Tiger Woods comment unearths hurtful stereotype
Note to golfer Sergio Garcia: Black people do not have a natural craving for fried chicken.
Or collard greens.
Or malt liquor.
Some of us — like me — can’t dance or hold a tune.
I’m sure Garcia knows that he erred when he dug into his bag of humor to pull out a tired trope involving inviting Tiger Woods over to the crib for fried chicken to discuss how the two could set aside their feud.
Right now, Garcia is hoping that his sponsors won’t abandon him. Fellow golfer Fuzzy Zoeller, who in 1997 mouthed the same odious stereotype, is right. This storm will blow over.
And that’s the problem.
Most people, primarily Caucasians, will forget this incident before too long. Already some are suggesting that Woods and other African-Americans have overreacted to it and that Tiger and company should get a thicker skin and a sense of humor.
Easy to say when you’re not the target.
One common response to controversies like this that I hear is, “In my neighborhood, we all made fun of each other.” But I wonder how many black people actually lived in that neighborhood. After all, major cities in this country are still segregated by race and income.
That’s the point: There is so much social distance between groups in America that we barely know each other.
And if you are white and your knowledge of the entire black race is based on pop-culture images and stereotypes of shuffling, jiving colored folks, then a fried chicken comment might not seem so offensive to you, but it sure sounds hateful to blacks.
In the case of Tiger Woods, perhaps the greatest golfer to ever live, the use of the racial stereotype reduces him to the lowest of the low. And that’s another reason Garcia’s comment stung so much. No matter how accomplished you are as an African-American, you can still be considered nothing.
Tiger can defend himself, as he already has. And he’ll be fine, no doubt.
But others less fortunate than him still are disadvantaged by these slurs.
And it is sad in the 21st century that we’re still dealing with these ancient, ridiculous and – yes – hurtful stereotypes.
Let’s get over this nonsense, once and for all.
Fred McKissack Jr. is a writer based in Indiana. His latest book is “Best Shot in the West: The Adventures of Nat Love” (Chronicle, 2012). He can be reached at pmproj [at] progressive [dot] org.
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