Tiger Woods: Black, white, other

Tiger Woods: Black, white, other

The Guardian

Gary Younge, Feature Writer and Columnist

Before he was engulfed in a sex scandal Tiger Woods was a poster boy for a multiracial America. Gary Younge on the real legacy of golf’s fallen hero

On 13 April 1997 Tiger Woods putted his way to golfing history in Augusta, Georgia. The fact that he was the first black winner of the US Masters was not even half of it. At 21, he was the youngest; with a 12-stroke lead, he was the most emphatic; and finishing 18 under par, he was, quite simply, the best the world had ever seen.

…But within a fortnight of black America gaining a new sporting hero, it seemed as though they had lost him again. From the revered perch of Oprah Winfrey’s couch, Woods was asked whether it bothered him being termed “African-American”. “It does,” he said. “Growing up, I came up with this name: I’m a ‘Cablinasian’.”

Woods is indeed a rich mix of racial and ethnic heritage. His father, Earl, was of African-American, Chinese and Native American descent. His mother, Kutilda, is of Thai, Chinese and Dutch descent. “Cablinasian” was a composite of Caucasian, black, Indian and Asian. When he was asked to fill out forms in school, he would tick African-American and Asian. “Those are the two I was raised under and the only two I know,” he told Oprah. “I’m just who I am … whoever you see in front of you.”…

…In 1998, the American Anthropological Association declared, “Evidence from the analysis of genetics (eg DNA) indicates that most physical variation, about 94%, lies within so-called racial groups. Conventional geographic ‘racial’ groupings differ from one another only in about 6% of their genes. This means there is greater genetic variation within ‘racial’ groups than between them.” In short, we really are more alike than we are unalike. If race is an arbitrary fiction, then “race-mixing” is a conceptual absurdity. To the extent to which “mixed race” makes any sense at all, we are all mixed race…

…Economically and politically, all of this made perfect sense. Intellectually, it was and remains a nonsense. As Barbara J. Fields pointed out in her landmark essay Ideology And Race In American History, it meant that “a black woman cannot give birth to a white child” while “a white woman [is] capable of giving birth to a black child”…

…Similarly, those who insist that, because Barack Obama has a white mother and grandmother who raised him, he could just as easily be described as another white president as the first black president are in a losing battle with credibility. “Obama’s chosen to identify as an African-American male,” explains Jennifer Nobles, the campaigner for multiracialism. “It’s the same thing with Halle Berry. That’s their choice and it makes sense. But he could identify as white. The trouble is no one would receive it that way.”…

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