President Obama and Tiger Woods: Racially Linked in the White Mind?

Huffingtonpost (HT, theroot) has an odd article by writer Lisa Solod Warren, in which she compares Tiger Woods and President Obama. She begins thus:

In the past few weeks, the two most famous and arguably most successful black men in America have taken a huge fall. It has become clear that both pro golfer Tiger Woods, just named Athlete of the Year by the Associated Press, and the American president, Barack Obama, the first black person to lead the country, suffer from a surfeit of hubris which has finally caught up with them. If both men somehow thought they were untouchable, they have been put to right.

It is hard to know where to begin with this strange argument. First, why even link the two, an athlete and a president? The reason seems mainly racial: They are both black men, apparently like two peas in a pod. Would anyone ever have written that first sentence with “white men” in it? The last president is generally considered one of the leading failures as a U.S. president, but I do not remember a racialized article accenting his whiteness in comparison to other white male failures. And what is this stuff about they thought “they were untouchable” and a “surfeit of hubris.” The number of black men for whom that is true is certainly quite low in this highly racist society where black men are under constant threat of attacks of all kinds.

She continues in this vein:

And now while the news is full of Tiger Woods’ penchant for tawdry moments with women who can’t hold a candle to the physical beauty of his wife, the information we get on Obama, while far less salacious, is even more disillusioning. The expectations of real change that had people in tears a little over a year have been so thoroughly dashed that too many of his supporters feel betrayed by their naiveté.

Again, an odd juxtaposition. Are Tiger Woods’ “tawdry moments” even remotely comparable to the difficulties a president faces? There seems to be more than a hint in this whole piece too, with its heavy accents on Woods as “black” and on his “salacious” and “tawdry” sexual actions, of the over-sexed black men of stereotyped white imaginations, long central to the white racial frame. (Significantly, she does not ruminate on the actions of the numerous women involved with Woods and why they chose as “white women” to engage in such “tawdry moments.”)

A little later she makes the racialized theme more central, if less clear:

Both men are of mixed race. Yet the majority of the country, including black Americans, sees them as black. That’s not a bad thing. Except when such men of intelligence and talent, men who have such influence and power, can’t help but succumb to the age old twins of greed and power. Although each has risen from ordinary beginnings to be at the top of their field but now things don’t look so good for either of them.

OK, I have read this several times, and I am still not sure I understand it entirely. Clearly, the argument is that they are both black men, as seen by the “majority of the country.” The last phrase is rather vague, especially when one considers that long ago self-defined “whites” invented this racial meaning of “black” (for mixed-race people and others) as part of a racial framing to rationalize oppression and imposed it on enslaved Africans and African Americans. Both men are dealing thus with a racial identity long ago imposed on their group by white Americans. Notice that nowhere in her piece (including what I left out) are “whites” named as such and highlighted as relevant to the racialized commentary.

This last commentary also seems to say that both men are failures because they “can’t help but succumb” to “greed and power.” Somehow, their racial characteristics are factored in to help explain their similar (?) “fall from grace,” yet just how this works remains rather unclear.

A bit later she adds:

What the people who worked and voted for Barack Obama wanted to see was a man who would stand up for principle and the ideals he spoke so stunningly of while campaigning. What those who were shocked at Woods’ dalliances wanted to believe was that the first black man to be famous for a sport other than basketball or football was really who he appeared he was.

Well, in this last comment I guess she forgot about Jack Johnson and Jesse Owens and more recently Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe, etc..

And her comments on Obama’s failure seem a bit premature. How long has Obama been president now? Not yet eleven months. And she is reading him off the stage, in spite of a Nobel Prize and numerous rather significant achievements, many of them trying to undo the great damage done to the United States by the previous president who presided over some full eight years.

And what is the standard used to measure Obama (or Woods) here? The standard of recent white presidents or other leading politicians?

And on tawdriness, numerous white Senators and Representatives, at national and state levels, have been caught with their pants down, but I do not remember seeing an article that jointly, comparatively, and aggressively calls several of them out as “white men,” or racializes their sexual escapes in a comparative framework.

I wonder how common this line of thinking is these days.


  1. marandaNJ

    I honestly don’t understand this woman’s reasoning either. It doesn’t even make sense. Tons of celebrities have engaged in extra-marital affairs, both black and white. What in the world is so unusual about Tiger Woods? It’s not a positive thing, but it’s Not Atypical either.
    What I don’t like [just a side note] is how very financially successful black men marry white “trophy wives” with all the beautiful black women available. What’s the reasoning on this? It just bothers me in terms of the male chauvinist angle. Is a white wife more highly prized than a black lady? To me, this is a type of racism in itself. Maybe I’m wrong to see it this way, but I just think so many Black Women deserve a Wealthy husband. Then a black man achieves wealth and delivers this extremely comfortable life style to a woman who looks as if she is so Nordic she could have sailed with the Vikings. Whatever. Not really fair.
    Back to the above article, there’s no earthly reason to compare Tiger or Obama except in terms of race. And this obviously illustrates the woman’s [no other conclusion I can make] racism. Plus, just because Tiger cheated on his wife and just because Obama’s health care reform is suffering does not make Either One of Them a Failure. Tiger is still one of the world’s greatest athletes, and Obama is still a pretty decent president compared to those preceding him.

  2. No1KState

    I wonder what they have in common. Most people I know see Tiger as “mixed” or “half-Asian” or something other than “black.” Tiger made it clear that he doesn’t define himself as “black.” All of black America remembers that. We may speak out because we see this fall from grace as a function of his being a man of color; we realize that it’s easy to link him with other black athletes; but we also know he ain’t black. Where was the majority of America when he told everyone he was cablasian? Except for the fried chicken someone served at some function early in his caree, I can hardly remember any speaking of Tiger as “black” in years. He promotes Gillette – most black men I know have trouble using regular blades because of hair bumps; my brother uses hair clippers. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t think of a black spokesman for any razor. Plus, he’s in one commercial with a Swedish tennis star and, a baseball star, and a soccer star.

    Everybody drinks Gatorade and Nike. At the very least, if Tiger were “black,” they would’ve put him in a commercial with Kobe or Lebron or Wade or somebody. How many black men did you see attending the US Open with signs that say, “Sorry Dad. I had to see Tiger!” And for that matter, last I checked, according to popular stereotype, black men don’t get married then have kids. That alone should disqualify Tiger’s blackness in popular imagination.

    And he doesn’t do commercials for cadillacs, the love of black men as stereotype would tell us. Only old white people drive Buick. So, I’m mostly disgusted that as soon as he does something morally repugnant, Tiger’s “black.” Naw, he’s the same little mix-raced darling of the PGA tour he’s always been. The majority of white Americans loved him two weeks ago; don’t try to toss him on us now!

    And don’t get me started with my “disillusionment” with white progressives when it comes to their reaction to Obama. If Obama does what they have the audacity to demand, he’d fall out of favor with white independents, moderate white Dems, and those white progressives, too! A president constitutionally is limited. Obama can only do so much. They should be disillusioned with the Senate cause that’s where sugar turns to . . . not sugar.

    So I don’t know how the two are related, and the article just puts the racism of white progressives on full display.

    And since we’re on the subject, since when did infidelity become so dispicable? Joe mentioned cheating politicians. (And here would be a good place to remind you that some op-ed writer criticized Obama during the election year cause he didn’t seem to have the balls to cheat. So how can he have such a surfeit of pride now? Why reach to a criticism used by conservatives?) But athletes cheat, too; actors cheat; bankers and investors cheat. I haven’t heard of a James Bond movie that didn’t involve him sleeping with at least 3 different women. I mean, I grew up under the double standard that a man who sleeps around is a stud. So why all of a sudden is cheating on your wife so repulsive? Why isn’t Tiger a stud? Why isn’t he a . . . tiger?

    If you ask me, this whole uproar is about Tiger’s white wife and slew of white hos as well as his not being phenotypically white. If this were Mickelson with a whole bunch of white women, there wouldn’t be any “fall from grace.” And I try, I try not to believe this, but I’m almost convinced white progressives are more upset that the negro ain’t following orders than anything else. I don’t think I remember this much anger at Bush 11 mos into his first tenure or his second. I don’t know what they expect Obama to do. Pull out the “angry black man” card? Well, we see what happened when he called Crowley stupid, so we know the “angry black man” won’t get him very far. As a black man, Obama’s success is tied to his “go along to get along” attitude. It’s how I was successful. If white progressives really want Obama to be FDR, they can do 2 things 1) through some soy latte party rallies of their own; and 2) Help undo the white racial frame.

    And as an aside, does it strike anyone else as odd that tea is principly produced in developing countries; that it’s boom came with sugar and slavery; that these rallies point to a time prior to emancipation, when even white women couldn’t vote, and the drink was derived from slave labor; all this in opposition to the first black president?

  3. marandaNJ

    Hey look! Two negatives against me and I didn’t even disagree with the post! It’s easy to get a bad rep around here!
    I hate to disappoint you No1 but America pretty much saw Tiger as black. And many black Americans were proud of him, as they should be since he worked his patoot off to get where he was.
    So I don’t think the issue is about If Tiger was really genetically Totally Black in the first place. He was perceived as black and America loved him. Period.
    The problem lies in the fact that the woman who wrote the above article is not allowing any latitude for black men to error whereas she would probably allow plenty of white men latitude to error.
    And yes, I think cheating on your wife is definitely a “not very nice thing to do”. Black women seem to agree with me on this one. Are you black or white? Are you married? Would you think your husband a Stud if he slept with another woman or would you throw a lamp at him and tell him to move his ass out of Dodge? Just wondering.
    Point is, cheating is not the worst thing a man can do. It’s not positive, but it shouldn’t affect Tiger’s standing as a great athlete. And the Larger Point Is: The woman who wrote the article is using Tiger’s cheating to point fingers at prominent black men in general, which is misguided and illogical.

    • No1KState

      We were proud of a man of color. Case closed. We did not see him as black. He made clear that he didn’t want to be black, and that’s enough to take your “black pass.”

      Like . . . a lot of black women were upset with Kobe until it was clear his wife is Latin and still a person of color. But Vanessa ain’t black, and neither is Tiger. In fact, you can google a twitter/text that says, “Dear Tiger Woods,” and draw your own conclusions.

  4. marandaNJ

    @ No1:Would you think your husband a Stud if he slept with another woman or would you throw a lamp at him and tell him to move his ass out of Dodge? Just wondering.
    You could answer this question also. You brought the issue up that a husband sleeping around was considered a stud because you were “brought up under a double standard”. So do you consider Tiger a stud Marlboro man or just a typical rich guy who uses his status and money to lure women into his bed? The point is Just Because America Erroneously [thanks to your edification on this matter] saw him as black, doesn’t mean Absolutely Everything he does is Excusable. He’s still a great athlete, But he’s not a very good husband.
    He shouldn’t be coupled with Obama, like the racist lady who wrote the article did, but he’s still not a very good husband. What do you think?

    • No1KState

      No I don’t think men should sleep around on their wives. Not with one women are 2 women and 29.

      I was referring to the sexist double standard that women who sleep around are sluts and men are studs.


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