Here’s another letter for our favourite local academic. It’s written by my good mate Shane Bassett. Thanks Shane!
Just a note on some of this post’s information. Reference to Friedman’s current and past positions is based on data we found online. It is possible that this information is out of date. If so, please accept our apologies.
Extreme umbrage needs to be taken at certain comments made by Steven Friedman, who is apparently a respected intellectual figure and political analyst. He has decided to put on his race tinted glasses and seek out racism where, for all one can see after a mere flip through the supposed “proof” – i.e. in the post match speeches that AB de Villiers makes, none can be found. Flip, flip – yep, no racism here.
Friedman, a Research Associate with the Institute for Democracy in South Africa, a tenure he has held from 2006 to present, has an ingenious way to spot racism… simply look at what’s NOT there. Genius indeed – groundbreaking research methodology. As a researcher he also then has wonderful advice for the supposed victims of this “hate speech by omission”. In his own words:
“For those of us who follow cricket – have you noticed that our limited overs captain AB de Villiers has a speech defect?: he can’t say the names of black players who do well. Today he got excited about Kallis and du Plessis, who scored 4 and 34, but somehow could not mention Amla who scored 92, Duminy who scored 43 or Tsotsobe who took 3 wickets. He does this after every game. Maybe our black players, if they want to be acknowledged, should play for New Zealand, whose captain is weird enough to judge his players by how well they do rather than their skin colour?”
Absurd as this method of research appears, one would expect an immediate outcry from scholarly versed individuals who witnessed it being employed, but it appears the burden of proof is rather light and easily discarded in the field of research, especially for proven laureates such as Prof. Steven Friedman. I read a report of “a massive debate” that had ensued on his Facebook wall, where Friedman had published his statement, and followed a link to the scene of the battle.
The reason for my interest? Our country does not need further strain on race relations. Friedman is a very influential voice out there – he has in excess of 5000 Facebook followers – many of them young academics in the fields of research and politics – our future leaders. This is his audience – these are the people he influences, in whose minds he plants seeds.
On Friedman’s Facebook page, reading the post in question, I saw that some of his friends found Friedman’s post enlightening, and expressed their admiration and gratitude:
“Wow Proff……was not aware of that but now that u mention it”
“Steven thank you for opening my eyes i thought we were all singing on the same tune”
“wow prof! I’m appalled and intrigued by ur observation I never would have picked it up. Just goes to show how anti-transgoramtion this sport, no not sport, but the minds of sum players are. How do u not mention ur team mates when u train with them daily? Im sorry for this prof but with all due respect..wtf??”
Indeed, Friedman’s methodology is beyond his students’ abilities – as they freely admit above, they “never would have picked up” what was not there. Go figure. Knowing that he, as a Professor, would never employ faulty methodologies, they accepted his stated method and his findings with little question. After all, let us not forget that Rhodes University – one of the most respected learning institutions in the southern hemisphere has, since 2005 to present, retained Friedman as Visiting Professor of Politics and International Relations. The relevant Faculty of this institution cannot be wrong in presenting this Professor as somebody to learn from, so take the pearls of wisdom, students, the man came to you pre-vetted and recommended.
What I did NOT see on Friedman’s wall, was “a massive debate”. Instead I saw a storm of racist statements (made by many of Friedman’s friends) with a few feeble voices of reason scattered about. Friedman’s involvement was limited to addressing the views expressed by these dissenters. One by one they were silenced. And the racist storm raged on. One could intuit, should one choose, that the fact that many of them refer to him as “Prof” means that they are students of his and fear some sort of backlash to their academic careers if found in dissent, but making this statement in the absence of proof would be employing the “omission of proof is proof” methodology that Friedman employs, so I will not say it. There, I did NOT say it. That took great restraint.
So, let’s move away from issues of implied possibly unintentional coercive intimidation, and return to the accusations of racism. Friedman attacks racism vigorously where he finds it “present by omission”, but casually ignores it where it is posted on his Facebook wall:
“Is the problem of white people in our country, they think are superior to us black people, but when someone speak its another chapter”
“colour bars will always be the hegemonic shortcomings of this world.mo matter how we can sing the rainbow nations songs.even the sports could not create a mutual consensus.”
“I couldn’t agree more Prof! AB is a microcosm of a larger group who thinks that all black people look alike. This is just not cricket!!!”
“De Villiers is a religious man Mr Friedman and according to his religion and many other racist hyprocrites black people don’t exist.”
“Celebrating the average will continue to be the norm in SA sport. Until we open doors for real talent in this country, we wont win any World Cup titles on anything and that includes Rugby and Cricket. Indeed black players must leave SA and make their names in other countries. It’s the only way to do it. As things stand, black players will always be ‘development’ players until average white players have had enough game time to improve their performance. They can disguise it all they like, Cricket and rugby will not do well if they don’t change. I wont even talk about soccer…..lol…lol…disaster!!”
“he must choose his fellow whites players”
But let us not be unfair – Friedman may well have failed to silence or rebuke stereotyping on the part of his followers, but then, so too did he fail to address positives, such as:
“Prof what do you think should be done by us as peace and accomodative black people to show our white south africans that the is a need to build a united nation now before Julias become a president”
One comment enthused on accepted scholarly practice, but went unanswered:
“Did we listen to the man before we comment? The reason is that we are taking the Prof word and it is dangerous. Why can’t we comment about the performance of the team and then we engage on the side issues. I don’t think we are proud of the team’s achievement.”
There was one particularly motivated respondent who argued desperately on behalf of de Villiers, bringing something unprecedented to the discussion: transcripts sources and the possibility of videos on YouTube of the post match interviews in question. Instead of eagerly asking for the links to these materials to ascertain the correct facts and “prove” his statements, Friedman chose to stick to his previous methodology:
“…I don’t know what transcript you have but I was listening carefully live and did not hear him mention Amla’s name…”
He goes on:
“I heard the New Zealand interviewer mention Amla, but not de Villiers In any event, this is not an isolated incident. I have listened to several de Villiers post-match interviews and have never heard him praise a black player by name. Frankly, if you think there are no racial biases in SA cricket, you are not listening or watching carefully”
Undeterred, the rebel posts proof of his allegations; quoting from videos which he had diligently …ahem… researched on the internet. Friedman, the academic, does not ask him for source, but instead responds dismissively:
“… you are living in a fantasy world. I don’t know where you hear all these terms of endearment to black team mates – I don’t hear them and they certainly are not in your transcript, of which more in a moment. In one recent match, de Villiers waxed lyrical about Morkel and de Lange, who had gone for 7 and 9 runs an over respectively, and totally ignored Tsotsobe and Peteson, who went for 4,5 each…”
So now, with his original assertion that black players are NOT mentioned in post match interviews disproven (the basis on which he originally attacked De Villiers), he changes tact:
“…Even if your transcript of today’s interview is correct – and I repeat that I strained my ears to hear Amla’s name mentioned and didn’t hear it – ‘Hashie’ seems to have become ‘Amla’ while Morkel and du Plessis are, of course, Morne and Faf.”
So now that “omission racism” is disproven and will not make it into scholarly texts as “The Friedman Protocol”, let’s start making it racist to call people of colour by their surname or nickname and put THAT forward as proof. The insanity doesn’t stop there:
“…The reality is that de Villiers is very much part of the last few years of SA cricket which has been about barely tolerating black talents while lauding any white mediocrity who performs half well. The good news is that we now have a coach who, after several years in India, can look at cricketers as cricketers not as whites selected because the establishment wants them and black selected because it has to put up with them. Now all we need is a captain and selectors who feel the same way and Proteas cricket might start becoming a source of pride rather than shame…”
So now De Villiers is guilty by association and SA Cricket is labelled racist without any proof given. Good man, Professor, let’s not even try to present proof anymore – these pesky online references make it way too easy to refute.
Friedman had one last line to throw at his opponent. But before I quote it, let me quote his opponent’s last line, before Friedman sent him scurrying off:
“…your insight in this instance is off the mark. I have HUGE respect for your political analysis, and always regarded you as the voice of reason in our complex society. But in this case you’re really not contributing to understanding – rather just helping to reinforce the prejudices of your facebook followers, most of whom, it is clear, don’t even watch cricket.”
Friedman, ever the researcher, intellectual and academic responded thus:
“One final point – it is deeply patronising to suggest that black people who complain of racism in cricket are not knowledgeable. I know many black cricket lovers who are devoted to the game – every one of them believes that SA cricket is still riddled with racism.”
Ah – finally some proof of research. Friedman has spoken to all his black friends, interviewed them on their opinion on cricket, isolated the “devoted” and ascertained their stance on racism in the game. Every one of them. That’s research dedication right there! And now he puts that collective opinion forward as final, incontrovertible confirmation. Sound reasoning on the part of one of SA’s leading scholars. He also clearly had them all sign over right of attorney to speak for “them”.
Now, revisit his opponent’s quote above, I see no mention of race. He merely refers to Friedman’s Facebook followers. Leave it to someone with Friedman’s capacity for ‘insight’ to extract some type of racial prejudice from the statement.
In closing, I’ll address Mr Friedman directly. You’re a hypocrite. You’re proven wrong and instead of apologizing like a man, you backtrack into further absurdities and threaten the man who tries to engage you in debate with the danger of being labelled a racist. I see you’ve been involved in political race relations since before we had a black government. It is said that when a hammer is all you have, everything around you starts looking like a nail. I guess you might be a bit battle fatigued, Steven. Take a time-out – you’re slipping.