Tiger Woods Is Not the End of History: or, Why Sex across the Color Line Won’t Save Us All

Tiger Woods Is Not the End of History: or, Why Sex across the Color Line Won’t Save Us All

The American Historical Review
Volume 108, Number 5
December 2003

Henry Yu, Professor of History
University of California, Los Angeles

In December 1996, several months after Tiger Woods left Stanford University to become a professional golfer, a Sports Illustrated story entitled “The Chosen One” quoted Tiger’s father, Earl, claiming that his son was “qualified through his ethnicity” to “do more than any other man in history to change the course of humanity.” Tiger’s mother, Kultida, agreed, asserting that, because Tiger had “Thai, African, Chinese, American Indian and European blood,” he could “hold everyone together. He is the Universal Child.” The story’s author concluded that, “when we swallow Tiger Woods, the yellow-black-red-white man, we swallow … hope in the American experiment, in the pell-mell jumbling of genes. We swallow the belief that the face of the future is not necessarily a bitter or bewildered face; that it might even, one day, be something like Tiger Woods’ face.” Building on the interest in Tiger Woods, stories about mixed-race children and intermarriage proliferated. In January 2000, both Newsweek and Time opened the millennium with cover art speculating on the multi-racial faces of America’s future. 

The celebration of Tiger Woods’ mixed descent and his widespread popularity would seem to support David Hollinger‘s argument that the history of the United States has been a successful (albeit episodic) history of “amalgamation” overcoming group differences. With Woods as a prominent example, we might even be “crazy enough to believe” the idea that eventually “racism can be ended by wholesale intermarriage,” as Hollinger hints in his concluding paragraph.  However, I would argue that focusing on “intermarriage” and “race-mixing” should bring us to a different conclusion about U.S. history, and Woods might serve as a useful prism for separating out some other important aspects of the encounter of the United States with Asia and the Pacific…

Read the entire article here.

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