Why Tiger Would(s)
“Yea man, youze a brutha”
I must admit that it was tempting to title this piece, “The Cat’s Out of the Golf Bag,” or maybe, “Tiger Woods Cats Around.” But, I thought better of the idea. I don’t wish to appear to discount the seriousness of the situation, nor appear too cavalier in discussing such a sensitive subject. I can’t say the same for some other media outlets. Tiger Woods, arguably the most famous athlete in the world and simultaneously history’s most storied golfer, is being mercilessly castigated on talk radio, on tabloid television, and in major media. It’s a shark frenzy. But, what exactly is behind the world’s first billion-dollar athlete opening himself up to such ruthless-and perhaps well deserved-scrutiny? Some believe the criticism leveled against him is particularly raucous because he’s a Black man.
Tiger or Panther?: Tiger Woods may see himself as something other than a Black man, but many believe that’s exactly how the system sees him. For example, before realizing who he was the police who wrote the report detailing the events of the night in question described him as “a black male.” Years earlier pro golfer Fuzzy Zoeller made it quite clear that the Black blood coursing through Tiger’s veins stands out more than any Asian affiliation. According to one source, Zoeller said of Woods: “‘He’s doing quite well, pretty impressive. That little boy is driving well and he’s putting well. He’s doing everything it takes to win. So, you know what you guys do when he gets in here? You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it.’ Zoeller then smiled, snapped his fingers, and walked away before turning and adding, ‘or collard greens or whatever the hell they [Black people] serve.'” K-Mart and Dunlap ceased sponsoring Zoeller after the “off-colored” remarks. But upon apologizing to Woods (and to any who were offended) sponsors readily forgave Zoeller and embraced him again. Still, some Blacks are convinced that Woods isn’t an Asian white tiger with black strikes; instead, he’s a black panther.
Tiger’s Jungle: Exploring Tiger’s background, where he grew up and who he grew up with, might shed some light on the dark recesses of the “jungle”-the neighborhood-from which he came. He’s from La Palma, California, a small landlocked city in predominantly White Orange County, close to the small cities of Cerritos and Cypress. They’re so close that if a resident of one city sneezed hard enough he’d blow himself into the other city. La Palma is just a few miles away from Compton, the home of tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams. But the two cities are worlds apart. Despite Compton reportedly being the former home of the Presidential Family Bushes in the 1940s, it came to be infamous for its Black gang culture. Aside from having Black relatives, Tiger Woods apparently doesn’t have an intimate familiarity with African American culture-particularly Black women.
Tiger on the Prowl-for White Girls: None of the major news outlets (to my knowledge) are focusing on the fact that all the women Tiger allegedly cheated with are White. Of course, given the fact that the Los Angeles Sentinel is America’s leading Black newspaper, one would expect an analysis of the racial component of Tiger’s trysts. Why would Tiger restrict his sexual indiscretions to the Megans and Mallorys of the world in contradistinction to the Shauntays and Shaneequas? Could it have anything to do with the memsahib?
The Oxford English Dictionary describes memsahib as “a European married lady; also, one who behaves like a European woman.” There is no such word for any Women of Color in the dictionary. The point? Insofar as American and European societies are concerned, the White woman sets the standard for the world’s non-White women. As is implied in the dictionary, if a Woman of Color really wants status in these and other societies and subcultures she has to ‘behave like a European woman.’ In the case of the women Tiger was on the prowl for, the image of what they would look like had already been stenciled on his mind-and that from childhood. This is true of most African American males. Proof of this can be seen from mentioning seven White females that every Black male in the United States is familiar with: (1) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, (2) Cinderella, (3) Goldilocks and the Three Bears, (4) Little Red Riding Hood, (5) Sleeping Beauty, (6) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and (7) The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Could this be why Black men like White women?
Impact on Black Women: If it is, where does that leave Black women? Well, for some, it leaves them trying to behave like White women. This thought was entertained in my now-out-of-print book Wicked Words: Poisoned Minds-Racism in the Dictionary (1997). “Let’s just face the facts,” I concluded, “this is certainly the case whether it was done by mistake or design; whether wittingly or unwittingly; consciously or subconsciously; overtly or covertly; obviously or subliminally.” I continued, “The bottom line is this: Every impressionable little girl of any other race wants to be like the little white girl in these [seven] stories. The precious minds of these non-white little girls are already being molded, groomed, or shaped to surrender their own personas in favor of one that they could never really attain, or have a ghost of a chance acquiring, namely, white female essence. Sadly, it is an exercise in futility.”
Black men from Compton, Lynwood (a neighboring city), and South Central Los Angeles (I’ve lived in all three locations) have mixed feelings about Tiger Woods’ dalliances. Pancake from Compton said he’ll never look at a sentence with “Tiger,” “hole,” “stroke,” “driver,” and “balls” quite the same way. Flashback from Lynwood insisted that I should have titled this piece, “Tiger’s Wood” (let’s hope he’s referencing the material used in some of Tiger’s golf clubs). I’ll stop there for fear I may stretch the bounds of decorum. Finally, Short Willie from South Central asserts as if he’s speaking directly to Tiger: “Yea man, youze a brutha.”
When the dust settles it is my hope that Mr. Woods stays with his wife in the name of love and out of regard for the sanctity of marriage. As for the rest of the beautiful human family with its many colors, shapes and sizes, may we all face our challenges with confidence as we look to God for his guidance and direction. In the meantime, peace and blessings to all. Amen.
Dr. Firpo Carr n can be reached at