It used to be that if you went to a college-level debate tournament, the students you’d see would be bookish future lawyers from elite universities, most of them white. In matching navy blazers, they’d recite academic arguments for and against various government policies. It was tame, predictable, and, frankly, boring.
“Separating debate is a bad move,” she said. “With the increase in minority participation came a range of different types of argument and perspectives, not just from the people who are in debate, but the kind of scholarship we bring in.” Her debate partner Ameena Ruffin agreed: “For them to tell us that we can’t bring our personal experience, it would literally be impossible. Not just for black people—it is true of everyone. We are always biased by who we are in any argument.”
Liberal law professors have been making this point for decades. “Various procedures—regardless of whether we’re talking about debate formats or law—have the ability to hide the subjective experiences that shape these seemingly ‘objective’ and ‘rational’ rules,” said UC Hastings Law School professor Osagie Obasogie, who teaches critical race theory. “This is the power of racial subordination: making the viewpoint of the dominant group seem like the only true reality…”