Tiger Woods and the politic of race

Posted on janvier 13, 2010

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Tiger Woods as Obama's caddy.

Tiger Woods as Obama's caddy.

Two weeks before the big Tiger Woods scandal, the magazine Golf Digest photoshopped Tiger Woods as Obama’s caddy. In that case, the analogy was accidental but since then, others have tried to compare the incomparable.

In a very imaginative yet ambiguous article, Lisa Solod Warren – a journalist for the HuffingtonPost – likened Obama’s unpopular healthcare bill with Woods’ stormy marital life.

Her article untitled « Two Black Role Models Done In By Hubris » was withdrawn from the HuffingtonPost.com but its full version and excerpts can still be found on the web.

« (…) It is tragic when an icon falls. When a black icon stumbles the tragedy seems doubly problematic.
(…) Both men (Woods and Obama) are of mixed race. Yet the majority of the country, including black Americans, sees them as black.
(…) And now while the news if full of Tiger Woods’ penchant for tawdry moments with women who can’t hold a candle to the physical beauty of his wife, the information we get on Obama, while far less salacious, is even more disillusioning.  » – Lisa Solod Warren

In her article, Mrs Warren fears that Obama and Tiger’s failures will make the black race look and feel bad.
Nonetheless, comments left after her article and elsewhere on the web don’t show support to her hypothesis.

Warren’s entire article relies on one detail that has yet to be cleared; the racial identity of Tiger Woods.
While we are at it, we would do well to ask ourselves if the « black community » really exists. If that is the case, what do they think about Tiger?

What blacks think about it

Tiger Woods and Barack Obama in the Oval Office

Tiger Woods and Barack Obama in the Oval Office

Take for example Jenée Desmond-Harris, who believes African American shouldn’t experience strong disenchantment with Tiger’s scandal. Her thougts were published by The Root – a daily online magazine reporting news from a variety of black perspectives.

In her article, Jenée recalls that Woods admitted to Oprah that he did not consider himself to be a black person. The golfer has a half-black, one-quarter American Indian, one-quarter white father and a half-Thai, half-Chinese mother. Hard to do the math.
Woods obviously chose to embrace all these cultures instead of siding with just one. « Growing up, I came up with this name: I’m a ‘Cablinasian’ (Caucasian, black, Indian and Asian). »

Woods self-definition goes against a law that dates back from the segregation era. According to that law, the one-drop rule, a person with as little as one drop of black is Black. Tiger Woods on the Oprah Winfrey show

All categories confused

By laying claim to his mixed-race origin, Tiger Woods turned upside down the conception of race as held by both black and whites.
It is important to note that in the U.S., citizens are allowed to tick many boxes of races in the « ethnic group » category. The idea of adding a « mixed-race » box was dismissed under pressure from African-American groups.

But is it really relevant to determine the race of Tiger Woods? For now, it seems that the longevity of his career rests in the hands of his PR people.