NSDeep week 2 – responses

Hello! Welcome to NSDeep week 2! We got a high volume of submissions once again! Just a reminder: A. these submissions are 100% anonymous B. this is not a column for strategic advice, teaching about authors, or coaching.

1. “I’ve been really passionate about debate from when i first learned about it. it’s an activity that i found so much joy in and have invested lots of time and money into it But recently i’ve been feeling disinterested and unmotivated to debate. i’ve have stumps before but none of them felt like this. i tried taking a break and coming back but it hasn’t changed my lack of interest. it’s getting to the point where debate feels burdensome. i’m scared that i might be better off quitting but it’s been such a huge part of my identity. i don’t know what i’d do or who i’d be without debate.”

Hello! It sounds like you’re getting burnt out for sure and this is super common. Taking a break is perfectly fine and it is okay to feel like you’re losing interest. Debate can often feel burdensome and that might be an indication that it is taking over a bit too much space in life. I have several personal suggestions:

  • Try switching up your style of debate? Getting out of your comfort zone with your argument styles or the literature you’re reading can contribute a lot to finding something new that catches your interest!
  • If possible, think of some other activities that you genuinely enjoy doing (maybe some that aren’t as time-consuming and work-intensive) and pursue them! I often got frustrated with debate and sometimes completely lost interest in the activity, switching from LD to Policy was an awesome decision for me. Outside of debate, I always sing, dance, and I was on the track&field team throughout high school, so I was able to find a balance. Find whatever you love and do some more of it.
  • If anyone has any other tips, comment below!

2. “As a cisgender person, I try my best to use my opponents appropriate pronouns, but I have messed up when spreading t. I know the emotional harm this can cause and just feel terrible about it and ended up conceding the round the second time it happened.. I would like to know from anyone who is trans/nb what they feel like the appropriate way to address this in round is (referring both what I can do to keep the space safe, and the correct consequences/way to set norms we as a community can adopt IE misgendering Ks or the judge just docing speaks)”

I am a cisgender female, so I would not be the correct person to answer this. I will not speak to experiences I know others can better articulate. I personally suggest changing your speech docs to gender neutral pronouns like “they/them/theirs” or referring to your opponent as “the AFF” or “the NEG” and being aware of this when you’re extemping parts of the speech. I also do not think that a few debaters can speak for the whole community, but here is some advice from (now college-level) non-binary debater, Ariel Olson and a trans debater, Logan Reed.

Things you can do pre-emptively:

  • I usually tell people that they should try really hard to be cognizant of it in speeches which means if you really need to not spread as fast or take time in prep write a speech doc with your opponents pronouns in it to be aware of your opponents pronouns, that should be something you’re willing to do. The more frequently you make this effort and practice paying attention to pronouns, often the less effort it take later on as you get used to it.
  • Another thing you can do is to normalize referencing people as “they” in your speeches and daily life. Especially since half of LDers seem to say “we” anyway, the grammatical comfort of calling your singular opponent “they” is already there, and will probably help with when you reference people with they/them pronouns. (Not saying that people should think “they” as a plural is more valid, but when struggling with peoples pronouns it is something I recognize people often reference as their biggest difficulty)
  • You also should not say that you “consulted a non-binary gender about the AFF” or anything of that nature. – Logan

In round:

  • As soon as you say the wrong pronouns, it’s best you pause and say something to the effect of, “sorry, I meant they” and then pick up the sentence from that correct pronoun. If you don’t notice immediately, apologize similarly as soon as you do if it’s still in the speech, without making it into a spectacle of sounding like the overcome-by-guilty cis person. We don’t ask for all of that guilt.
  • If it’s after your speech and you realize I’d suggest you ask to take a few seconds of your own prep to lean over to them and tell them you realized you used the wrong pronouns, and you made a mistake. I think it’d be nice to do this without raising the volume of your voice to intentionally let the judges hear as if your apology is for the ballot, and instead make sure it’s something you convey as genuine (especially if you’re taking your own 5-10 seconds of prep to do it).
  • With all of those apologies has to come with not misgendering them again. If you apologize and then mess up again it doesn’t ever let us feel like debate can still be safe, and the apology feels like nothing but cruel optimism if the next speech is misgendering them so much they can’t participate. (And that line is different for everybody depending on their own gendered experiences)


3. “What practices should non-black POC debaters follow with regards to reading positions (such as Weheliye or Wilderson) that take a stance on the ontological position of Blackness? In what instances would it be acceptable for these non-black POC debaters to read it? Reading it without a black person in the discussion feels like speaking for others, but if the black debater does not initiate the conversation, it also doesn’t feel right to start it, given the claims that these positions make.”

I think this question is not mine alone to answer, as I am a black woman but do not speak for the entire ethnicity. Reading blackness positions as a non-black debater is definitionally speaking for others. My personal belief is that non-black debaters should not be reading radical blackness positions. “Positions about social and racial justice, sure. But [non-black] kids taking on the voices of radical black authors is bad” to paraphrase Dave McGinnis’ comment on my post. Personally, I believe that radical black authors are not writing these positions for non-black students to take up as activism. Black students have spent so long trying to find a voice and a place in academia, and that space should not be filled with the voice of people who can not identify with or know very little about the experience/history/ontology of blackness. Also, having black coaches/mentors or asking black people in the room if you can read the position in the round does not actually do or mean much or anything, respectively. Non-black people reading anti-blackness “strategically” for a “quick/easy dub” is also anti-black, in my opinion.

However, I agree with the K. Aarons article about read anti-blackness as self-abolition, and I like the suggestion made by Calvin Warren of constantly being critical of the world around you and calling things out (an unflinching paradigmatic analysis if you will?).

ALSO: THERE IS SO MUCH MORE LITERATURE OUT THERE (this is an example of the “go to the other side of the library” that debaters spew out in their K underviews). I am unsure why people feel so comfortable discussing the plight that is anti-blackness but will not address other violence and history analyzed by other critical race theorists. If you’re a person of color interested in reading identity arguments, check out your history (e.g. Latinx Critical Race Theory, Asian American Critical Race Theory, DesiCrit – which is the term used by Vinay Harpalani in the writing specific to South Asian Americans).

4. “Research Tips”

  • Use Boolean Operators in your search-engine entries! I will quote this really concise article on this (https://library.albany.edu/subject/tutorials/education/boolean.html): “Boolean Operators are used to connect and define the relationship between your search terms. When searching electronic databases, you can use Boolean operators to either narrow or broaden your record sets. The three Boolean operators are ANDOR and NOT.”
  •  Use quotation marks to clarify which words you are requiring be included in the search results.
  • Try re-phrasing what you are looking for in order to find the articles you’re looking for (e.g. synonyms for words, rephrasing questions)
  • Google Scholar is a free and awesome resource!
  • Ask college students to unlock/access articles and books for you.
  • Verbatim Cite Creator is a Chrome extension that will save so much time.

5. Note for the submissions: “Going to more bid tournaments independently” and “stress and pressure to perform well vrs. Enjoying debate as a space for friendly competition and discourse”

Check out our last post (NSDeep – week 1) about this! There are some extremely insightful responses about independent debating, dealing with stress, anxiety, depression, and toxic competitiveness in debate.


Jayanne Forrest