SA’s Black Sports Players Need Black Conscious Mindsets By Cheryl Roberts

12 Jan

South Africa’s Black sportspeople, particularly players and coaches are sadly lacking the tough black conscious minds and mental capacity which they need to participate as human beings in South African sport and dislodge the chains which have them bound in seemingly perpetual ‘development and inferior to white merit’ mindsets.

This weak and inferior mind of players and coaches allows whiteness to dominate and, blacks in white-dominated sports especially, lack the strength to believe in the might of their blackness.

I’m of the opinion that South Africa’s back sports people in the democratic era of international sports don’t only have weak mindsets but they also possess something of an inferior consciousness in relation to their white counterparts and sports friends.

This is a particularly true and honest reflection in national sports and teams such as hockey, rugby, cricket, netball, swimming that are white player dominated and white-coach dominated.

Despite contested debates and critical challenges about white and elite domination of sports teams in South Africa, our country’s democratic era sportspeople have been participating in sport with seemingly no political or social justice consciousness.

The players have come into sport and been encouraged to participate in sport as if sport exists outside of society and its social inequalities and social justice demands.

Unlike sportspeople of the anti-apartheid sports struggle, who were highly conscientised and understood they participated in sport for freedom from oppression, contemporary sportspeople are taught only how to play sport and sharpen sports techniques and to have provincial and national ambitions in sport. Political and social education isn’t encouraged or dished out in sport in South Africa. Most sports federations and sports officials inhibit social consciousness expression by sportswomen and sportsmen.

Although they don’t readily admit it publicly, Black (people of all colours not white) players and athletes in sport suffer inferior complexes. Black sportspeople are missing a black consciousness mentality; that black consciousness espoused by black consciousness philosopher, Steve Biko which emphasises belief in one’s black identity as being our strength and pride and not being inferior to whiteness.

Look at South Africa’s black internationals in some sports like rugby, cricket and hockey. Over the past two decades, these black players have been unable to speak out against white privilege in national sports selection, about the pressure brought on black players to perform to prove their sports talent because black sports talent needs justification by whites.

Many reasons and opinions have been argued about Hashim Amla’s captaincy of the SA men’s cricket team. For me, one of Amla’s weaknesses and deficiencies was his lack of a black consciousness mindset. I was surprised when he spoke out, after his resignation from the SA Test captaincy,  about how ‘players of colour’ were doubted. At all times he was asked for a comment or media interview, Hashim Amla avoided social justice dialogue or opinion. Make no mistake, Amla is indeed a world class cricket batsman. But he’s the type of black sportsman that prefers to position sport as being divorced from society; at least, that’s the impression he gave.

This non-political education of South Africa’s born frees and young adults who have grown up in post-apartheid South Africa, has impacted on mindsets of black players and athletes and coaches. The strength and power of whiteness, and white privilege is massive within white-dominated sports teams such as rugby, swimming, hockey, cricket, swimming and netball.

Should the black athletes and players have black consciousness minds and consciousness they will possess black toughness needed to sustain their blackness in white-dominated sports, where white players as a bloc group together and fight for their whiteness to be viewed as merit while blackness in the sports team is viewed as development and must be justified for selection.

Sports federations don’t encourage political discussion because they are of the false ‘thinking that sport and politics don’t mix’. Sportspeople are quietened into submission to believe this false perception of society and the social positioning of sport. The white dominated sports teams rule with whiteness, while black players/athletes never speak positively of their black identity.

An education in the teachings of black consciousness and an embrace of a black consciousness mindset would have rocketed the black players’ mental capacity to believe in their blackness, to challenge whiteness and to be critical of attempts to enforce black players as being ‘non-merit’ players.

This weak and uncritical consciousness of black players and coaches has its roots in the early stage of post-apartheid, democratic era of sport in transforming SA, when development of sport became associated with black communities and synonymous with blacks. Black players, coaches and athletes battled to fight off the perception they had only ‘developing talent’ in sport which required years of nurturing into international mold. This wasn’t how white players and coaches were perceived. Whites were treated as merit and selected as talented players and coaches because of merit.

International Black players have been quietly silenced about their conscious opinion about the social positioning of sport in South African society. They’ve never called out white privilege and or asserted their blackness. It’s only years later, after they have retired from international sport, that some of them reveal the racism they encountered and their weak relationships with white players.

Black Consciousness mindsets and consciousness is not racism! It will not give sportspeople a false prejudice but a positive state of mind to believe in their blackness. This black consciousness will benefit black sports players, administrators, coaches to be mentally strong and to believe in the power of their blackness. It will also eliminate the arrogance of whiteness in South African sport.

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hashim amla, sa test cricket captain (before he resigned)

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