Woke Caster Semenya Raises Black Power Salute At Sports Event By Cheryl Roberts

16 Apr

Black woman athlete Caster Semenya has not only won it all on the international athletics track, she has also run races and lived life on her terms, kicking out and blocking any attempts to rattle and disrupt her athletics life.

Caster Semenya has done this by taking to the track and winning. And her winning has been achieved by strategic race planning and sports prowess, not having pushed a competitor on the track or relied on doping. And after a race its always Caster Semenya, despite being the champion or medallist, who approaches her competitors first with an after race hand shake, instead of waiting for those she has beaten, to come and congratulate the champion.But that’s not all what Caster Semenya is about. She is also woke and conscious about the society she lives in and the past society that gave rise to the democratic era in South Africa which allows her to represent a democratic country.

And it happened on the athletics stage; at the gathering of a sporst event called the Commonwealth Games where former coloniser England competes with the former colonised. Debutant Commonwealth Games athlete and gold medallist Caster Semenya displayed her consciousness. Caster Semenya raised the black power salute at her 800m gold medal ceremony at the Commonwealth Games; this being done by a black woman athlete 50 years after two black American male athletes, John Carlos and Tommie Smith, in defiance of racism and racial prejudice, raised the black power protest salute at the 1968 Olympic Games.

In doing this powerful salute, a symbol of resistance and power undertaken by oppressed people and those resisting injustices, Caster Semenya, who became a double gold medallist at her first Commonwealth Games in Australia, became the first South African athlete to ever raise the black power salute at an international sports event.

It was a powerful representation undertaken by a phenomenal woman athlete. Caster Semenya was to state after the medal ceremony that what she had done was in remembrance and recognition of South Africa’s black woman frontline freedom fighter Winnie Mandela.

Despite South African sports officialdom and international sports organisations wanting their players and athletes ‘to stay out of politics’ and ‘stay away from political slogans’, some athletes have never bowed to sports officialdom when it came to critical consciousness and awareness. Athletes have taken positions and called out injustices in society and in their sports.

As South Africa’s most decorated and achieving able bodied black sportswoman, Caster Semenya has delivered nothing less than pride, joy and happiness for our South Africa, since her athletics accomplishments surfaced. She was South Africa’s only black sportswoman medallist at the Commonwealth Games, delighting a sports supporting nation with her spectacular record breaking wins and feats.


She competes on the athletics stage under the gaze of those who insist on questioning and challenging her black woman body. Again, there are international indications that come November this year, the IAAF will have a resolution in place that will directly affect and impact on athlete Caster Semenya’s participation in races.

But through all the misogyny, the white supremacist questioning, the male gaze, sexual and racial prejudice and homophobia Caster Semenya rides wave after wave with her sole focus being her performance and achievements on the athletics track.

When Caster Semenya competes in sport, she does so as a targeted black woman in sport; targeted for sexual and racial prejudice and her black woman body. Some athletes that can’t perform with her abilities, attack Caster Semenya’s performances without applauding her achievements. Its as if Caster Semenya, the Olympic, World, Commonwealth and African champion literally runs in chains. But she competes, demonstrates her best ability and  performance and wins, most times; this despite all the negatives thrown at her black being.

Caster Semenya was persecuted as a teenage woman in international athletics. But, surrounded by love, support and admiration from South Africans especially and black woman warrior Winnie Mandela, Caster Semenya has triumphed, not against the odds, but defeating the odds with her athletics prowess. That she chose to recognise and give honour to Winnie Mandela with the black power salute, so associated with freedom and the struggle journey in South Africa, reveals the all powerful strength of one tenacious, fabulously talented black sportswoman that is Caster Semenya.


(photograph by: Roger Sedres)caster semenya black power salute

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