Social Justice Debates

Online Championship

Sponsored by Quash TV!

$1000 prize for the winning school!

The 2019 Social Justices Debates Online Championship is a 1-on-1 online debate tournament for university students using the 2019-20 Social Justice Debates topic, topic statement and judge handbook.  The tournament will include four rounds of randomly paired preliminary debates breaking to semifinals. Each round will last about 30 minutes.

The Social Justice Debates Online Championship is sponsored by Quash TV and will use as our online debate platform. Debates will be published online at for public viewing.  

Schedule: Debaters will coordinate with their opponents to schedule and complete their four preliminary debates by 6 pm, Saturday, December 7.

Instructions for completing your rounds

  1. Look at the Debater List to find your numerical designation.
  2. Look at the Pairings to find out who you are debating in Rounds 1-4.
  3. Email your opponents to schedule your rounds. Your opponent's email address is provided in the Debater List.
  4. You and your opponent may schedule your rounds for anytime before 6 pm Saturday, December 7. If you are unable to reach agreement with your opponent on a time, the “default” times for your rounds are Saturday Dec 7 at 10:00 (Round 1), 12:00 (Round 2), 2:00 (Round 3), 4:00 (Round 4). You may hold your rounds in any order; e.g., you could debate round 3 before round 2 as long as you organize all four rounds before the deadline.
  5. Use Quash.TV as the platform for your rounds. Everyone will need to create a Quash.TV account.
  6. The Affirmative debater in each round is responsible for creating the “Quash”, i.e. for setting up the debate on Quash. The negative debater will then join the Quash for the 1 on 1 debate at the agreed upon time.
  7. IMPORTANT: If you are the affirmative debater setting up the debate, please title the debate, “Reparations for Slavery” followed by the round number and the debaters' schools and numerical designations with the name of the affirmative debater listed first. For example:  “Reparations for Slavery: SJD   Round 1 Alaska 1 v. GWU 33”  
  8. After you have completed the debate, please fill our the feedback form for the benefit of our sponsors.
  9. The Affirmative debater is also responsible for submitting the debate for judging. To submit the debate, click here.

Forfeits:  Affirmative debaters who fail to correctly set up the round, title, or submit the round for judging will forfeit the debate. If your opponent is nonresponsive or is more than 15 minutes late for a scheduled debate, please send an email to the tournament administrator with your opponent cced and a forfeit will be assessed.  

Judging obligations: For every student entered into the competition, there is a corresponding obligation to provide judging for two 30 minute debates.  Judges will receive emails containing links to their debates Saturday evening, Dec 7, and must complete their judging obligation by Sunday, Dec 8.  Judges must have undergraduate degrees.  The entry fee for students without judging is $20/student.  Waivers may be requested if this is a financial hardship.

*Prizes: There is a $1000 prize for the school of the winning debater and a $500 prize for the school of the second place debater.


Opening Affirmative: 5 minutes

Cross Examination by Negative: 3 minutes

Opening Negative: 5 minutes

Cross examination by Affirmative: 3 minutes

Preparation time: 2 minutes

Closing Affirmative: 4 minutes

Closing Negative: 4 minutes


The United States Federal Government should provide direct compensation to African-Americans who descended from slaves as reparations for slavery.

 Topic Statement

For African Americans and the nation as a whole, the question of reparations is the most significant issue in the quest for racial equality since the passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960s. With race relations today severely challenged and getting worse, Black reparations can be an opportunity to turn things around — but only if we seize upon this moment with probity and intelligence.

                                                                                                                - Professor Roy L. Brooks

In 2014, journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates reignited national discussion over reparations for slavery and discrimination with his Atlantic article, The Case for Reparations. In his article, Coates explained the value and importance of public debates on the issue of reparations as follows:

Scholars have long discussed methods by which America might make reparations to those on whose labor and exclusion the country was built ... To celebrate freedom and democracy while forgetting America’s origins in a slavery economy is patriotism à la carte. Perhaps no statistic better illustrates the enduring legacy of our country’s shameful history of treating Black people as sub-citizens, sub-Americans, and sub-humans than the wealth gap. Reparations would seek to close this chasm. But as surely as the creation of the wealth gap required the cooperation of every aspect of the society, bridging it will require the same. 

Perhaps after a serious discussion and debate—the kind that [the Bill for the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act] proposes—we may find that the country can never fully repay African Americans. But we stand to discover much about ourselves in such a discussion—and that is perhaps what scares us. 

The 2019-20 Social Justice Debates responds to this call and others for debate and dialogue on reparations for slavery by inviting students, judges, stakeholders, activists, scholars and citizens to engage the scholarship of William A Darity Jr. and Roy L. Brooks on the question of whether the United States Federal Government should provide direct compensation to African-Americans who descended from slaves as reparations for slavery. Darity described the core objective of reparations in his 2019 testimony to Congress as follows:

Today, Black Americans constitute approximately 13 to 14 percent of the nation’s population, yet possess less than 3 percent of the nation’s wealth. A core objective of the reparations program must be to move the Black American share to at least 13 to 14 percent. Reparations designated specifically for Black American descendants of slavery must be enacted and implemented to achieve that aim, moving Black wealth, roughly, from less than $3 trillion to $13 to 14 trillion.

To promote discussions exploring the challenging policy questions raised by Darity and Brooks on the implementation of reparations for slavery, affirmatives are asked to defend a model of reparations with direct compensation by the United States Federal Government to African-Americans who descended from slaves as a central element of a policy intended to address this wealth gap consistent with Darity's and Brooks' scholarship. Negatives may win by either rebutting the affirmative arguments for implementing the affirmative's model of direct compensation reparations and/or by demonstrating the superiority of a competing model; i.e., demonstrating that it would be more desirable to implement solely the negative's model rather than the affirmative's model or both the affirmative's and negative's models.

For the purposes of exploring this research question, debaters should interpret the topic in a manner consistent with this topic statement and the reparations scholarship of Professors Darity and Brooks. This should include assuming that the United States Federal Government is the only potentially viable actor for providing comprehensive reparations for slavery to African Americans. It should also include affirmatives both defending the proposition that all or nearly all African Americans who descended from slaves should receive direct compensation including all or nearly all middle class and lower-upper class African Americans who descended from slaves, and being prepared to specify in cross examination whether they would propose to fund reparations in any manner other than normal means and to defend any such specification. The Affirmative's advocacy is not meant to be exclusive of reparations for other groups or other types of reparations. The GWU Social Justice debates is intended to serve as preparation for the Social Justice Debates National Championship at Morehouse College. Per the topic statement for that competition, on the Morehouse campus both the terms "African American" and "Black" are acceptable and appropriate terms for referring to people who have Black skin and are of African descent. The purpose of the 2019-20 Social Justice Debates is not to resolve which term is more appropriate.

Instructions to Preliminary Rounds Judges

Elimination rounds will be judged by topic experts who will be given the SJD topic, topic statement, and judge handbook. This means that as a prelims judge you are preparing students to debate before topic experts who will be using the published topic, topic statement, and judge handbook provided above to guide their decision making process. Your most important task as a prelims judge is to judge rounds in a manner that prepares the students advancing to elimination rounds to excel in those debates.

Judges are asked to interpret the research questions raised by the topic in a manner consistent with the topic statement. Students are responsible for analyzing the topic and topic statement and understanding the research questions raised for debate. Students may quote from the topic statement as necessary to establish the parameters of the research questions raised by the topic.

Debaters are asked to provide direct, succinct responses to direct questions in cross examination.  Filibustering, answering questions that haven’t been asked, and otherwise failing to provide direct, succinct answers to direct questions should result in lower speaker points and--in very close debates--assigning a loss. (Obviously open ended questions may require open answers.)

The judge handbook identifies specific obligations for students introducing evidence. This includes being ready to immediately provide copies of relevant portions of the introduced sources to their opponents for review upon request.

Please read the complete judge handbook including the topic and topic statement. This handbook is written for elimination rounds judges who possess topic expertise but who are not necessarily experienced debate judges. Again, your most important task as a prelims judge is to prepare students to excel before these judges.

Speaker points should be assigned on a scale of 90-100 with no ties.  Judges should be "reluctant" to give speaker points between 97-100; i.e., absent an exemplary performance reflecting high level research, argumentation, delivery and performance, judges should not give speaker points in this range.  "Very Good" performances should receive scores in the 95-96 range. "Good" performances should receive points in the 93-94 range. No ties. Half points are allowed.  

Judge Handbook

Click here for the 2019-20 Social Justice Debates Judge Handbook.