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On “Oprah” in 1997 Tiger Woods, a world-famous American golfer, told us that he is not black but Cablinasian. The word comes from the four races that make him up:

  • CAucasian
  • BLack
  • INdian

According to the Wikipedia, Woods is:

  • 12.5% Caucasian (white, particularly Dutch)
  • 25.0% Black
  • 12.5% Indian (Native American)
  • 50.0% Asian (25% Thai, 25% Chinese)

He made up the word when he was 16. He said calling himself black would mean denying his mother, who is not black at all but Asian – half Thai and half Chinese.

Thai Americans say he has a Thai sort of face. Thais see him as one of their own just as much as black Americans do. Woods says, “In fact, I am both… Truthfully, I feel very fortunate and equally proud to be both African American and Asian.”

But because of the One Drop Rule in America, if you look even a bit African you are seen as black. So to most Americans Tiger Woods looks like a black man, not like someone who is Asian or even mixed (unless they stop to think about it).

Woods knows all about the One Drop Rule. It has kept him off of at least one golf course. As someone who has succeeded in such a white sport, he has to know a thing or two about whites. Probably more than most.

Yet Woods says things like, “If people cannot call themselves what they want to call themselves, they cannot call themselves truly free….”

A nice thought, surely, but that is not how it works in America: if you look black you are black. You are stuck with it. For life. Everyone else in American society will see you as black and act accordingly: the police, the judge, the loan officer at the bank, the estate agent, the little old white lady at the bus stop. Even the Golf Channel. No matter what you call yourself.

Tiger Woods is no different, but acts like he is. He seems to be the only one who does not understand he is black:

  • When white golfer Fuzzy Zoeller said Woods was “a fried chicken and collard greens eating sambo,” and called him “that little boy,” Tiger spoke with him and forgave him. The white world certainly did not: Zoeller never golfed again.
  • When white television host Kelly Tilghman of the Golf Channel said the younger players should “lynch him in a back alley,” and then laughed about it, Tiger said, “We know unequivocally that there was no ill intent in her comments” and “a non-issue in our eyes. Case closed.” The Golf Channel was not so understanding.
  • When the state of South Carolina flew the flag of the old South, the one from slave days, and the NAACP asked Woods not to golf there, he said, “I’m a golfer. That’s their deal, not mine.”

Maybe he is trying to lead us to a new age where skin colour no longer matters. Or maybe it is what Nas said: a character flaw.

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