Restoring Integrity to College Debate
June 2, 2014

You can be a liberal diversity-monger and hang out with people who all think alike. Or you can be on the dissident right and encounter all kinds of diverse viewpoints. One of my favorite dissident writers is John Derbyshire. A recent post of his on TakiMag.com deals with the great college debate controversy.

Briefly, a national college debate tournament was won by two women of color who didn't really "debate." They more or less went on a long free-association binge, sort of like free-style rap, but without the rhymes. Paul Mabrey, vice president of the Cross Examination Debate Association, received some critical comments, which he attributed to "bigotry."

People who believe in racial equality have a problem. How do they explain the vast statistical disparities in real world measurements? Often enough, they attribute all disparities to "racism" of one form or another. They construct fictional worlds in their minds containing powerful forces like "institutional racism," "white privilege," "legacy of slavery" and so on to explain differences in outcome. Against those evils infesting their mental kingdoms they visualize remedies: Affirmative action, set asides, summer courses to develop study skills, services for minorities, special courses for minorities, tutoring programs for minorities, reduced course loads, outreach to minorities, ethnic studies departments, night courses, ethnic housing, etc. Whole branches of university administration devoted to diversity! They believe they can continually strengthen those forces for Good until they are sufficiently powerful to counteract racism and other forces for Evil.

I regard some of the above measures as reasonable in general. Some of them are reasonable practical accommodations. Unfortunately, people who have turned the "fight against racism" into an internal epic often do things that profoundly contradict their original presumptions about racial equality. When Paul Mabrey gives prizes to clowns of color, he is, in effect, presuming that there are no black people at all who could compete with white people on equal terms. He is wallowing in "white privilege," "legacy of slavery" ideation, according to which great white liberals such as himself are destined to manipulate reality, to twist some magical knobs that level the playing field, until we reach the promised land of true equality. If you interrupt his trance of rectitude with a critical comment, well, you must be a bigot!

The upside of this whole sorry episode is that it will encourage some white students to take a long, critical look at the totality of racial politics in academia and in American society at large. If you are academically in the top tenth of a percent of the black student population, you also need to apply some critical thinking to this situation. You need what white students need: the best education our institutions can give you according to the best you are capable of receiving. You cannot get that under the regime of "diversity." You cannot get that from an institution obsessed with "equality." If you are interested in politics or law or business or teaching, you might want to sharpen your persuasive skills by being on a debate team. You can't let your needs be denied you so that a few hip-hop wannabe clowns can be given prizes they did not rightly win.
 

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