Archive | January, 2017

Centering Black Women In Sport Is Black Woman Justice By Cheryl Roberts

31 Jan

I’m sometimes asked why do I differentiate between women in sport; why do I refer to women as black women in sport and black sportswomen when ‘all are women in sport’. So here’s my response….

8cheryl roberts  in the rain forest in ghana

Cheryl Roberts (writer of the blog)

Without going into the historical analysis of women in society – as this is an Op-Ed (opinion article), not a postgrad essay – let me lay it down from the start and state that not all women are women of the same social and economic lives; it’s their social positioning and skin colour which differentiates women. Black women are subjected to much, much more discrimination and exploitation than white women and this discrimination is carried out in sport.

I center black women in my writings, talks, resistance and activism in sport and society because black women are the most discriminated against and treated as if they hardly exist.

Yes, I do acknowledge that gender inequalities and discrimination affect women in sport and impact on all sportswomen. But these inequalities and discrimination impact much, much more on black women in sport!

Black sportswomen and black women in sport have for over a century and more, not only been victims of the harshest discrimination; they have also been viciously marginalised and kept on the sidelines, out of positions of power.

Admittedly, 2016 in South African sport produced world class, Olympic and world champion black sportswomen. But this doesn’t mean that black sportswomen are given their rightful support, encouragement and assistance within South Africa’s sports paradigm.

With South Africa’s male-dominated and controlled sports network, black women in sport are placed mostly at the bottom of the sports paradigm. Look at national positions on national federations like swimming, athletics, cricket, rugby, football. Where are the black African women? Officialdom and leadership of SASCOC increased women’s numbers at the SASCOC elections held late last year. Black African women were available for election. But not one Black African woman got elected onto SASCOC; and this by a council that is mostly white-dominated.

Get this! White women – most of them, not all of them – represent themselves, their white privilege and their inherited life that their whiteness is privileged and must be looked after and supported.

We rarely have white women speaking out against the system that discriminates against black African women, then marginalises them and keeps them floating in non-supported sports environments.

And what about this reality? White people don’t see any inhumanity or racial injustices when national and provincial sports teams are mostly white or just about all white like in swimming, tennis and netball. Do we hear white people talking about and calling out the invisibility of black African women in sports teams and sports officialdom?

Yes, women have to struggle and compete and challenge for their place at the sports table. But white women don’t have to struggle as much as black African women. This is because white women are protected by their inherited and historical white privilege and whiteness which guarantees them preferential support and recognition.

There’s the examples of SA’s Paralympic champion, Zanele Situ and world boxing champion, Noni Tenge and world class netballer Pumza Maweni. These black African sportswomen have excelled in sport, are achievers and represent black woman prowess in sport, yet they are ignored and unsupported by corporate and sponsors. Not one of these achieving sportswomen have made a million rand in sport, despite their sports achievements indicating they should have.

Black sportswomen are not seen as being ‘commercial partners’ for corporates; they are also not viewed as being able to sell products and make profits for corporate businesses. This, because they have the wrong skin colour and hair and are not ‘fabulously sexy’, through the corporate lens.

Our resistance and activism must challenge the marginalisation and invisibility of black African women in leadership positions in sport and in national teams, especially where women are present in those sports.

To talk about women in sport without emphasising and centering black women is to further marginalise and suffocate black women in sport. Mentioning women as sportswomen and women in sport is to ignore the racial and class inequalities in sport, to falsely think that all women face the same levels of discrimination and inequalities. But this is not so. White women in sport don’t face the same sustained discrimination as black women in sport!

From the moment a black working class girl wants to play sport, her struggles are different from a white girl’s participation in sport. The black working class girl must battle for money to get football and rugby boots, to pay registration fees, have transport money and to be kept in sport. The white girl in sport is about ‘where we going to eat after training’, ‘what time is she being picked up after sport’ and ‘let’s go buy me the latest tennis racquet’.

I center black women in sport because black sportswomen are not only not given the media coverage and corporate support as that given to white women but because black women are not perceived as being able to exemplify sports prowess, despite us witnessing the achievements and amazing feats such as that accomplished by Caster Semenya, Zanele Situ, Noni Tenge and Pumza Maweni.

Most importantly, I center black women in sport because it’s a gender injustice to center white women in sport! White sportswomen are not the only women capable of achieving in sport; black women are just as capable, given the necessary supportive environment.


Dear White People In South African Sport – From Cheryl Roberts (Sport And Resistance Lifetime Change Agent/Activist)

15 Jan

You have been so accustomed to privilege, power, oppressing blacks, believing in the myth of  your white superiority and myth of black inferiority that you believe this white privilege is bestowed upon you forever in South African sport; just because you have a white skin.

This superior, yet vastly outdated mindset is that white supremacist attitude, behavior and thinking is inherited and carried down through generations. It precludes you from living humanely and knowing that all people, irrespective of colour, are human and that no one skin colour is above or supreme to another.

I start by telling you this because I want to go on and tell you how you have brought this false sense of white supreme being into South African sport and into the democratic life of post-apartheid South Africa; out of the horrendous apartheid era that you so happily and without criticism, supported and benefitted from.

Despite our telling you that blacks have been playing organised sport for over a century and more in South Africa, you refuse to take this into that head of yours, as authentic information and lived experiences of black people and their sports narratives.

When we remind you of the organisation, advancement and talent of oppressed blacks in the apartheid decades, despite the horrors and atrocities that the apartheid regime subjected oppressed black people, you refuse to acknowledge the oppressed sports narratives, as told to you by those who know them and participated in oppressed sport.

You go on and on about how you were denied chances to play international sport when apartheid South Africa was being boycotted internationally, yet you refuse to admit how apartheid South Africa made, supported, assisted and advanced white people, the minority population group whilst harshly and inhumanely oppressing and exploiting the black majority grouping of people, who are amongst South Africa’s indigenous people.

So, you as white people don’t like to be reminded of the apartheid times when you reigned supreme, fasely believed in your white supremacy and when you were outright racists.

We came into the democratic period of South Africa’s life and you insisted on believing in white supremacy, particularly in sports such as cricket, rugby, hockey, swimming, golf, netball and all the other sports that are white-dominated, supported and controlled.

Abundant talent has always been there, amonst black sports people; not only in the post-apartheid years, but years and decades before.

World class talents existed when blacks were being viciously oppressed. But these talents were not only stifled and unsupported by corporate and white sponsors/businesses who exploited blacks, they were used as change agents to move out of the horrific apartheid system into a democratic period.

I have told you this before in my many writings and talks that black and oppressed people chose to play anti-apartheid sport, chose not to support apartheid sport and agitated and fought for a freedom from apartheid.

We sacrificed our sports lives and sports talent so that all of South Africa and all South Africans, that includes you, too could be given a fair and honest chance to represent South Africa legitimately and as a democratic country, not as a pariagh and boycotted apartheid country. We did not fight for freedom so that only white people could benefit from democratic South Africa! We fought and challenged for all South Africa’s people.

Why do you assume that white privilege must prevail in sports such as cricket, netball, rugby, hockey, swimming and many other sports? Where do you get that false sense of belief that white people are the best sports administrators and officials? And, most importantly, when are you going to discard that mentality which informs you incorrectly and disingenuously that blacks must be perpetually ‘developed’ in sport, stay in development programmes until they retire from competitive sport, while you flourish from international selection and representation?

Why do you never or rarely see or acknowledge the talent and sports prowess of blacks? Why have there been massive dismissals of black talent in rugby, cricket, netball, swimming and hockey? Whenever blacks are selected into national teams and for international representation, they are viewed through your white supremacist lens as being ‘token and quota’ players; this in your white privileged mind meaning ‘players of inferior ability and quality to white players’.

By assuming your white supreme being as being the best in South African sport, you are de-mobilising your ability to understand that white supremacy must be smashed, that it should not exist and that it’s not going to flourish in sport in South Africa.

This doesn’t mean that whites won’t be selected to provincial and national individual seletion and in sports teams! What you must understand and comprehend is that talent exists amongst and within all communities and colours of people. Just because most whites go to better and richer resourced schools and play at elite and well-maintained sports clubs, does not give you a complimentary ticket to claim white supreme representation in sport. So when you say that you are being done in because of ‘the quota policy’, effectively you are admitting to your white supremacist thinking which believes your whiteness is superior and blacks are inferior.

C’mon now. How long you gonna take to eliminate from yourself and your being this attitude and thinking? How much longer you gonna go on with a false sense of your existence? I tell you, you are messing up your mental health. You get all agitated and angry when black selection is dominant and being noticed. You don’t acknowledge this as black talent. Why?

Throughout the past 25 years, we have called for the recognition of black talent, emphasising it existed and should not be easily discarded or ignored. We also didn’t dismiss white sports talent; if whites have the talent, they must be selected.

If blacks dominate the provincial and national netball, football, hockey, rugby and cricket teams it’s because blacks are the majority population and they are showing the most talent; this ahead of white talent.

Get this! Those whites who still hold onto supremacist attitiudes and thinking can go on being disgruntled and talking amongst their white selves. Black sports alent exists and must not be ignored or discarded. White privilege in South African sport must be smashed out of the sports paradigm! Whites either accept this or pack up and go try play outside South Africa.

8cheryl roberts  in the rain forest in ghana

Cheryl Roberts (writer of the letter ‘Dear White people In South African sport’

White Cricketers Fearful Of Black Cricket Talent And Selection In South Africa By Cheryl Roberts

6 Jan

White Cricketers Leaving South Africa Because White Privilege In South African  Cricket Has Been De-Mobilised

When the blacks in cricket (all those not white skinned or white) were inhumanely and unjustly ignored, marginalised, almost ostracised and used largely as development fodder in South Africa’s post-apartheid era cricket, white people never spoke out for their representation and selection. When black cricketers got selected and given an ‘opportunity’ to play provincial and national selection, whites doubted the black player’s ability to play internationally. Now that the black cricketers, after much protest and anger and vehement calls for black recognition in SA cricket, have not only broken the selection barriers, but are performing world class and match winning feats, white cricketers are feeling un


SA International Cricketer Temba Bavuma (photo by Cheryl Roberts)

easy, almost getting terrified.

This uneasiness has nothing to do with their acknowledgement of black player talent and cricket prowess; its the truth getting told to themselves that BLACK  CRICKETERS  CAN  PLAY  AND PERFORM  INTERNATIONALLY.

Granted, elite sports persons treat professional sport as a job that gives them an income and so they move around and take on increased and lucrative playing contracts. So when South African internationals move, because of what is a perceived as better income, they are behaving as opportunistic and mercenary sports persons. In the era of professional, capitalist society, that is their right.

It has now again occurred with two of South Africa’s white cricketers, Kyle Abbott and Riley Roussouw who have opted for contracts in another country but which also prohibits them from representing their country whilst under this playing contract.

South Africa’s elite rugby players, most of them Springboks have over the years been choosing the option of playing outside South Africa because they earn much more money and also, which they don’t admit, because they fear black player selection. Abbott and Roussouw re not the first white cricketers; there have been several before them. These white people in sport use their ancestral lineage of countries outside South Africa to get the sports recognition they assume they deserve ahead of black sports persons.Then they speak out, like England’s adopted Kevin Petersen and chant against blacks playing international cricket as if cricket is white people’s sole preserve.

Let’s unpack this with honesty and integrity. Now that black cricketers in both coaching and player spheres are being justly recognised and selected, representatives of the white privilege brigade in SA cricket are beginning to feel uncomfortable; this is something coming on from a long time ago.

Exemplifying racism and racial privilege, they have screamed and shouted out about what they termed the ‘political selection’ through the quota policy, of black cricketers as if cricket in South Africa is the preserve and ownership of their white privilege.

Over 20 years ago, coming out of their indoctrinated and privileged apartheid lives that subordinated and oppressed black people, the white cricket group struggled to believe in black cricket talent. For white people, blacks in cricket meant they had to be in perpetual development programmes and events, shown as fodder for white corporates to sponsor and keep alive white cricket, whilst throwing some money at development blacks in cricket.

Now that the black cricketers have not only taken their opportunities and are proving they can play and perform, several of them with admiable feats ad achievements, the white cricketers are beginning to feel they are being dealt unfairly for black numbers and selection.

No! White cricketers in SA are not being treated unjustly or unfairly. They are selected to play according to their worth and prowess.And they must perform; failure to do so leads to selection of inform provincial and emerging players. And the players who are claiming selection places are the black players from across South Africa.

So how does the white cricket group interpret this? They don’t rightfully and honestly acknowledge the worth of black cricket talent in SA; they go on rants that throw de-humanising arrows at black cricketers as being mere quota players and political selections. Although, screaming and shouting down black cricketers while protecting their inherited and perceived white privilege, this white cricket group has no protest power.

This is because white privilege in SA cricket selection has been arrested, convicted and de-mobilised. Years ago the quota policy of certain numbers of black players forced selection to recognise black cricket talent. Black cricketers came through provincial cricket and into the national team, albeit in small numbers. One black player was supposed to appease protest calls for black cricket recognition and advancement. White players, several of them mediocre and favoured, were still protected and given much more space, encouragement and opportunities to develop internationally while black cricketers were too quickly discarded as not being internationally ready.

When white cricketers look around and see the increasing rate of selection of black players at youth and senior level, they see their white privilege being attacked and eliminated, not by quota policies but world class black talent. Now their white privilege mindset, so ingrained in their privileged lives, begins to tell them they are being discarded and ignored for black political sports representation in a country that is black majority governed. Now they are shifting their presence elsewhere, out of the country where they developed their cricket.

Yes, it’s the player’s prerogative; there’s no restrictions on movement from one country or club to another. Elite and professionals do this. When players do this, some acknowledge it’s for security and their future incomes. But never has a white player honestly and correctly said that the increasing black cricket talent is rightfully being acknowledged and he’s scared of not being adequate anough to get international selection.

This won’t be the last of white cricketers taking up lucrative contracts outside SA. There’ll be much more in the years to come. At the same time, we should see much more black players playing international cricket at youth and senior levels. But Cricket South Africa’s officialdom must not give in to white privilege fears and aspirations and white corporates who want to control and manipulate white power of cricket in SA. White privilege in SA cricket has been effectively de-mobilised and it must never be allowed root to flourish and grow.