John McWhorter writes something that I agree with:
Tiger Woods, in designating himself truly a mutt rather than Black By Default, is ahead of the curve. There are those who think he was supposed to declare himself “black” because of how, say, police might see him. But to do that would be to deny that his Thai mother contributed half of his genes and raised him – raised him, unable, as someone not Black American, to do so as a Black Mother. So, Tiger was brave enough to – brace yourself, Soul Patrol – be what he is. Two things. Not just black – and not even mainly black.
Something we can all agree on – in fifty years a lot of people will see it as odd that in our times that was seen as news. We’re mixing, a lot. There are now increasing numbers of self-avowedly “biracial” people – the days I knew as a kid when the black-white “mixed” kid was faced with having to “admit” that she was “black” when she was about thirteen, crying at forums where such issues were discussed out of ambivalence over disowning her non-black parent, are past. Tiger isn’t, from what is evident publicly, especially deep – but he’s prescient. He is the future, just as FDR, hardly deep himself, gave us Social Security, the FDIC and so much more. Sometimes we need to hearken to people who are not given to thinking too very much.
The idea that anyone who steps outside of identity as “black” must not like black people is, quite simply, a sign of the lingering stain of insecurity in the race. Think about it – a brown-skinned guy with a Thai mother says he can’t say he’s just black and he must not like black people? That’s extremely 1990. And thankfully, increasingly antique in 2009.
This, this, is exactly my problem with the majority of conversations I’ve been seeing black people have about Woods. And I couldn’t agree with McWhorter more here.
In the past, I’ve often found McWhorter intensely frustrating, mainly because he’s completely brilliant and a gifted writer who frequently says dishonest and ridiculous things about race, racism, and hip-hop. But this year, something seems to have changed about him. A friend suggested McWhorter’s shift may be due to the racism-fueled political criticism Barack Obama has received since his inauguration — Obama is the example McWhorter needed to understand that being qualified, being good, just isn’t good enough.
More and more, he’s reminding me of Glenn Loury (with whom he did a series of Bloggingheads during the campaign last year).
As an aside, in the piece, McWhorter nitpicks a bit at a piece by David Swerdlick at The Root, in which Swerdlick notes that the recent events made Tiger more interesting than his desire to distance himself from blackness (or his Asian ancestry) did. Today, Swerdlick responds, noting the bland personality Tiger used to sell golf is the problem, not the distance from blackness.
*Still haven’t forgiven dude for this piece on Zora Neale Hurston, though, which is a perfect example of the sublime and the frustrating in his thinking.