Why Is Racism And Racial Prejudice Thriving In South African School Sport? By Cheryl Roberts

9 Jun


While South Africa is in a post-apartheid, democratic society that is 26 years old, after emerging from a horrendous past of racism and racial prejudice, we are still confronted and challenged by racist behavior in our society. Sport in South Africa is also not devoid of racism. And school sport is the grounding of this racist behavior.
How does this racism vent itself and show up at school sport? It specifically demonstrates when school sport is white-dominated such as school sports teams, school sports trials, provincial selections. School sport is very competitive where the over-ambitious parents and ambitious learners in sport appear to play out their sports dreams and ambitions. And with this, they bring their racial prejudice and racist behavior.

Racism occurs in varying formats and instances. Sometimes its directly trown at you by the racist who will refer to you by a derogatory name such as ‘kaffir’ or ‘nigga’ or ‘bushman’. Sometimes it occurs when white selectors and coaches dominate selections and see ‘white as merit’ and ‘blacks as development, lower standards than whites.’ And sometimes it’s shown through racist parents, eager to get their child noticed and selected, ahead of a talented black child. And most times it’s there because whites falsely assume and believe blacks are not talented in sport as their white child!

There’s a litany of narratives, stories, experiences about racism in South African school sport. I know about this personally; been told this by many parents and learners in school sport. And it’s known around South Africa by those who have experienced it.

Honestly, white thinking in school sport is problematic. This attitude and apartheid-inherited thinking that ‘white is superior’ and ‘blacks are inferior’ must be disrupted. It cannot and should not be alive and allowed to thrive in post-apartheid South African society.

Racism in South African school sport must be confronted, challenged and eliminated, especially in netball, rugby, tennis, swimming, cricket and hockey and several other sports, the exclusive team sports of suburban, private and model C schools. White privilege and white supremacy thrives at these schools, the bastions of whiteness.
And then you see the results of this discrimination and racial prejudice in school sport appearing in SA u21 and senior teams of netball, hockey, tennis, swimming and hockey; where these teams are always white-dominated. Racism and white supremacy in SA  school sport must be thrashed out and disrupted.
And the gatekeepers of this racist TORMENT are the white people involved in school sport. They ensure the white girls are ALWAYS protected first. They ensure only one or two black girls get selected. And the outnumbered black girls are afraid to speak out against the white bullies in case they jeopardise their selection chances by speaking out.
Black (all those not white) girls at private, suburban, white-saturated schools have been tormented, thru’out 26 year old post-apartheid SA, when it comes to selections and recognition at sports trials and sports events. It’s always about the white girls dominating schools netball, swimming, tennis and hockey.

Yes, I know that not all whites are racist. When I say whites I refer to it as group representation. Whites serving as selectors and coaches have mindsets set in ‘white is merit’ and ‘white is superior’. They mostly protect whites in school sport and select a few blacks here and there. Much of the game time by white coaches, especially in hockey, tennis and netball, is allocated to whites. How do blacks also get their opportunities to show their sports potential when they are being marginalised and ignored?

When national sports federations introduce quota selections for youth and school sport, the whites get upset. They say they are ‘being done in’ and that ‘blacks are getting selected ahead of them whites’. But the quota system forces white selectors and coaches to also see black talent just as they see white talent, to ensure that blacks in school sport are also developed advanced through school sport just as whites, most of them mostly mediocre whites in school sport.

How can racism in school sport be stopped? Most importantly, this can be done by expelling racists from school sport. Very importantly: by adopting selection policies that reflect the people demographics of majority black South Africa. No sports team must have more whites than blacks. Now this will force recognition and acknowledgement of the black talent in school sport instead of this talent being marginalised and ignored. National sports federations should not be allowed to sanction any white-dominated school sports team.

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