? It doesn’t make sense to me. That’s why debate is collapsing to this very small small small society. Once that collapse between the NDT and CEDA happened, have you watched the community shrink over time? It just has gotten smaller. And it will continue to get smaller, because we will continue to disconnect ourselves from the academy. But why are we not in conversations on a consistent basis with our authors? Duh!? This is why whats happening in black debate. Is more fascinating than what is happening anywhere else. I’m really interested in Spurlock interviewing Spanos about debate. Im interested in the fact that Damiyr & Miguel, members of the Towson squad, me and some other black debate people got invited by Dylan Rodriguez to appear at the American Studies Conference to talk about what’s happening in debate and activism and scholarship around blackness in issues like prison, etc. I’m interested in that, because these scholars are like ‘woah, yall are talking about this stuff here?’ and they are like watching video links of the students debating, and like they’re on our Resistance homepage. I have created a Facebook Resistance page that’s private that all of the movement and its coalition members are on. So, I get requests, I put you on if you are a coalition member, Wilderson is on there, Dylan Rodriguez is on there, Sexton is on there, you know what I mean? And, we just…that’s what debate should look like. Academics should be participating, they shouldn’t control it, but you should be able to come talk to us in our theories about the topic. How about that? You don’t need to write evidence for you about the Arab Spring for me to describe to you why my work on African American culture and hip hop are relevant to thinking about what’s going on in the Arab Spring. I simply am teaching you to chain my theory through another example. That’s how you write an academic paper. You take somebody else’s theory, and you don’t just map it exactly on to what it is that you are working on. You have to figure out what the relationship is between the two. That’s the kind of stuff we could produce as a community, every year, on topics. We just are not taking advantage of that. And, in that process, because of how we have defined debate, it is exclusionary. We do have these ideal debaters who look like white males, white straight men with money and class, and those white men who don’t fit that, are few and far between. They often get up there, but they still is sort of like a little weird, because you don’t perform white masculinity middle to upper class in an appropriate manner, so they are cool with you, but you’re still freaky. We make those kinds of judgments because we are just so insulated. Our thinking is so small. Smaller than it what we should and could be. And, that’s my debate future. That’s my vision of what it could look like, my dream that lets me walk around at tournaments and be okay with the fact that supposedly I’m despised by the elites, higher-ups in the community, and people that used to be my friends, and that would speak to me on a regular basis and that I would run up to and hug, avoid my eyes in the hallway. Or that I’m not qualified to write about debate, but neither is Spanos because he was an outsider, but I’m not qualified to write about it because I’m an insider. But, Casey Harrigan, and Jarrod Atchison, and Pannetta are…there is no question of their qualifications. I’m sorry, I thought I got a PhD from the number one program in rhetoric in the country. I’m sorry, I thought that was the case. I thought I was a national award winning scholar, for my writing, published writing. I thought that was the case, and that would make me somehow qualified to talk about debate a little bit… but, clearly not. But, once your black. Once you say your black, then your biased.

Odekirk: you’re biased.

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: You’re biased

Odekirk: Subjective

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: Yup, your subjective, your opinion doesn’t matter.

Odekirk: not objective.

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: right, despite the fact that you are an award winning author and a scholar and you actually get published writing. Your opinion doesn’t matter.

Odekirk: OK, I just want to say thanks, obviously we couldn’t do this without talking to you. And, uh, you know, through out the course of these guys (LMU) run, and I’m just going to speak for myself, I just would like to talk to you more about all this [ed]. And uh… if something comes up, we may need to consult you.

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: You both should feel free to use me as a resource. I am a resource. The good thing the debate community has done in ostracizing me is to let me be available to coach the kids. I be with Towson, I be with West Georgia, I be chatting with Louisville, you know what I’m sayin’, I be down with Emporia. So it has let me be free to watch the movement teams. There is a synergistic relationship, I am the only coach that moves between those teams easily. Amongst on all their coaching staffs.

Odekirk: Feel free to move on to this [ed].

Dr. Reid-Brinkley: Of course, if that’s cool with you, I love what you do.



67 Responses to “The Dr. Shanara Reid-Brinkley Interview”

  1. Somebody from D1 Says:

    I’m a plan-text readin’, impact comparin’, and permutation makin’ debater who generally scoffs at performance.

    *But* I think of myself as open minded, and throughout the year, teams like Emporia and LMU have made me think a lot more about what happens in debate and how we should relate to it. I’m not convinced yet… but my thoughts are definitely shifting.

    I was hoping I could pose two questions that may appear confrontational, but I promise are purely to enhance my own understanding of this new and exciting phenomena in debate.

    1. Why isn’t my 1AC new scholarship? It’s not like I have one author who advocates my aff, my framing arguments, my terminal impacts, my internal links, and my 2AC answers. I feel like this combination of articles along with my own intellect create a brand new argument that IS new knowledge. What am I missing?

    2. Why should I, as an undergraduate at a (sub-par public) university, be required to publish papers or come up with ideas at the same level as the P.h.D.s and the think tanks I cut for debate? There seems to be some tension between the “do some research” claim and the “be original” claim. Obviously people should have answers to Wilderson besides “status quo or competing policy option.” What am I missing?

    I realize everyone is quite busy, but if someone could take the time to answer a few of my questions, I’d really appreciate it. Not trying to be confrontational — just trying to understand what’s going on.

  2. Lifelong Debate Change and Solidarity Says:

    The politics of the UDL being bad is sad. For most people in the activity I’m not sure why thats important. This seems like a personal battle. A personal way to create conflict by one of the most adored people in the activity (without which there wouldn’t be an UDL in the first place–at least in certain parts of the US).

    I differ a agree a bit….but differ a good bit too. But to answer your question. Yes, I would say the move toward:
    1) doing reform, beyond the rhetorical
    2) or doing scholarship beyond the post-whatever
    3) be a better bridge to the real world.

    We prep 40 to 100 hours for the NDT….but we don’t prep students for the real world–for their careers for the rest of their lives. As a result they have 2 career paths (academics & lawyers…..thats an incredibly narrow frame of vision for transforming the world–which shortchanges their investment in the activity on a simply horrifying scale). The NDT is a week….a 30 to 60 hour job is a life-time. The NDT times 1,750. ( 50 *35 ). The only schools that I can tell do a good job of this are Emory and Wake Forrest (perhaps others in the upper eschelons of the academy) At the point at which this practice perpetuates lifetimes of inequality and inactivism–due to inability to make the jump to a career that leverages the skills and insights debaters have been cultivating over the last 4 to 8 years…..this is a vast, vast, vast disservice to all stakeholders. All of them. If you want to make debate matter….if you want our debate lives to matter….this lack of vision and of a strategic bridge or even framework for navigating the post-debate lifeworld….is an ethical dead end. Coaches are in some sense responsible as mentors of their students–in that mentor capacity they should provide light, skills, and helping hands in establishing behaviors beyond–from which debaters can continue their activist-thinking-doing roles post their college educators. (the professor Kanye West’s perspective on the academy actually has some interesting ideas here).

    Debate reproduces the academy, reproduces the academy, reproduces the academy, reproduces a textual focus. New ideas are a dime a dozen. It takes a 2 minute brainstorm. Action is what is in short supply–the visreal is dead except as it overlaps a profusion and production of ideas wrapped around the theories by dead guys/women.

    Its what is scarce. Its what this community really lacks. Its what the world lacks.

    That probably asks too much….perhaps too early….of activist/doer/scholars as learning is developmental and probably vaguely stage-based.

    * I framed the comparison as zero-sum and in one respect it isn’t, but to the extent that our lives are scarce resources–we have to make priorities. Time is a bit zero sum–especially in that 4 months between the end of school and the start of a new career. And the employment data on people who miss the window here is absolutely abyssmal (I think the literature looks at a 6 month period of time–I used 4 months as an estimate between say May and August rather than the literature). Those who miss this gap get incredibly stuck. Also, obviously the starkness of the contrast in numerical terms should help up come to terms with the misguided vision of a laizze faire attitude toward debaters meandering after hyper-focusing on an activity for 8 years and waking up having to navigate the complexities of making big life decisions which they haven’t prepared themselves for because fo their participation in debate.

  3. Debater Hater Says:

    First, how is it possible that one person keeps finding her way into debates? It seems that if Dr. Reid-Brinkley has personal problems with the debate community she should air them out over a message board or in an academic journal like her peers. Perhaps she should remove herself as a subject of debates as it doesn’t ever seem to work out for the team that introduces her as argument.

    Second, almost all of her criticisms of the UDL are personal and fail to offer a reason why UDLs are ineffective or undesirable. They have produced several college debaters and successful citizens. But for the UDL there may not be a Dr. Reid-Brinkley. There would be no Towson (as we know it), there would never have been an Emporia (as we knew them) and there would be no CUNY debate program. The UDL has been very effective at increasing minority participation in debate. It may not be perfect and there are many ways to make it better, but a world with UDLs as they are is better than a world without them. Instead of criticizing the UDL, Dr. Reid-Brinkley should be offering ways to improve UDLs. Some of us are grateful for presence of UDLs.

    Third, her request for scholarship and demand for research cuts both ways. Has she considered advising her students to research the topic? Has she considered having her students produce afro-pessimistic scholarship pertaining to the Arab Spring? Last I checked, the resolution and not the Director of Debate at the University of Pittsburgh determines what we research.

    Usually, students in undergraduate studies conduct research and engage in a learning process where they develop the skills they will later use in their life. I think it is unreasonable and premature to expect debaters to produce scholarship more than the scholarship already being produced. I echo the earlier comment that constructing a 1AC from various authors to form a complete argument is certain producing scholarship. It’s not as if some work wasn’t added to previous work. There could be multiple reasons to adopt any given policy, but the choices exercised by an Affirmative or Negative team is an example of producing scholarship.

    Dr. Reid-Brinkley seems like a lovely person, but maybe she should be talking to a therapists and not a debate coach.

  4. Awhhh debater hater, does my critique of the community hurt your feelings. People read my evidence in debate because I produce good scholarship, yes my UDL story is personal, but I also have talked to hundreds of UDL students who have had similar experiences of exclusion in debate, so don’t think of my story as a singular one. Also, read the interview more closely I think you miss some important parts. Yes, I demand that the movement debaters begin thinking about chaining their theories through the topic, ask them about it.
    Lastly, I’m concerned about your need to assign a need for therapy to my critical engagement with debate theory, scholarship and practice. That is a manouever used by white supremacists and segregationists to justify racist institutional practices in America. I think you may not realize that your response is more indicative of psychosis than is mine.
    And, stay tuned, one essay critiquing the UDL is coming to a journal near you soon, I have been invited to multiple national conferences to speak about the issue of race and debate, and the book project is chugging along.
    If you don’t have something productive to say, then why engage in the conversation at all.
    If you would like to continue a dialogue, then I suggest you answer the major issues presented in the article. Most importantly, you should ask yourself why it seems that racial exclusion and ostracization is ok with you as a member of the community, because you seem to skip over any of the major issues identified in the interview.
    Thank you for your concern for my mental health, I assure you I have it under control.

  5. Oh and debater hater. Feel free to share your identity, there’s no reason to hide unless you are ashamed of what you have said.

  6. Jack Ewing Says:

    debater hater –
    First, you should reveal your identity. When levying personal attacks against individuals you should not hide behind the interwebs.
    Second, you should not pass judgment about people using evidence from individuals in the community because they lost a debate on it. I happened to lose the debate you are talking about and would not change what we did. Some things are more important than wins and losses. In this case that thing is the community. It seems to me that you are one of those win at all costs people who ignore (as you do in your post) issues of exclusion in debate.
    Third, the idea that the way we understand the topic should not be informed by members of the community is absurd. People with many different perspectives on debate write about the community and all should be heard.
    Fourth, your pessimism about the capacity of undergraduate students involved in debate is troubling. Not everyone should expect a thesis out of their engagement in the scholarship but I do think becoming more engaged with the scholarship and authors could only help.
    Fifth, I am not sure if you understand the gravity of calling someone insane. I think your obsession with normalized subjectivity is dangerous and the juxtaposition of someone who could be involved in the community vs. someone who needs therapy is discriminatory.
    One last thing, if you really think that everyone who reads this argument loses the debate. James and I would be happy to debate you on this question any time.

  7. Debater Hater Says:


    First, I wasn’t talking to you, but of course I realize the loss was your fault and not the PhD’s.

    Second, DSRB did not really advance a claim of exclusion and certainly not race based exclusion. I read her as saying that she was excluded after criticizing the UDL. There could be any number of reasons why her former friends have chosen to behave this way towards her.

    Third, nothing I said can or should be construed as defending racial exclusion or any exclusion for that matter.

    Fourth, I never called DSRB insane. Many people see a therapist. Not all of them are insane. She discusses a psychic split and having to take a psychological withdrawal. I think these things warrant seeing a therapist. If these are still concerns of hers I think it’s a reason to see a therapist. I certainly don’t think the coach at Idaho State can help.

    Fifth, I know you are feeling good after your semifinal appearance, but you can’t beat me. Certainly, not on this argument.

    Now that I have answered all of your arguments respond to mine:

    1. Why is the semi-finals of the NDT on the democracy assistance to MENA topic the appropriate time for an academic to insert her personal concerns with the debate community into a debate round?

    2. Just because she was exploited as the poster child for urban debate leagues, why does that make UDLs a bad thing? Sounds like she was VERY privileged in her education. Her argument that UDLs shouldn’t be segregated because “separate is never equal” seems to double turn her arguments in favor of “project/movement” teams. In one instance, she recognizes the benefits of traditional debate and in the other instance she seems to reject it. It seems to me that if students of color are better at producing scholarship as opposed to regurgitating it they benefit from segregation, no? By her own argument it is white people who lose out in this segregated world.

    3. Why should debaters be forced to research issues that are not topical? Why is it dumb to say that I cannot/will not research Wilderson because I am busy researching the topic? Why should I research Wilderson when you refuse to research IMET or civil society support to Yemen, etc? Why am I dumb because I won’t chase after issues squarely outside the resolution BUT you are not dumb when you refuse to research issues squarely inside the resolution?

    4. Why is the construction of the 1AC not producing scholarship? Why isn’t the construction of a 1NC strategy the production of scholarship? Why aren’t rebuttals production of scholarship? How is reading Wilderson round after round; year after year the production of scholarship?

    I am not making personal attacks and I am contributing to the discussion. I can disagree without being racist. And, I can disagree on grounds unrelated to race.

    • Jack Ewing Says:

      I, like many others in this post, think that making this into a “debate argument” is detracting from your ability to understand the larger picture of what is being discussed. I think that many of the arguments you have put forward are glorified wrong forum arguments. If we cannot talk about these things in debate rounds, how will our community ever change? By virtue of us inserting this argument into the semis debate we are able to have the discussion we are having now. Perhaps that is reason enough for doing so. I think your incessant claims that this discussion is not about exclusion demonstrates a lack of engagement with the interview and the discussion. My criticism of your claim that DSRB should go to a therapist instead of being involved in debate was a criticism of the dichotomy that was constructed and not of therapy as such. The attempt to isolate debate from any discussion outside of the topic ignores the way topics are constructed to exclude certain perspectives. The topic is a dead god. Form over content. Try to think a bit about what people are saying here instead of treating this discussion as a way to stroke your debate ego.

    • Master Debater Says:

      IMET wasn’t topical

  8. Ben Crossan Says:

    Why does anyone have an obligation to respond to bad faith, willfully ignorant arguments made under the cloak of anonymity?

    Also I don’t think you meet the reading requirement for this conversation.

  9. Nathan Rothenbaum Says:

    I obviously have not been in the debate community very long, so if any of this sounds offense chalk it up to ignorance, but I don’t think its fair to say that when I am going for a classic “policy strategy” on the negative that I am not producing new scholarship.

    I agree with D1 insofar as I feel the specific spin I give on arguments (even in the rare instances I am going for heg good), historical analysis outside of my evidence, and generally any arguments produced in relation to the evidence and not ‘regurgitated’ (my 2nrs don’t re-read the evidence read in the 2nc) is a new form of knowledge, or at least, seems to mirror the ‘academic papers’ you discuss.

    I also feel that the reason debaters don’t want to bring academics into debate is that it sort of taints their material. I have emailed academics my questions in the past* for clarification, but have never sought to bring them into the fold of debate. When people read evidence produced through a debate lens, it always just seems too debatist for me. When kids read cards from debate coaches on Framework debates it just seems worthless. When I face people reading cards from Mitchell about space weaponization, or Spies on nuclear deterrence (this is not to say the people are not qualified, they obviously are), it simply leaves a taste in my mouth of: what if? What if these people were not connected with debate? Would they not have been so direct with their language? Even Zagorin’s sick article, although interesting in terms of debate theory, I would never consider cutting.

    *a brief note of humor, Anthony Burke was more than willing to hand out a free copy of his book for me which was extremely generous, but Schmittian author Louiza Odysseos instead directed me to some website to buy her 120+ dollar journal, can anyone say friend-enemy distinction?

  10. Toya Green Says:

    How unfortunate is it that yet again, the discussion is being misdirected from its original thesis and purpose for being posted? This is “framework” in praxis so remember this particular instance when you talk about the ways people can say what they want as long as its topical (we’re on puttingthekindebate and the interview merely speaks from experience in the activity) and that this understanding of issue deliberation has good spill over (as much as I hate to call the internet the “real world”, its ramifications are immiment.)

    I only point this out because it seems like as Shanara simply offers an alternative lens to understand how debate, and udls, particularly function for some, yet the interview is met with a lot of “you didn’t talk about UDLs right” “your research is not research” and such…hmmm…and the practicality of people actually “switching sides” to see if they can truly understand another perspective on why debate functions as it does is being vehemently rejected…another hmmm…makes you wonder why people work so hard to defend methodologies they don’t even practice for quote “productive problem solving”. Any why anybody should submit to your form when you won’t take our content.

    The question of scholarship and research seems to be very circular, mostly due to the fact that in debate we let authors, answer authors, who cite/answer/defend other writers, all in response to what some other muhfucka wrote. And I’m sorry but that cannot be research. Take yourself back to 5th/6th grade and be reminded of your first research paper. If you had a good teacher, he/she told you there are two types of sources that should inform your research: a primary source, and a secondary source. The primary source is the first person account of what has happened, the telling of the story, the setting, the mood, the FACTS. The secondary source is studying of and gathering of that information from those who have past theorized on similar questions. Now, even outside of numerical sense, I have had a hard time figuring out why debate rejects the first hand experiences people are seeing, doing, and feeling as useful form of “research”. ESPECIALLY when it is coupled with those ivory tower academics we seem to love so much. Any good historian, ethnographer, physchologist (since we’re taking jabs at people psychological health) will tell you that what people have to SAY about shit is just as important as what people write about it.

    Debate doesn’t practice “seperate but equal” cuz its too obvious. Too easy. Instead it allows us to come together in one concentrated space so its harder to point out the places where the true differences need to be resolved. It makes it easier for those who outnumber others to insure that there is no difference and to claim insanity on those who believe otherwise. It paints an exaggerated caricature of what is actually being said and done. But rarely ever questions the artist. After all, its just a picture…I mean, just debate.

  11. Debater Hater Says:

    I have engaged the substance of what was said. It has been ignored. You are all now calling me racist even though I haven’t said anything racist. Then you wonder why I won’t reveal my identity. You are right, I am wrong. This is your space to say what you want. I will reserve my comments/thoughts for the debates.

    Congrats and good luck to all!

    In retrospect, I could have taken a nicer tone, but I see a therapist every week. I am not insane, but I like having the attention of a professional at least once a week. You all have stigmatized therapy and equated it with insanity. That is ridiculous. The point still remains that the interview reveals personal problems and not debate problems and I say that while acknowledging that debate is exclusionary. In fact, I will concede that debate is racist and exclusionary and still maintain my original comments.

    Also, why should I take a nice tone when she calls us (traditional policy debaters) stupid and dumb throughout the article. Setting aside the ableist nature of that language, it began the tone of this discussion. Extend all of my arguments from my previous post. They were dropped and are reasons to reject the argument not the team.

    • Toya Green Says:

      The idea that you have “engaged in the substance” of the interview or even of the retorts to your criticism is laughable. Especially when you validate that idea by saying “extend all the arguements from my previous post”. You can’t extend what has already been answered and turned based on a meta-framing issue on your behalf. You still haven’t answered the form v. content distinction from my post that criticizes you for only engaging what u think is being talked about (you being racist, dumb, etc) and not the way this activity functions producing racist, “dumb”, people. And the fact that you respond to the post as though these post are a debate with an OBJECTIVE judge to resolve them, is deplorable. There is no winning when debate itself is this fucked up…ask the losers (who more often than not tend to be a particular group of people, or a particular ideology).

      • Kaine Cherry Says:

        Yo really said “reject the argument not the team” I wasn’t aware that I could totally respond to a open intellectual discussion about debate with the techne of debate. Imma try this is class one day or to a police officer when i get stopped on the street, or when i have to argue with my boss about being fired because of his incompetence putting together a schedule.

        Also its great that this discussion can(and should in my opinion) happen in both a competitive and an open form.

  12. scottodekirk Says:

    Don’t you get it? This is not a debate round. This is not just evidence. There are not ballots to be won here. The point of this interview, and the point of it being read in a high profile debate with a massive audience composed of a diverse cross-section of folks in the community, is to create (if only for a moment) something that leads to self-reflection, a greater sense of justice/injustice within our community, and hopefully to lead to new ways of engaging scholarship.
    I have seen this too many times before. Someone from our own community shares an experience that threatens the popular idea that debate is “race neutral,” a crowd gathers, some express solidarity, some bury their heads in their flow, others stop everything they are doing, some get angry, some cry, some speculate on who will win, some think of the political/ethical/intellectual implications, while a whole other group immediately reaches for their blocks, and defends the cannon. In an outround when experiences like these (that disrupt the fantasy of “race neutrality” in debate) are used as evidence these different groups sit silently most of the time, some on the panel, most in the audience, and see their own perspective reflected in the speeches given. These perspectives are shared and debated with the full knowledge that they invite backlash. Hater epitomizes the type of disqualifying speech that pervades discussions in the back of the room, in prep time, from one friend to another. A murmur, a snicker, a quick list of args, meant to distance oneself from reflecting on the idea that their experience of debate may not be universal. I would rather heed perspectives that disqualify them.
    Hater treats DSRB’s take on scholarship like threat. Why? Just because Emporia, Louisville, Towson, West Georgia and others do their thing does not mean that debate “devolves into the oppression Olympics.” These teams make debate better, improve the overall discussion and help us be more ethical to one another. Similarly DSRB’s interview does not mean “all debaters must write a thesis and be published.” Rather than disqualifying this approach why not seek ways that this perspective could make policy research better. One take on the interview is that policy teams ought to research the ways that black scholarship informs policy studies. Black scholars have not been silent on questions of what the government ought to do. However, Hater has treated DSRB as a threat to policy studies.
    I understand that DSRB uses the term “stupid” and “idiotic” in the conversation but as somebody who judges a ton of debates about race, I believe the current level of evidence I see answering the race-focused teams is stupid; it just isn’t very innovative or deep. DSRB’s language here is born out a number of folks in the community disqualifying her perspective, Hater has simply joined the chorus. I find it funny that Hater takes a tone of offense.
    Hater treats personal experience in debate as a threat. Why? We are a community of people who define our lives in relation to one another and through the way that we debate one another. When people believe they have successfully separated themselves from the things they are debating they have only pushed the subjective implications of their debating out of their primary focus. Debate trains us to be people whether we think it is just a game or not. The subjective elements of debate ought to bear on the type of scholarship we take up. Otherwise it becomes impossible to explain why we are doing what we are doing, and if we can’t do that then what is the point? I would refuse to adopt the type scholarship that Hater is defending simply because that is not the kind of person I want to be. I prefer to heed perspectives rather than disqualify them.
    Hater treats DSRB’s discussion of the UDLs as a threat. Why? There should be a vibrant debate about the role of the UDLs, the nature of their practices, and the goals of their programs. I for one think that DSRB’s take is particularly relevant.
    You treat this interview like a threat? Why? I think it is because you have the type of worldview that requires vigilant defense because if the edifice crumbles there will only be one recognition left for you: your debate ideology is informed by, and serves the interests of, racism. The DSRB’s interview is not meant to disqualify all of debate as shallow scholarship, in fact it looks for linkages between resistance scholarship and other forms. Why aren’t you inviting? What are you trying to prove?
    In light of my orientation in this activity, and my willingness to seek out any perspective that makes this community more ethical, I am very comfortable dropping most of Hater’s petty quibbles, wholesale.

  13. Debater Hater Says:

    That debate produces racist and dumb people has nothing to do with (A) whether an academic should continually insert herself into debate rounds, (B) whether the UDLs are productive even if flawed, (C) whether and to what extent traditional debate produces scholarship, and (D) why failing to research the topic is producing scholarship while failing to research Wilderson is dumb?

    Traditional debate doesn’t produce racist or dumb people. Some racist people engage in the activity and the activity can seem like an uncomfortable place for some, but I don’t think researching Wilderson will solve that. Moreover, I don’t think that non-traditional debate produces “smart” people. There’s more scholarship out there beyond race based scholarship and continuously citing the same 3 authors is not productive scholarship. I have developed a broad based knowledge base as a result of my engagement with traditional debate. I don’t know everything, but I have learned a fair amount. I haven’t read Wilderson, but there are a lot of things I haven’t read. It doesn’t make me dumb, it makes me busy.

    The so called project/movement teams are not producing any more or better scholarship than traditional debaters. I am not saying that they are not introducing interesting a relevant arguments.

    You can’t call everyone who disagrees with you racist. One thing you haven’t considered is that I might be Black and/or Hispanic while still maintaining these ideas. You haven’t considered that I might be a product of the UDL which produces these ideas. Perhaps it doesn’t matter because I have disagreed with a Black woman.

    • Toya Green Says:

      Ok, Hater, you’re getting closer to engaging BUT you’re still missing it. Now what becomes troubling is this homoginizing of opinions and ideas you have about our form of scholarship. For example, name me ONE author Emporia WW has used consistantly year after year to criticize the topic. I don’t even think I own a Frank Wilderson card. The topic committe said “democracy assistance”. We said ok “let’s talk about the idea of democracy in a community where there is no assistance.” We went out and RESEARCHED democracy and its “assistance” based on our experiences in the activity, where the debates were happening, and who is involved, and decided to question whether or not we were in any condition (as a country or activity) to be sending shit in the first place. (CLEARLY WE ARE NOT…READ POST ABOVE). Topical as any other aff to me, but just not topical how u like it…still, I’m responded to like I said fuck the topic. I loved the topic but not how debate tried to convolute it. And this still proves my form v content shit because reading Wilderson for y’all is only the icing on the cake. If the form is not how I want it, the content can’t be shit. It can’t be a productive contribution. For example, there was a topical hip hop aff that could’ve been run all year but nobody did it. Why not? The form of hip hop is too foreign, too different, too radical, too Black. The content that has proved why its successful in Bahrain and Tunisia most not matter because of its form.

      So YES, debates ability to produces racist, stupid, disconnected people and ideals does respond to your subpoints b/c A) until Atchison and Pannetta stop telling me debate is the wrong forum to talk about debate, DSRB has every right to be critical of what the debate space is/should be used for B) UDLs are amazing and produced ME…but so did debate and look at the ways I’ve been able to reflect on and criticize it C) there is still tension between what debate ppl think is credible scholarship and research (see my earlier post) and D) the way many people understand what we do to not be topic research but refuse to see the ways certain ppl REFUSE to look at what the topic and our coveted “scholarship” leaves out. I had to RESEARCH the SCAF, IMed, truth and reconciliation, China/Russia relations, and a bunch of other shit to be able to prove why is didn’t matter in the grander context of democracy for me and ppl like me who have to participate in these discussions. Seems to debunk a lot of your offense and justification for not engaging in a meaningful discussion about why you defend what you defend about debate.

      Oh and you possibly Black or Hispanic matters not. Heard of the Trayvon Martin case recently. Its not only who you are or what you do, its what you justify. Its form AND content. Not just form.

    • lacuna mata Says:

      Lane just shut the fuck up.

  14. Tiffany Dillard-Knox Says:

    Just food for thought for Hater…try letting go of the line by line and read the big picture. That helps with the self-reflection process. It is so easy to pick and choose which parts of a person text, speech or identity to engage and respond accordingly (which indicates so much about who you are as a person), but its a much more difficult process to see the person as a whole human being (because thats where you find similarities between you and them) and engage according to the similarities rather than the differences. This is how change occurs and this is where the productive conversations begin.

  15. Debater Hater Says:


    By all means, if a debater has a personal views that implicates the decision of whether to increase democracy assistance to the Middle East and North Africa then by all means introduce it. However, I don’t know what that has to do with Loyola reading about the personal experiences of DSRB in a debate about the Arab Spring.

    I don’t disagree that debate is exclusionary and I don’t disagree that debate is racist. I have commented on those issues that warrant a comment.

    Also, what the hell do you expect to happen in a debate round? If you make an argument, I have to defeat it. What the hell do you expect Georgetown to do in response to that interview? Why do you think that it’s okay to make Georgetown defend how Melissa Wade, Will Repko and David Heidt have treated DSRB? Debate rounds are not exactly the best place to engage in meaningful discussions of race considering the time constraints and the competitive forces. So, yes. If you force people to respond to this argument in a competitive environment you will get unpleasant results. It’s dumb to expect otherwise. While you may be here to produce scholarship, some of us are here to play a game. Wins, losses, scholarships, fellowships and the like are all on the line when we engage in these debates. My university sends me to tournaments to win, not to join movements.

    Lastly, you are not engaging in ethical argument when you intentionally avoid the topic and call someone racist when they say “hey, I thought we were here to discuss X.”

    You are not engaging in ethical argument when you call people who disagree with you dumb, idiotic or stupid.

    I don’t find anything that DSRB says to be a threat. I just disagree with it.

    • “i don’t find anything she says to be a threat, I just disagree withit”

      argument is a person risking enterprise. Your disagreement can be taken to index an unsettling threat to your worldview. When it comes down to matters of institutional violence distributed in our common rationality as debaters, the insidious element of our debate training can be that it teaches us that matters of serious ethical concerns are “mere disagreements”

      • Debater Hater Says:

        PJ, reading a plan is not violent; expecting other to read a plan is not violent; and engaging debate as a game is not violent!

        By all means engage in institutional change. But, please explain to me how Loyola winning a debate round based on an interview with DSRB does that?

        I am pretty sure it’s just a disagreement. BUT, even if I did view it as a threat to my worldview I don’t think it is racist/violent to defend that world view. Isn’t that what you would expect? Shouldn’t we engage in the question of whether UDLs are effective? Shouldn’t we include the speakers personal experience when evaluating her argument? Shouldn’t we openly engage the question of what constitutes production of scholarship? Shouldn’t we openly discuss whether the Aff should be forced to research something that is not topical or whether the negative has to research something that doesn’t link? Shouldn’t we discuss whether its appropriate to call arguments or people stupid? All of these things have been continually ignored and are intricately tied to whether or not I am advancing a racist argument.

      • I just want to say two things after wcnhaitg this video. Sometimes I think we Malaysians can’t accept criticism especially good ones. If it is true that people in Pasir Salak don’t like you, you can either ignore them all because you can’t make them all happy or work extra harder to win their hearts and mind with your dedication and work but not acting like a whiny kid, to put it in a polite way. Secondly, Malaysian politicians need to learn how to properly address other people especially when they have different opinion from you. You can’t just utter all the big, fancy schmancy words just to make a point. It just leads to dissatisfaction and resentment. Eventually, it will be pure waste of time and energy especially when you want to get things done in your way…helooo

  16. Debater Hater Says:

    TDK- your arguments cut both ways. Also, I have responded to everything. I don’t know what these meta-framework claims are that you and Toya seem to think I am ignoring, but I think I am responding on point:

    1. There is nothing dumb or racist about debating the topic.
    2. DRSB doesn’t like the UDL, but that doesn’t make them bad.
    3. Debate is exclusionary and DSRBs friends turned on her but those two things are unrelated.
    4. Traditional debaters do engage in scholarship.
    5. This is not a debate argument and I look forward to the journal article.

    The responses?

    1. Stop being racist. How dare you disagree with a Black woman talking about race.
    2. Don’t talk like a debater (even though we made this a debate argument).
    3. Reveal yourself (because of course identity reveals everything).

    How many more of you will I have to slay today?

    • Why is this a conversation about “slaying” people? For someone who says they agree with the harm, but not the solution you seem pretty excited about picking a fight. I guess you decided there were too many of us to “slay.” And, that’s part of our point. We aren’t going anywhere, we will not stop asking these questions, and bringing it into the competitive space of debate. There is no escape from this discussion, even if you have been silently stalking this page and are refusing to involve yourself in the discussion. The time of silence about these issues passed over a decade ago, and we are still talking and making noise, and we are spreading like a wildfire. This started at Louisville, look at it now. We will not be stopped, and all attempts to shun us or shut us down, will be met with strength and fortitude. Debater “haters” are nothing but motivation.

  17. I wanted to make sure some part of my often spurious and superfluous opinion gets heard in a new comment. Debater Hater says:

    “3. Why should debaters be forced to research issues that are not topical? Why is it dumb to say that I cannot/will not research Wilderson because I am busy researching the topic? Why should I research Wilderson when you refuse to research IMET or civil society support to Yemen, etc? Why am I dumb because I won’t chase after issues squarely outside the resolution BUT you are not dumb when you refuse to research issues squarely inside the resolution?”

    I would like to foward a “counter-interpretation”, so to speak. If in any round, a non-traditional team is affirmative, it is topical for them to critique the debate community. The purpose of the aff is to propose a change to the status quo, after all, and the purpose of the neg is to defend it (or a competitive alternative option). If in any round, a traditional team is affirmative and defends traditional policy debate, it is germane for the negative to critique the debate community. After all, the affirmative participated in and performed an instance of said community.

    This is all to say: all critiques of the debate community are predictable. Because, after all, we are all part of the debate community.

    Now, it seems to me that the better response you should be levelling, sir, is a question concern why you should lose because someone critiqued the debate community. And here, I think, is where one might find the first step in “reflection” that everyone is talking about around you.

  18. Debater Hater Says:

    No. That’s a terrible interpretation of debate:

    -It’s not predictable on the negative. Who knows what the Aff will decide to critique. Is the healthy debater initiative now topical? Can the Aff change by the meal? Is PICs bad now an acceptable 1AC? Does LD good become an acceptable 1AC? How about a critique of debate using Spanos? Neitszche? Derrida? Etc? What about a 1AC that critiques the last rounds decision? For instance, will one team have to defend the previous team’s decision to strike a particular judge? Why I have to defend a decision that my debate coach made against you in a previous debate? Please tell me how this is predictable and fair? Why wouldn’t I always reserve one of these Aff’s for a round against a team that may overpower me? So, I run a traditional Aff in most debates, but not when I debate NU because I know they have more and better evidence? What effect would that have on education for the NU debaters? Or, do I have to register as a traditional or non-traditional debate team before the tournament or season?

    -It produces bad debate and poor education. The negative no longer has to make link arguments but are instead guaranteed a link because the Aff read a plan. Making link arguments is an important skill.

    -Undermines topic specific education- for the non-traditional teams. Topic specific education is good for everyone. All other education always remains possible outside the debate round. In other words, there is no constraint on what you can say and do outside the debate, but the resolution ensures topic specific education in the debate space. It should be assumed that if you won’t debate/research the topic in/for the round you won’t do it outside the round.

    Draw a line

    No a team shouldn’t lose because the other team critiqued debate. What if the Aff team is a traditional team and also Black? Should the negative be able to accuse them of racism or whiteness because of their style choice? How is that good for debate? What if a woman reads a plan? Does she now have to defend against claims that debate is sexist? Your interpretation of debate could have disastrous effects.

    • You really don’t have a creative bone in your whole body, do you? :) I’ll just say that yes, all of those things that you mentioned might be predictable, but these are the most ridiculous cases because they aren’t actually critiques of the debate community. [I am, however, persuasded by the healthy debater initiative stuff, but I don’t know if these concerns can be raised to the same level of, e.g., structural racism claims. Nonetheless, your equation of these things betrays some of your thoughts about the magnitude of the impact of things like structural racism. “A critique of the debate community’s structural inequalities? Why, that’s just like saying LD is good!”]

      Furthermore, the strategic deployment of “non-traditional” or “identity” arguments needs to be further examined. I feel that any critique of something *you* did at some point is totally predictable. I think if NU were to respond to your non-trad aff by saying that you only read it strategically, I would be willing to vote against you because I think that there is a large ethical dimension to these kinds of arguments that you are washing under your strategic concerns (and worries).

      As far as topic specific education is concerned, I will say that the practice of having a resolution, and the way in which particular resolutions are produced and worded, is probably implicated in a broader critique of the debate community. I am not sure how appealing to the topic itself gets you out of how one participates in an activity which perpetuates inequalities. Also, the competitive format is unique for all sorts of education, including critiques of the debate community. Strangely enough, you could do research on MENA and democracy assistance *outside of the debate community too*. That this possibility doesn’t countenance your thinking also betrays something about what you think debate is really about.

      The bottom of your post is getting to it, though: “a team shouldn’t lose because the other team critiqued debate.” I think that this is true only insofar that the critique of debate does not link to the other team.

      Regarding all of your other questions, i think the answer is yes, all of these folks should be held accountable for their positions in debate. And this is good for debate because debate perpetuate structural inequalities.

      I do indeed think that my interpretation of debate might have disasterous effects for the activity. All the better, I suppose, from my decidedly Nietzschean slant. After all, as the N-man said himself, a community is only as strong as the criticisms it can withstand.

  19. Why the anonymity, DebaterHater?

  20. Debater Hater Says:

    …said Joe.

    Some people would rather be called a racist than a race traitor.

    • This sounds racist. But, given your earlier comments, I’m willing to consider the possibility that you don’t mean this the way it sounds. Care to explain the comment?

      • i may be wrong, but i read that comment to mean “i’m not a white person, so my comments will be interpreted as being a traitor to my (non-White) race.” that interp is consistent with an earlier post by this individual in which they note that they are assumed to be White but may not be.

    • Debater lover Says:

      arsht, shut up.
      just thought i’d say what everyone is obviously thinking.

  21. Jim Sydnor Says:

    Great interview and responses! But can we just say this kid shouldn’t get a 3NR — that the point has been made and anyone who has read the entire conversation and has the capability of analysis should see that the truth won out, and it wasn’t from some anonymous kid on the net who couldn’t even come up with a better username than “Debater Hater”??? My eyes at this point are hurting from rolling too much at this regurgitated HS framework debate garbage.

    No public identity? No literacy skills? No new or innovative spin on this discussion? No ability to reflect? No ability to adequately respond? No sexy anonymous username? No credibility.

  22. “Some people would rather be called a racist than a race traitor.”

    What the hell is that supposed to mean? All I just read was “some people have racial pride and shouldn’t feel ashamed for thinking they’re superior.”

  23. Jeremy McNutt Says:

    Though I was never a fan of “puttingtheKindebate” while I was debating, there is a new appreciation I have gained from stepping out of the community and seeing what I recognize as best for the participants and the practice of debate itself. I am glad that debate has helped me no longer be the kid arguing with Shanara at the SNFI in 08 about racism existing. As much schadenfreude as I had for arguments pertaining to race, it is refreshing to be at a place where I am comfortable researching, learning and growing based on different forms of literature regardless of how effective of a response Shively has.

  24. We Can Do Better Says:

    “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

    Debater Hater, different views don’t require telling someone they need a therapist. Your flare for the hyperbolic isn’t helpful. Dr. Reid-Brinkley isn’t being petty, nor is she guided by selfish motives. She demonstrates remarkable rhetorical and reasoning skills and clearly has a profound love of debate. She is an accomplished scholar and debate is lucky to have her. Treat her and her arguments with the respect they deserve, even if you disagree with them.

    I disagree with Dr. Reid-Brinkley’s ideal vision but I disagree with you far more. Get past the need for insults and feeling personally attacked. Develop your reasoning instead of your ad homs. The fact that I’m inclined to agree with your conclusion but repulsed by your reasoning and behavior should be cause for reflection. You’ll do far better if you let the petty shit go.

    Dr. Reid-Brinkley is a brilliant scholar but engages in similar over-generlizations and ad hom characterizations. It troubles me to hear such an intelligent, beautiful person brand a hypothetical debater reading a broad Wilderson indict by saying “you’re a fucking idiot. You’re an idiot. You are an idiot.”

    I’m troubled by that notion, but not out of a sense of personal. I’m troubled because I agree with Dr. Reid-Brinkley when she suggests that the first thing debaters should do is “go read.” I couldn’t agree more! A Wilderson indict is an important step in debate’s initial foray into critical race literature. It may be poor and off-topic but it isn’t framework: it demonstrates a willingness to engage, however poorly, Wilderson’s arguments.

    Dr. Reid-Brinkley, please encourage this effort! Don’t call the kids “fucking idiots.” Help them find better research. You’re an intelligent grown woman who has thought about this issue a long time. In this hypothetical you’re engaging a student who clearly hasn’t thought about the issue as deeply. Be patient with them.

    We must avoid the need for personal attacks. The issues at hand are too important to fall victim to a race to the bottom of personal attacks. We can all help each other and this activity be better.

  25. To the Debate® Hater. I am not calling you a racist. That would not be productive. Anyways, racism no longer needs racists to do its work. It does seem, however, that your response to this interview and to everything that went down at the NDT is animated by a deep seated hatred (-tinged fascination) for Black women (Have you felt this sense of indignation when Casey Harrigan cards are read over and over in debates? Do you accuse him of inserting himself into the debate? Do you tell him to pursue therapy to cure his narcissism? I doubt it). Does this make you a racist? I’m not sure. It does make you an American though. Nothing is more American than hatred of Black women. I don’t think your hatred is conscious either so don’t waste time denying my assessment. I’m making a historical claim about you (well we don’t know who you are so you are your discourse for now until you unhood yourself, so to speak) not just a personal claim. The most potent form of “racism” is expressed, not in outward hostility, but rather in resistance to self-reflexivity, resistance to the questions that Black women have always raised. What are these questions? These questions are variations of the question, in both the most general sense and the most specific sense, of “what is happening?” The refusal to debate about the conditions of possibility of a concept like “USFG” or “democracy assistance” or the fact that “should” statements are thinkable, let alone debatable, by ontologically equivalent sides – affirmative and negative – the arguments of which can be adjudicated by a more or less rational 3rd party interlocutor (judge). These questions have always been raised by Black women, because Black women have always had to raise them, indeed they are the only ones who could raise them. Resistance to these questions is resistance to Black women. You may not be a racist, but racism thrives on your resistance to self-criticism. You may not be a racist, but you are racial, and your discourse is racism’s best friend, its first line of defense.

    This is the point. This is why what is happening in debate is happening. The words of the topic/resolution may not say this in a way that you are capable of reading but the grammar of the topic says this. The words of the topic and the grammar that organizes these words into a coherent utterance are haunted by slave ships, wanton rape, lynching, violence. This is the point being made by Wilderson and the many theorists upon which he draws (and, FYI, Wilderson’s work is heavily reliant upon the work of Black feminist scholars). Thus, no author is more topical. Nothing could be more topical than an interrogation of the grammar of the topic, its semantic coherence. You are not necessarily dumb for not having read Wilderson, but you would be much smarter if you did. You are mad at people for showing you the love of attempting to make you smarter. Anyways, the comment about being dumb was not a general comment that one who has not read Wilderson is dumb. What is dumb is refusing to read an author who wins debates for a lot of teams. It is dumb to continually lose to arguments drawn from a particular author and still refuse to study that author and the intellectual tradition engaged by and challenged by that author. It is not dumb to not read Wilderson but it is dumb to resist the problems posed by Wilderson. It is dumb to resist engagement with thought at higher levels of abstraction; it is dumb to refuse to interrogate epistemological presuppositions. Moreso, it is anti-intellectual. It is, more importantly, dangerous. Your resistance, which is just a particular manifestation of the generalized resistance that characterizes post-civil rights (white (and, increasingly, non-Black)) American society, is precisely how particularity is able to masquerade as universal. This is precisely how structures of domination protect themselves from scrutiny and secure their institutional foothold, all the while framing their reinforcement in a narrative of progress. This is precisely how structures of domination become more efficient at devouring the bodies for which they have gained a voracious appetite. Your presumed innocence does this.

    Dr. Reid-Brinkley is a scholar. Her main object of scholarly inquiry, as I read her, is the debate activity and the struggles over inclusion, power, domination and resistance that are taking place in unique ways therein. She happens to be a former debater, a debate coach, and a director of debate. Who else is more qualified to speak about what is happening in debate? This issue of the originality/newness of debate scholarship is not a requirement that debaters publish the work they produce. It is a requirement to relate to knowledge production/consumption differently, that is, in a way that is thoughtful about the debate “community,” its institutional function and resistive potential. It is a requirement to see existing institutional norms not as neutral but rather as implicated in, produced by and productive of, the history of domination that refuses to be history; the history that refuses to die. It is a requirement to see blood where blood flows. The suggestion that the commentary on debate produced by the preeminent scholar on power and resistance in debate should be excluded from the debate rounds highlights powerfully the troublesome and troubling relationship of the “community” writ large to the knowledge it consumes (under the guise of production). You want evidence on everything except for that which speaks about you and you want to exclude she who is most qualified to speak about you. You refuse to be seen. The call, as I understand it, for a reorientation of our relationship to “scholarship in debate” is simply that we theorize ourselves, what we are doing and why. The call is to understand the uniqueness of the labor we perform in debate and for this labor to become more than self-serving. The call is to not be trifling with words.
    Why do you suppose it is that the entrance of those historically excluded from debate and from the academy generally has accompanied the most thorough and penetrating meta-commentary on debate, the norms of debate, the limits of acceptable discussion in debate? This is a serious question: please answer it or stop commenting. You seem to want the inclusion of the bodies of the excluded in debate, but you want them to leave their ideas and questions at the front door. You want a commerce in bodies but not in ideas. It has never been about criticizing debate for what it is, in isolation. It has always been about, I think, criticizing debate in light of what it has the potential to be. This is the (uncompensated) labor of love for which Dr. Reid-Brinkley and others should be aided militantly and thanked profusely, rather than passionately condemned and persistently assaulted.

    In the following passage (which I amended slightly) Hortense Spillers is talking about the critical challenge she made to the feminist movement and feminist scholarship in her article “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe.” You’re not an idiot if you haven’t read it or if you are unfamiliar with the discourses in which she is intervening. You would, however, be idiotic – nay, suicidal/homicidal – to not read it after this conversation and after what went down at the NDT. I read this passage as relevant to a number of things that have been (un)said in this discussion:

    “…what I saw happening was black people being treated as a kind of raw material. That the history of black people was something you could use as a note of inspiration but it was never anything that had anything to do with you, you could never use it to explain something in theoretical terms. There was no discourse that it generated, in terms of the mainstream academy that gave it a kind of recognition. And so my idea was to try to generate a discourse, or a vocabulary that would not just make it desirable, but would necessitate that black women be in the conversation…..The available discourses all seemed to come out of experiences that somehow, when they got to me, did a detour. Or the language broke down. Or it could not speak in theoretical terms. There were always reasons why the academy couldn’t address race and gender. And so my anxiety was finding a way to actually be in battle. To actually go to war with a whole repertoire of violent behavior that was always performed in a very genteel way. You know, people sitting around tables, sipping wine, eating cheese. They are just the nicest people in the world, but they are carefully cloaking just an incredible hostility. And so the idea was to break from that barrier. It always seems that we are recreating the wheel in that way. You know, there are all these earlier pioneers in the institutional works of the black intellectual. I mean all of that work has been done, but then what happens is that the forces that are really hostile to black life, to black people, are always operating. So that we are in a period of reaction now that is so strong, that if we are not careful the work we are doing now is going to have to be “rediscovered” at some point. You know, people are going to have to keep doing it, or rediscover it again, or reassert it because the forces of opposition are so forceful and so powerful and they’re always pushing against us, they always want to enforce forgetfulness. They always want to do something that forgets the African presence or reabsorbs it, reappropriates it in another way. The need to confront psychological violence, epistemic violence, intellectual violence is really powerful. “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe” was about bolstering myself, living to fight another day. I became very good at being a marksman and ducking….I wrote it with a feeling of hopelessness. I was very emotional when I wrote it. I was on the verge of crying about what I was writing about. And I was trying to explain what seemed to me impossible to explain….I had an urge to find a category that respected history. I wrote it with a sense of urgency, with a need to tell something that had been told over and over again, I knew that none of it was new. But what was new was that I was trying to bring the language of a postmodern academy to a very old problem, a problem that historians had been writing about for at least fifty years at the time that I was writing this piece. And so I was trying to ask the question again, ask it anew, as if it had not been asked before….. Which is, what is it like in the interstitial spaces where you fall between everyone who has a name, a category, a sponsor, an agenda, spokespersons, people looking out for them but you don’t have anybody. That’s your situation. But I am like the white elephant in the room….. there is not a subject that you can speak about in the modern world where you will not have to talk about African women and new world African women. But no one wants to address them…. I mean we really are invisible people. And I just kind of went nuts. And I am saying, I am here now, and I am doing it now, and you are not going to ignore me. And so [I am] saying, I am here now, “Whatcha gonna do?””

  26. Jeff K. Says:

    I wanted to reply two questions the original poster had about scholarship and research. This has some responses to the things other people said above, but that was not in context of what “D1” was saying.

    “1. Why isn’t my 1AC new scholarship? It’s not like I have one author who advocates my aff, my framing arguments, my terminal impacts, my internal links, and my 2AC answers. I feel like this combination of articles along with my own intellect create a brand new argument that IS new knowledge. What am I missing?”

    First, not every 1AC is constructed in this fashion. I’ll use two examples to illustrate. First, many 1ACs are simply “reporting” based. These tend to be 1ACs with more economic based impacts. In order to make those 1ACs grounded in scholarship, debaters would have be engaged in the necessary method to produce that scholarship. Economic based 1ACs require quantitative calculations that can’t be done in a debate space. The second example I’d like to point to is how impacts are formed. Many 1ACs, especially last year, had terminal impacts in nuclear war with the internal link of hegemony. Now, there is nothing wrong with scholarly work in international relations theory regarding hegemony, but whats important is the germaneness to the actual topic. I think an interesting aff centered around the Nile Basin agreement in Egypt. While this aff still had terminal impacts of water wars and the such, it had developed internal links and stayed germane to the topic.

    Second, I think my criticism is more of an indict of specific resolutions. I think scholarship about US policy and credibility in the Middle East and North Africa could be worthwhile, but relying on one author who supports that Libya is the key test to credibility in the region doesn’t that to good scholarship. I think instead of viewing traditional 1ACs, counterplans, etc. as independent scholarship is a problematic label. Instead, I think the research generated from making those positions, even the research that didn’t make the file, is more worthwhile for producing scholarship, as it provides a more complete picture of what is going on.

    Third, this clearly is unique to only “traditional” forms of argument. I think critical forms of argument could suffer as a result of similar problems. I think the reason they do not is that the way debate expect these arguments to be structured in debate rounds fosters those debate speeches and as a result the files to be more representative of scholarship. This is probably because the arguments are more intricate and developed. That speaks to the flip side of the benefit of the specificity of “traditonal” argument in scholarship is lost in many debate rounds, which happens for a variety of reasons (resolution/topic structure, impact framing, etc.).

    “2. Why should I, as an undergraduate at a (sub-par public) university, be required to publish papers or come up with ideas at the same level as the P.h.D.s and the think tanks I cut for debate? There seems to be some tension between the “do some research” claim and the “be original” claim. Obviously people should have answers to Wilderson besides “status quo or competing policy option.” What am I missing?”

    I don’t think that is the expectation. I think what Gordon Mitchell is doing with Timely Interventions bridges this gap (By the way, the journal is a vehicle to take debate arguments and transform them into relevant scholarship, which need not be at the PhD level). During this year one of the debaters used his research to help with a blog project for a Security Studies class. Other individuals in the past have written articles for their college newspapers.

    As for the second part of the question, I think the tension speaks more to the question of being informed about ongoing factors. Good scholarship requires knowing who is in disagreement with who on an issue and understanding how various perspectives approch a problem or solution. This is important for knowing the disagreements between critical theorists and/or political scientists.

    • the lesbian bodybuilder Says:

      “You can’t beat me”

      Internet tough guy over here. I actually think Jack and James are pretty damn good at traditional argumentation, not just debate techne.

      Everyone should probably do some research on everything. Who you are is important in debates. The world isn’t going to collapse because someone forgot to check the thought-police handbook and decided to talk about their real-life experiences in debate… If the other team is smart, they’ll answer the other person’s arguments..
      I understand the frustration with people avoiding clash, but we probably shouldn’t call a kid a “fucking idiot” for reading a book review to answer Wilderson..they’re trying to engage, I’d be proud if I found that, and there isn’t a whole lot of secondary literature on Wilderson..

  27. You don’t need a secondary source to talk about Wilderson, he is an afro-pessimist involved in a complicated debate in black and ethnic studies. His ideas are discussed by many authors. Yes, if all you have is a Wilderson indite after two years, that makes you stupid or unwilling to engage black literature. My broader point is that if you are having trouble coaching your teams to win against movement teams, it’s largely your fault for not doing research. What I don’t get is why people aren’t researching. Are black intellectuals so scary that we have to run from them on the bookshelves of our libraries?

    • Former Debater Says:

      Brief background, I attended a large university and engaged in both policy and critical debate. In my eyes, the reason for not researching black intellectuals is two-fold – first, there’s the time trade-off. Between school work, social life, and jobs, there is only so much work that can be done for debate. If we’re going to a tournament where there are a number of policy teams reading an aff we don’t have a case neg to, versus one “project/movement” team, we’ll invest our time in the policy work. It’s nothing personal, and we aren’t trying to maintain a system of oppression, it’s just that the limited resources available go towards what we think is most important to winning debates. Second, and I think this is the more important aspect, is that it’s confusing. Really, really confusing. Hand an average person a few pages from Red, White, and Black, and see if they can figure out what Wilderson is talking about. It’s not easy. I got fairly involved in K literature (obviously it’s not all the same, but the point is I’m no stranger to ideas like ontology and epistemology), I was a philosophy major, and I’ve invested a small amount of time (probably 10 hours total) really researching what different project/movement teams have to say. Despite this, I still regularly find myself confused when the issue comes up, even after understanding a lot of the background ideas. But when the average policy debater starts hearing about social death, black ontology, and other concepts that s/he doesn’t understand at all, it’s quite tempting to just ignore it and go work on something that does make sense to them, or just go for framework and a Wilderson indict or two.

      That said, I really enjoyed this interview because it did make sense, and I do hope for a follow-up.

  28. Lastly, at least for a while. Don’t take my criticisms of the students and coaches as an unwillingness to engage. I have talked to many debaters who I thought their answers were stupid or ridiculous, because the goal for all of the coaches and judges should be to help the students grow. I have mentored many non-movement debaters who wanted to move beyond simple framework arguments to something deeper and more responsive. I am at my best when working with students who are frustrated or confused by non-traditional teams making race claims. I am completely sensitive to their needs and realize that they are in process as people. Think of my comments more like what your grandma might give you when telling you something you don’t want to hear. It’s tough love, because I love this community and the people in it so much. Sometimes, it hurts to hear the truth. Simultaneously, everyone who knows me knows that even if I hurt your feelings with the truth, my arms are always open to sooth away the hurt and help you learn from the pain.

  29. We Can Do Better Says:

    Here here, Dr. Reid-Brinkley! Very helpful follow-up. Tone is sometimes hard to detect through this medium and in these discussions and I hope others found your comments as instructive as I did.

  30. Sorry for being late :Here some of Ben’s and I convo about this.
    Ben ask the question why do he(Debater Hater) get to ask questions validity of this scholar, who was a published scholar outside of debate, like the debater or even the public ( white conscious / ethical questioning) could stand on the same plain. This is the same logic applied when ‘you people’ rep/style out like what happened in West Ga DF round (octs ndt round), What happened in Emporia WW ( octs ndt) and what happen in Loyal Em Round(semi ndt round) -punishing each of them. Loyal and other debate people realized this which prompted us to discuss As Loyal openly admit to the collected circled of Black debaters outside after the round that his punishment was contingent on them going for ” the debate is racist but please be open to the change of it” and that my punishment (iggie’s and then noted other black debaters) was going to be never ending thus making me( iandi) be the brave ones for having to bare the pain of being a defender of Black people and their concerns.
    This same logic- white male ethical concerns are the most important all the time. (iggie) For me no talking about the pyshe split that is caused by the current practices of the debate community is unethical and in fact racist . The debate community act like Black debaters are white debaters dipped in chocolate and that we come to this activity in the same way in. As though it’s possible for the any other debaters who can come to a tournament to come to it just as though Black debaters do. From the historically informed structural position and social context of black debaters we will always enter,exist, and exit this activity in a different space that will always be adjusted by the anti-blackness that is inculcated to the structure and norms of the debate community and the world. So its not about who fault it is but what to do now. All the conversation that doesn’t start at the impact of the interview (and not poke fun at) is justifying the unethical concerns of Debater Hater and all those who think that there is any real ethical concern beside the one of a black woman who did everything that should she could to be relevant and resonate to the white space called the community. She was a debater, went to world renown private school, and even have a PHD. Towson been saying this for years now. How can any concerns of how to play a game in your world ever be consider over the real life trauma any person let a lone a person who champions this activity be fair ,predictable, educational or even relavent. Because truth be told absent a conversation with Shanara, at Wake a couple of years back, I would have rather sold drug then put up with the debate community who provides space for racist and that ensure open violence toward to at least Black debaters. At the point in which the violence that I speak about is the kind that only forces students have an opinion on the livelihood of Black people in this activity and globally when they lost a framework debate or like Jack said when competition is had. Is it not violent when the debater is only seen when race debates go down.Seen as distraction from the topic, and always not heard because we are not scholars or at best we are ‘me’ searchers. This is bull when you ( the justifiable norms/logic/conscious/ethical range of questions of the debate community) restrict the lens in which ‘we’ all are suppose to see it from.The same lens that enslaved Africans and so many other things. And we are suppose to do this because the state could and should already be forgiven. Why is it ever fruitful to role play ,even in the case of negative state action, forgiveness of a structure that is built off the structurally dilapidation of Black people. Think about it – switch side debate is debate on how to best rape my people- either we affirm the new tacit of management i.e democracy assistants to the best( the biggest impact story ) carded topic country or prefer the status qou because more white people and those who white people care about for the moment risking death( islmaphobia) . This never will talk about black people because they are marked as Arab because the topic even made north African the middle east. And they say we not topical.Will never talk about the African slave trade and the effects that this even still have had on the people now. And these are just a few Black concerns. So either way through the topic or through the ethical concerns that inform the community norms blackness is unimportant or have never been important. For me I realized that Black people and there concerns are always unimportant in the face of crop subsidies, nuclear weapons, immigration and now democracy assistance to North Africa and the rest of the Arab spring. How long are we the black people are suppose to wait before we structurally relevant in the lit? When will our opinion important to be taken as truth? when will we ever be equal in ever compacity? could these questions and concerns ever be seen as more than Black talk ?

    • First, I want to say thank you to Dr. Reid-Brinkley. While I originally found your writing style to be a bit abrasive, your handling of hater debater’s semi articulate arguments went a long way to convince me that you’re really looking to change the community for the better. I also did a little personal reflection on the debates I’ve judged this year & really have to agree that a lot of people’s answers are pretty stinkly. To Ignacio & Ben, I have nothing but respect for both the passion & argument style yall bring to the community. I also generally agree with may of the criticisms that have been made against a framing of debate that would exclude the discussions of white privilege, racial bias or the exclusion of blackness.

      That being said, I really disagree with the notion that switch sides debate is “debate on how to best rape my people.” I can only think of one instance in a college debate round where racism was actually defended & the team was both soundly defeated & discouraged from repeating their escapades (& to my knowledge they never did). Aside from this pointing out the hyperbolic nature of your language, I believe this example also ends up being a point in favor of switch side debate. I believe the reason racism good is run so rarely, despite the fact that the community for the most part embraces switch sides debate, is because it’s strategically a bad argument in all sense of the word. The authors are bad, their warrants and examples are bad & their evidence is bad. Strategy, in other words, serves a progressive function in debate by forcing us to confront glaring holes in logic that would otherwise remain unquestioned and unaddressed. I think the communities general opinion towards objectivism and malthus are two excellent examples of morally reprehensible arguments that are no longer strategically viable positions due to the communities continuing familiarity & exposure to said positions. Now obviously this is not to be read as a blanket endorsement that Strategy should be the only thing considered in debate. But I think that a lack of analysis on the positive role strategy can play may account for the disconnect between the KKK debates you seem to be describing and what good ‘policy’ debates can & should look like (I think Jeff K. does a good job distinguishing between a policy affirmative that creates new knowledge & one that regurgitates kagan quotes). I also think one of the most under utilized realm of thinking for advancing blackness/the criticism of whiteness? is the envisioning of a debate community where, in addition to being ethically objectionable, those traditional arguments were strategically objectionable as well. A more strategically oriented line of thinking seems both to be more appealing to a larger segment of the community & more effective as an overall strategy for trying to achieve debate change.

      Also, as an aside, man it seems really unhelpful to lump an argument that seeks to understand and criticize islamophobia in America’s foreign policy with a debate “on how to best rape my people.” How can we have an emancipatory debate space if any discussion other than one that focuses on the suppression of blackness is rejected as tokenism? I know it’s not the most nuanced account of race in politics but it still seems pretty far removed from being a new “tool of management.”

      • Christian Chessman Says:

        Well fucking said.

      • AreYouKiddingMe? Says:

        Abe – Are you really this dense or is the whole response supposed to be humorous??
        First, awww did Shanara’s words scare you? I don’t even know where to start with your willingness to admonish and police her speech. Are we supposed to thank you for reading beyond that??
        Second, did you seriously think Iggy’s comment about the rape of his people was ONLY referring to debates where the other team explicitly (i.e. said in a way white people understand) says “racism good”? Did you seriously miss the entire context that switch side debate forces Black debaters to defend the legitimacy of the state that enslaved them and continues to do violence to them in EVERY aff debate? That is part of the violence to which he is referring. This vacuous idea that “how it could it be unethical for anyone to debate usfg public policy” is just painful to listen to. Can you literally not hear what Black debaters are saying or do you really just not give a shit? To listen to your peers say “well, its not like we debate Holocaust good/bad, I could understand how that would be violent to some people, that’s why we debate NEUTRAL usfg public policy” makes me weep for the stupidity and inhumanity of this community. So Holocaust good/bad not ok, but asking Jews to debate Hitler’s economic policy without referring to the gas chambers (cause that would be “me-search” – what a fucking offensive term) would be reasonable?
        Every debate in which the other team denies the possibility that a Black debater may have a different life experience, a different relationship to the usfg/topic than you IS a debate in which the other team has said racism good.
        Sorry that this note is anonymous. It is because the idea that this community is a “safe space” is laughable (despite the number of times Georgetown tried to assert the need to protect this in that travesty of a semis debate). As a white debate coach and judge to post under my own name would only ensure my marginalization and exclusion. I don’t worry about that for my own sake, I am way past measuring my position here by who prefs me, but for what it does to the community when mpj can be used to exclude from judging any white people not willing to consistently act to protect white privilege.
        ps – Not addressing the Islamaphobia part of your post in depth because, like in most debates where it came up, it’s just a smokescreen like your Black friend or your claim that you;re not a racist. Giving a crap about Islamaphobia is not exclusive with acting in ways that are anti-Black. When you still can;t even approach the possibility that forcing students to defend the usfg could be a deeply racist act, then yes, we DO still need to start the conversation there.

      • In response to “AreYouKiddingMe?”
        — I admit my initial tone may not have been quite as serious as the topic requires, but I feel the points I’m trying to make are still significant concerns for anyone concerned with changing the debate space. So to answer your first question, no, I am not kidding (at least in the way you mean).

        “First, awww did Shanara’s words scare you? I don’t even know where to start with your willingness to admonish and police her speech. Are we supposed to thank you for reading beyond that??”

        —Scare is the wrong word. The term I used was the word ‘Abrasive: adjective, tending to cause ill will; overly aggressive ( This opinion was formed based off my personal experience with the argument. I judge a far amount of k team v k team debates & have often found the teams most hostile towards one another are the ones most ideologically similar. My concern is not that her words will ‘scare crackers’ but rather that they encourage a form of interaction and dialogue that is ultimately alienating to those who would otherwise be more than willing to give their support to the cause of critiquing whiteness/supporting blackness in debate. Those criticisms aside however, reading this interview gave me a much better sense of her ‘tough love’ type of style that I certainly can understand and get behind. I have also never really interacted with Shanara or Ignacio (& while I know Ben a little) so I thought it best to begin my post in some way that identified my intention to try & help make the debate space better. To present an argument in some ways in contention with what’s been said so far, yet also distinguish what I see as a potential problem from those argued by ‘debater hater’ and their ilk.

        —Is it seriously your contention that having a forum that encourages* (note the word encourages is not the same as ‘forced, mandated or required’) black debaters to present hypothetical ways to make the federal government not bad is the same think as saying ‘raping a people is good.’ The reason I thought it was important to highlight the explicit *lack* of success of the ‘raping & racism good’ DA/CP strategies is because I think that it shows that maybe defending the federal government doesn’t have to always require the ‘dead black people good’ advantage. I mean, if you’re right, and the core of this activity is built on slavery and white privilege, you’d expect a lot more success/a lot more white privileged teams to be checking in on what you make seem like an auto win, right?

        —I am not saying debate is neutral; clearly inequalities exist and I am certainly interested in any potential solution to reduce those inequalities. I am not saying switch sides debate is unconditionally awesome or the solution to every potential problem. I don’t think either of those claims need to be made to defend the idea that having the ability/option to debate about how to improve the government we all support materially, if not ideologically, is good. Debate should be responsive to individual identity & not assume a single experience describes that of the aggregate. That claim is a critique of the traditional ‘policy’ framework. That claim is also a critique of any vision of debate that seeks to completely eliminate ‘policy discussions.’ The difference between the type of debate we play & “asking Jews to debate Hitler’s economic policy without referring to the gas chambers” is that we debate ‘should’ statements, not counterfactuals. Institutions change, identities change. This isn’t to say we should ‘forget’ or ‘silence’ those who want to talk and use the horrors of the past in ways to ensure better political futures, but to say that any notion of federal improvement is tantamount to a defense of mass rape really seems just a false statement to me.

        —Can’t Islamic people face discrimination in a way that’s separate and distinct from the discrimination faced by those identified as black? Certainly, there are instances where they face overlapping challenges. But I still don’t understand how it can both be true that discussing islamophobic policies in debate can be a sign of debate’s racism and the debate you envision can include or discuss anything besides the exclusion of blackness. It seems either criticisms of islamophobic policies are good & part of a larger shift towards a better understanding of the role of identity and structural violence in debate or they’re bad in which case it still seems like you’re saying any concern for an excluded identity that isn’t the one I care about is bad.

        —I accept your apology. I suspect this post sounded better in your head or would have seemed less like a personal attack if we’d had it in person. Come find me at the next tournament or message me if you still feel strongly about what I do and don’t ‘give shits’ about.

        As an aside though, I think it’s interesting that the community can be structured in such a way that both individuals in favor and against a position can feel it necessary to hide their identity. Perhaps this suggests that there are some instances where focusing on identity is in appropriate or counter productive to progressive politics?


  31. kevin kuswa Says:

    Let’s not lose the important points in the original interview with DSRB–especially the ones highlighted by Ode. Some folks have different struggles between debate tournaments that have an effect on the time and preparation available for competitions. The fact that any college student working a job, caring for a family, fighting to scrape together tuition each semester can still compete on the national circuit with students who do not have any resource constraints at all (either personally or from their institution and have debated for seven or eight years without having to work, not to mention attending the best workshops every summer) is HUGE. Really really huge. And the fact that some of the students facing these financial obstacles get to the NDT, even earn first-rounds, even clear and win out-rounds, is NOTHING SHORT OF MONUMENTAL. This should keep all of our spirits up–just the possibility of that type of success–even though there is still much to challenge and many mountains left to climb. Perseverance BEATS HATERS every time.

  32. "White Logic" lol Says:

    46:48. “I don’t understand what you’re saying” “so anything you don’t understand is white logic?” “herp derp rewind.

  33. We Can Do Better Says:

    RW’s point is well-taken: the topic wasn’t designed to highlight Islamaphobia. This demonstrates Abe’s point: discussions of Islamaphobia still became the focus of many debates. Many debaters made dangerous assumptions about Islam. Abe calls these “glaring holes” but they aren’t “glaring” until a debater unearths them. Islamophobia is often subtly disguised beneath a veil of objective threat.

    Debaters questioning Islamophobia engaged in valuable scholarship regardless of their genuity. The strength of this literature performed a strategic value because it won debates. However, it also served emancipatory functions because it made debaters reconsider race issues in their scholarship. Highlighting strategy increases the appeal and use of emancipatory arguments and thinking. This isn’t an ideal or sufficient means towards anti-racism but it is a start, and one that shouldn’t be dismissed as tokenism.

    RW is right that these arguments must go beyond “SSD solves Islamaphobia and that t/ racism.” This brief construction is indeed just a token. However, it’s also a straw person because RW simply presents an unwarranted version of the argument to dismiss its value. Consider a more historical perspective…

    Modern Islamaphobia is part of a millenia-old attempt to demonize and destroy the brown body and further Whitness. Ever since the Crusades in the 11th century Muslims have been subject to the violent imposition of whiteness. What began with religious dominance (the Turks were “barbarian Muslim invaders” of Jerusalem) now turns to social dominance (the barbarians need Western democracy, not local democracy or any version of Sharia.) Or consider more modern comparisons. Many forms of anti-black racism are being carried in modern America out against Muslims through Islamophobia: the rise of unsolicited hate crimes, racial profiling, etc.

    There are *vast* differences between anti-black racism and Islamophobia, between the Middle Passage and the Crusades. My goal is not to conflate the two, nor to weigh them. I just want each side to truly ponder the best version of the other’s arguments and learns from each other. This is a blog, not a competitive debate, so let’s start with where people agree and what we can learn from each other instead of starting with points of difference. Let’s avoid generalizations of switch-side or activism. Let’s learn from each other, improve this conversation and improve this community.

    Note: I’m remaining anonymous because I often judge these debates and don’t want my views to be cited in debates where listening objectively is so important. Here as there, I view my role as a neutral third party attempting to elevate the discussion (perhaps the most defining discussion of our era.)

  34. part of the problem with most references to “switch-side debate” (both by its proponents and opponents) is a misinterpretation of what it means to “switch sides.” many K teams have limited their growth as debaters and their education by accepting an overly narrow definition of what it means to DO switch-side debate.and many K-haters have limited their education of really cool lit as well as been annoying pains in the butt to their opponents by advocating that narrow definition. people too frequently throw around the example of “having to defend racism” as what it means. ugh, what a cruddy hypothetical used as an even more cruddy standard.

    it would be much more instructive if we conceived of switch-side using the following two hypotheticals:

    a) if you were NEG and your opponent ran the same 1AC you read when you are AFF, what would you do? if the answer is “concede, because i couldn’t in good conscience criticize that 1AC” then you aren’t doing switch-side. BUT if you DID choose to engage them, point out problems with their (your?) AFF, attempt to win the round by getting the judge to reject that AFF in favor of what you had to say, then you are doing switch-side debate.

    b) if you’re NEG and make no attempt to speak about what your opponent has said – refusing to engage their arguments through any sort of direct refutation, and instead read as your 1NC the exact same speech you read as your 1AC when you are AFF, then you’re not doing switch-side debate. BUT if you DO talk about what the other team said, engage their arguments, relate what your authors are taking about to what their authors are talking about, then you ARE doing switch-side debate.

    a lot more K teams do switch-side debate than they give themselves credit for. and if they would start defending what they do AS switch-side debate, they’d win more rounds AND help educate the larger community as to what should count as smart debate.

    • i hit ‘reply’ before making one last point:

      if SSD is defined more rigidly than my interp above, then K-haters run into the problem of violating their own standard. if switching sides requires that one arguing against one’s own personal beliefs or practices (when they are on ‘the other side’), then teams that go for “gotta have a plan” framework when NEG would be required to read plan-less affirmatives when AFF. otherwise, they aren’t “switching sides.” All-Policy-all-the-time would violate “switch-side” as narrowly defined just as much as AKATT supposedly does.

  35. Just a Question... Says:

    This is probably going to get me ripped to shreds, but I think its a question that needs to be asked…

    I don’t have much to argue to the litany criticisms of the way debate rounds occur or of the community at large, but I’m still a little confused as to how these kinds of criticisms relate to the fact that debate is a competition.

    Obviously debate is VERY MUCH MORE than a game and theres a litany of pedagogical opportunity (as well as baggage) due to the fact that its a space where people test their ideas against each other. And, obviously we should try to foster an environment that doesn’t marginalize individuals or groups of people involved.

    However, at the end of the day. The activity is, fundamentally, one where winners and losers are selected. There are elimination rounds, a champion, etc.

    The thing that confuses me is how we are supposed to reconcile the two of these facts. How are people from privileged social locations, that still want to win debates, supposed to engage “project” or “critical” arguments in a manner that is more respectful of very real differences. This is not me saying that its impossible for privileged people to beat these kinds of arguments (see: the controversy of the NDT), but rather I’m just not sure what could be said that wouldn’t be a dogmatic defense of racist/sexist/gendered institutions.

    I guess what I’m wondering is, there’s an obvious beef with how people CURRENTLY respond to arguments about race and social location in debate. What would be a BETTER way for privileged people to approach it, so that its a more hospitable and fulfilling experience for everyone involved.

    Even more simply, what would be a better starting point for debates/the topic if we are supposed to reject the relationship that the CEDA/NDT resolution forces people into..

  36. I debated Max and Jersey when they were at East Los Angeles College in the 2010-2011 season while I was a freshmen debater at Los Rios Community College. Max and Jersey are very good friends of mine and I respect them a lot – community college solidarity! They ran the anti-blackness argument on the neg and the aff. I was unfamiliar with afro-pessimism and exchanged losses and wins with them on arguments like framework, anti-politics, infra-politics, generic answers to whiteness (doesn’t answer anti-blackness), and so on. By the end of the season I realized I needed to understand the substance of the criticism. Over the summer I was determined to beat them on their argument so I read Wilderson’s Red, White & Black: Cinema and the Structure of U.S. Antagonisms and Sexton’s Amalgamation Schemes: Antiblackness and the Critique of Multiracialism. I have cut tens of cards from the aforementioned books and I promise you there are tons of offensive arguments that engage and answer the way most project teams deploy the anti-blackness criticism. Unfortunately, my partner and I didn’t hit any teams that ran anti-blackness this year, ironic!

    On another note, I would be curious to read more topic papers from programs with an affinity towards critical debate. The prison topic proposed by Fullerton last year was intriguing.

  37. We Can Do Better Says:

    Here’s an interesting question to be raised: what should debaters make of the exchange between Will Repko and Wilderson critic Mary Ellison?

    The curious question this raises in my mind is that Repko is prompting an academic exchange, which Dr. Reid-Brinkley’s model might encourage. On the other hand, he is doing so to elicit an anti-Wilderson response. What do you all make of this?

    Ellison ‘11
    (part of an email exchange with Will Repko – regarding her Book Review in Race & Class. Email sent 11-18-11 and response received 11-19-11.)
    From: Subject: Questions re: your review of Wilderson To: Date: Friday, 18 November, 2011, 21:12
    Prof Ellison, My name is Will Repko and I work at the Honors College at Michigan State University. One of my jobs is to help coach our policy debate program.

    In the world of American intercollegiate Academic Debating, Frank Wilderson’s piece “Red, White, and Black” is quoted more often than one might imagine. I noticed that you had recently written a review of his book in Race & Class — and I would like to pose some follow-up questions.

    1. When you mention that Wilderson has limiting pre-conceptions of “a slave” or “what is black”, in what way(s) did you find his use of these terms limiting ?….

    2. Could you help clarify this statement: “He envisions every black person in flim as a slave who is suffering from irreparable alienation from any meaningful sense of cultural identity.” …. did you find his take to be too sweeping or essentialziing ?…

    3. It seems as though Prof Wilderson’s criticism starts with film and broadens to a larger criticism of society writ-large. Did you find that the critiques of film translated in this regard ?…

    Will Repko
    Staff, Honors College Head Debate Coach 10 Linton Hall Michigan State University East Lansing, MI 48825 517-432-9667

    Hi Will, I do share your regard for the importance of Frank Wilderson’s book but am worried about his essentialist approach to slavery, blackness and the submission he seems to think results. I

    would argue with some of his statements about attitudes of resistance. He states, for instance, on page 3 that Martin Luther King was “placid” about the ethics of US politics until “his 1968 shift” when, in actuality, Martin had been a socialist with a determination to oppose the poverty endemic in the US by attacking the capitalist system since he was a graduate student.

    I find it equally difficult to accept his description of modern African Americans as having a residual slave mentality when I have interviewed and come to know and respect very well, activists such as Kalamu Ya Salaam. He first came to my attention through his brilliant articles in Black Scholar, and then impressed me through his quiet but substantial stand against racism and discrimination in New Orleans. Through political activism, music and poetry he has proved that any residual slave mentality can be overcome and he is helping the youth of New Orleans to do so.

    I hope this helps

    All the best,


    • Ben Crossan Says:

      Enter bad faith.

    • kevin kuswa Says:

      To me this email reply from Mary Ellison does not really answer the original position–it’s just the expression of a concern regarding homogenization (fine). The substance of Mary’s reply is that Wilderson is significant, may underemphasize MLK’s socialist tendencies, and has not fully explored certain exceptions to the mainstream slave mentality governing many thinkers. It’s not an indict unless it’s highlighted down (too far) and the larger context is neglected. Indeed, the reply really goes the other way (a prodict) in that anyone wanting to make an argument about the deployment of race and politics could riff off of the reference to Katrina and the notion that activism is on-going.

  38. […] on LMU’s unique preparation process, their approach toward nationals, their entry of the DSRB Interview into the Semis of the NDT, and the general motivations of James when it comes to elite level debate […]

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