Action can nip racism in the bud

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi rightfully asserted that silence against racism was effectively a choice to unfairly burden the next generation with the responsibility to fight against oppression, the writer says.
Springbok captain Siya Kolisi rightfully asserted that silence against racism was effectively a choice to unfairly burden the next generation with the responsibility to fight against oppression, the writer says.
Image: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

There's an evocative depth in Makhaya Ntini's voice when he speaks about the racism he endured during the height of his cricket career.

The legendary former fast bowler broke his silence last week, telling a painful story of racial discrimination and loneliness during his years in the mainly-white Proteas national team.

It was a space that allowed him to express his exceptional talent, endearing himself to millions of cricket-loving South Africans.

But it was never a team in which he felt he belonged.

Ntini spoke of how he was subjected to subtle forms of discrimination in social spaces shared with the team as well as decisions that would ultimately decide the fate of his career.

His account comes at a crucial time, when sports stars and other people of social influence are lending their voices to the global Black Lives Matter movement.

Importantly, it comes at a time when the world is challenging indistinct yet deeply hurtful forms of racism.

Those which were for the longest time often disguised as choices based on human preference, rather than what they actually are, discrimination rooted on racial prejudice.

The telling of these lived experiences will also, hopefully, begin to chip away at the dominant culture of fear of consequences, including potential loss of income that prevented many from speaking out.

It is the same fear that kept World Cup-winning Springbok captain Siya Kolisi from speaking out previously about a team culture that was inherently exclusionary against him as a black player.

In an Instagram video this week, Kolisi rightfully asserted that silence against racism was effectively a choice to unfairly burden the next generation with the responsibility to fight against oppression. "There is no time to be scared or silent. I will no longer keep quiet," he said.

Of course, speaking out is one thing. But it is only part of the journey.

What changes the world is action - a deliberate effort to listen and understand the experiences of those discriminated against.

And then to dismantle social and economic systems that allow racism to thrive.

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