Congrats to the members of the second annual COBRA Magazine All-National Team. This issue celebrates 45 of the best women of color in NCAA volleyball. I’m chuckling because I said women of color.
When the previous issue of COBRA dropped, the All-Region Teams were announced. It was COBRA’s most read issue to date, by the way. The email box at COBRAMagazine@yahoo.com received a few messages from SIDs informing the magazine that players honored from their institutions were not African American. Two players for example, Maline Vaitai of Maryland Eastern Shore and Ashley Eneliko of Oregon State, are Tongan and Samoan respectively. How can COBRA Magazine be a publication that exclusively features players of African descent but honor Tongans and Samoans? That’s a great question and one that deserves to be answered.
I can only guess that a person of Tongan or Samoan heritage probably endures similar issues in college volleyball as black players. COBRA is a voice for athletes who are underrepresented. Yes the publication’s number one priority is featuring black women in the sport but it reserves the right to honor, support and feature whomever it chooses.
Another issue was the fact that COBRA honors Puerto Rican players. In 2009 Natalie Rodriguez of Alabama A&M was named to the All-National Team. She and many people on the island of Puerto Rico were proud of the honor as it was printed on some Spanish speaking websites from her hometown of San Juan. This year Albany’s Laurie Gonzalez and Florida International’s Natalia Valentin were named to the All-National Team.
COBRA received an email about Valentin not being African American. I know the SID meant well and this is not an attack on her. The point is that a lot of people don’t know the history of Puerto Rico. At one time Africans we a majority in Puerto Rico due to slavery and in result most Puerto Ricans have as much African ancestry as they do anything else.
COBRA is not lumping Puerto Ricans, African Americans, Samoans and Tongans in the same category. All groups have unique things about them but at the same time there are bonds that tie them all together when it comes to dealing with issues such as oppression from a system that is not designed with their best interests in mind.