Traveling through life with a timer and sneakers


Why Marriott’s response to racism in their hotels matters

Stepping away from weight-loss for a post and addressing an issue pertinent to some of the other themes of my blog. Something that has been bothering me for awhile but was magnified in recent months by an issue that occurred at the Walnut Creek Marriott in February as well as the response from the parties involved.

Before I begin, I should probably disclose that I am a white woman in my early to mid-thirties. My husband is black. Honestly, being part of a mixed race couple was never something that seemed out of place to me growing up in California. Maybe I am just lucky to have awesome parents who took every opportunity they could to educate me about racial, gender, and cultural sensitivity. Obviously it’s also because I am not a minority, but I never realized just how much microracism existed in our society until I started dating my husband.

When I first learned about the female Marriott employee ignoring the black high school students and educators on the elevator, I was frustrated and upset. I was angry that someone had made my husband and colleagues as well as high school students feel like they were second class citizens. That they were not worthy of a friendly smile and greeting by a member of the hospitality industry.

Here’s how this situation SHOULD have worked out. The woman, when faced with what happened and how it made people feel, should have acknowledged that what she did excluded people of a racial minority. She should have verbally acknowledged that her actions were hurtful. She should have sincerely apologized for the action and the emotional response it caused. What I have learned over nine years is that micro racism isn’t always intentional and even someone with good intentions most of the time can still be a perpetrator of micro racism. I am willing to admit that I too have at some point committed an act of micro aggression and may not have even realized it at the time. This “more subtle, casual form of bigotry” occurs daily and is sometimes so subverted that neither party is aware until the damage is done.

The problem is that the employee didn’t seem to think what she did was wrong. Based on the reactions from management, neither did they. My husband was stopped in an open lobby when it was convenient for management but then not allowed to have the conversation where he had been stopped. He felt confronted publicly but then could not react publicly per management. And in other moves, rather than attempting to arrange an actual meeting about the situation with the black coaches and students, management went to the white organizers to arrange a meeting, bringing another act of micro aggression into the mix.

The problem is escalated and the entire process drawn out, each step another reminder of the otherization committed by this employee. However at every step, no one at Marriott appears to acknowledge how the actions of the employee left their guests feeling.

The denial of racism by Marriott is racism. It is the refusal to recognize the feelings of customers. It is ignorance of how microracism is just as racist and perhaps more damaging than overt racism. And it leaves a sour taste in the mouths of all who learn that the customer isn’t always right if the customer has dark skin.

Because education is important to me, let’s examine some responses that Marriott could have made in addition to the individual employee. First is by going back to corporate roots. According to a letter sent to my husband, Marriott has a long history in dealing with diversity. It sounds like this individual employee (and then the management) should get some retraining. If the member of management had apologized, offered his contact information for follow up, and then acknowledged the stresses and emotional otherization along with arranging for follow-up training for the employee, I am certain in speaking to victims that this would have served as a more appropriate reaction.

When management failed, corporate could have taken similar steps to examine the incident and rather than dismiss the customers, examine the training being given at a corporate level regarding microracism. If employees and management don’t think it’s a “big deal” then there is something more that is wrong that just the initial incident. And then let the customers know that you are following up on the review of the training.

A hospitality company that fails to recognize the emotional harm inflicted by an employee is one that does not care about it’s guests. That’s not the message Marriott probably wants to send to it’s customer base. But when micro aggression goes unchecked and otherization of guests occurs by all levels of the organization, it is unfortunately the one we are left with.


Production versus Consumption. Chicken? or Egg?

As per usual, this isn’t meant to be a topic analysis. Just some quick thoughts when I read the 2012 NCFL topic this morning.

Resolved:  Increasing US energy production should take precedence over protecting the environment.

First, I think that the question has to be answered as to what type of energy production that needs to be increased. It would be hard to argue that the US isn’t in need of increased energy with an increase in population. Especially since the topic doesn’t say you get to increase conservation efforts if you vote Con.

Obviously the debate wants to be focused on drilling and fracking for oil and building up nuclear plants, both controversial but known sources of energy. Perhaps coal will also be debated. However, I think that a good Pro team would not limit themselves to these sources. In fact, I would keep all energy sources in mind when framing the case and instead shift the burden to the neg to show that in general, over-protection of the environment is stopping energy development. I don’t know if this is true outside of these primary energy production means.

In a lot of ways, I think this is going to be a very circular debate. Almost a “chicken or egg” line of argument. Those on the Pro will say we can’t have productivity and economic growth/stability without internal energy production while those on the Con will contend we need to focus on creating energy efficient products and lifestyles in order to have economic growth/stability. My head hurts just thinking about it.

Here are some interesting articles that may, or may not, be useful:

Draw a line for the judge: Current debates and why judges are intervening.

As I judge debates on the April PF topic (Resolved: State mandated administration of childhood vaccinations is justified.), I am noticing a common and disturbing set of trends. And these trends are allowing both sides to “win” their side of the debate while in the end leaving it entirely up to the judge to pick what side they like best.

1. Debaters use generic philosophical jargon without understanding the philosophy.

This is problematic for several reasons. First, they aren’t able to fully articulate their own arguments so they are in line with the philosophical view they use to justify, or weigh, their side of the round. This leads to arguments that contradict each other within a case.

Second, because they learn the generic wikipedia level of the philosophical viewpoints, they also don’t understand or see the contradictions their opponents make. Nor are they able to address the arguments from a philosophical view point. Why use these weighing mechanisms and justifications if you can’t really use them?

Ultimately, the judge has two competing, underdeveloped frameworks, with arguments that contradict all over the flow. Super useful in making a decision, right?

2. Lacking a bright line.

This is probably the most frustrating part of the debates I have seen. Both sides fail to show when mandates cause their impacts to happen without the impacts of the other side happening. If mandates cause a loss of autonomy, why doesn’t bans on doing drugs? Where is the line that is drawn between these two regulations? And on the opposite side, why does a government protecting people stop at mandates on vaccines? Why can’t they also mandate what job field we go into so the nation fills every open job? Where does regulation stop and free will begin?

Debaters who lack a bright line are asking the judge to draw one for them. Debaters should hold that pen… don’t give us artistic freedom on the ballot…

3. Missing the forest for the trees.

One of the problems with Public Forum in general, but also true on this topic, is that debaters are attempting to get too line-by-line and run too many sub-points. This leads to underdevelopment, quick pace, and dropped comparative analysis due to time. On this topic, debaters are getting too specific on public opinion polls and specifics on what a mandate would look like rather than discuss the larger questions of the resolution. C’mon folks… you only have 33 minutes!

So in the end of the round we as the judges have a bunch of competing arguments that we get to weigh. What do we think is most important? Or in some cases, what did we understand more clearly? A case that looks at the forest and links the couple highlighted trees to the forest will win almost every time when competing against a team talking about every individual tree. But when everyone is looking at individual trees… well it’s like taking the extended family out shopping for the perfect Christmas tree! No one walks away happy.

Ultimately, watching these debates continues to cause me to question where is PF, what is it’s purpose, and where is it going. But more on that later.


January PF Topic Research

Resolved: The costs of a college education outweigh the benefits.

Some useful links on the January Public Forum Topic. You can find more by searching through government databases. And it’s all free!






(I love that the stats for this blog entry show people got here by googling the exact words of the resolution… dear students, I promise there are better ways to do research! I’ll write some helpful blog posts about it soon!)

There is something to be said for the “All or Nothing” attitude

I committed to blogging every day. In my mind it meant I had to blog every day. And once I missed a day, I said I would write two blogs the next day. And when that didn’t happen…

Well you can see where this went for about a month. When I realized it was now or never. If I didn’t start blogging again then my fabulous idea of documenting a year of coaching would gather cyber-dust. And that would be silly since I paid for the domain name!

Clearly life is stressful and frustrating. We all have plans and sometimes those plans don’t work out. We can either give up, or dust off that cyber dust and hop back into the game. So I am back. And while I hope I will blog every day, if I miss a day I won’t kick myself for it.

It reminds me of my students. Many times I ask if they are ready for a practice debate and they tell me that their cases aren’t ready yet. Often times it is because their cases aren’t “perfect” and they don’t want to “lose” the practice debate. However, this all or nothing attitude prevents them from getting in the early practice rounds and they miss opportunities to find ways to strengthen their cases or create unique blocks to their opponents cases. Things that can only be discovered through actual practice rounds. By putting it off and off and off, they miss out. By putting off blogging until I can catch up on the daily posts, I miss an opportunity to capture my thoughts and actions. Which means I get the “nothing” end of the all or nothing mindset, and that just sounds like a waste of a domain name.

What is Plea Bargaining?

Some helpful links to get you started on the January topic:

ExpertLaw Backgrounder on Plea Bargaining

An interesting book, this link takes you to a discussion about plea bargaining in Criminal Justice Ethics: Theory and Practice by Cyndi Banks.

Some Pros and Cons about Plea Bargaining from Larry J. Siegel’s Introduction to Criminal Justice textbook.

Finally, some possibly useful impacts to plea bargaining in Plea Bargaining’s Triumph: A History of Plea Bargaining in America by George Fisher.

Resolved: In the United States, plea bargaining undermines the criminal justice system.

Welp, let’s see how January plays out! Leaving for the first tournament in 15 days!