I’m not Black, I’m…
Tiger Woods has forever been our nigga*. He was the LeBron of golf for more than a decade. Then, we found out he likes to hoe around and buy his concubines Subway sandwiches. This gave white people the perfect out, and for us colored golf fans, the hope that Tiger might, just might, realize he was Black.
And yet, on April 14th, 2019, only one party got their wish. Tiger Woods secured his fifth Green Jacket and 15th Major championship, 14 and 11 years apart respectively. The once undisputed godfather of golf turned punchline conquered years of doubt, ridicule, controversy and (yup; you guessed it) racism to return to the peak of the white man’s greatest sport. White people had to finally stop pretending Tiger wasn’t the best thing to happen to golf since grass; Black people got to F L E X.
I am indescribably happy that Tiger is back on top. I grew up on Tiger Woods. My introduction to sports was the Williams Sisters, LeBron James (Kobe Bryant if you rejected reality) and Tiger Woods. From the time I could comprehend sports, Black athletes were not only superstars, but redefining the sports they played. It was incredibly empowering, especially for a young Black kid with a militant Black father that instilled the importance of Black athletes in him before he could read. From old heads to faded niggas that watch a lot of Sports Center, Tiger was THAT NIGGA. He won majors by 12 strokes. He fist pumped like he got an and-one for every birdy. He was the only melanated player on the course. He was undeniably ours, and it was incredible.
The Golf Industrial Complex stopped at nothing to limit Tiger’s dominance. After fucking up the club record at The Masters, Augusta National “Tiger Proofed” the course because Tiger was driving the ball too far for the *ahem* melanin deficient majority of the PGA. So, the good ole boys down yonder at Augusta backed the tee boxes up and tightened the fairways with trees. Tiger “Love No Thotties” Woods won two more. He was unstoppable. Tiger Woods was –and very much still is– golf. Period.
And as much as we (read as: Black folk) love Tiger, he sure didn’t do much to love us. Tiger was always just … Tiger. He cared about golf, talked nerdy as fuck, literally never got a line up, and married and cheated extensively with exclusively white women. This isn’t to say a Black man needs a fade or can’t date a white woman to be Black, that’s fine. Tiger Woods made no effort to be Black. Ever. As much as golf made him Black, ridiculed him for being Black, and rooted against him for being Black; Tiger didn’t care.
I’m not Black; I’m the best golfer ever.
All ubiquitous quotes aside, Tiger Woods is no murderer. Flyest golfer ever? Check. Addicted to the white temptress? Check. Somehow lamer than Tim Duncan? Without question. But despite all the obvious similarities to a certain Orenthal James Simpson, not even close. At least Tiger got a Nike deal.
This piece is not meant to shit on Tigga 9ine Iron at all. I love that nigga and I will until the world blow up.
This about the unrequited love we have with Tiger Woods. It’s about the fact that he decided he was “Cablinasian” –a mix of white, Black, Native American and Asian- in the face of constant antiblack racism.
Golf has an inseparable relationship with racism. Blackness has an inseparable relationship with politicization. Tiger chose to fight fire with… neutrality.
I personally believe public figures of color, black and brown people with platforms and cultural capital, have a responsibility to pay it forward. I believe we owe a debt to all those that sacrificed before us, and that debt is to sacrifice for the next generation. I don’t think Tiger said, fuck it, per se. I just think he chose not to accept that heritage.
I’m not black; I’m Cablinasian.
Not to America, he’s not. There’s countless examples of antibalck racism directed at Tiger (and at every Black person ever, really) in the golf world.
“They should lynch him in a back alley.”
-Commentator Kelly Tighman
“The little boy is driving well and he’s putting it 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 ‘em not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it. Or collard greens or whatever they serve.”
-Golf Pro Fuzzy Zoller (Following Tiger’s win at the 1997 Masters)
“We will have him ‘round every night. We will serve fried chicken”
-Sergio Garcia, 2017 Masters Champion (On if he would host Tiger at the 2013 U.S. Open)
And beyond golf’s center stage, Blackness claimed Tiger, even if he didn’t claim it. In his 2017 DUI when he was found asleep at the wheel with a whole damn Future song in his blood, his mugshot was the face of the sports world. When his extramarital affairs came to light, it was a public crucifixion. Adultery suddenly became a cardinal sin when performed by the black sheep of golf, a standard not held to Presidents.
And of course, there is no conversation about Tiger Woods, race and golf without Augusta National.
A very young Tiger Woods dreamed of winning The Masters. Augusta National did not allow Black players until the 1970s. Green Jackets were only donned by the likes of Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.
Even then, Tiger was a prolific young talent –a child prodigy. As a young phenom, he was asked in an interview what The Masters means to him, and what it would be like to win it. The thirteen-year-old phenom resounded as such:
Interviewer: “Do you have one ambition, say one tournament to win? What would that tournament be? What’s the tournament that catches your eye?”
Tiger: “The Masters.”
I: “And why’s that?”
T: “The way blacks have been treated there, you know ‘they shouldn’t be there. And if I win that tournament that would be really big for us.”
He did just that in ’97: twenty-one years old, the youngest Masters champion ever and twelve strokes better than the second place finisher.
I guess they kept serving fried chicken, because Tiger Woods was on a mission. He took the PGA Championship in 1999, won the 2000 U.S. Open by 15 strokes, C-Walked through the 2000 British Open, handled the 2000 PGA, and took the 2001 and 2002 masters.
I guess he thought he should be there.
I don’t think it’s fair to think thirteen-year-old Tiger would be there after totally dominating golf for two years. I don’t think it’s fair to think he ever left either. Whatever Tiger wants to be doesn’t matter, at least not to the people it so deeply affected.
And here, fourteen years and a whole lot less hair later, Tiger donned that red shirt and told the Golf world
I’m bigger than golf; I’m Tiger.
And flexing like that is Black enough for me. What Tiger did to golf was the very of essence of hip-hop. He demanded to be seen, to be praised, and to innovate. He accomplished all that and more, against the will of the status quo.
You think thirteen-year-old Tiger was listening to It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back?
You think forty-three-year-old Tiger is listening to To Pimp A Butterfly?
The way he’s playing, I think he’s listening to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.