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Tiger Woods Affairs Highlight Racial Attitudes

tiger-woods-white-blackPerusing Yahoo! News last night, I came across a rather amusing AP story titled “Tiger’s troubles widen his distance from blacks.”

Amid all the headlines generated by Tiger Woods’ troubles — the puzzling car accident, the suggestions of marital turmoil and multiple mistresses — little attention has been given to the race of the women linked with the world’s greatest golfer. Except in the black community.

When three white women were said to be romantically involved with Woods in addition to his blonde, Swedish wife, blogs, airwaves and barbershops started humming, and Woods’ already tenuous standing among many blacks took a beating.

On the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner radio show, Woods was the butt of jokes all week.   “Thankfully, Tiger, you didn’t marry a black woman. Because if a sister caught you running around with a bunch of white hoochie-mamas,” one parody suggests in song, she would have castrated him.  “The Grinch’s Theme Song” didn’t stop there: “The question everyone in America wants to ask you is, how many white women does one brother waaant?”

As one blogger, Robert Paul Reyes, wrote: “If Tiger Woods had cheated on his gorgeous white wife with black women, the golfing great’s accident would have been barely a blip in the blogosphere.”

The darts reflect blacks’ resistance to interracial romance. They also are a reflection of discomfort with a man who has smashed barriers in one of America’s whitest sports and assumed the mantle of the world’s most famous athlete, once worn by Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan.

But Woods has declined to identify himself as black, and famously chose the term “Cablinasian” (Caucasian, black, Indian and Asian) to describe the racial mixture he inherited from his African-American father and Thai mother.

So much for the post-racial America that the election of a biracial president who looks black was supposed to yield. But it’s not surprising, really.

Stacy McCain defends AP from charges of racism, observing, “Imagine the media uproar if white people had made a race issue about Tiger Woods’ affairs. Therefore, if Associated Press had ignored the (evidently) widespread criticism from blacks, they might have been accused of bias, as if black criticism of Woods was not newsworthy.”

True. Although I’d wager they’d have treated the story much differently.

NYDailyNews headlined the same story “Tiger Woods alienates black community with white lovers.”  But the point isn’t that Tom Joyner (no relation, so far as I know) or the other blacks in the story are racist.  It’s merely an interesting cultural phenomenon.

Black women have long felt slighted by the tendency of famous black men to pair with white women, and many have a list of current transgressors at the ready.  “We’ve discussed this for years among black women,” said Denene Millner, author of several books on black relationships. “Why is it when they get to this level … they tend to go directly for the nearest blonde?”

[...]

“There is a call for loyalty that is stronger in some ways than in other racial communities,” said the author of the study, George Yancey, a sociology professor at the University of North Texas and author of the book “Just Don’t Marry One.”

[...]

Carmen Van Kerckhove, founder of the race-meets-pop-culture blog Racialicious, said there have been frequent discussions on her site about the fine line between preference and fetish. “Is there any difference between a white guy with a thing for blondes, and a non-white guy with a thing for blondes?” asked Van Kerckhove, who has a Chinese mother, a Belgian father and a husband born in America to parents from Benin. She claims that Asians don’t fully embrace Woods, either. “There are two layers of suspicion toward him,” Van Kerkhove said. “One toward the apparent pattern in the race of his partners, and the second in the way he sees himself. … People have been giving him the side-eye for a while.”

There’s nothing wrong with wanting a mate who shares your culture, as long as it’s for the right reasons, the comedienne Sheryl Underwood said after unleashing a withering Woods monologue on Tom Joyner’s radio show. “Would we question when a Jewish person wants to marry other Jewish people?” she said in an interview. “It’s not racist. It’s not bigotry. It’s cultural pride.” “The issue comes in when you choose something white because you think it’s better,” Underwood said. “And then you never date a black woman or a woman of color or you never sample the greatness of the international buffet of human beings. If you never do that, we got a problem.”

The key difference here is that while both white and black opposition to inter-racial marriage can stem from “cultural pride,” an undercurrent of inferiority/superiority underlies much of the angst.  And the frustration among blacks — especially black women — over black men marrying white women is the perception that they see themselves as “trading up” in so doing.  Dating and marrying white women is seen by many as a status symbol.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. markm says:

    When three white women were said to be romantically involved with Woods

    Old news….I think it’s up to seven or eight “white” women.

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  2. Franklin says:

    “It’s not racist. It’s not bigotry. It’s cultural pride.”

    I agree with the first two statements, but it’s not cultural pride, either. People tend to marry other people with a similar culture because:

    a) they are familiar and comfortable with that culture, and
    b) they are most likely surrounded by people of the same culture

    Sure, many people think their culture is superior to everybody else’s, but I don’t think that’s the overriding reason for choosing a mate.

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  3. PD Shaw says:

    Can’t discuss this issue without a nod towards the late great Cahappelle Show and the “racial auction” episode where African-Americans got to claim Tiger Woods as one of their own.

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  4. PD Shaw says:

    Longer version of the Chappelle Show clip here. Probably NSFW for political incorectness.

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  5. Steve Verdon says:

    “And then you never date a black woman or a woman of color or you never sample the greatness of the international buffet of human beings. If you never do that, we got a problem.”

    Ahhh a smorgasbord of women for men to sample, what a lovely idea. Is she sure that was the image she was trying to convey? Oh and in the interest of gender equality I don’t mind if there are smorgasbords of men for women to sample either.

    I also love the implication, if you haven’t gone out and found an asian woman, a black woman, a hispanic woman, a pacific islander woman, and a white woman why you are a blinkered human being that is a “problem”. How lovely, I can see it now.

    “Excuse me miss, but I was wonder would you like to go out some time?”

    “Why?”

    “Well you see, according to Sheryl Underwood I need to sample the buffet of hot babes out there, and in checking my list I haven’t had an asian yet. Wait…you are asian right? You see I did have a pacifici islander, and I don’t want to “double dip”…oh ha ha, sorry no pun intended. So what do you say?”

    “F*ck off.”

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  6. Franklin says:

    “Well you see, according to Sheryl Underwood I need to sample the buffet of hot babes out there, and in checking my list I haven’t had an asian yet. Wait…you are asian right? You see I did have a pacifici islander, and I don’t want to “double dip”…oh ha ha, sorry no pun intended. So what do you say?”

    Dude, that line always works for me, I don’t know what your problem is.

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  7. I think Tiger Woods is not racist just because he chooses white women to have his affairs with but I don’t agree that it was right that he cheated on his beautiful white wife either. If I was in Tiger Woods position I would hang on to my wife as long as possible and be very happy with her. I think that in many ways the black community who objects to interracial relationships is really being racist against those types of relationships as well as the white sumpremacists or KKK is. Anytime you have a rich and famous black man who is involved with a white woman the media and the tabloids love to focus on the bad rather than look on the good. Then again I have heard many black men choose white women just because of a personal choice or taste in women. As a black man who has dated white women, I find that many black women will object to the relationship even if I am in a good relationship with a white woman. I don’t argue that Tiger Woods didn’t do wrong but he might have had a lot of marital woes and maybe he craved the other attention that he was getting from all these other white women rather than his wife. Either way it is wrong to cheat no matter what race of the women are, but this just furthers the stereotype that many black men must have a harem of beautiful white women to make themselves feel attractive or that it boosts their image among their homeboys. What if Tiger Woods was a white man who cheated on his black wife? Would the media have made such a charade of this infidelity? Probably not but then again a sister probably would have kicked him out of the house and probably would go after all of his mistresses. I think the white community probably is more accepting of Tiger’s Woods and his wife then the black community is but they would also be against his cheating on his wife. It is news media coverage like this that has done a lot of damage to the good mixed marriages and relationships but it is up to us to stop the hating. As for me I prefer white women but that doesn’t mean that I hate black women either. It is a matter of personal choice for me and what I am attracted to.

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