Black Public Scholars

December 14, 2009

Dr. Boyce: Has Tiger Been “OJ Simpsonized”?

Tiger Woods has slipped from Obama to OJ

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University, Your Black World 

Tiger Woods is a black athlete. He isn’t "Caublinasian," mixed or any other ethnicity. He is, officially, a black man – especially after being reduced to being an adulterer who sleeps with porn stars. At least that’s what guests on the Joy Behar Show seem to think.

During a recent episode, a guest on the show, Karith Foster, was asked what she thought about Tiger’s recent indiscretions. In response to the question, the comedian said (without cracking a smile) that Tiger is "acting like a black athlete now."

I was shocked to hear these words come out of the mouth of any person, let alone an African-American woman. Dr. Deborah Stroman of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was the first person to bring the comments to my attention. She and I both agreed that the statement was an outrageous, irresponsible choice of words, and the host should have challenged her immediately. But Foster’s comments might be telling, given that she once relegated herself to being the token black sidekick of a man (Don Imus) famous for referring to black women as "nappy headed hoes." Foster was fired not too long after being hired, which reminds us of the complications that come from making deals with the devil just to keep a job in media.

Needless to say, I was disappointed with Ms. Foster’s remarks. I also found it quite ironic that no one went out of their way to compare Woods with other black men when he was the clean cut soldier boy with the billion dollar smile. At that time, he was considered the exception to the rule, something that all of America could easily embrace. Some have decided to associate the "black male" side of Tiger with the seedy character who has emerged over the past two weeks. Such comparisons are insulting to good black men everywhere. At the same time, it should be acknowledged that not every American shares the opinion of Karith Foster.

Let’s be clear, Tiger Woods is not seedy, nor is he perfect. In reality, he is simply human. The problem is that we were all led to believe that he was super human, so the Tiger we are seeing today appears sub-human. Tiger Woods was the original Barack Obama, a man who injected hope into the psyches of sports fans everywhere, as we were all inspired to see a man with a brown face whipping the greatest golfers in history. Even to this day, Tiger is usually the only man of color on the golf course, and he is almost always the most dominant.

It will be interesting to see how the world processes Tiger’s recent mistakes. It is not inconceivable that Tiger could be "OJ Simpsonized" by this incident, especially if additional dirt is leaked to the public. If you recall, OJ was also an athlete who’d been given permission to spend a significant amount of time with white women before the murder took place. After his trial, however, he was considered to be the most morally depleted man in America.

 

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