Quinton de Kock saga: Proteas’ education on Black Lives Matter needs more than CSA directive
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Given the timing of what transpired; being informed about the Cricket SA Board’s directive as they boarded the bus, then the roughly two hour journey to the stadium and then the decision in the dressing-room, the players that took to the field representing South Africa in Dubai on Tuesday and beat the West Indies in a World Cup match deserve a heck of a lot of credit.
Distraction is not enough to describe it. Quinton de Kock has been the Proteas’s best batter this year - in a batting unit that has struggled - and he chose not to play on Tuesday. De Kock’s decision not to kneel in a show of support for Black Lives Matter is wrong. It was wrong of other white players including the Test captain Dean Elgar not to kneel in the West Indies earlier this year.
It was also wrong of Cricket South Africa to issue a directive that players must kneel.
Players must understand why it is important to kneel, what the symbol means and why it is important to South Africa, where the lives of black people don’t equate to what is written in the constitution, that enshrines equality.
Ask the families of Andries Tatane, who was shot dead in Ficksburg in the Free State in 2011 during service delivery protests if they feel equal? Or the families of the 34 miners shot dead at Marikana in 2012, or the families of Collins Khosa beaten to death by soldiers from the SA National Defence Force, last year, or Bulelani Qolani who was dragged from his shack Khayelitsha in 2020.
Would the horror inflicted upon them have occurred if they were white?
It is in educating themselves about those people that the white players in the South African team might begin to understand the importance of kneeling. But that can’t be done via a directive.
There are white players in the Proteas team, who didn’t choose De Kock’s path on Tuesday. Are they reluctantly kneeling now? Do they understand why they are kneeling? Will they ever be willing to understand why it is an important symbol?
If they don’t believe in it, if they are half hearted about it, and they are only doing it because they’ve been instructed, then what growth has there been for them? The players by their own admission have been discussing these social issues for months. It was based on those discussions that initially they stood with their fists raised before the first Test with Sri Lanka last season. That exercise was an embarrassing mess, with players standing around staring at each other, not knowing what to do.
The West Indies tour at least provided a level of clarity in that it showed the division amongst the players about whether or not to kneel. That divide was along racial lines. So now, that everyone is kneeling, is the team suddenly united on this issue?
Three days earlier, bar Rassie van der Dussen - who has publicly said his education on the issue started before BLM became the social movement it is now - no other white player knelt.
Anrich Nortje, tweeted last year that he supported Lungi Ngidi, after the latter’s perfectly articulate call that the Proteas show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement ignited a shit-storm in South African cricket. Nortje has never knelt. On Saturday before the Australia match he stood with his hands behind his back, not even raising his right fist like some of his white teammates.
It’s a dangerous directive from CSA’s Board. The Social Justice and Nation Building hearings have shown that CSA’s senior administrators have never taken racial discrimination in the sport seriously.
In the West Indies in June, all the black players knelt. Two white players knelt too. As did the entire coaching and management staff. The majority of the white players stood some with their right fists raised. De Kock most notably stood with his hands behind his back. After scoring a century in the first Test on that tour he said his decision was personal and didn’t want to discuss it further.
Articles and columns have been written. The Board has known for months that the players are apparently on this journey of discovery and are attempting to educate themselves.
Will this directive, which the players became aware of just hours before a crucial World Cup match, somehow accelerate that education? Will it help in making those white players accept why Black Lives Matter?
Or is it just papering over the cracks, like so many other policies and decisions taken by senior CSA administrators over the years have done?