Since the killing of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has gained massive support around the world including in South Africa. Now, Springbok World Cup-winning captain Siya Kolisi is speaking out in support of the movement.
In a video shared to his Instagram page, Kolisi admits that he has been questioned by fans with regards to his silence on the matter. He said that he has been observing and listening to conversations surrounding BLM to think about it as a whole before making a comment.
He said that while growing up, he often felt that his life didn’t matter and explained how he needed to assimilate into a culture that was not his. “I had to conform to the culture, to feel accepted and welcomed,” he said in the video.
Once he arrived to the world of rugby, he thought that he would be able to be himself. However, he says that he had to conform in this world too.
“When I first got into the Springbok environment, everything was done in Afrikaans and I couldn’t speak Afrikaans at all,” he said.
“The calls were in Afrikaans; I had to translate from Afrikaans to English to Xhosa; it was really hard. I reacted late and I felt stupid and embarrassed,” he added. “And my culture wasn’t there. We’re representing South Africa, but it didn’t feel like I was valued enough. I just had to be grateful to be there.”
He said he didn’t feel that he could speak out and ask that things be done differently until the last few years.
“Until now, when coach Rassie came in 2018 and he addressed it,” he said, adding that Rassie knew they needed to transform as a team “not only having people of colour in the team but the environment itself”.
“People in the team had to feel valued, every culture must be represented.”
Kolisi said that the Stronger Together campaign is a great one. He said that he saw the value of the campaign in his team, and urged people to understand what the campaign actually means.
“I think if we all get together and we understand that if my suffering and my pain doesn’t affect you, then we’re actually not stronger together,” he explained.
He added that he knows he has let people down by being silent on the matter, but the time for that is over. “I will speak, even if it is going to cost me my place. It doesn’t matter because the next generation can’t suffer like we did,” he said.
He encouraged everyone to step out of their comfort zones and visit areas that they are not familiar with, to “see and understand why people are struggling, why people are saying their lives don’t matter”.
Watch him speak here:
Picture: Screenshot from video