Quotas are meant to free the world from a white stronghold

TRANSFORMATION Springbok captain Siya Kolisi (right) sings the national anthem alongside his team-mates at Ellis Park on June 9. He was appointed as the national team’s first black captain in May. Picture: David Rogers / Getty Images
TRANSFORMATION Springbok captain Siya Kolisi (right) sings the national anthem alongside his team-mates at Ellis Park on June 9. He was appointed as the national team’s first black captain in May. Picture: David Rogers / Getty Images

Rejecting quotas, rejecting blackness and parodying whites throws our black heroes to the wayside, leaving us with black would-be heroes

White people have a centuries-old established professional network, ensuring that they are the dominant culture wherever they are.

Whether they are a majority or minority, their white policies over the years have meant they don’t have to meet or accommodate a black person in their lives beyond subjugation for lowly tasks, whatever talent or genius that black person possesses.

Even after milestones in our journey – emancipation in some places or democracy everywhere else – the white reality of established white networks does not change.

It therefore always falls to legislation to break the white stronghold, particularly the monopoly on culture, to accommodate a new country that is diverse and united.

The laws of the country, whether relating to affirmative action or BEE, are there to free the world from a white stronghold so that everyone else can participate.

The introduction of quotas in sports and in all other fields was mainly an acknowledgment that the white world would not of its own accord open itself to new entries because it was content with its dynamism and its reach.

There has been no time in history when there were no black geniuses – in sports, in arts, in industry – and none of them impressed the white world enough to change its evil policies or to realise that we are all equal.

That did not happen then and it will not happen now, hence the introduction of quotas, which will be increased gradually until the country’s demographics are reflected everywhere.

There is therefore no correlation between black talent and quotas.

Quotas are meant to address the exclusive white stronghold in sports and other fields, and not talent or growth or development.

The white fear that quotas were the beginning of the end of white dominance in sports, in particular, made them attack the policy and develop a silly narrative that quota players were incompetent.

This found easy salience because of the old black stereotypes.

Even if that were true, quotas were not a selection process of competence or incompetence, quotas were merely a tool to free the sports from one-race dominance.

To fight quotas meant a fight back by the white club to keep the sport white by making blacks ashamed of the policy meant to help them.

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi’s statement that even the late former president Nelson Mandela would not have supported quotas only served to show the success of the white fight-back.

These key blacks who have been convinced – against what is in their own best interest – to support white dominance, in which whites hand-pick their favourite blacks as a better route to transformation, have effectively pulled the ladder down from whence they came.

There is another way to come up, they say. It’s the worst form of betrayal.

There is something intoxicatingly satisfying in the fact that, despite the white world being established, white people saw you as a black man dancing your socks off on the pavement as they passed by and realised their world was incomplete without you and called you in.

The idea that white people were forced to make space for you made you feel less talented, as if you could not dance your way into global white-world stardom.

Unfortunately for Kolisi, white people did not see us for centuries. We were there but not there.

We appeared in their exclusive enclaves to pick up trash or iron their clothes or clean up after them or work in their gardens, but we were not really there.

This happened for half a millennium and there was no magic pill that white people drank and then, suddenly, we were there.

Much of black progress that we see today had to be legislated and quotas were an important enforcer of the change we desired.

Ultimately, it is the white people who are supposed to be a quota. They are a minority. They knew that – and so they fought back.

If one looks deeper, it is not quotas per se with which Kolisi et al have a problem. It is the sudden black stereotypes of incompetence, laziness and incapability that are now associated with quotas.

These are stereotypes that seem to follow black people everywhere they go, and many black people spend their lives trying to escape them.

From schools and neighbourhoods to companies and universities, black people live most of their lives trying to escape blackness through white associations.

As black people, we have to realise that there is nothing we can do or say that can make us less black, whatever stereotypes blackness carries. We are black and there is no escaping it.

We cannot educate ourselves out of blackness; we cannot sell ourselves out of blackness; we cannot make white people to see us differently.

We are black now and may well be sojourners in their eyes, as were our fathers.

We therefore embrace our blackness despite a hostile world that refuses to accept our humanity. We will always be black.

We may try to distance ourselves from being a quota today, but tomorrow it will be something else.

The real escape is from our blackness, and that escape is neither possible nor desirable.

The biggest challenge for Kolisi, and all other brilliant black athletes and leaders, is that, after years of being excluded from the franchise, our collective futures as black people – our hopes – are tied to these brilliant black athletes and leaders.

We hope Kolisi is proud to be black and does not feel that being black is a disadvantage, and that, were it not for whites, he would not be where he is.

Such sentiments crush our black pride and collective dreams for they say: “We are nothing without whites.”

Through Kolisi, we want the black child in the deep valleys of Ntabankulu to believe that he, too, can captain the Springboks one day and the route to that captaincy is not in white corridors.

Rejecting quotas, rejecting blackness and parodying white experiences throw our black heroes to the wayside and leave us with black would-be heroes.

By rejecting quotas, Kolisi wants to be free; to be seen no differently to his fellow white peers; to be seen purely on his skills and more; to be given the white benefit of the doubt when he does not perform well.

Kolisi wants to be white-free. He loathes the black burden, the weight of his skin, the doubt, the pressure, the little margin of error: Kolisi wants to be white-free.

This is unfortunate because, when Kolisi plays, when he commands his team, he is showing the world that, despite the realities of his birth – the pain, suffering and hunger – his greatness was “stamped from the beginning” and none of the fire he had to go through could stop his greatness from manifesting.

His manifest destiny is not only his, it is also ours for it belongs to every black man who continues to live under the heavy yoke of poverty and struggle, as he wants to believe that he, too, shall be great.

Any sense of denying his blackness is an assault on all our dreams. He is effectively saying: “You must be white to make it.”

What Kolisi really wants is to be freed from the burden and perception of being a quota and the weight of being black in that space.

Kolisi wants the respect and privilege that has been enjoyed by white players for all these years.

Kolisi wants white privilege.

Can his talent transition him into this reality that he so desperately wants? Unfortunately, Kolisi is black, he is a beneficiary of a quota system and there isn’t much he can do to whiten himself out of it.

Diko is a media strategist and social commentator


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