The Great Debaters (2007) was a black self-esteem movie about the talented Negro debating team from small, segregated Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. With the inspiration of its legendary coach, English professor Melvin Tolson (1898-1966), Wiley beat the University of Southern California (USC) to win the 1935 national championship.
The heavily-promoted film, starring Oscar-winning actors Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker, was produced by Oprah Winfrey's Harpo Productions. Movie critics praised it as "inspirational" and "uplifting" despite glaring historical inaccuracies. (For example, Tolson's team never debated Harvard in winning the national championship).
Fast forward to March 24, 2008. Baltimoreans Deven Cooper and Dayvon Love—the black duo from Maryland's Towson University dubbed "the great debaters"—are crowned champions at the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) national tournament in Wichita, Kansas. In the final round, Cooper and Love beat a top-seeded, white University of Kansas debate team, led by Nate Johnson and Chris Stone.
The topic for CEDA, as well as the year's other collegiate debate tournaments:
"Resolved: that the United States federal government should increase its constructive engagement with the government of one or more of: Afghanistan, Iran, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, and Syria, and it should include offering them a security guarantee(s) and/or a substantial increase in foreign assistance."
In each match within a tournament, one team is assigned to argue "affirmative", supporting the proposition, and the other "negative", opposing it.
But Cooper and Love evaded the debate resolution altogether. Instead the dynamic black duo argued "their chosen topic"—"racism, sexism, and homophobia" and the "problems of exclusion in the debate community". CEDA's white bosses decided, not only that they would not disqualify them, but that they would crown Cooper and Love champions.
According to the Baltimore Sun's Nick Madigan,
"what made the duo's achievement not only remarkable but groundbreaking was that they had turned debate traditions upside down deciding not to argue their chosen topic … Instead, in a direct challenge to the judges and the system under which they operate, the pair made their central premise the notion that, as Cooper said, 'the problems of exclusion in the debate community need to be addressed first.'"
"By that, Cooper said, he meant the 'racism, sexism and homophobia' that pervade the kind of tournament at which they were speaking. 'We have a responsibility to talk about these things. We talk about racism the most because it's the one we're most affected by. Even at awards banquets, they make jokes that the community laughs at, but the people who they affect don't laugh.'"[Towson U. Debaters Take National Championship, March 26, 2008 (PDF)]
A real reporter would have asked Love:
"What awards banquets? What jokes? What community? And what 'racism, sexism, and homophobia'? After all, the 'racists' gave you the win, and fell all over themselves praising you".
Cooper and Love, says Madigan, "used various forms of expression, including hip-hop, clips of songs and 'spoken word,' to accentuate their points, a far cry from the more straightforward, evidence-laden presentations of some of their competitors".
Evidence and logic are just so white.
Cooper and Love say that debate has been based on "white principles." But there are no "white" or "black" principles. A principle is by nature universal. When you throw out evidence and logic, you get lies, contradictions, appeals to emotion and loyalty, and sheer stupidity.
Consider the predicament of a team that plays by the rules, yet after spending hundreds of hours preparing to argue each side of constructive engagement, is matched up in the CEDA finals against a dishonest team with a racial agenda. The honest team never had a chance.
While not as theatrical as the video of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright celebrating the 911 terrorist attacks on America, what the Youtube video of the final round between Towson and KU shows about the moral collapse of the American university is every bit as disturbing.
Some of the cheating judges' explanations as to why they voted as they did, amount to racial loyalty oaths.
In Deven Cooper's eight-minute opening performance of his script, he jumps from pillar to post—"white supremacy" (seven times), "whites live in a racial fantasy land," "Who believe the shit that they write in books," "white male judges favor only the white male," etc.
Cooper, who denounced American society in general and the (leftwing) debate community in particular, combines what scholar Lawrence M. Doss (PDF) referred to, in a discussion of Leonard Jeffries, as the "paranoid style" in black rhetoric, which consists of slogans denouncing "racism, sexism, and homophobia," and class privilege.
While being careful to speak of destroying "white ideas," rather than white people, Cooper also evokes the genocidal black supremacy of Frances Cress Welsing, according to whom blacks are in a war of defensive racial annihilation against whites and the "global system of white supremacy."
During cross-examination following his first speech, Towson's Deven Cooper acknowledges to Kansas' Nate Johnson that a "revolutionary black aesthetic" is "an anti-white aesthetic." Cooper and Love openly identify with the black arts movement, which sought to destroy white culture, and through it, white society, and whose most famous writer, biracial playwright August Wilson, in his play, Fences, referred to the white man as "the Devil."
The Baltimore Sun's Nick Madigan quotes CEDA President Darren Elliott, of Kansas City Kansas Community College, as saying of the cheaters:
"They debate in a style that is definitely outside the conventions of most teams. It's a very nontraditional style. That was clearly their strength."
In a telephone interview, Chris Baron, one of Towson's debate coaches, argued:
"[Cooper and Love] made an argument that said that the structures of debate themselves need to be looked at, and need to be discussed and debated and need to be changed in a way that will make them more accessible, more fair, and just make them better.
"And some teams argued that, you know, they should be debating the topic about constructive engagement in the Middle East.
"Our debaters beat them on that argument [N.S.: How?], but our debaters said, among other things, you should be prepared to debate—about debate. Especially, as regards the practices, and whether they're fair, whether they're good practices. So, if you're going to defend that we should be talking about this topic, you should be able to explain why it's important that we talk about this [constructive engagement], and not about kind of larger questions that might be implicated by the way that we engage in debate.
But, contra Baron, there is no reason in the world why teams entering a debate tournament would be obligated to "debate debate," instead of the official topic. Otherwise, why have an official topic? And what are rules for, if members of certain groups can break them with impunity?
Signing up for a tournament implies consent as to the topic and the rules. Nobody dragged Cooper and Love to Wichita in chains. The only reason for making an issue of the rules was to sabotage the competition—and thereby distract everyone's attention from the saboteurs' competitive shortcomings.
The sponsors and judges are obligated to conduct themselves in a spirit of predictability, equality, and impartiality, treating all teams equally under the rules, equally obligating all teams to follow those rules, and not rooting for any team.
Baron's fallacious statements presuppose that Cooper and Love had a right to racially hijack the tournament, and that the burden of proof was on any who would oppose them. One may stick to the official debate question, or one may surrender to the cheaters. Baron, Cooper, and Love are celebrating intellectual incompetence and black chauvinism.
It is indicative of academia's racial corruption that Cooper and Love were not disqualified the first time they tried their scam last summer, and told in no uncertain terms that if they ever tried it again, they would be barred from all future tournaments.
How long until a Hispanic team demands that it be permitted to debate in Spanish?
But white men must follow the rules.
In Madigan's Baltimore Sun article, CEDA President Darren Elliott [Email him] boasted about his lack of impartiality, saying that Cooper and Love
"showed courage in trying to 'engage the community in changing how we talk about things, how we deal with these issues of race and sex and socioeconomic class.' In doing so, Elliott said, Love and Cooper confronted their judges, the tournament's organizers and other debaters by 'telling them that what they're doing is not as productive as some alternatives.'"
Towson's Chris Baron proudly recounted to me that many of the judges likewise said, "To a large extent the arguments being made are arguments about privilege and about race."
The news stories I saw about the CEDA tournament barely mentioned the University of Kansas' Nate Johnson or Chris Stone.
But in a KU promotional feature on the eve of CEDA, Jean Kygar Eblen wrote,
"One thing that drives this year's KU debaters' victories is their track record of introducing new arguments. Judges reward debaters who can take a position and defend it.
"'I think our team has put forth more new arguments than any other squad,' Stone said. 'We bring up things people don't have answers for.'"
One would expect to find KU's Stone or Johnson apoplectic over the unmerited loss. But my interview with Johnson revealed otherwise.
Nate Johnson: "[Cooper and Love] talked about how debate has been structured according to kind of racist principles, white principles…. And they criticized a lot of the ways that debate hasn't really questioned itself, and maybe some of the ways society in general still has a lot of structural racism.
"We tried to approach it a little bit differently than other people. We didn't feel that we should tell them that this is kind of a wrong forum for discussion, that maybe they should just stick to the topic, or anything like that. We really wanted to engage them on the issues that they were bringing up.
"They argued that their ethic is more revolutionary, and we said that when people have positioned themselves in revolutionary terms in the past, it puts them in opposition to and competition with other people that maybe are working for the same goal, maybe to end oppression like that, and kind of makes it difficult to get coalitions on your side, to get other people to be part of your movement. We argued that sometimes, trying to only focus on your social location shuts off other people that may be a little different from helping you out, or becoming part of your movement."
Johnson speaks very supportively of the Baltimore Urban Debate League. He feels he was helping Cooper and Love. But they don't feel any gratitude.
Unfortunately, Nate Johnson is the second generation of Johnson men to be mugged by politically correct racial realities. In 2004, his father Ron, a KSU journalism professor and much-beloved, long-time KSU student newspaper adviser, was fired from the latter job when the KSU administration caved in to pressure from the Black Student Government (BSG). The elder Johnson's race crime: Advising while white. The BSG wanted to hurt an innocent white, Ron Johnson was handy, and an administrator sacrificed him rather than confront black pressure.
The Johnsons seem like solid Midwesterners. Very polite folks. I have friends like that.
Unfortunately, some Midwesterners are too polite for their own good.
Nicholas Stix [email him] lives in New York City, which he views from the perspective of its public transport system, experienced in his career as an educator. His weekly column appears at
Men's News Daily and many other Web sites. He has also written for Middle American News, the New York