A South African policy or system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race.
South Africa have just announced an increase to quotas, of what they define as “people of colour”. These changes impact the domestic squads and teams for the upcoming 14/15 cricket season.
The rules, endorsed by the Cricket South Africa (CSA) board, state that each domestic franchise must field at least 5 players of colour in each match, of which 2 must be black Africans. Provincial sides will need to field 6 non whites, of which 3 are black Africans.
This is an increase on previous levels that have been in place for the last 10 years. Full details can be found here and here
There is a stated purpose that this policy aligns with the principle of “transformation”. It implies, at its most basic level, that the South African cricketing landscape should have teams that align closer with the racial makeup of the country.
For a white non South African, the quota system raises multiple questions. None of these questions appear overly simple to answer, yet all appear to be fuelled by racial sympathies and emotional responses.
It appears from CSA’s own release on the matter that the major driver for quotas is that the “CSA is determined to grow the pool of Black African players by ensuring there is quality playing opportunities for such players in all forms of cricket”
While the quest appears to be extremely noble, it is hard to find a strong objective argument to support the quota system as a plausible way to make this happen.
It is very easy to change the optics of a cricket team’s makeup with the swipe of a pen if pressures deem that to be the required outcome. It appears that this is what the CSA have done in this instance.
However, the need for a team to be directly representative of the racial mix of the people it represents is a truly flawed idea. Especially if the concepts of earning a place on your merits, presenting the strongest possible side and reward for effort hold true.
Quotas, in the eyes of many, fail to pass the “sniff” test. Many will see this as a form of implicit racism, imparted to fix the outcomes of previous racism.
The AFL has 68 players listed in 2014 that categorise themselves as being aboriginal.
That’s 9% of the total player pool, yet this racial group only represent 2.5% of the Australian population.
For those unfamiliar with Australian history, there are many parallels with how aboriginals in this country have been discriminated against over a long period for history. This too, has resulted in a large divide both economically, in standards of living, life expectancy and opportunity for a distinct group of people.
I am not knowledgeable enough to deeper compare the treatment of these two racial groups, except to state that both country’s are embarrassed about past policies and are actively working towards social reconciliation.
However, in sport as a minimum, a different approach has been taken to the one that the CSA appears to be going down.
Not one aboriginal player has ever earned a spot in an AFL team due to his race. Every spot has been awarded based on merit.
Key underpinning philosophies that underpin this approach are that pathways to be selected are very clear, the AFL works hard with aboriginal community engagement programs and most importantly, there has been strong leadership by those both with a voice and in power to ensure that race is not used as a reason, but as an opportunity.
The simple argument that one’s skin colour should not define their opportunities plays true in the AFL. Neither are opportunities created purely by gender, religion, sexual orientation, educational standard or any other differentiator one can conceivably create.
If you are good enough and make the appropriate effort and sacrifices, the sport will find a way to connect with you.
As a white non South African, I can accept the argument that the issue of quotas is more complex. But should it be?
Should a nation of people accept that what can be argued as reverse racism is somehow beneficial in the long term for anyone?
Does it not create a generation of players who have been handed a privileged position in the team over another, based solely on something neither can control in their skin colour?
Does it not weaken the team overall?
Does it not create a sense of entitlement.
Why should a “coloured” person receive more benefit from a system, than say, a white person from poverty?
The world has an amazing habit of self levelling when left alone. The past wrongs and lessons of apartheid should never be forgotten.
However, apart from an emotional response based on either personal pain, a sense of guilt or social engineering concepts, I cannot see any strong objective arguments that quotas are good for South African cricket or South African cricketers.
If the issue is optics, then those promoting that as a preferred outcome are chasing the wrong dream.
For the sake of transparency, in my country Australia, compulsory enrolment and voting in Commonwealth elections for aborigines only came into effect in 1984.
It is also worth noting that my skin colour is white. Although my parents were born in Australia, I have Polish and English bloodlines. I am also Jewish. I have heard stories of WWII from my now late Polish Grandfather who escaped the Nazi’s, but lost his first wife and son to them. Although I did not live it, I feel connected with this part of my family history.
I have not lived in South Africa (although I have visited many times on business), nor suffered directly from any country’s racially exclusive laws (although I have at times lied to avoid their impact in Saudi Arabia), nor felt any tension from cultural differences around race in normal day to day life.
This does not mean they don’t exist.
I welcome you all to please comment below with your take.
I am extremely interested in the South African perspective (all races can freely respond. I don’t have quotas).