You know things have gotten bad when the children say, “Can you stop working on the puzzle so we can all do something together!?” It was a tough one for sure…but guess what, it’s finished! Finally we can move on…
In more serious matters, people awaited the announcement last week of the national squad to play at the Rugby World Cup in the U.K. this month. Debate was heated even before the announcement, since the make-up of the team represents more than just the possibility for victory. Here it is:
For those not familiar, the sport of rugby here has had a tough time evolving beyond its white heritage. You may remember the movie Invictus which starred Morgan Freeman as Mandela during South Africa’s amazing win of the 1995 World Cup. Twenty years later, the frustration about the pace of integrating rugby mirrors that of other aspects of South African life.
A quota-system (something similar to US Affirmative Action policy) – called “transformation” aims for racial reform in sports, with a target of 50% black rugby players by 2019. As you can see from the photo above, there’s room for improvement. After the announcement of this line up (which includes 8 non-white of 31 players) newsrooms and talk radio ignited. Others aimed for more than talk with one group bringing a lawsuit (later dismissed) which would bar the team from participation in the World Cup.
I do not pretend to understand the game of rugby much less the complicated race politics here – perhaps that is why I see no obvious solution. One argument seems reasonable only until I hear the next one. In simple terms, the debate sounds something like this:
- “There just aren’t enough qualified players yet to have a more racially balanced team.”
- “I would rather see a majority-black squad lose and show the world how far we have come.”
- “We need to focus on the skill of the players not on their skin color.”
- “We cannot be bogged down by this drama. We need to support our Springboks.”
I know too that there are valid debates to be had over the racial makeup of schools and children’s extracurricular activities here (and across the United States as well). As a parent on the sidelines though, a sense of hope for the future is absolutely contagious while watching the children at play. When one considers that today’s Springbok players and coaches were denied this opportunity to play together, the pace of change doesn’t seem quite as slow. I don’t wish to oversimplify the bigger issues, but on a personal level this feels like a very good step in the right direction for all of us: