Headspace Vol. 1: Caster vs White Supremacy

The concerted campaign against Caster Semenya is nothing more than white supremacy exercising it’s unbridled powers, spurred on by white girl tears, writes Mr Siphiwe Mpye.

It is day two at the court of arbitration in sport, in Lausanne, Switzerland, where reigning Women’s 800m Olympic champion Ms. Caster Semenya is fighting the International Association for Athletics Federations (IAAF) for her right to compete in and dominate her sport of choice. The IAAF wants to introduce a rule that would compel women with ‘irregular’ sexual development – Ms. Semenya has Hyperandrogenism, giving her internal male testes that drive up her testosterone levels – to medically lower their testosterone levels in order to qualify for participation in various disciplines. Depending on the discipline in question, failure to adhere to the medical regime would either disqualify them, or force them to compete against men, among other scenarios.

The basis of their argument is that these raised levels of testosterone give athletes like Ms. Semenya an unfair advantage. But the science claiming an inherent physical advantage for women elite runners with high testosterone levels has been challenged by respected sport scientists, with the veracity of up to 32% of the data cited in the study the IAAF is relying on, under question.

“The science claiming an inherent physical advantage for women elite runners with high testosterone levels has been challenged by respected sport scientists, with the veracity of up to 32% of the data cited in the study the IAAF is relying on, under question.”

If the IAAF – and the European and North American competitors Ms. Semenya routinely dispenses with – were really serious about unfair advantages; if their interest really was to “empower girls and women” or “to ensure fair competition for all women” as they have claimed, they would look closer to home and consider what an unfair advantage really looks like.

What, as some have pointed out, of the advantages afforded by being born in a post war Europe, with schooling systems geared to nurture your chances of world dominance, whether as a banker, aircraft engineer, industrial designer or elite athlete? What of the diets; the centres of excellence; the tutors; the technology; the physiotherapists; the supplements; the coaches and other First World head starts? How do those stack up against what is available to a poor girl from rural Limpopo?

It would turn out that even with all the advantages of the Northern Hemisphere – earned off the backs of millions of people who looked like Ms. Semenya – even with all that, this hard-working, competitive and confident young Black African woman is better than them, and that pisses them off, sending them scurrying into sulky corners plotting ways to thwart her. It is a scenario Ms Serena Williams is well acquainted with, and Ms. Michelle Obama writes about in Becoming.

“This gross attempt at moving the goalposts has nothing to do with fairness or leveling any playing field, it has everything to do with cutting down to size a world-class African athlete who has shown excellence on the track and refused to cower off it.”

No, this gross attempt by Lord Sebastian Coe and his IAAF at moving the goalposts has nothing to do with fairness or leveling any playing field, it has everything to do with cutting down to size a world-class African athlete who has shown excellence on the track and refused to cower off it. She has not towed the line, she has not shrunk, and she has not played at any faux ‘humility’. Even on her bad days she has come out confident in her abilities, with the magnificent sight of her brushing dirt off her shoulders or standing upright, with her guns displayed proudly on either side of her ears, with a beaming smile or mean mug reverberating around the world. They hate her for it. After the Rio Olympics in August 2016, when Semenya blew away the competition, the campaign against her took a new turn, sparked by a phenomenon that has launched a thousand ships and inspired countless lynchings: White female tears.

After the final of the Women’s 800m in Rio, it was British athlete Ms. Lynsey Sharp’s tears that intensified the fight back against Ms. Semenya. After an ‘emotional’ hug with fellow losers Ms. Melissa Bishop of Canada and Ms. Joanna Jozwik, an unrepentant racist from Poland, Sharp suggested that the trio saw “each other week in week out, so we know how each other feel,” as she fought back tears that quickly streamed down. 

“It is out of our control and how much we rely on people at the top sorting it out.” “It” was of course the matter of the testosterone levels. But what she was really saying was that she was counting on the very European IAAF to make sure that they do something to prevent African athletes (who took all three of the medals on hand) from beating so convincingly their white counterparts, because they couldn’t do it themselves.  

Ms. Jozwik, who had also ran a personal best and lost, didn’t even attempt to hide her racist ways, calling herself the “white silver medalist”. She had come in fifth, behind three Africans and Ms. Sharp, the “white gold medalist” to her phantom silver. She was “proud to be the second European, the second white” she declared. While Ms. Jozwik’s public utterances might have even embarrassed some pretty rabid types on the global right, Ms. Sharp’s tears were far more effective.

“Ms. Jozwik, who had also ran a personal best and lost, didn’t even attempt to hide her racist ways, calling herself the ‘white silver medalist’. She was ‘proud to be the second European, the second white’ she declared.”

White female/woman/girl/lady tears, as Black Feminist Author and Academic Brittney Cooper reminds us in her excellent book Eloquent Rage, have a specific purpose. “To shift blame and claim victimhood, they start to cry,” she writes, and when they cry, “The world falls apart as people rush to their defense. When white women signal through their tears that they feel unsafe, misunderstood, or attacked, the whole world rises in their defense.”

And so Lord Coe and all his white men, with all their might, were reenergised, determined not to let those tears go unavenged. And so we find ourselves here. If Ms. Semenya’s attempts in Switzerland (and any processes subsequent to that) fail, and Coe and his cronies have their way, South Africa’s brightest star in recent memory will undergo sanctioned, mandatory, medical manipulation, if she wants to carry on competing in her chosen discipline.

Those who are fighting in Ms. Semenya’s corner overseas (including some white men, we must note), on the continent and here at home, have a hard, draining and dirty battle ahead. The IAAF has already been accused of using filthy tactics. It is a fight that is about more than the ability to run in races, it is a fight about protecting and asserting Ms. Semenya’s identity in a space in which she excels, but refuses to accept her. It is about retaining the dignity the athlete has shown throughout her years of persecution, and we wish them clarity, alignment and an insatiable thirst for white girl tears.

———-

No Comments