Why I don’t “debate”

Yesterday I mentioned that media has framed the current racist violence taking place in The Netherlands as a “debate”. I am repulsed by this framing and quite frankly, I am quite repulsed by Western conceptions of “debate”. Now, let me be clear, I love a good debate (or banter) as much as anyone else. We can debate whether triphop is superior to dubstep (it is) or whether white chocolate is delicious or not (it is). However, here’s what I will never do: I will never engage in “debates” around people’s humanity. I will never lend credibility to arguments that call into question my (our) right to live as self actualized persons. Engaging with racists (or sexists, misogynists, homophobes, transphobes, etc) to “debate” their points creates a false equivalency. It lends credibility to their bigotry by placing it on the same level as our lived experiences and needs.

This white European invention of “debate” grants those with power the authority to decide what is and isn’t valid. If I “win” the debate they will graciously concede me humanity, bestowed upon me like a gift. My humanity, my life, my experiences, are not a bargain chip they can use to enforce the current power structure. It is them who needs to examine their belief system, silently and through self reflexion and realize how they harbor prejudice. My life is not the tool through which they should do this. There are countless texts, videos, documentaries and media already produced on these topics. They come in all varieties of accessibility and languages, allowing people of a wide range of educational levels to have access to this knowledge. I am not going to be the shortcut that allows them to eschew exposure to these materials to “decide” whether I am right or not. Changing one’s heart is a solitary endeavor that comes from engaging all these testimonies and media at one’s own pace and leisure. These notions of “debate” are contrary to the self reflexion needed for change; simply put, they are a pastime to allow those in power to retain their position. And, as it should be expected, I refuse to do that.

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