Identity politics is ruining sport

Sports used to offer a space in which race could be transcended. No longer.

Xin Du

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Topics Culture Identity Politics Politics World

Today’s ‘anti-racists’ are obsessed with skin colour. They care far more about the colour of people’s skin than the content of their character. This is the direct opposite of what Martin Luther King preached. This woke version of anti-racism is literally and figuratively skin-deep.

Recently, Australian basketball star Liz Cambage, who is half Nigerian, threatened to boycott the Olympic games over two promotional photos because they didn’t feature any black people. One was a promo shot for Jockey, an underwear company which had chosen eight Olympic and Paralympic athletes as brand ambassadors. The other was from the Australian Olympic team’s official Instagram page.

Though there were no black athletes in either shot, the Jockey photo featured a Jewish immigrant from France. The Olympic team’s Instagram post also included an indigenous rugby player modelling the team uniform. None of these details about the athletes’ races and backgrounds should matter, of course. They represent Australia – not just black Australians or white Australians. But according to Cambage, the photos had been ‘whitewashed’.

This is not the first time Cambage has spoken out about race. In 2019, she complained that she was ‘never in touch with my black side growing up in a very whitewashed Australia’. As is common in ‘anti-racist’ circles, skin colour and culture here are conflated. Cambage refers to her ‘black side’ as if it is something distinct from her Australianness.

The way many of today’s anti-racists view race is much closer to what the old right used to argue than to anything progressive. Racial groups and cultures are talked about as if there are clear-cut differences between them.

This might shock Cambage, but Australia is almost 90 per cent white. It’s unsurprising, therefore, that any profession in Australia would be majority white. But this doesn’t mean it isn’t diverse: there are plenty of differences between white people, just as people of different skin colours share a great deal in common.

Many ‘anti-racists’, though, can’t or won’t think beyond skin colour. They seem unaware that countries like Australia have a civic, rather than ethnic, national identity. This is why the UK, America, Australia, Canada and New Zealand are among the most open countries to immigration: their sense of belonging does not depend on skin colour.

We must stand up for the idea that anyone, no matter their skin colour, can represent their nation.

Xin Du is a writer based in Australia.

Picture by: Getty.

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