Members of West Virginia University’s award-winning Debate Team gathered Wednesday (April 14) night to tackle the perception, existence and influence of race in society.

The students were charged with proving both the positive and negative sides of the question “does race matter?” The question was chosen by WVU Philosophy Department Chair Sharon Ryan as part of her The Question series. The debate was the final presentation in WVU’s 2010 David C. Hardesty Jr. Festival of Ideas.

The two teams were: Courtney Plante, a junior political science major from Beckley, and Joe Heathcock, a senior philosophy major from Michigan; versus Meghan Powers, a senior political science major from Ridgeley, and Amit Patel, a senior economics major from London, England.

Plante and Heathcock argued against the question affirming the belief that “race does not matter.” They argued that race does not matter because it does not exist. They said it was merely a perception and a “tool used to gain power.”

“We acknowledge that people have a social identity and culture, but this is not race. Racial categories are not real. The whole concept is arbitrary. Race is determined by visual comparison, there is no scientific reality,” Plante and Heathcock said.

Powers and Patel strived to prove to the audience that “race does matter.” They argued that race is something that is recognized by the government. They used the example of the U.S. Census and how people are asked to check a box indicating their race.

The team listed statistics of racial discrimination and hate crimes, and they pointed out that people are “conditioned” to think about race.

“How can people ignore race and say it does not matter when people are still being treated differently because of race,” Powers and Patel said.

For more discussion on this question, and other questions posed by the WVU Philosophy Department, visit .

The WVU Debate Team is hosted by the Department of Political Science. The team has participated in debates throughout the United States, including the U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Military Academy, Cornell University, University of Southern California, Vanderbilt University, Georgetown University, New York University and the University of Massachusetts.
At mid-season, WVU’s Debate Team was ranked 17th in the country. Last year they were declared Most Improved Team in the nation by the Cross-Examination Debate Association, and upon completion of the season were ranked 23rd.

The 2010 David C. Hardesty Jr. Festival of Ideas lecture series is supported in part by the David C. Hardesty Jr. Festival of Ideas Endowment, which was established in 2007 by the WVU Foundation, a private, nonprofit corporation that generates, receives and administers private gifts from individuals and organizations for the benefit of WVU.

For more information about the 2010 Festival of Ideas, visit .



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