Letter: Exclusion a new form of racism

Asanda Magaqa (“Pupils at former Model C schools live in Africa, not England”, September 7) claims to be proud of her alma mater, Collegiate High School in Port Elizabeth. Rubbish, she just wanted to smooth her future interaction with past pupils and teachers whenever such interaction may take place.

Magaqa refers to a recent Facebook post of Collegiate’s senior hockey team having excelled at a recent tournament. Magaqa was “proud for but a fleeting minute before I quickly realised that there was something starkly unsettling about the team’s racial composition”. She could not help but wonder at the lack of “black faces in the squad”.

Well done, Magaqa, for taking the shine off a wonderful achievement.

My first point is that at Collegiate all girls are taught in a non-racial manner by teachers from all racial and religious backgrounds, and as such, pupils, who themselves come from various racial and religious backgrounds, are within themselves naturally non-racist. They see friends and fellow pupils, they do not see colour and this is encouraged by Collegiate.

It appears to me that Magaqa is racist for having seen the difference and for further pointing out the difference in a public forum to the detriment of her alma mater. This is certainly to the detriment of the young girls growing up and enjoying the fact that they can represent their school in some way and do their school proud while not seeing the differences in colour in their friends and fellow pupils.

Magaqa further has the audacity to state, “The world where those girls will play in a team that is lily white [an incredibly racist and degrading comment] or predominantly white no longer exists. Now, we are setting them up for disappointment when spots in a provincial or national team are being allocated and that the girl who always played in a lily-white team does not get a spot because those team compositions have to reflect the demographics of the country?”

This is utter rubbish! Should these lily-white girls not strive to be the best? Why should they accept second best?

Should girls of colour not strive to be the best or are you saying that girls of colour need not do so as they know that they will be in the top team based only on their colour? I sincerely hope not, but if this is what Magaqa is saying, she has lost the plot of uplifting people of colour.

First, it is not the girls’ fault that they are white. Second, the team has been chosen on merit.

Third, because it was chosen on merit, the team performed well and raised the profile of Collegiate. It thereby attracted not only the best future pupils, but also ensured that past parents and various companies continue to invest and donate to the school to ensure that Collegiate attracts and can pay for the best teachers and best facilities, and provide a lasting future.

I know what I am talking about as my alma mater remains a top English-speaking boys school in Johannesburg for these very reasons. I am also proud of my alma mater because it has produced Springboks and Protea cricketers of all races and continues to do so, all on merit.

I would have enjoyed engaging with Magaqa or even our esteemed (not) sports minister and asked this question, “What do you say to a sportsperson who has worked hard both academically and physically to play for either the school’s first hockey team or the provincial or national hockey teams, that although she is the best in her position, she is not being chosen because the minister requires that your place be taken by a less accomplished player of colour?” The white player’s disappointment would be obvious.

The player of colour is degraded as she knows she should not be in the team on merit and the player of colour must proceed through life with an inferiority complex created by the very people who claim a racist agenda. Collegiate teaches its pupils all sorts of social skills, to be proud and humble, to be women of stature, to strive to be their best and never to accept mediocrity, to accept defeat graciously and to work through disappointment.

The disappointment I refer to is not the disappointment as put forward by Magaqa, but the disappointment of trying one’s best but not being chosen because someone was a better sportsperson. Collegiate teaches that disappointed person to congratulate the person who is a better sportsperson and then to work harder.

Quotas in sport is just another word for racism and belittlement. Belittling those who do not deserve to be in a team on merit and knowing that it is purely because of their colour that they are in the team.

This is a new format of racism from the very people who preach non-racism.

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