An Open Letter to South Africa’s Caster Semenya


South African athlete caster Semenya has been globally brutalized by a public that thrives off scandals

South African athlete caster Semenya has been globally brutalized by a public that thrives off scandals

On this day that many of us will say “good morning” several times, I am deeply troubled. I am troubled by the reality of the space and communities in which we live, where I can wake up to tweets and facebook statuses ranting about the apology and protection we should be demanding for a country pop star, who one person (as ignorant in his behavior that he may have been) did not find should have been named the most popular for the year. I am troubled because for the last month our daughter and our sister has been globally brutalized, yet the tweets and statuses demanding her protection and respect of her humanity have been far and few between. Thus, I wake up this morning in an effort to make it a “good” one with a public letter to Caster Semenya. If you agree, this will be the email that you circulate throughout your “friends database” today. If you believe in globally protecting the humanity of black women’s bodies, then you can number and add your name to the count.

Be and live well,

Stephany R. Spaulding, Ph. D.
American Studies
Literature & Critical Race Theory

September 14, 2009

Dear Caster,

My heart breaks and bosom aches for the shock of inhumanity you are being forced to see in this moment. If I could right now, I would gently pull you into my arms and cradle you as my child. I would blanket you in the comfort of knowing that you are of a people who are fearfully and wonderfully made. Fearful in that when other’s epistemologies are too minimalistic to understand our existence, they have sought to devalue and diminish it. Yet wonderful we are, for we live knowing it has never been about us, but an obsession with validating irrationally supercilious ideologies.

If I could, I would bend your chin and connect with your eyes and beg you to allow me to make amends for the things I have let my memory erase. I would bathe you in a wash tub of tears as the century of years return unto me—remembering the persisting global attacks on black women’s bodies.

I would kneel down with you and cry out libations for Saartjie and offer humble apologies for all the time expended before we could finally give her rest. I would mourn all the names that cannot be recalled, lost to the hypocrisy of Western medicine vested in white supremacy, for as slaves stripped of human dignity we were sacrificed upon the alter of modern gynecology.

If I could, right now I would hold on to you for dear life and reassure you that you do not have to choose to do anything other than live. No one could ever strip you of the victories you have and will continue to win, for our glory is not of man. In the short time of your living, you are teaching of the deep sense of courage, honor, and dignity that is our legacy.

With love that is all powerful, patient and kind, I would rescue you from this diabolical global attack. I would show you how wrong many are in believing it takes the presence of ovaries to be a daughter, “normalized” levels of estrogen to be a sister, or the opening of a womb to be a mother.

But Caster, most importantly, I earnestly plead that you allow me to shoulder this cross with you because I can. From across the ocean and spanning global miles, I reach out to you for the daughter you are and for all of our daughters to come.


1. Me (Stephany Rose)


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