tiger woods

By Dr. Henry Flores, NewsTaco

             Bueno, it took a totally nonpolitical person to help bring contemporary racism to the surface.  Currently, you have politicians saying that the days of racism, those halcyon days of 1965, are over.  We, as society, have moved beyond the racist appeals of fringe groups such as the nazi’s or klansmen.  Some folks like to say that when a person of color thinks that something racist is occurring, well, it’s coincidental or a joke or the figment of one’s imagination.  No one actually meant anything racist to happen, it just did.  Then apologies are extended, everyone says “let’s put the incident behind us and move on with the work at hand”.

This happened a week or so ago to Tiger Woods, who I consider the greatest golfer of all times – I don’t care what anyone says about him.  At a European awards dinner some reporter asked Sergio Garcia, the former golf wunderkind, if he would invite Tiger to dinner at the forthcoming United States Open golf tournament.  Sergio said that he would and he would invite him the entire week and “we can have fried chicken.”  Bueno, there was a pregnant silence and then nervous laughter but the damage had been done.

When asked, Tiger said the comments by Garcia were hurtful.  Although Garcia and Woods have never liked each other and this is not the first time something “hurtful” had passed between them, it was the first time that it received extensive coverage.  Tiger had been subjected to racist comments publicly before by another professional golfer who has since lived to regret the incident because it defined his career.

If you look at the sport of golf you can easily ascertain that it is not exactly a game that appeals to all socio-economic groups.  Some of the greatest golfers, however, come from humble backgrounds.  The vast majority come from upper-middle class families and played college golf before entering the professional world.  Woods is the only African American golfer, he is actually half-Thai on his mother’s side, that plays at the elite level.  He is not the first professional Black golfer, there were some great ones prior to him but he has taken the game to such a high level that whenever he enters a tournament it appears that the remaining field plays to see who will come in second.  He is wealthy beyond comprehension, arrogant, generous to certain causes and individuals, tough and mean on the golf course.  Woods has utilized some gamesmanship when he plays and is able to get into the heads of some golfers.  In the parlance of the game “Tiger owns Sergio” and all Garcia can do is get angry and stay out of Tiger’s way.

Although this incident doesn’t appear to have anything to do with what I normally look at but it does.  This incident serves to remind us that racism together with all its ugly permutations are alive and well today.

The late Joel Olson, a political theorist and activist I very much admire, pointed out once that American democracy cannot subsist without racism.  Racism fuels the inequality that permeates America.  Racism does not go away until each of us decides that it is time to evaluate and value each of us as a human being.  Until that time comes there will always be public opinion, perception and, in the end, public policy colored by racism.

Although Sergio Garcia is a Spaniard his perception is universal.  We see the world through racist lenses, we can’t help it, that is just the way we have been socialized. When Americans see Tiger Woods they see a Black man who happens to be a golfer, when Americans see President Obama they see a Black man as the president and so forth.  We don’t see a golfer who happens to be black or a president who happens to be black, we just see the black part and it just drives some us into a rage.

I think that one of the biggest reasons you don’t see congress trying to cooperate with the president on meaningful legislation is because, like Sergio, it just drives them crazy to see a Black man in the White House.  Those who say racism is dead and gone are only making excuses to make themselves feel good.  Racism is not dead, it’s alive and well throughout this country and the world.

[Photo by Keith Allison]

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