RE: Racism in Debate Survey

Yesterday, we shared a survey from our founder Sara Catherine Cook. Said survey was for a sociology class on race, and the goal was for her to write a paper examining racial disparities in high school debate. Given the context of her classroom, she utilized the terminology from the 2010 census, which is the norm for scholars in the field. This would allow her study to be compared to other results and also highlight how messed up censuses and racial categorization could be. As soon as she received feedback that the language she used harmed a single person, she changed it and profusely apologized. Before you go after individuals involved, please remember that they did it with good intentions. That doesn’t mean what they did was right or acceptable, but recognize that they come from a place of genuinely wanting to eliminate inequality. 

To be clear, none of this excuses our mistake. It is unacceptable. This is simply to state the facts for those who weren’t caught up in the drama.

BR has rarely talked about racial issues and missed the mark when thinking of the ramifications of language on black debaters. That is a huge issue. It is not a word that should be used at all. We messed up in sharing the survey without adequate review on our part. 

In terms of going forward, we have a few plans:

  1. Implement stricter oversight before posts are shared. For those interested, the full policy can be found here. 

  2. We want to work more directly with more debaters of color, especially those who are Black and Brown. We will reopen volunteer applications later this week with the express purpose of including more people of color.

  3. We invite members of the community who were impacted by the language in the survey to write their own posts responding to the incident, and we will serve as a platform for such criticism. Even more importantly, we really want to invite debaters to explicitly share their experiences with race in debate. To facilitate that, we are making blog posts easier to submit. The form can now be found here.

  4. Members of the executive board are individually educating themselves beyond what people have explicitly shared with them. If you would like to suggest things for us to read please reach out!

  5. We will keep the survey open, with the harmful language removed of course. This is because there is little academic literature on racial discrimination in debate, which we believe is necessary to catylize change at an institutional level. If you would like to fill out the revised survey, it is here.

Finally, we are incredibly grateful for the constructive feedback we have received from the community. As always, if you want to reach out to us, we would encourage you to use the “What can we do better” page on our website, as that goes directly into the emails of the Executive Team for immediate review.


Beyond Resolved Executive Team.

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