Thoughts from a Thinking Person’s Game
Paul Porter, Ph.D.
Director of Multicultural Affairs
The University of Scranton
Ladies and gentlemen of higher education,
SUMMER IS HERE!!!
We can finally begin our escape from meetings, buzzwords, and that annoying little ding that indicates something new in our inbox, and look forward to warm weather, vacation time, and barbeques.
I love golf.
Golf is a peaceful sport. It doesn’t require any running and it’s a thinking person’s game. As someone who welcomes opportunities for discernment, reflection, and thought, I dedicate this blog to golf: the game of thinkers.
Golf also provides the impetus for this blog because of its most recent story and connection to the Knowledge Community I proudly represent- the MRKC, or Multiracial Knowledge Community. The intersections of golf and race have re-emerged in light of a recent war of words between prominent golfers Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods. At the crescendo of their rivalry (that included a violation of golf etiquette at the Players’ Championship in mid-May and subsequent back-and-forth press conference one-liners), was Garcia’s answer to a question of whether he would have dinner with Woods at the 2013 U.S. Open. As Garcia so eloquently quipped:
“We’ll have him ’round every night.” “We will serve fried chicken.”
The use of racially-charged comments toward Tiger is not new. In 1997, Fuzzy Zoeller made similar comments when implying that Tiger’s historic victory at the Masters’ tournament would result in a menu of fried chicken and collard greens at the subsequent dinner hosted by the previous year’s champion; and in 2008, Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman received a two week suspension for recommending that young golfers seeking to defeat Tiger Woods should “lynch him in a back alley.” Even Steve Williams, Woods’ former caddie, lobbed a racially-charged insult, stating that his motivation for winning an award was to “shove it right up [Tiger Woods’] black a———.”These comments are obviously insensitive and in poor taste. However, they also point to the multi-colored elephant in the room:
Tiger Woods is not African American.
At least, not solely. Remember the term Cablinasian?
In addition to being one-quarter African American, Tiger Woods is one-quarter Thai; a quarter Chinese; one-eighth White; and one-eighth American Indian. Yet somehow, racial epigraphs hurled his way only bend in one direction. Now, let me be clear, I DO NOT TOLERATE RACIALLY-CHARGED MICROAGRESSIONS, OR MICROAGGRESSIONS OF ANY KIND!!! Nor do I condone the cultural negligence that sets alongside the inappropriate and callous comments aimed at Tiger, or the implications of such negligence when considering the distinctiveness of individuals with multiple racial backgrounds. Multiracialism is a beautiful thing- it provides an opportunity for people to internalize and embrace a multiplicity of cultures that begets their existence. It is an element of diversity that should be acknowledged, highlighted and celebrated. However, it is no secret that this is not the case. Scholars with a focus on multiracial identity development have consistently reiterated the challenges facing multiracial individuals, ranging from the lack of self-identifying opportunities on documents, to lack of acceptance from one or more racial groups. The comments of Fuzzy Zoeller, Kelly Tilghman, Steve Williams and now Sergio Garcia not only remind us of the ugliness of racism, but also dismisses the wealth of racial layers that encompass one of the best (and admittedly polarizing) athletes in the history of golf, and reminds us that the exceptional experience of multiracial individuals remains disregarded. Moreover, it suggests that rather than explore and understand all the components of a multiracial individual’s identity, it’s more convenient to just assign one race and go from there. It’s ironic, really, that participants in a thinking person’s game could be so thoughtless.
So… as we say goodbye to our students and hello to our Out of Office messages, flip flops and cicadas, let us take a moment to think about golf, and the lesson it can teach us about life. More immediately, let’s remain mindful of our multiracial students, colleagues, friends, neighbors, etc., and the fascinating dimensions they offer to our world.