By Deputy Editor Thea Lim
Update: You can find a follow-up, clarification and response to the comments on this post here.
Thanks to Carmen, Andrea and Latoya for helping me flesh out my thoughts!
One night last summer, my Vietnamese friend Winston began recounting the number of top world athletes who also happen to be Asian. “Manny Pacquaio…Yao Ming…Ichiro Suzuki…Tiger Woods…”
“Hey wait,” another friend interrupted. “Can Asians really claim Tiger Woods? What, just because his great-grandmother is Asian he’s proof of Asian superiority?”
“Are you kidding?” Winston responded. “He’s more Asian than anything else.” Immediately, multiple super phones were put to work verifying this.
This is what Tiger Woods’ Wikipedia page says:
Earl, a retired United States Army lieutenant colonel and Vietnam War veteran, was of mixed African American, Chinese and Native American ancestry. Kultida (née Punsawad), originally from Thailand, is of mixed Thai, Chinese, and Dutch ancestry. This makes Woods himself one-quarter Chinese, one-quarter Thai, one-quarter African American, one-eighth Native American, and one-eighth Dutch. He refers to his ethnic make-up as “Cablinasian” (a syllabic abbreviation he coined from Caucasian, Black, (American) Indian, and Asian).
As you know, I am not a fan of referring to mixed race people in terms of percentages and fractions. But I was startled to discover that
1) Tiger Woods is in fact more Asian than anything else.
2) Tiger Woods’ parents are also mixed race – both of his parents can (and probably do) identify as people of colour.
Actually, Tiger Woods is just as Asian as I am. I was stunned by this information. Why had I not known this? I always assumed that Tiger Woods’ dad was black and his mom was white, and that his Asian connection was a little more indirect, a la Barack.
It seems like I’m not the only one who misconstrued the complexity of Tiger’s roots. By now we’re all familiar with the outrage around Tiger Woods’ racial taste in women. Newspapers, blogs and Twitter feeds have blown up with commentary that Tiger’s apparent penchant for white women is just more evidence of how he tries to create distance between himself and black folks. In essence, because he chooses to bed white women instead of black women, Tiger is not a real black person.
I’m not going to talk about the fact that it is absurd and small-minded to try and mandate the lovelife of an individual by threatening them with explulsion from a racial community. What I am bothered by is that in all this race vetting, folks can’t even bother to get Tiger’s race right.
Read the Post 100% Cablinasian: Getting the Race Facts Right on Tiger Woods