Several college debate clubs that feature members preoccupied with minority issues have decided the traditional tournament format promotes white privilege. They have responded by refusing to play by the official rules, ignoring time limits and rebutting their opponents with rap and spoken-word poetry.
Fawning, sympathetic, liberal judges have of course rewarded such antics.
The most recent example came from the March 24th Cross Examination Debate Association, where two Towson University students — identified as black females by The Atlantic – won the championship. The students were challenged to debate presidential war powers. Instead, they insisted on discussing the supposed war on black communities being waged by the U.S. government.
In the final round, the Towson students faced another black team, from the University of Oklahoma. The teams used rap, hip-hop and spoken-word poetry to argue about such scholarly concepts as “nigga authenticity” for four hours. Not to be deterred by the clock, which keeps strict time for debate participants, one of the Oklahoma students yelled, “Fuck the time!” when his time ran out, and continued talking. (RELATED: Analysis: Colleges invited WAY MORE Dems than Republicans to speak)
According to The Atlantic, a similar thing happened last year, in 2013. The winning team — two black men from Emporia State University — quickly went off topic and instead chose to discuss how college debate tournaments promote the interest of straight, white, rich people.
Many of these tactics violate debate tournament rules. The use of the word “nigga,” for instance, violates the anti-harassment policies of CEDA and the National Debate Tournament. Judges decided to look the other way regarding this and other outbursts, however.
Northwestern University debate coach Aaron Hardy was perturbed by the erosion of structure in the debates, and tried to organize an informal tournament where all participants would agree to follow the posted rules and debate the actual topic.
Efforts to organize this tournament were derided as racist, and Hardy was forced to abandon his plan.
“This is the power of racial subordination: making the viewpoint of the dominant group seem like the only true reality,” said Osagie Obasogie, a law professor at the University of California, Hastings College of Law, in a statement.
Hardy maintained that rules and structure are not inherently racist.
“Having minimal rules is not something that reflects a middle-class white bias,” he said in a statement. “I think it is wildly reductionist to say that black people can’t understand debate unless there is rap in it — it sells short their potential.”