As a means to gain a more culturally diverse membership and to have an interesting topic up for debate, the UCLU Debating Society ran an event in association with the UCLU BME with the following title

This house believes the different portrayals of ‘race’ in the media is the main cause of institutional racism

The format was simple We had four people as debaters, with two representing the proposition, and the other two the opposition of the motion. Each speaker would have 7mins to present their argument, the middle 5mins would be open for a “Point of Interest” question or clarification from anyone in attendance. With that said, the speaker could refuse to respond. First up for the proposition was BME LGBT representative who opened the debate with a nervous yet passionate argument with the highlight being a remixed rendition of the iconic Jaws theme. The musical interlude was used whilst he was giving an analogy of how discrimition can be suggested, but later cemented, which in turn was to support that media is indeed the main cause of instituional racism.

Dr Meera Sabaratnam gave a very strong response where she very articulately explained that institutionalised racism is ultimately because of the white privileged who exist as a majority in institutions and indeed control the media. To be honest, the debate could have finished there because I felt her response was accurate and delivered with ease.

Now I forget the name of the next chap, primarily because he was a stand in, but he is supposed to be the reigning World Champion Debater, yet I can’t find his name on the internet! Anyway, it was clear that he knew how to debate, however, I couldn’t help but feel he didn’t truly believe what he was saying. I therefore struggled to be moved by almost anything he said, but the next debater helped clarify why he would have struggled to give a convincing case…

The debater in question was Barry Mussenden OBE who successfully energised the audience as he gave a more informal and very personal argument, by explaining the impact that the media had to support the Stephen Lawrence enquiry which he was heavily involved with at the time. He explained though that it was the community that rallied around the family which was the driving force for change, and a spot light on institutional racism was shone by this said community, not the Daily Mail.

Things then got interesting when the stage was open to the floor. The best speaker either for, against or on the fence, would get either a bottle of port or a box of chocolates.

We began with a self proclaimed elderly “Freedom Fighter” who couldn’t quite handle the 3min speech time. He raised some interesting points including the inventor of the lightbulb, Lewis Howard Latimer.

Next was my turn! I didn’t really have much time to prepare since I didn’t even know that I would have a strong argument to present, but I put my hand up and was successfully selected! I began by making it clear that the media does indeed have impact, but ultimately the most important factor were people you value, namely close friends, family and those in positions of authority. I learned about the issues of dating outside my race, working in a mainly white populated country, living around people who think I was a “packie”, by learning from people around me, not from the media. I might have seen a commentary on the above examples in the media, but they were not the seed of thought. I also explained that when you want to convince someone to change their ways, your not going to tell them to watch TV. You really need people to connect with them on an emotional level, to build trust (if it doesn’t already exist) and then people will listen to you.

What followed was a very entertaining 5min + monologue from an abstaining member of the audience who didn’t really make any sense at all. And he certainly didn’t want to give up the microphone despite the rest of the audience and Debating Society board members clapping for him to sit down TWICE. We had two more rounds of speakers from the audience, with a total of nine of us throwing in our two pence worth.

chocolatesAfter summaries of the evening by the four main speakers, the Debating Society President announced the winner out of the 9 audience speakers.

And I won!!!

It was a really wonderful night and I’m keen to go back. I enjoyed having such a great opportunity to learn more about the world from such an informed and diverse group of people. 

Bring on the next debate!!!

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