MUNSTER rugby’s development officer, who grew up in Skibbereen, said he’s experienced racism in West Cork where people have assumed he was a ‘sponging foreigner.’
Sana Govender (25) is from Tongaat – a town 20 miles north of Durban in South Africa – but he and his family relocated to Skibbereen when his father took up a job with ESB International in 2003.
Locally, Sana, whose ethnicity is South African Indian, is very well known – not just through rugby but also through his online presence as a life coach.
Having a degree in psychology and a masters in organisational and behavioural psychology, Sana said his Facebook and Spotify posts are a vehicle for him to help people address obstacles in their life and inspire them to realise their full potential.
Growing up in West Cork, he said he has been lucky to be surrounded by genuine, good people. However, he admits: ‘There hasn’t been a year where I haven’t received some sort of racial abuse from people who have no idea who I am, or what I’m like, but make an assumption that I must be a sponging foreigner.
‘Racial slurs – whether it be on the rugby pitch, or on a night out – hurt,’ said Sana, who believes that what is transpiring in the US, following the murder of 46-year-old George Floyd, is horrific.
He also believes it is a call to consciousness and says it is indicative of the racism that occurs around the world on a daily basis.
Sana suggests: ‘We, as a society, need to hold ourselves accountable for our actions and our thoughts, but it all starts at the individual level.’
Sana’s first call to action in tackling racism is to ask people to check uneducated comments, thereby putting a stop to systemic, everyday racism.
‘There is a spectrum,’ he said, ‘but ultimately each person must look inwardly, genuinely, and think about how they talk about people of different race with their family, their friends, and even to themselves.’
He believes the way Ireland handles the whole issue of direct provision also needs to be reassessed. ‘Yes, we are giving people safe harbour from persecution in their country of origin, but our current practice should not be seen as a long-term solution because it is very isolating.
‘A more holistic approach would be to put greater emphasis on social integration and not lock people up in clusters because that just isolates them even more.’
According to Sana, ‘there is evidence of racism everywhere and West Cork is no exception.’ And for those who have nothing good to say, Sana simply requests that they say nothing at all.