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[DIVERSITY] A Multi-ethnic World & Tiger Woods

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  • madchinaman
    Will Tiger ever show the color of his stripes? By Greg Garber ESPN.com http://espn.go.com/gen/s/2002/0521/1385355.html - The first controversial Nike
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 9, 2006
      Will Tiger ever show the color of his stripes?
      By Greg Garber
      ESPN.com
      http://espn.go.com/gen/s/2002/0521/1385355.html


      -

      The first controversial Nike commercial featured children of
      different races saying, "I am Tiger Woods." Applauded in some
      quarters, it was also criticized as grandstanding.
      *
      Earl Woods, who met Tida in Bangkok when he was stationed there
      during the Vietnam War, supplied Tiger with his African-American,
      Native American, Caucasian and half his Chinese roots. He said he
      believes his son will become an agent for social change and predicts
      he could become "the new Gandhi."
      *
      " He can say he cares about it, but I don't know from his perspective
      what it means to be Asian American. He's never characterized himself
      as Asian American. It's his choice. "
      — Karen Narasaki, executive director of the National Asian Pacific
      American Legal Consortium
      *
      Perhaps no one better represents the concept of America's lineal
      melting pot than Woods, whose racial diversity makes for a virtual
      kaleidoscope of cultures. "Cablinasian" is the word-blend he coined
      to identify who he is, a one-size-fits-all definition of his
      CAucasian, BLack, American INdian and ASIAN ancestries.
      *
      But while Woods has mastered being all things to most people, he
      makes no attempt to be all things to any one people. It is not enough
      that he appeals to the masses, but racial groups want desperately to
      make sports' most successful, if not recognizable, athlete their
      poster child. He's already their hero.
      *
      For the record, he is one-quarter Thai, one-quarter Chinese, one-
      quarter Caucasian, one-eighth African-American and one-eighth Native
      American. But his mother, Tida, says Tiger "is more Asian." By way of
      explanation, she added, "A mother raises her son, and he had an Asian
      mother."

      -


      It was midnight when the plane landed in Thailand five years ago, and
      Tiger Woods might have preferred to slip away quietly to get some
      rest. But despite the late hour, his arrival was an event that
      commanded live television coverage and drew fans who welcomed him
      with flowered necklaces.

      Though Woods said he had come to honor a promise to his mother to
      play golf in her homeland, to embrace the culture of "my other home,"
      a distance seemed to exist between Woods and anything that might
      paint him to be too Asian.

      Never mind that he wore a Buddhist amulet around his neck, a gift
      from his grandmother, for Woods said that he had only a passing
      interest in the religion. Never mind that Kultida said her son's
      future bride would, preferably, be Thai, for Woods later declared to
      the local media there that "I will marry whomever I fall in love
      with." And never mind that the King would later issue a commendation
      for Woods, for his busy schedule wouldn't permit a visit with Thai
      royalty.

      It is perhaps the first example of what critics claim is Woods'
      seeming reluctance to fully embrace his racial heritage. In reality,
      any of his many heritages.

      Perhaps no one better represents the concept of America's lineal
      melting pot than Woods, whose racial diversity makes for a virtual
      kaleidoscope of cultures. "Cablinasian" is the word-blend he coined
      to identify who he is, a one-size-fits-all definition of his
      CAucasian, BLack, American INdian and ASIAN ancestries.

      But while Woods has mastered being all things to most people, he
      makes no attempt to be all things to any one people. It is not enough
      that he appeals to the masses, but racial groups want desperately to
      make sports' most successful, if not recognizable, athlete their
      poster child. He's already their hero.

      "Tiger Woods can call himself what he wants to call himself -- to
      most of America, he's black," said Karen Narasaki, executive director
      of the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium. "Asian-
      American groups have thought to give him awards, but as far as I know
      he hasn't showed up to pick one up."

      Woods, she notes, has shown up to receive awards from African-
      American organizations.

      "He can say he cares about it, but I don't know from his perspective
      what it means to be Asian American," Narasaki said. "He's never
      characterized himself as Asian American. It's his choice."

      Just months after Woods' trip to Thailand in 1997, he won the first
      of his three Masters titles. Widely noted as the youngest champion of
      golf's most prestigious event, he also was hailed as its first
      African-American champion.

      Woods said nothing to clarify his ancestral roots.

      For the record, he is one-quarter Thai, one-quarter Chinese, one-
      quarter Caucasian, one-eighth African-American and one-eighth Native
      American. But his mother, Tida, says Tiger "is more Asian." By way of
      explanation, she added, "A mother raises her son, and he had an Asian
      mother."

      Unlike African-American athletes, Asian Americans and Native
      Americans have yet to make a profound impression on professional
      sports. While these diverse groups have been quick to claim Woods as
      their own, he has been reluctant to address the question of which
      group he identifies with most. In interviews over the years,
      including on "Oprah," Woods' standard response has been that he is a
      product of all his backgrounds. He has said he doesn't want to deny
      any part of his heritage.

      Attempts to further clarify his position, through Woods'
      representatives, were unsuccessful. Despite numerous requests for
      interviews by ESPN, Woods has declined to discuss the matter further.

      " I have taught him since he was young, his heritage and where he
      comes from. So he knows who he is. And those people who don't accept
      that, it's their problem. "
      — Tida Woods, Tiger's mother
      "I have taught him since he was young, his heritage and where he
      comes from," Tida Woods told ESPN in 1997. "So he knows who he is.
      And those people who don't accept that, it's their problem."

      Certainly, it has done nothing to hurt his fame. His Q-rating, a
      familiarity index, places Woods at stratospheric heights few others
      than Michael Jordan and the Harlem Globetrotters have reached.

      "His popularity in Asia is staggering," Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg,
      said. "Whether it's Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia ... We all know
      how popular he is here ... when he commits to an event, we see TV
      ratings increase dramatically. Internationally -- in Asia, in
      particular -- he's more popular than he is here.

      "It's true. His mom and her heritage and how she helped raise him
      have a lot to do with his popularity in the Far East."

      Few, if any, have written so eloquently about race in America as
      Clarence Page, the Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Chicago
      Tribune. Recently, he underlined the debate over Woods with a
      description of a stand-up routine by comedian Chris Rock:

      "He had a big ladder and was describing the progress for African-
      Americans over the years," Page explains. "So he goes, 'Tiger Woods.
      1996. Five steps up for African-Americans. ... Oops! We can only
      claim one-eighth of him. ... Back down the ladder a few rungs.'

      "There's a tug of war over Tiger Woods, and sometimes the tug of war
      is inside the same people," Page said. "On the one hand, they want to
      embrace Tiger as their hero, the hero of their group. On the other
      hand, they want to reject Tiger Woods' belief that he doesn't belong
      to just one group."

      Breaking it down
      When Tiger Woods filled out his Census 2000 form he had the
      opportunity -- all Americans were extended this invitation for the
      first time ever -- to recognize each of his inherent cultures. He
      could have checked the following five boxes:


      Tiger Woods picks up the challenge laid down by a Maori warrior last
      year at Wellington Airport in New Zealand.
      [ ] White
      [ ] Black
      [ ] Native-American
      [ ] Chinese
      [ ] Other Asian-American


      Whether or not Woods checked all five boxes is not known, but the
      chances are that he did not. A total of 281,421,906 people were
      accounted for by Census 2000 and a mere 8,637 claimed five different
      heritages. Interestingly, 6,826,228 people -- 2.4 percent of the
      national total -- checked at least two boxes; California, the state
      Woods hails from, was the only in the country to have more than 1
      million people officially list themselves as multi-racial.

      The opportunity for Americans to account, specifically, for all of
      their diverse cultures grew out of a heated debate that came to a
      head in 1997. Wisconsin congressman Thomas Petri was the sponsor of
      HR-H30, a bill that would have allowed those with mixed racial
      heritage to check a box marked "multi-racial" on the Census 2000
      form. Petri referred to it in several public forums as the "Tiger
      Woods Bill."

      Although the bill failed, a panel studying the question recommended
      that census-takers be permitted to check as many applicable boxes as
      they wished, instead of the previous one-box rule by which unnamed
      groups were lumped into an "other" category.

      Not surprisingly, this didn't play well with the various national
      interest groups affected.

      "People should be able to self-identify," insisted Narasaki. "The
      question is, what are you going to do with the data? Regarding Asian
      Americans, African Americans or Latinos, what number do you look at
      if they check one box, two boxes or more? If you don't have accurate
      numbers, then it means it's going to be very difficult to know when
      discrimination takes place and to prove it."

      The Association of MultiEthnic Americans, on the other hand, was
      thrilled with the census change. "Our interest was in getting an
      accurate count and letting people claim their full ethnicities," said
      AMEA president Nancy G. Brown. "For a lot of people, this was a
      concept that was very new. Some were thinking that there would be
      flight from their group, which did not happen.

      " He wouldn't say, 'This is how I feel.' Or, 'This is what my single
      heritage is.' I think Tiger feels like it's a wide array, a wide
      grouping. "
      — Mark Steinberg, Tiger Woods' agent
      "The numbers will continue to grow over time because younger people
      have an easier time self-identifying than older people. Why? They
      were not raised with the predominance of the one-drop rule as their
      elders were. Their parents tend to be more open in talking about race
      at home and advocating for their own ethnicity rather than keeping
      that secret."

      When (and if) Woods filled out his census form, which boxes did he
      check? That is not public information.

      "I think he feels like, you know, it's a cross of so many things,"
      Steinberg said. "He wouldn't say, 'This is how I feel.' Or, 'This is
      what my single heritage is.' I think Tiger feels like it's a wide
      array, a wide grouping."

      Dreaming the dream
      When the Tiger Woods Foundation arrives in a big city for a golf
      clinic, the young golfers usually reflect the metropolis in which
      they live.


      Tiger Woods, in his first visit to China last year, works with a
      young player during a clinic in Shenzhen.
      "We invite upwards of 3,500 people, of which about 75 percent are
      youth," said Dennis Burns, director of junior golf for the Tiger
      Woods Foundation. "We let the city and its breakdown of ethnicity
      determine things. In San Francisco, we probably had 75 percent Asian
      Americans. In Birmingham, it was probably 70-75 percent black. In
      Portland, it was predominantly white."

      The Foundation has presented 25 clinics in places like Chicago, New
      York, Miami, Atlanta, Phoenix and Long Beach, Calif., among others.
      This year, though, Burns is trying something different. There will be
      one large clinic in Orlando with young golfers invited from five
      cities. Airfare and a three-day hotel stay will be provided for each
      golfer, plus a parent. The goal is, in the words of foundation
      president Earl Woods, to make big dreams come true for
      underprivileged kids.

      It all starts with the image of Tiger Woods.

      "Tiger transcends so many things," Burns said. "When you talk about
      racial and ethnic barriers, he transcends them. One of the stories I
      always get is a 65-year-old, 70-year-old person who doesn't even like
      golf. The majority are white, Caucasian people, and they say when
      he's on TV they just have to watch.

      "I find that so amazing that a 26-year-old African-American-slash-
      Thai kid can draw that sort of audience."

      Woods has had some help along the way. From the beginning of his
      career, Nike has crafted television commercials with a social
      conscience. The earliest spots, part of a strategic attempt to define
      an image, only managed to muddy the water.

      The first controversial Nike commercial featured children of
      different races saying, "I am Tiger Woods." Applauded in some
      quarters, it was also criticized as grandstanding.

      Perhaps in response, Woods poked fun at himself in an ABC promotion
      for the Byron Nelson Classic. He was shown sitting in a golf cart
      with commentator Curtis Strange. "Tiger, you have a multi-ethnic
      background ... is there a group you wish you were part of?" asks
      Strange, the straight man. Woods smiles slyly and answers, "I guess,
      Boyz to Men."

      Later there was a tribute to the black golfers who preceded him.
      Older African-American golfers, notably Calvin Peete and Jim Dent,
      have criticized Woods for not acknowledging that he is a black golfer.


      Tiger Woods' popularity is as huge as the galleries that follow him
      at golf tournaments.
      Earl Woods, who met Tida in Bangkok when he was stationed there
      during the Vietnam War, supplied Tiger with his African-American,
      Native American, Caucasian and half his Chinese roots. He said he
      believes his son will become an agent for social change and predicts
      he could become "the new Gandhi." Tiger once met with Nelson Mandela
      at his South African summer home, an encounter in which Earl
      said "they acknowledged each other and spoke to each other as equals."

      Woods has not shared these grand visions with the media.

      "Listen, he didn't ask to be a civil rights leader," Page said. "He's
      a jock. Michael Jordan, black folks want him to give half his money
      to build public housing. It's remarkable what people put on people.

      "What's important is that Tiger has helped the country relax about
      the question of race. Following the decade of O.J. Simpson and
      Johnnie Cochran and Clarence Thomas and the L.A. riots, Tiger has
      helped open up the discussion of what is race. Jackie Robinson did
      more to integrate American society than any other single individual.
      In the future, people will look back the same way on Tiger Woods."

      His chief goal is to win as many major golfing championships as
      possible. He seems comfortable and content in the world of the rich
      and famous. Once asked his opinion on race relations, Woods
      replied, "We're making progress slowly but surely."

      Questions about gun control, race riots and South Carolina's
      Confederate flag will prompt similarly benign answers. In the end,
      Woods has served as an example of racial harmony simply by being
      himself.

      This, Naraski grants Woods. To underline the changing world, she
      mentioned that she was headed to Des Moines, Iowa, of all places.

      " Just the fact that he claims all his heritage and makes no bones
      about it. I guess we have to be happy with what we can get. Maybe
      when he gets older he'll feel differently. "
      — Nancy G. Brown, president of the Association of MultiEthnic
      Americans
      "Yes, Des Moines," she said, laughing. "There's an Asian-American
      population there. Schools are becoming more diverse and that's the
      way America is headed. Golf is much more diverse than it was before
      and Tiger has done a lot to eliminate the last vestiges of
      discrimination.

      "Clearly, Tiger Woods is ahead of his time."

      Brown, of the Association of MultiEthnic Americans, doesn't think
      Woods will be leading any demonstrations any time soon. Certainly, he
      isn't scheduled to speak at AMEA's upcoming first national conference
      in Tucson that will focus on multi-racial youth.

      "He's on a different mission right now," she said. "He's still
      growing up and doing what he needs to do. I'd love it if he'd come
      out as a spokesman for the multi-racial movement. But what he's doing
      is very political and important, too.

      "Just the fact that he claims all his heritage and makes no bones
      about it. I guess we have to be happy with what we can get. Maybe
      when he gets older he'll feel differently.

      "I hope so."
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