RE: NEW PLAYING FIELD LAUNCHES, ALREADY PROVING UNAFRAID TO TACKLE TOUGH SUBJECTS

We’ve listened, and can assure you that from now on there will be a level playing field.

The field will be the regulation size: rectangular, 100 metres long by 70 metres wide. We’ve heard concerns that in the past the goalposts have been moved. Rest assured, each goalpost will be fixed at the centre of its goal line. The field will have all the traditional lines and markings, the ones that have served us so well for over 150 years.

We want this playing field to be accessible, so we’ve placed it not far from the heart of the city. As part of the project, we have been able to set up public/private partnerships to develop the surrounding areas, clearing semi-abandoned areas and converting those residences into far more desirable units. The city has issued bonds to pay for this, and given the developers a range of tax incentives. Indeed, one measure of success is that private investors have already snapped up 87% of the new units, and some have already sold them on for five times more than they paid for them. We can already claim that a part of the city which has always had the reputation as a high crime, low income area is seeing the start of a boom.

As part of the agreement with developers, the city has pledged to develop the transport infrastructure around the playing field. A light rail line will connect three Park N Rides which will be built less than half an hour’s ride from the playing field itself. Using these services couldn’t be more convenient, and season ticket holders will qualify for a 20% discount if they pay with their credit card. There may need to be cutbacks in other areas of the transport budget, which the city hopes to keep to a minimum.

While on the face of it the financial outlay the city has agreed to make will be vastly more than the revenue from property taxes, the city benefits in the following ways: thousands of people will be employed for the ten months it is projected it will take to build the playing field; increased tourism; a spur to job creation; the increased prestige of having a state-of-the-art playing field.

The playing field will seat eighty-five thousand. There have been concerns that activities on the playing field will play to half-empty stands. This is why we want to ensure that all events have a broad appeal, and are working to bring top names to our city.

We have already secured corporate sponsorship for the first five seasons. We’re not in a position to say exactly who, yet, but we can tell you that a major insurance company, a bank and a well-known pharmaceutical company with roots in the area are among them. Rest assured that they will have no day-to-day say in the running of the events, and have laid down very few guidelines, most of which are common sense, and cover potentially defamatory or overtly political material.

As should be clear, we want to maximize our playing field user base. Local residents qualify for substantially reduced entry fees. Tell your friends about us! See our website for details, please ensure you are running the latest browsers. As we value an ad free experience, there is a paywall.

We’ve had concerns that at past events, security has been a little too zealous. Rest assured that we only want to keep users of the playing field as safe and the space as family-friendly as we can. New and existing security personnel are now given a full half-day course on diversity awareness. Here’s hoping that means the isolated incidents we’ve seen are a thing of the past. We reserve the right to run background and credit checks on all people purchasing a ticket. Photo ID will be required, to avoid the risk of playing into the hands of the ticket touts. We reserve the right to refuse admission. The dress code is business casual.

There are plans for wheelchair access, we are currently debating where best to place the ramp.

If anyone is unable to gain access to the playing field for whatever reason, there is a dedicated pay-per-view Playing Field Channel, PFCTV, available from 72% of all providers as part of their premium package.

And now comes the exciting part!

To launch the new playing field, we are going to have an inaugural debate, and it will take on one of the biggest topics going, perhaps even the biggest: RACISM.

No-one likes the R-word, but sometimes, as the African novelist Tanehisi Coa’tes put it in her now famous – or is it infamous? – article for The Atlantic, ‘the Big R’ has to be addressed.

How does this involve you?

We’re glad you asked. You have received this communication because you have been identified as one of the key voices in the racism debate. You may never have thought of yourself in these terms, but as someone who is (a) black, (b) university-educated to the PhD level, (c) a female, (d) a prizewinning author in her own right, (e) was active on social media until very recently, we think you are uniquely qualified to talk about racism.

For too long, the debate has been an emotive one. We’re hoping you can anchor your points with facts, and not anecdotes. This is an opportunity to avoid clichés like referring to your own parents’ experiences, and to avoid being sidetracked by issues such as media representation, police victimization or education policies. Remember: this is a debate about race, not gender, and it’s generally agreed that it transcends party politics and affects all sides. Please avoid quoting other people, there would be little point building a new playing field just to warm over old material.

Your opponent – the chairman of our society – will be objective, and you should seek to be the same, if you want to have any chance of winning the debate.

We don’t want anyone distracted by outlandish costumes or hairstyles. How a person dresses may seem trivial, but it’s been known to sway opinions. Please give some thought to your appearance. Your author’s photo is perhaps a better ‘look’ for this forum than your current profile picture.

Obviously, the debate will be conducted in English. Foreign names are allowable, of course, but participants should ensure they take the time to define any unfamiliar words. The racism debate is often a grim one, so please, please use try to use humour as a tool. Castigat ridendo mores.

Remember: there will be 85,000 people in the seats around the playing field. Be sure not to bamboozle them with obscure historical terms or bore them with niche concerns. Try your best to appeal to everyone in the audience, not just those who are already sympathetic. Think how what you’re saying relates to your audience, not just yourself.

Each side will speak for ninety seconds. The adjudicator – the treasurer of our society – will then ring a buzzer, and the speaker must conclude his or (in your case) her remarks at the end of the current sentence.

We’ll follow the Oxford Union rules, on this occasion. The motion will be ‘this House does not believe racism is structural’. The House will speak first. To keep things interesting, we’ll decide which team takes the role of the House with the toss of a coin. That means you have a fifty-fifty chance of going first, and we know you’ll agree we literally can’t be any fairer than that.

Thanks for your interest!

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