There is strength in communication about race relations, says Proteas spinner Tabraiz Shamsi
CAPE TOWN - Ashwell Prince has been calling out for months to share a room with Graeme Smith to discuss the systemic racism he and many other former black players endured while playing for the Proteas.
For months this has not transpired. What was initially a sniffle has developed into a full-blown epidemic with further allegations being countered by denials, all playing out in high-definition colour on social media.
Tabraiz Shamsi and 31 others got their room – or was it a night under the African sky – with Smith, in his guise now as Cricket South Africa’s Director of Cricket, when the current players attended a culture camp at the Kruger National Park last month.
The open dialogue relating to race relations seems to have had the desired effect with Shamsi, who was one of the first Proteas to show public support for fast bowler Lungi Ngidi’s comments on the Black Lives Matter movement, having returned from the bush lighter emotionally.
“It was really important to have a discussion regarding race because as hard as it is to speak about things like that, it’s a big part of South Africa because of our history. We were divided in the past and it’s important for us as a group to speak about those things,” Shamsi said.
“Where we sit, we are definitely stronger than we were before this camp, because we have had those chats, and I see it as a big positive. We’ve sat down and we’ve come up with the way forward. We are in a good space.
“We realised there is a lot of strength in being able to communicate rather than assuming.
“Once we understand things from the other person’s perspective, things become a lot clearer and a lot easier to understand where people are coming from – where their hurt is coming from and where their happiness is coming from.”
However, the 30-year-old wrist-spinner understands that black Proteas from a previous era like Prince, who played his last international match five years before Shamsi debuted, had to encounter much greater obstacles in trying to fulfil their potential.
Shamsi is just happy that the current Proteas dressing-room has progressed to be one that is more inclusive.
“Past players have spoken about things where stuff was not equal and even the players that did make it had to go through some sort of hurdles that they shouldn’t have experienced if there was a level playing field,” Shamsi said.
“That’s the biggest thing we need to acknowledge and understand and ensure that kind of stuff is taken away from the system. That that kind of stuff won’t be tolerated and it’s not okay.
“But, as a whole in the Proteas environment, I have never experienced any racism. I’ve never experienced something like that from the players.
“I learnt a lot personally at the culture camp. There were things I did not know. I’m sure it was a good learning curve for management as well, and we now understand each other much better.”