When 2 year-old Eldrick Tont Woods, now famously known as Tiger Woods, putted against the iconic Bob Hope on national TV in 1978, I’m willing to bet all the $600 million he’s now worth, that his most animated nightmare never foreshadowed this hell before his 34th birthday.
Infidelity by its sheer definition is never right. I do not know any decent man that will make straight-face allowances for it, especially if the transgressor in question is the most visible athlete on the planet. But I’m not here to put a cane to Mr. Woods’s butt: I’ve never owned a counseling license in my short life.
With every Barbie (apologies to look-alikes) that comes out with news of having rolled in the sheets with Tiger, it’s harder for the issue of race not to creep up unabated in discussions among black folks.
As a black man, I’ve always had my opinion about Mr. Woods; these past few weeks only now make it necessary to openly dissect this opinion.
I subscribe to this belief amongst some black women: that black men, especially black athletes, upon gaining some form of recognition instinctively ditch their race for Caucasian women or the likes. That these black men, overtly or covertly, consider such endeavors “trading-up.”
I will be the first to tell you Tiger Woods has a right to his choice of mate. No society or community should decide what skin color or hair type becomes acceptable. The problem here, you’d see, is when certain choices underline mystifying beliefs.
You just might rightly say: “Tiger never said he was black. So why should any of these be viewed through the prism of race?”
True. Tiger being Tiger has stated he’s “Cablinasian:” A reference to his Caucasian, Black, (American) Indian, and Asian heritage. He has continuously maintained that “blackness” is not his “onlyness.” That though he might have black markings running across his tiger coating, he is in no way a “melanistic tiger;” which would be a black tiger that just happens to have underlying markings.
To prove to us he’s a citizen of the world, Tiger turned down Thai citizenship when offered in 2000, although his mother is a Thai citizen.
But no eye that sees, not even one with tunneled vision, would see Tiger Woods and not think he’s black if anything. In nature, there are certain big cats referred to as melanistic. A panther is an example of such. These are animals that as a result of excessive melanin (black pigment), their fur is overwhelmingly black. But on closer examination, you can still find markings of the species in their fur.
And into this group, I believe, is where Tiger Woods falls. But failure by Tiger to acknowledge this has resulted in an identity crisis, one that’s bearing fruits as I write.
50 … 70 years ago, the only way Tiger was going to get on a golf course was as a caddie. The multi-ethnicity he claims today would have been of no use with him looking as black as any members of my black family.
People paid for Tiger to be able to play on a golf course today. From Harriet Tubman to Martin Luther King, Jr., the price paid for one of the most whitest sport in the world to acknowledge his talent is unquantifiable.
Yet, Tiger has felt the ultimate need to distance himself from the black community at every turn in the road. Hardly, if ever, would you see Tiger championing a black event, initiative, or cause. Granted, he has a foundation that caters to kids of all ethnicities, but that’s not the same as giving back to the community that gave you the chance to do what you do.
America’s black youth are the most at-risk group in the land today: They’re more likely to die from homicide than any other race; more likely to get longer and stiffer jail sentences than any other race; more likely to never complete high school education than any other race; more often than not the last to be hired and first to be fired. Should I continue?
Yet Tiger feels no social responsibility whatsoever to that endangered one-quarter of him that’s black.
If Tiger Woods thinks it’s a matter of pure coincidence, that in any given major, his and that of fellow golfer, Vijay Singh, are the only black faces around—he must be smoking real hard the greens on which he plays. The reasons are as much socio-economic as they are generational.
When Tiger decided to marry him a European, most blacks I know were a bit uncomfortable, but soon learned to chalk this up as a lost cause.
But this has not stopped black people from rooting for Tiger whenever he competed, you know, they still considered him their own even though he will never ever claim them.
Which is why this continued stream of opportunistic, anything-but-black, Tiger-wife wannabes, creeping out of the crevices, is tantamount to opening an old wound and rubbing a fist in it.
The fact that crisp-clean Tiger would cheat on his beloved Caucasian wife with an entourage of women and not even a black woman is found in the mix—makes Tiger deserving of every little thing he gets, according to the majority of black women I’ve spoken to.
Eugene Robinson made an astute observation in an op-ed in the Washington Post. He wrote this of Tiger Woods: “He seems to have been bent on proving to himself that he could have any woman he wanted. But from the evidence, his aim wasn’t variety but some kind of validation.”
He continued by writing, “I’m making a big assumption here that the attraction for Woods was mostly physical … Woods’s self-esteem was apparently only boosted by bedding the kind of woman he thought other men lusted after — the “Playmate of the Month” type that Hugh Hefner turned into the American gold standard.”
“His taste in mistresses leaves the impression of a man who is, deep down, both insecure and image-conscious,” he concluded.
But if Tiger could learn anything ever, it should be now. To date, no pre-eminent personality has laid his reputation on the line to be associated with Tiger; not to defend him, but if only just to stop the carnage. So far, it has been a personal hell no one has dared touch with a 110-foot pole.
It didn’t have to be so. If anything, black people chastise and take care of their own (maybe because there are a few of theirs to start with). No matter how Michael Jackson strayed, black people still covered him after they’ve bashed him to a good extent. Look at Michael Vick, the same pattern. But don’t get it twisted, a “black card” does not always mean comfort for stupidity. You can ask Plaxico Burress, the New York Giants wide-receiver who shot himself with his own gun in a New York club, a thing or two about such matter.
It’s never too late to become a panther if Tiger chooses. Obviously, being a tiger has produced its results and they are not livable grades. No matter how long a leave of absence Tiger takes, Tiger Woods is professional golf—any debate about this is acute-minded. This is why there’s no better time than now for him to embrace the panther that stares at him, every morning he shaves looking into the mirror. And in doing so emerge as a legend, the like this world is yet to see.