Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods

      Every time I have had to fill out some form or application, I have always hated it when I got to the area where I had to fill out some section dealing with my race. I always asked myself testily, "What does that have to do with anything?" I think it one of the worst aspects of the United States this obsession of classifying by race and highlighting the differences among us Americans. It is for this reason that I have always admired golf phenomenon Tiger Woods and his desire to de-emphasize his race while concentrating on his considerable golf skills. Take, for example, his following statement on the issue:


      The purpose of this statement is to explain my heritage for the benefit of members of the media who may be seeing me play for the first time. It is the final and only comment I will make regarding the issue.

      My parents have taught me to always be proud of my ethnic background. Please rest assured that is, and always will be, the case - past, present, and future.

      The media has portrayed me as African-America; sometimes, Asian. In fact, I am both.

      Yes, I am the product of two great cultures, one African-American and the other Asian.

      On my father's side, I am African-American. On my mother's side, I am Thai. Truthfully, I feel very fortunate, and EQUALLY PROUD, to be both African-American and Asian!

      The critical and fundamental point is that ethnic background and/or composition should NOT make a difference. It does NOT make a difference to me. The bottom line is that I am an American...and proud of it!

      That is who I am and what I am. Now, with your cooperation, I hope I can just be a golfer and a human being.



      What a refreshing attitude!

      One of the most disturbing things to me about my years a college student at UCLA was the horrible state of race relations. As opposed to our parents who were segregated by law and custom, my generation chose to self-segregate itself - an action which, in my opinion, is worse! African-American students will be confronted as they arrive at the university by a member of the Black Student Union: "Are you with us or against us?" Latino students will either side with the militant Mechistas or be labeled "pineapples" - brown on the outside and white on the inside. I myself have been looked on with suspicion by other Caucasians for speaking Spanish and having many friends from Latin America (not that I particularly cared!). It was going to be a cold day in hell before I apologized for hanging out with or befriending anyone.

      In such a militant context, an individual is forced to takes sides and this is unfortunate, in my opinion, as well as very limiting. I never wanted to have to take sides. I never wanted to be with anyone or against anyone. I just wanted to be myself. Of all the people I met at UCLA, I found the ethnic isolationists to be the biggest scoundrels of all.

      And of all the racial rhetoric spouted by campus militants, I thought the most insidious to be the prohibition by many on interracial dating. "Be proud - stay with your own kind!" the extremists would shout, and anything less was seen as a betrayal of your ethnicity. This, to me, is the height of idiocy, as well as an arrogant intrusion into what should be a very private decision. In my opinion, what this country needs is more not less race mixing. Many young people today are already of mixed heritage and de facto defy the racial isolationists - be they of whatever ethnicity. It is in individuals such as Tiger Woods that I have hope for this country and its race problem - here in the United States where spoiled and pampered athletes (despite their often repugnant personalities and character) are worshipped and idolized.

      Tiger through his example has shown that an individual developing his God-given talents to the best of his ability can live his life in dignity without letting artificial barriers get in the way. In his own life, Tiger looked firmly at the goal and let nobody stop him from becoming the unique and special young man that he became.

      Sport superstar Tiger Woods: a well-mannered and soft-spoken young man and athlete you would welcome in your home - what a welcome breath of fresh air! Here in the United States!, where it seems like everyday some well-known athlete is arrested for some fresh bit of nastiness. A 21 year old newcomer to the pro golf circuit who recently wins the U.S. Masters in Augusta, GA, by dominating one of the world's most demanding courses in 18 under par! Tiger is truly unique.

      Perhaps it all comes down to the family. Tiger Woods came from a loving family with two parents that placed a value in spending quality time with their son and ensuring that he grew up straight and true. Tiger's father Earl Woods is a retired Lieutenant Coronel in the U.S. Army Special Forces and served two tours of combat in Vietnam where he befriended a South Vietnamese soldier named "Tiger" Nguyen Phong who proved the inspiration for his son's nickname and where he met his wife Kultida who worked as a secretary in a U.S. army office. Tiger's father always stressed excellence and achievement in the family, although not at any price and only according to the rules. Explains the elder Woods: "If Tiger were not out winning golf tournaments now, he would be running the 400 meters in world-class time." However, Earl Woods supported his son with love, trust, and patience as Tiger learned how to be an adult and discovered what would be his path in life. "Your priority is the welfare of the child first. Who he is, and what is going into making him a good person, has priority over making him a good athlete," according to Mr. Woods, a man who clearly knows something about fathering a child. It is the guiding and teaching which is everything as a parent, and the work never ends no matter how old a child might be. I learn more today from my own father (and my mother, when she was alive) than ever and the debt I owe them is incalculable! Clearly, Earl and Kultida Woods' family is impressive and it should not surprise us that such fertile ground produced Tiger.

      On the other hand, let's take a look at someone quite different. Roughly the same age as Tiger, Tupac was born to single mother Afeni Shakur who was at one time a Black Panther activist and who struggled with drug addiction. Tupac grew up without a father, and perhaps if it had been otherwise he would have had a less violent and nihilistic view of manhood. I have always wondered what did happen to Tupac's father. In his own life, Tupac the man was almost a caricature of his media image - in direct contrast to Tiger Woods who seeks to resist stereotyping. Tupac admitted to being tired of the gangster "thug life," but after virtually selling his soul as such to achieve success as a rapper what else was there for him? At any rate, the wasteful and tragic if predictable rest of his story is well known. Perhaps Afeni Shakur did her best with Tupac, but I wonder if she did not feel a palpable sense of failure as she sat at her son's deathbed. Tupac's depressing obituary speaks eloquently for itself:

Tupac Shakur


      I have received some e-mails from persons questioning how I can make a comparison between Tiger Woods and Tupac Shakur. I did so (this being my webpage) because they are both young men who for very different reasons are held up as heroes in the United States today. I consider one of them a hero and the other I do not, a comparison I had made in my mind months before I put up this webpage when I worked as an inner-city school teacher near downtown Los Angeles and met many many Tupac Shakurs and found it all such a tragic and stupid waste. Of all things young people do today, perhaps the worst is to self-stereotype.

      We all make decisions in our lives, as evidenced by all the individuals who grow up without fathers and yet are decent and productive members of society. We all make decisions and then we live with the results and repercussions - for good or for ill.

      Look at the lives of these two men and make your own conclusions.

"As you shall sow, thus shall you reap."