It’s a shame to see what’s happened to Tiger Woods in the wonderful media over the past three weeks. At the rate things are going, I could claim to have had a tryst with the man the week of the ’01 US Open in Tulsa because I did a site visit for one of my previous jobs there. Of course, much of this is his own fault. Rampant infidelity. No Jordan-esque rules of sexual engagement, including a legally-binding contract. A certain lack of self-control in his personal life. And his refusal to face the public, not because we demand it, but ultimately, to protect his brand, his image. Yet none of those things are ones I want to discuss. I feel more compelled to discuss the race rules of interracial relationships and marriage in America.
As biracial — or Cablinasian — as Woods is, he is for all intends and purposes in this country, a Black man. Between the Choctaw and Irish blood (and who knows what else is in my genes), I can claim to be Cablin myself. Yet I know full well that I’m seen and see myself demographically speaking as Black or African American. Because of this, once one of us enters into an interracial relationship — especially with a White woman — smooth sailing is the only option we have in order to not be seen as pariahs. No financial problems, no hitting and certainly no cheating is allowed. There’s little to no margin for error, and any major ones will be met swiftly with retribution. By the White wife or girlfriend, their family, your White friends (and some Black ones, too), and if a public figure, the media and the blogosphere as well.
What makes Tiger’s transgressions worse for him are two additional components. One, his wife Elin is a blond, and not just White. Two, unlike many of the White women Black men tend to date or marry, she is perceived as attractive by many folks, if not most. The combination in our zero-sum race rules around Black men with White women means that someone like Tiger Woods can’t act like anything other than the perfect husband. I’m not condoning his cheating one iota. All I know is that we were less hard on John Edwards, a guy whom was only running for President of the United States, and could’ve brought the Democratic Party down with him if he had made it to the nomination stage. We’re harder on Tiger, not just he projected a solid image, not because he let the media and the public down, but because he’s a Black guy cheating on an allegedly beautiful and blond White woman.
If you think that this is all poppycock and balderdash, anyone remember O.J. Simpson and Nicole Brown between ’92 and ’97? Those were the years that it was painfully obvious that White guys I knew were ready to form a mob, march over to Santa Monica, and kill the Hall-of-Fame running back for first hitting Brown before their divorce in ’92, then killing Brown in ’94. The last three weeks have been about the same issues. The media just refuses to see it that way. Sure, there’s shock and outrage about what Tiger’s done, and Tiger should go public to protect himself. But this is about race, and not in way Rush Limbaugh would yell about it either.
It’s funny. There’s no outrage about the fact that Tiger’s wife smashed in the back window of his Cadillac SUV with a golf club. That he was obviously attempting to get away from her. That he was treated for more injuries than running into a fire hydrant would account for. Yet, I guess, it’s okay for a blond White woman who’s been cheated on by a Black man to flip out and commit an act of domestic violence. If the tables were turned, billionaire or not, best golfer on the planet or not, Tiger would’ve gone to jail, and might still be in jail.
I’m not exactly speaking from my own experience in dating White women, because I haven’t. Not because I didn’t have the opportunity to do so. Mostly because as enlightened as I am, I’m also a bit old school on the issue of interracial dating and marriage. That it should be more about who I am than what I look like, what I stand for and not just how much money I have in my bank account this morning, love and not just lust. But my own experiences, going back to the end of high school, have shown otherwise. Getting accused of sexual harassment after a White female co-worker had made several advances toward me was a learning experience. One of many in which my interests were primarily platonic and theirs sexual in nature. One of at least half a dozen where once my intentions were clear, I faced harassment and berating, as if I was supposed to be attracted to a White woman because they’re White.
I could be crude and say that butt shape, or the lack thereof, is the reason why I never sought to date anyone White. I could be a bit more honest and say that the prospect of having to deal with their baggage while having to constantly explain my own would be another reason. Let’s face it. There aren’t a lot of folks who do get me, but most of them are of color. The full truth is, though, that in the area of relationships, I haven’t trusted the words and deeds of White women. Not friendships, just relationships. Now, maybe that’s prejudice on some scale, or maybe that’s preference. It may even be a bit of both. Still, given responses I’ve seen to folks with way more going for them than me, like O.J. and Tiger, can you really blame me?
At the same time, though, I don’t believe — like a lot of other Black folk — that Tiger would’ve been okay had he married a sista. Infidelity is serious and marriage-destroying, after all. He likely would’ve been better off not getting married at all. If you couldn’t keep it in your pants before marriage, then it is highly unlikely that you could after getting married. Marriage is hard work, no matter how beautiful and attractive you think your spouse is. Perhaps the biggest lesson here is that Woods didn’t have the capacity to work more on his marriage than his golf game.
But for me, part of the lesson here is related to race. Maybe it’s important in a multicultural society for all of us to date outside of our primary demographic group before settling on a mate. Just not to the exclusion of folks that are most physically similar to us. Maybe it’s not. It’s not like there’s a rulebook for this. It just seems that there’s way too much emphasis on Tiger’s cheating and not enough on the class, gender and racial dynamics of his marriage. Not to mention the fact that we can’t possibly know what that marriage has been like from the outside looking in. My issue here really is about how we as a public get to sit and judge someone else’s mess when most of us are wallowing neck-deep in our own crap. It’s ludicrous and a shame — on us.