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Black and gifted? No such thing. Affirmative action? Now that's more like it

By unknown | Dec 15, 2006 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

On Tuesday an old friend invited me for a drink at a water hole generally frequented by the YSBM - young, successful, black men for the uninitiated.

On Tuesday an old friend invited me for a drink at a water hole generally frequented by the YSBM - young, successful, black men for the uninitiated.

As an old newshound I hardly fall into this category, but I suspect my friend, who is younger than I am, does.

After ordering our single-malt whiskeys we went into the cigar lounge where we chewed on our aromatic cigars.

The topics we touched on ranged from sports to business, then, invariably, to politics.

This is when my friend raised the issue of racial stereotypes. Like the common one that blacks can dance but they cannot swim.

Indeed the previous composition of this country's swimming teams has largely perpetuated this stereotype.

Not only were South African teams white but the world record holders have always been white.

The simplest explanation for this phenomenon is that, unlike whites, blacks did not have recreation facilities like swimming pools where they could learn to swim.

Admittedly, some black parents had a role to play in discouraging their children from learning how to swim. They did so by warning their children not to play in water even in the few instances where communities had access to public swimming pools.

My friend and I agreed that the situation has changed.

"We now have houses with swimming pools. For example, my son learnt how to swim in my pool at the age of four,'' he said.

Today, he proudly declared, his son is an excellent water polo player. He is also part of Gauteng North's provincial water polo team.

But, given our racially tainted society, his inclusion in the team has caused him a lot of trauma. This is because his team mates call him an "affirmative action" selection.

"What galls me is that I know my son was selected on merit. He is even better than most of the white kids in the team," said my friend.

Like most good parents my friend has not taken the situation lying down. He has raised the issue with the coach.

"Instead of dealing with the matter the coach is burying his head in the sand.

"He is accusing me of racialising an issue that has nothing to do with race. This despite the fact that the players accusing my son of being an affirmative selection are white."

My friend's story is typical of the challenges that black children continue to face in our schooling system.

Those who taunt his son obviously believe that blacks cannot be good water polo players.

This is despite the fact that blacks now have access to swimming pools at an early age.

My friend and I agree that what the coach did by selecting the young man was indeed a brave and commendable deed.

What he now needs to do is "to go the whole hog" and give this young man the support he needs.

Even if it means confronting the young zealots who refuse to accept that there are black people who can be better water polo players than they are.


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