Clay Cane is a New York City-based writer who is recognized for his contributions in journalism. Clay is a regular contributor for various print and online publications such as The Advocate and BET.com. He is the author of the highly anticipated novel Ball-Shaped World, which is a fictionalized account of the black and Latino ballroom scene. Also, he is the Entertainment Editor at BET.com and a member of New York Film Critics Online. He can be reached at claycane@gmail.com.


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    Monday, January 14, 2008

    Last week, the Golf Channel suspended Kelly Tilghman, who is their lead anchor and, not surprisingly, a dear friend of Tiger "Don't Call Me Black" Woods, due to her "lynch him in a back alley" comment. The Golf Channel called her remarks "hurtful and grossly inappropriate."

    Considering the popup of nooses across the country from New York to Louisiana in 2007, it was honorable to see the Golf Channel denounce the comment—even when Tiger Woods wouldn’t. Woods’ statement said: "We know unequivocally that there was no ill intent in her comments" and "a non-issue in our eyes. Case closed."

    Tiger’s cavalier reaction is reminiscent of the 1997 remarks from legendary golfer Fuzzy Zoeller. After Tiger won the golf Masters, Zoeller said he should "order fried chicken or collard greens" for the Champions Dinner. Woods took nearly two months to address the comment and eventually said he met with Zoeller, accepted his apology and "Over time I think we will all see that it's an incident that was good for golf. It will take some time to understand it."

    Is this socially irresponsible? Does Woods mildly care he has inspired so many young black children to pick up a golf club similar to how the Williams sisters have inspired black youth in tennis?

    Several sports stars from the NBA to Venus and Serena Williams, have openly discussed their repeated experiences with racism. Legendary tennis player, Arthur Ashe, made it one of his life goals to fight racism. Woods has made it one of life goals to ignore racism.

    In a 1997 episode of Oprah, Woods famously said he is “Cablinasian”— Caucasian, Black, American-Indian, and Asian. In addition, he stressed he would reject the label of being the first Black man to win the Masters.

    While Woods is an extremely gifted golfer, let's be real, part of the reason why he's received so much attention is because he is a person of color in lily white golf. Tiger's multi-million dollar endorsement deals are attributed to that “50% black” in him (as if being a particular race is an Algebra equation) and being the “first”. Ironically, (see picture) his father, Earl Woods, has the distinguished honor, according to the Kansas State University web site, as “the first African-American baseball player in the Big Seven Conference.”

    Could you imagine if Halle Berry said she would reject being the first black woman to win a best actress Oscar because she has a white mother? Could you imagine if Beverly Johnson rejected being the first black woman on the cover of Vogue because she is part Native American? Could you imagine if Senator Barack Obama said he rejected being the first black man to be President of the United States because he has a white mother?

    Aside from Tiger's parentage, he has actively divorced himself from the black community even when he has benefited from being one of few blacks in golf. Woods has received kudos because he has broken color-barriers and changed the face of golf; but ends with, “I’m not really one of you."
    Woods reminds me of a gay man who has been sleeping with men exclusively for the past ten years, but insists on “I’m bisexual.”

    What is most interesting is that after this Kelly Tilghman fiasco every commentator from CNN to Fox News referenced Woods as “Black” or “African-American”. I’m sure he smashed some golf clubs every time he heard that line.

    Every black person is mixed; being mixed is consistent with the black experience. Sure, if you are Vin Diesel or Mariah Carey, you can conveniently reject either side that isn’t marketable. Tiger is a new form of a “tragic mulatto”, and if Tiger is rejecting his blackness than people like Al Sharpton shouldn't fight for him.

    It wasn’t surprising Tiger married a blonde hair white woman (I doubt he ever dated a black woman), but these racial comments must affect Tiger. Not because he is offended but . . . it's a constant reminder that his blackness is inescapable.

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    Posted by Clay :: 12:00 AM :: 33 comments

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