DeKalb, IL — The Morehouse College debate team withdrew from a tournament earlier this month after being subject to racist taunts from opposing teams.
Senior Daniel Edwards and sophomore Caleb Strickland said they were mocked by the rival teams and students from the University of Hawaii at the Penn United States Universities Debating Championship.
During the fifth round, a Morehouse student’s voice was mocked by others when they would answer questions and other teams would roll their eyes and laugh when they spoke. Other teams would also turn their cameras on when it was Morehouse’s turn to speak which is prohibited during the virtual debate.
The judges dismissed Morehouse’s complaints and gave points to the opposing team instead. The students also say there was bias around the debate topics.
“The judges said they cared more about the Western stories that were being discussed such as ‘Cinderella’ and ‘The Little Mermaid’ as compared to native African stories that we talked about, like the ‘Epic of Mwindo’ or Cherokee creations,” Strickland said, according to The Undefeated.
The Morehouse team brought their issue to the tournament’s equity team for assistance. They promised to address it before the next round but it never happened.
“It would be a mistake to say this was about one round and one team,” said the Morehouse debate coach Kenneth Newby, according to The Undefeated. “It was about anti-Blackness issues within the British Parliamentary debate space.”
In a statement, the University of Hawaii said it “takes these types of matters very seriously.”
“As a higher education institution dedicated to the inclusion and advancement of all peoples, UH condemns all acts of racism, discrimination, bigotry and hate,” the statement reads, according to The Undefeated.
To show support, Clemson University, Spelman College and Vanderbilt University also withdrew from the tournament.