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http://www.forharriet.com/2013/11/black-female-debaters-make-history.html

 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Black Female Debaters Make History
Posted by For Harriet | Labels: Black Girls Rocknews
 
 

 

debatewomen.jpg
by Hailey Mayo
 
(The Collegian) Two Fresno State University students, Nadia Lewis and Jamila Ahmed, were the first African-American women to win first-and second-place speakers in the 42 years of the Henry Clay Invitational Debates held at the University of Kentucky.

The competition was established in 1971 and is one of the oldest and largest U.S. policy, varsity debate tournaments in America. This year, the Fresno State debate team competed against 286 speakers from 30 schools.



Despite it being her first semester in debate, Lewis won first place among individual speakers. She is now ranked 29th in the nation. Ahmed is in her second year in debate and won second place and is now ranked 16th in the nation.

“This is the first time in the history of the Henry Clay Debates at the University of Kentucky that two African-American women have been awarded the top two speaker positions,†said Dr. Shanara Reid-Brinkley, director of debate at University of Pittsburgh. “I do believe it is also the first time in the history of national debate competition that two African-American women have won the top two speakers at any national tournament.â€

Reid-Brinkley said in the 1990s she was the most successful African-American female debater in national policy debate history, but the Fresno State debaters represent a new wave of talent.

“Nadia Lewis and Jamila Ahmed have accomplished a feat that many debaters around the country can only dream of achieving,†Reid-Brinkley said. “And, it is important to note that they did so as virtual novices competing in the varsity level division. Their competitors are likely to have five to eight more years of debate experience than these young women.â€

In U.S. policy debate, a topic is chosen by the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) and is voted on by all university debate members. After a topic is chosen, four resolutions are then drafted by CEDA.

These resolutions then can be used by the teams during their debates.

This year’s topic was: “The U.S. Federal Government should substantially increase statutory and/or judicial restrictions on the war powers authority of the president of the United States in one or more of the following areas: cyber operations, indefinite detention, targeted killing such as drones, and deploying the armed forces into hostile places.â€

Lewis and Ahmed are non-traditional debaters, which means they read poetry, sing, draw metaphors to the topic and criticize the structure of debate as it exists today. They also have a constant theme of the oppression of African-American women throughout their debates.

“We take a metaphorical approach to the resolution,†Ahmed said. “One of the topics was targeted killing; we talk about how black women are targeted every day in society. It’s not the same as using a drone, but we would use a metaphorical drone and examples in history or the world to further our argument. We discuss the oppressive structures that black women deal within our daily lives and despite these obstacles, we can still affirm ourselves through song and poetry and our resilience as phenomenal black women.â€

Non-traditional debate style has only been prominent for a little more than a decade and is not fully accepted by everyone in the debate community.

“Non-traditional style began about 12 years ago when speakers started to bring philosophical topics into their arguments,†said Deven Cooper, director of debate at Fresno State. “Then people began to actually do what the philosophies were saying and it has grown into what it is today. It’s not really fully accepted by everyone because some people like to look at traditional policy debate as the most legitimate style, because it’s been argued that particular style creates better critical thinking, better advocacy and better policy making skills.â€

Both Lewis and Ahmed use their life background to validate their argument in their speeches. In their opinion, it’s important to be a non-traditional team in debate because it reveals who they are on a personal level.

“We’re using our black aesthetics and our experiences as black women in society,†Lewis explained. “We bring that into our [debate] round through our music and poetry. We express how we feel and the struggles that we go through and the oppression through [our speeches]. When people leave [the debate] rounds, they know who we are, they know our struggles, and who we are as black women in this society.â€

Lewis and Ahmed said they want to use debate as an opportunity to make a difference in the debate community and inspire young girls.

“That’s why I think it’s important for debate [to be non-traditional], because a lot of the people [in debate] want to be policy makers,†Ahmed said. “I think that’s why what we do is so essential, because if you’re going to be making policies that are going to affect the people, then you need to know the people. That’s why we think that it’s so important to bring out your subjectivity and not have this distant way of debating. That’s what’s kind of wrong with our society and our policy makers now because they don’t realize actual people that are suffering.â€

“I want to be able to leave debate knowing that what we’re doing made a difference, because it’s more than just an academic sport for me,†Lewis added. “The topics we debate, Jamila and I are truly passionate about. I want to create a change that, after we leave, other black women and girls that are younger can join this activity and it can be something that’s educational for them.â€
 

On a personal note- YOU GO GIRLS!!!

 

Also- this gif and article are courtesy of http://andnuclearwar.tumblr.com/

 

tumblr_lcrtju9bWS1qax1qso1_500.gif

Edited by Deleuze
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**Topic is only "good news" for people who support this style of debate. 

No, it is good news for any one that recognizes that debate suffers from a diversity issue. Support what "style of debate"? Debating while black? You don't have to like performance to recognize that this is still something we should be happy about. Two Black Women just won first AND second speaker at a national college debate tournament for the first time in history! 

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Whether it's good news or not depends on whether you're seeing them as primarily important because they're black or primarily important because of the ideas they bring to debate. This is one of those areas where seemingly conservative perspectives can sometimes be less racist than progressive ones. I think that the ideas they're bringing to debate are more important, but I dislike those ideas, so I see this as net bad news. Obviously I'm glad that these black women did well in debate, but to me their ideas are more important than their skin color or vaginas. Jumping on Joseph for voicing his opinion is stupid and thought foreclosing, etc.

Edited by Chao
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To Chao

 

I think you misunderstand my aim in posting this article, it was not specific to race and gender, it was an indicator of the inclusiveness of the debate community, as records and history are broken each and every day in the college debate community we see a far more inclusive "home" that Elijah and Ryan dreamed of. I in no way look at their gender or race, I look at their achievements, while I am unable to speak for others I can say first and foremost it is because they have done something unprecedented in 47 years that I take pride in this article. This is the "happiness" of inclusiveness within the debate community that I speak of. Needs more Consult Japan is completely right, look at his opinion before anyone else's as we appear to share the same mentality regarding this article, it is a betterment of the community first and foremost before anything else that one might be able to label as "personal" in terms of political views or stances in debate. We all agree on this website, the betterment of debate (depending on certain ideological viewpoints) is always good, how we get to this betterment is what you speak of khao, and truthfully I agree that we should not bash joseph, as it was his misunderstanding as well as Jacobstimes on this issue.

Edited by Deleuze
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**Topic is only "good news" for people who support this style of debate. 

 

Whether it's good news or not depends on whether you're seeing them as primarily important because they're black or primarily important because of the ideas they bring to debate. This is one of those areas where seemingly conservative perspectives can sometimes be less racist than progressive ones. I think that the ideas they're bringing to debate are more important, but I dislike those ideas, so I see this as net bad news. Obviously I'm glad that these black women did well in debate, but to me their ideas are more important than their skin color or vaginas. Jumping on Joseph for voicing his opinion is stupid and thought foreclosing, etc.

 

To borrow from Hitchens--I get the terrible feeling that you haven't read any of the arguments against you.

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anyone else follow the CEDA-NDT Tradition page on facebook? (i might have missed this thread) The speaker point inflation by more "policy-oriented" judges and the ensuing controversy? It seems high level college policy is going through an identity crisis of sorts, and it's fairly interesting. Anyone have thoughts or opinions on the matter? Personally I think Kentucky not inviting the past years winner of both CEDA and the NDT to their round robin was at best non-sensical and at worse exclusionary. I also think the speaker point inflation is somewhat interventionist, the "performance" or "project" teams were getting higher speaker points cause of appeals to both pathos and logos, and policy teams seem to be at a nadir of clarity, eloquent presentation of arguments, and have boiled debate down to "pure" logos. But that's just like my opinion man.

 

any other thoughts?

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Split the two - CEDA = performance NDT = Policy

 

I mean on face your argument makes sense, but that solution will literally segregate the debate community on racial lines, which is probably bad. lyke rly, rly bad. 

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i feel like that's what they both want tho, their own debate community

No. It seems pretty clear that folks would be happy with a debate community that wasn't quite so racist.

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No, it is good news for any one that recognizes that debate suffers from a diversity issue. Support what "style of debate"? Debating while black? You don't have to like performance to recognize that this is still something we should be happy about. Two Black Women just won first AND second speaker at a national college debate tournament for the first time in history! 

 

My post wasn't meant to be racist at all. I have absolutely no reason to be against racial or gender diversity in debate. It makes no difference WHO debates in policy debate. I simply disagree with performance debate because I don't see it as enjoyable and fun.

 

Pretend debate is an MLB game. Lots of people, many who are white, playing something they enjoy. Imagine an Indian man coming in and saying "No, you all have to play cricket with me now". Obviously his idea would be rejected. It's not that people are excluding Indian people from baseball, it's just that when people come together to play baseball (Or debate policy), they want to actually do what they came to do.

 

I disagree with performance debate because:

 

1) It's not something fun to do. Nobody ever thinks "Yeah, I love to lose debates because it's such an exclusive and racist activity". This also plays into the whole commodification argument that people sometimes make. In all honesty, MOST performance debaters use it to win rounds. I'd be impressed with anyone who can find more than a couple instances of people debating performance, getting crushed, and still continuing it. Many performance debaters pay thousands of dollars to go to debate camp and spend thousands to travel across the country, while they could easily make more of a real change by creating organizations, getting involved in political decisions, or spending time at a soup kitchen. MOST people do it to win, and I think it ruins the game for a vast majority of people.

 

2) It's usually really difficult to negate what they say. Yes, the issues they bring up are usually real problems. No, I don't believe a judge signing his ballot will actually change anything. Debate is a fairly closed activity in a sense that what happens in debate rounds, stays within the round, or at least within the community.

 

So we should just vote performance teams up until they are the only ones that win?

 

^This is another really good reason. If debate turns into an "Our oppression is worse" type situation, everyone is a loser. 

 

no, but we should celebrate diversity

 

you all are absurd

 

Black people doing well in debate: Great

 

Women doing well in debate; Great

 

People speaking out about minority oppression: Great

 

People drastically changing the activity instead of finding another forum: Not so great, in my opinion.

 

 

Note: I'm deeply sorry if anyone is offended by this. I don't mean to be racist, sexist, or any of the other "-ists". I simply love debating about crazy fiated scenarios and find the most joy in that style of debate. 

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My post wasn't meant to be racist at all. I have absolutely no reason to be against racial or gender diversity in debate. It makes no difference WHO debates in policy debate. I simply disagree with performance debate because I don't see it as enjoyable and fun.

 

Pretend debate is an MLB game. Lots of people, many who are white, playing something they enjoy. Imagine an Indian man coming in and saying "No, you all have to play cricket with me now". Obviously his idea would be rejected. It's not that people are excluding Indian people from baseball, it's just that when people come together to play baseball (Or debate policy), they want to actually do what they came to do.

You have made an argument against every change in debate praxis over the last 70 years. Congratulations, the debate you like never happens.

 

 

I disagree with performance debate because:

 

1) It's not something fun to do. Nobody ever thinks "Yeah, I love to lose debates because it's such an exclusive and racist activity". This also plays into the whole commodification argument that people sometimes make. In all honesty, MOST performance debaters use it to win rounds. I'd be impressed with anyone who can find more than a couple instances of people debating performance, getting crushed, and still continuing it. Many performance debaters pay thousands of dollars to go to debate camp and spend thousands to travel across the country, while they could easily make more of a real change by creating organizations, getting involved in political decisions, or spending time at a soup kitchen. MOST people do it to win, and I think it ruins the game for a vast majority of people.

 

2) It's usually really difficult to negate what they say. Yes, the issues they bring up are usually real problems. No, I don't believe a judge signing his ballot will actually change anything. Debate is a fairly closed activity in a sense that what happens in debate rounds, stays within the round, or at least within the community.

 

 

^This is another really good reason. If debate turns into an "Our oppression is worse" type situation, everyone is a loser. 

Privilege.

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Pretend debate is an MLB game. Lots of people, many who are white, playing something they enjoy. Imagine an Indian man coming in and saying "No, you all have to play cricket with me now". Obviously his idea would be rejected. It's not that people are excluding Indian people from baseball, it's just that when people come together to play baseball (Or debate policy), they want to actually do what they came to do.

 

1. Argument from analogy 

 

2. Argument from analogy 

 

3. Argument from analogy 

 

4. You missed the boat. Performance teams aren't saying that EVERYONE has to run performative arguments. That's ridiculous. They just think they should get to read their arguments in a safe space.

 

AT: Performance bad:

 

1. we are all performers 

 

2. Who are you talking about? Every one that I know that makes performative/critical arguments about their social location/race/gender/etc care dearly about what they are saying. Saying they are just "doing it for a ballot" is extremely offensive, and would require you to know intent, and judging by your other misunderstandings (^^^), I highly doubt you do.

 

3. Okay, so yeah voting for a performance team doesn't get rid of racism, but voting for a "policy" team doesn't result in USFG action. Ballot tangibility is a debate you will lose 9 times out of 10.

 

 

 

Listen, I'm not telling you that you can't voice your opinions about how we should view debate, but you shouldn't rain on diversities parade with your agenda. Now, outside of the round, its time we recognize that debate suffers from a diversity issue. Sitting up in your ivory tower complaining about the arguments two black women make isn't going to help you persuade ANY black women to join your 'side'. 

Edited by jacobstime
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You have made an argument against every change in debate praxis over the last 70 years. Congratulations, the debate you like never happens.

 

Privilege.

 

1) I think everyone agrees that there's a difference between changes within policy debate, and a change TO performance debate

 

2) Please explain why "privilege" means that my opinions don't count. I'm an economically sound, white male. Please explain how that changes the validity of my arguments

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1. Argument from analogy 

 

2. Argument from analogy 

 

3. Argument from analogy 

 

4. You missed the boat. Performance teams aren't saying that EVERYONE has to run performative arguments. That's ridiculous. They just think they should get to read their arguments in a safe space.

 

What do they gain from reading their arguments in the same place? And yes, they force people to debate performative arguments. Reading CPs and DAs doesn't work against performance affs. You're forced to debate their style

 

 

AT: Performance bad:

 

1. we are all performers 

 

2. Who are you talking about? Every one that I know that makes performative/critical arguments about their social location/race/gender/etc care dearly about what they are saying. Saying they are just "doing it for a ballot" is extremely offensive, and would require you to know intent, and judging by your other misunderstandings (^^^), I highly doubt you do.

 

3. Okay, so yeah voting for a performance team doesn't get rid of racism, but voting for a "policy" team doesn't result in USFG action. Ballot tangibility is a debate you will lose 9 times out of 10.

 

1. That's a dumb argument. There's an obvious distinction between debating about fiat, and debating performance 

 

2. If it's not about the win, why do they go to camp? Why do they ask the judge to vote for them? Why do they try to win? Yes, there are teams out there who dearly believe in their arguments, but there's a lot who would stop debating if it wasn't effective. Go back 20-30 years when performance wasn't very accepted. Very few people ran it. Now that it's a lot more likely to win rounds, a lot more people do it.

 

For people who do performance debate for no other reason than believing in their arguments, I think that's great. In reality, that's only a portion of performance debaters though.

 

3. If there's no real change from voting for performance teams, why should they be voted for? Of course fiat doesn't happen, but debate about policy has educational benefits. And I believe that it's more fun. If voting for a performance team doesn't help further their cause, why should their pleasure come before mine?

 

 

Listen, I'm not telling you that you can't voice your opinions about how we should view debate, but you shouldn't rain on diversities parade with your agenda. Now, outside of the round, its time we recognize that debate suffers from a diversity issue. Sitting up in your ivory tower complaining about the arguments two black women make isn't going to help you persuade ANY black women to join your 'side'. 

 

I'm not trying to rain on any parade, and I'm sorry if it seems that way. I think diversity in debate is good, and should be celebrated. I just don't understand why people of other races can't debate within the context of fiated plans. 

 

How am I sitting in an ivory tower? Inside of debate, I have no superior status or abilities above these women. They come to debate just like I do. I disagree with their style of debate, because I believe that it decreases the enjoyment and educational benefits of the activity. 

 

Also, why does a lack of diversity automatically mean there's an issue? There's nothing about the activity of policy debate that actively discriminates. I don't believe that there's anything about my style of debate that is biased towards white people. You're mistaking correlation and causation. The fact that there are less women and less black people in debate doesn't mean that debate specifically excludes them. 

 

 

EDIT: I'm done commenting on this thread. There's nothing to really gain and I don't want to mistakenly offend anyone

Edited by JosephOverman
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Split the two - CEDA = performance NDT = Policy

I'm not sure why this got so many downvotes...there's massive support for a split in the college community, including major voices in The Resistance who have explicitly said as such. There was a discussion pre-merger (CEDA/NDT weren't always merged) about the merits that has been raised again, with a relatively strong degree of merit. What's facially reprehensible about that...?

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I'm not sure why this got so many downvotes...there's massive support for a split in the college community, including major voices in The Resistance who have explicitly said as such. There was a discussion pre-merger (CEDA/NDT weren't always merged) about the merits that has been raised again, with a relatively strong degree of merit. What's facially reprehensible about that...?

join-or-die.jpg

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I'm not sure why this got so many downvotes...there's massive support for a split in the college community, including major voices in The Resistance who have explicitly said as such. There was a discussion pre-merger (CEDA/NDT weren't always merged) about the merits that has been raised again, with a relatively strong degree of merit. What's facially reprehensible about that...?

i've heard this argument outside of this thread, and like i said before it makes sense on face

however my problem with it is three fold

1.) all of the performance teams would be preaching to the choir, which means all of their arguments about breaking down privilege in the debate community would be essentially unfounded.

2.) the average policy team would not have to confront their privilege and could continue to ignore all of the problems brought forward by "project" teams over the last 8 or so years

3.) as I stated before, it would literally segregate the debate community on racial lines. which in my opinion is not good.

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i've heard this argument outside of this thread, and like i said before it makes sense on face

however my problem with it is three fold

1.) all of the performance teams would be preaching to the choir, which means all of their arguments about breaking down privilege in the debate community would be essentially unfounded.

2.) the average policy team would not have to confront their privilege and could continue to ignore all of the problems brought forward by "project" teams over the last 8 or so years

3.) as I stated before, it would literally segregate the debate community on racial lines. which in my opinion is not good.

1) Mutual Preference Judging = the same thing?

2) They seem to read framework and ignore it anyway?

3) Seems racially problematic to assume that "black = performance" or "performance = black", or any other race for that matter. 

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1) Mutual Preference Judging = the same thing?

2) They seem to read framework and ignore it anyway?

3) Seems racially problematic to assume that "black = performance" or "performance = black", or any other race for that matter. 

 

it is problematic to assume that all black debaters are performance debaters, many performance debaters are white, hispanic, or asian. I am not making the argument that all black debaters are performance debaters. However there are many performance debaters who aren't white, from my understanding, the majority are not white. splitting the community as such would literally segregate the community. that's bad.

 

The framework thing, i know from a friend who debates 'policy style' at berkeley that Cal has ceased to run F/W arguments for the past month or so in order to avoid crowding out the perspectives of project/ performance teams. A lot of policy teams (but not all) are trying to move away from the framework approach and try to actually engage the teams on the "case level."

 

And yes MPJ does mean they preach to the choir sometimes, however they will inevitably be judged by those who prefer policy style debate, especially in outrounds. if we split it up on those lines than I'm guessing only so-called "K hacks" would be judging them, really messin w/ the whole argument that they're generating discourse on privilege in debate. 

 

This is in no way an attack on you. i just disagree that splitting up the community along these lines would be a gud idea.

Edited by mowl
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