‘Saying Black Lives Matter is a Human Rights Issue’
Sabally was selected second overall in the 2020 Draft and will make her first WNBA appearance when the league’s new season tips off on Saturday in Bradenton, Florida.
During the opening weekend, when all 12 teams will be in action, all aspects of the game and player outfitting will be designed to affirm Black Lives Matter and honour victims of police brutality and racial violence.
Team uniforms will display the name of Breonna Taylor, the medical shot and killed by plainclothes police officers in Louisville in March.
On Thursday, Sabally, who was born in New York but moved to Berlin at an early age, joined former NBA player Caron Butler to discuss her unique experiences of racism.
“I grew up in Gambia and Germany but I was born in America. I lived in America for three years. It’s really like, ‘where am I from? What can I say?’,” she said.
“Often times, in whatever country I am in, I am not that. It’s conflicting, sometimes, but it also shows me that every issue I have experienced happens in other countries as well.
“The same way COVID-19 is a global pandemic, racism is a global pandemic as well. It’s ridiculous how my dad is treated. It’s different to how I am treated because (my skin) is lighter (than his) and it is significantly different to how my mum, who is white, is being treated.
“As a black person in Germany, you are always being asked where you are from. It happens (in the States) because of my accent but not (in the sense of asking) ‘why are you black? That’s a question that happens in Germany a lot. Where are you from basically means what else are you because you can’t be fully German. That’s just something minor but it happens all around.”
Sabally also explained how growing up in Germany had exposed her to racism at school and in social situations.
“I always feel like there is this thing around black people not being smart. In school I always had to work harder. I always had to justify that I was good in school. Those little comments, ‘Oh, you got an A!’,” she said.
“I would be with my brothers at a zoo. Every time I would go to a zoo there was always one comment like ‘go back where you come from’ or ‘go into the monkey cages’.
Those experiences have done nothing to quell the enthusiasm Sabally feels about the worldwide demonstrations for racial and social justice that have taken place in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.
“I am very hopeful,” she said. “I have seen countless demonstrations going on in Germany up to this day. It makes me so happy. Demonstrations going on in Portland, where people have taken the streets in fighting for justice.
“Saying ‘Black Lives Matter’ is nothing political, it’s a human rights issue. I am hopeful cause I see that people are out there fighting and speaking up. I just love how this conversation hasn’t died on us.”
Sabally also had a message for people unable or unwilling to understand the commitment and tenacity of social justice protesters.
“Black people have had to live through all these experiences that you are tired of hearing about it,” she said. “If you are tired of hearing these things on your Instagram feed or whatever you follow, just imagine how black people feel after centuries of speaking up and demonstrating.
“They are tired. We are tired of having to say the same things over and over again.”