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Petersen: “Racism is the condition of an environment that is taught and love is natural”
Last Updated: 11/07/20 7:29am
“It’s not going to be like a flick of a switch but we’re heading towards better days,” Devon Petersen says this generation could be the one that will help change the future.
Petersen, was born in Mitchells Plain, which is a township in the Western Cape – conceived of as a “model suburb” by the apartheid government with an estimated population of 300,000.
The 34-year-old had a natural talent for throwing and darts was to be his route out of hardship to a successful career at a sport which falls way down the popularity list in South Africa.
Yet Petersen has defied the odds by becoming South African champion before making it to the PDC World Darts Championship at the iconic Alexandra Palace in 2011. He’s gone on to reach the fourth round of the competition in 2014 and 2019.
Speaking to the Darts Show Podcast, Petersen reflected on a defining moment in history following the death of George Floyd, which sparked anti-racism protests across the world.
Petersen believes a “domino effect” has been created.
“There’s a whole host of things that comes with the Black Lives Matter movement. People’s knowledge on the movement itself and understanding the levels of racism. There’s an onion that needs to be peeled back completely,” explained Petersen.
“People obviously see George Floyd’s death and they see Black Lives Matter as something that is about George Floyd. They say he was a convict and he used drugs, but they don’t understand a massive domino effect [has been created] and George Floyd was potentially the largest domino to fall over.
“Martin Luther King back in 1963 [campaigned] for civil rights. I mean, we all should be born with equal rights. The information is readily available and a lot of people are not reading it. They’re just taking it from the media’s perspective.”
Petersen also spoke about his own experiences of racial discrimination, having to deal with segregation and racism in South Africa during a turbulent time in the country. The “knock-on” effects of apartheid are still being felt, decades on.
He also backed Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton for taking a knee for Black Lives Matter. Petersen says despite the criticism for being privileged, he has just as much right as the next person.
“As a player of colour and coming from South Africa with a history of apartheid as well, I’ve had first-hand experience of it in my country where segregation was a massive thing based on your race and colour. In the UK people have different opinions but they don’t lead with the understanding of empathy first. We have the dialogue, we have the opportunity,” Petersen said.
“Lewis Hamilton has come in for ridicule because people are saying he’s privileged. But my question is so if he’s privileged then what kind of credentials should you have to protest against any form of racism?
“Sport is a thing that brought South Africa together when we won the 1995 Rugby World Cup. That was just after apartheid and it brought the country together. It was the first time that we competed in a World Cup and so many bridges were crossed and created at that point in time.
“I believe we’re still feel the knock-on effects of apartheid but it’s going to take generations to correct that. The conversation is to move the narrative forward and our generation now will be the generation that will help change the future.”
His determination and willingness to succeed in a sport which for years has been regarded as white male dominated has been admirable. Petersen has been able to smash his own glass ceiling, along with black female star Deta Hedman.
Petersen highlighted the time when he did suffer racism in darts, but chose not to reveal the players involved, suffice to say, they were high-profile.
It’s slow progress and it’s not going to be like a flick of a switch but we’re heading towards better days and the generations to come will benefit from it.
Devon Petersen on Black Lives Matter
Petersen said: “In darts I’ve experienced racism. It’s only that I won’t discuss it openly because it involves high-profile players but it’s something that I corrected at that time and if I wasn’t a player of colour would that have been discussed? Because I am a player of colour it was discussed, my view was voiced, and there was some level of discomfort and awkwardness.
“People understand when you’re talking about race and Black Lives Matter, it’s something that I support wholeheartedly. I stand against racism but if you’re judging someone by the colour of their skin then you already have a moral dilemma and your character will be questioned because of that.
“Racism is a condition of an environment that is taught and love is natural so there’s a whole massive movement because it’s something that can be changed or switched because of the support. You can never experience what I’ve experienced because it’s something that is generational and it’s continuous because of the environment that we live in.
“It’s slow progress and it’s not going to be like a flick of a switch but we’re heading towards better days and the generations to come will benefit from it.”
Darts returns to Sky Sports in July, with nine days of coverage from the World Matchplay getting underway on Saturday, July 18, and every day until the final on Sunday, July 26. Check out daily Darts news on skysports.com/darts, our app for mobile devices and our Twitter account @skysportsdarts.