CSA has made Quinton a scapegoat for its Kock-ups
One gets the feeling the cricketing body is playing with a straight bat to distract us from real issues
Sometimes we forget how we got here. Through the repression of ideas, of independent opinion and of dissent. Many paid a heavy price for standing up to official dictate, sometimes with their lives. That is why there is a conscience clause in the constitution: everyone has the right to freedom of conscience, religion, thought, belief and opinion.
It is the reason the Quintin de Kock incident troubles me. Cricket South Africa (CSA), hardly a fount of rectitude or scrupulosity, issued a directive in the middle of a World Cup series that all players should take the knee for the rest of the matches in the competition. That’s right, to demonstrate that you are taking a stand against racism, players are collectively instructed to drop to their knees before a game to make this important statement.
There are several problems with this type of idiocy, as some sharper minds on social media have pointed out. One, you can be a dyed-in-the-wool racist and perform this act for the sake of peace or the security of a job. Nobody will know because you are simply following orders. Two, you might be forcing people, cricketers in this instance, to act against their will and conscience. That, psychologists will tell you, causes injury of a different type. Third, you are reducing activism to what you as the cricketing authorities believe is the preferred standard for self-expression when it comes to fighting racism.
We have been here before. The truth is, this authoritarian dictate by CSA is simply the flip side of what the apartheid authorities did not too long ago: use your power to subject people to what you, as the governing authority, believes is appropriate behaviour in the public sphere. This is not progressive politics by any stretch of the imagination. What you are witnessing is conservative politics parading as antiracism shoved down your throat. Just as apartheid had its ideological henchmen persecuting those who thought otherwise, these CSA apparatchiks act according to the same script. We learn nothing from history.
Twenty-seven years into our democracy, what has CSA done to effectively and openly address claims of racism brought by black cricketers?
I don’t know De Kock from a cricket stump. He may or may not be a racist; maybe just somebody who sees through the farce of imposition. Oh, and the fan who whispered to me that “Quinton is actually coloured” must be grateful I am a proponent of non-violence. That is useless information about a fictive identity that has nothing to do with the issue at hand.
The reality is, racism runs deep within the structures of postapartheid SA and must be addressed at its roots. Twenty-seven years into our democracy, what has CSA done to effectively and openly address claims of racism brought by black cricketers? Or is CSA playing with a straight bat, as the saying goes, hoping to evade serious engagement with racism in cricket by having these young men engage in this symbolic gesture to distract us from real problems?
Then you have to wonder about losing your top batsman in the middle of a very competitive World Cup (which cricket has never won, but which rugby has three times), where you had just lost to one of the weaker Australian teams in their distinguished cricketing history. Why now, CSA? Did you choke? Was it the embarrassment of seeing Australia’s players drop to their knees while the South Africans stood or knelt, and which you interpreted as disunity? What nonsense. I shudder to think what you would have read off the face of DA leader John Steenhuisen in that calamitous interview with Gareth Cliff!
What a more responsible sporting body would have done is clear up this mess long before going on this important tour. It would have educated the players about the importance of fighting racism and the reasons such a symbolic action is necessary, if not sufficient, for dealing with racism in cricket. And it would have allowed for dissent, for that is what a constitutional democracy is all about.
I would take the knee as a matter of conscience; that is my personal decision. But if I felt pressure to do so simply to satisfy my bosses, I would change my mind. Just like revising the history curriculum in schools, a process under way, will not in itself deepen our sense of an unjust past or build a more equitable future, so too the symbolism of taking the knee is now becoming pure spectacle. South Africans are sick and tired of symbolism. Fight racism in cricket and society, and take the Quintin De Kocks with you on that journey.