I have a new post up at Global Comment
At the age of twenty-one, Tiger Woods won the Masters Tournament, and never had the African American community been so excited about golf. Nike built its advertising campaign around this exuberance by producing the “I am Tiger Woods” commercials. Yet not since Mohammed Ali, have African Americans been so ultimately polarized by a sports hero. For a time, Tiger was the shining prince who allowed Blacks to celebrate his achievement, thus reminding the community of other Black figures whose struggles radically changed the perception of what it is to be African American. That time has come and gone.
When he was asked on the Oprah show if it bothered him to be called African American, Tiger answered in the affirmative: “Growing up, I came up with this name: I’m a ‘Cablinasian” (Caucasian-Black-Indian-Asian).
There are those that would argue that as a bi-racial person, it is his right to identify as he chooses. Yet to the Black community, these words symbolized a rejection. Colin Powell responded to Woods commentary by stating, “In America, which I love from the depths of my heart and soul, when you look like me, you’re black.” The perception of Tiger as an outsider solidified when he chose as his wife a White Swedish woman, following in the steps of many male African American celebrities who marry outside of their race.
It was announced last weekend that Tiger got into a car accident. Like most incidents involving celebrities, this quickly became headline news. The paparazzi circled like vultures, sure that there was more to the story than a simple traffic incident. One by one, women stepped forward to allege having extra-marital affairs with Woods. Embarrassing text messages came to light, revealing the extent of Tiger’s lechery. Suddenly, the man that led such a private life found that no amount of begging for privacy would erase his name from the headlines, or from Black blogs.
For many, it was easy to ridicule Tiger. He did, after all, refuse to identify solely as Black. Beyond his message of hope, declaring for the entire world that he is African American bound Blacks to Barack Obama. The kind of relationship that the Black community has with Black leaders and celebrities was something that Tiger failed to understand when he made his fateful statement.
Mr. Cablinasian became an instant punchline as many refused to embrace him in the manner that they had supported stars like R. Kelly and Kobe Bryant. Recently, Tiger jokes became huge on the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner show for the past week. In one parody it was stated, “The question everyone in America wants to ask you is, how many white women does one brother want?”