HAJI MOHAMED DAWJEE: Why Tiger Woods must acknowledge his blackness
This is a tale of triumph, treachery and of how some of Trump’s best friends are black. Sort of.
Dressed in his iconic red shirt and black pants on the iconic Masters on Sunday, Tiger Woods ended the 18th with a pointed putt, applause that could be heard around the world and a hug from his son on the very same spot he hugged his own father 22 years ago when he won his first green jacket. It’s the stuff of goosebumps.
In a time of mass shootings, immigrant children in cages, destructive floods in neighbouring countries and not really knowing who to vote for, we need a win. At least that’s how I feel, and on Sunday evening, Woods' ritual uppercut with a clenched fist in the air did just that - it gave us a win.
Obama congratulated him on Twitter. Serena Williams – arguably the best athlete of all time - said she was struggling to hold back the emotions, and a couple of million tweets later, Woods was once again hoisted to the upper echelons of black excellence.
Congratulations, Tiger! To come back and win the Masters after all the highs and lows is a testament to excellence, grit, and determination.— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) April 14, 2019
I am literally in tears watching @TigerWoods this is Greatness like no other. Knowing all you have been through physically to come back and do what you just did today? Wow Congrats a million times! I am so inspired thank you buddy.— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) April 14, 2019
Say what you will about the black excellence ideology but you cannot strip it of its meaning. It matters. It matters to a lot of people. It is a substantial element in the homes and hearts of black parents, black children and black spectators worldwide. It is the story of hope and achievement that we all need when the truth of talent vs. opportunity endures: Everyone has talent, but not everyone has the opportunity, and that is why Serena and Venus Williams, Michael Jordan and everyone else adopts Woods as one of their own.
But Woods is not black and he refuses to lean into it. By his own admission, he is Cablinasian. Never heard that racial variable before? Nor have I.
Cablinasian, according to Woods is a mix of Caucasian, Black, Native American and Asian. Woods is precise and leaves no racial identity stone unturned. His mother, Kultida is of Thai, Dutch and Chinese descent, his late father Earl once said he was African American, Chinese and Native American. This has come under dispute since, but regardless, Woods’s embracing of his multiracial identity is one rooted in inclusion instead of exclusion. To call himself African American, he’s said, would be to exclude his mother from his identity completely.
But his Cablinasianism falls apart when he actively leans out of the “bl” portion of his identity. The black portion that is, which is something he actively does. The colour of his skin has made Woods a trailblazer in a sport that remains as white as a DA [Democratic Alliance] voter registration office. He kind of went with it in the beginning while managing to stay sort of apolitical. You know, the same thing we do in SA when we speak of rainbownationism, diversity and one human race. The whole “I don’t see colour, I’m not black, I’m Tiger, but I do hope the sport changes and that when I win I create opportunities for other minorities.” Woods has benefited from riding the wave of Black excellence so his continued silence on the racial agenda – to this day when it is most needed – is treated as rejection, cowardice, and naiveté on his part; especially in the age of other sports stars like Colin Kaepernick, for example.
It is Woods' right to embrace the full spectrum of his identity but it is also his responsibility to be an active participant in the discourse of the terrifying Trump administration. Instead, he is complicit. His face is used as blatant tokenism by Trump – as with most racists – which Woods has fully allowed. We all know that nothing proves you’re not racist more than peddling black faces in the name of allegiance and equality. This is the price of Woods’s friendship with Trump.
In a New York Times interview, Woods said: “We’ve played golf together. We’ve had dinner together. I’ve known him pre-presidency and obviously during his presidency.”
Furthermore, they own property next to each other, often play golf together and Woods has designed Trump’s course in Dubai.
His triumph this past weekend is a self-inflicting tale of epic existential proportions. But we love a good redemption story… if it were less problematic.
When someone actively steps out of their blackness when it matters most they might as well be a white man. To an extent, Woods is immune to the pressures of other significant people of colour with influence. He has managed to somehow escape the pressures of being outspoken or having any kind of opinion at all and has remained firm in shoes of aloofness as opposed to standing firm in his blackness in a political way. He enjoys the benefits of blackness and reverence by a public eager to accept him as their own, meanwhile, back at the towers, he remains Trump’s homeboy. Is this really winning at all?
Last year, the New York Times asked Woods if he had thoughts about the state of race relations in the United States following a tournament. "No, I just finished 72 holes," he said. "And really hungry." If that isn’t the whitest most privileged answer to politics you have ever heard, I don’t know what is.
Woods can lean out of his blackness as much as he wants to, but the truth remains; when a white cop sees another Cablinasian man on the street who looks like Woods he still could get shot. Just like a famous man who insists on his mixed racial heritage while actively denying a portion of it will still be washed clean of all his heritage with one term: Black, which is exactly what the arrest report read a couple of years ago with he was arrested for a DUI (driving under the influence).
But maybe all of this isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Maybe it can all be surmised in a joke my dad told me the other day: “When 20 white men chase a black man in South Africa it’s called apartheid; when 20 white men chase a black man in the US, it’s called the PGA (Professional Golfers’ Association).”
Haji Mohamed Dawjee is a South African columnist, disruptor of the peace and the author of 'Sorry, Not Sorry: Experiences of a brown woman in a white South Africa'. Follow her on Twitter.