Sunday, January 20, 2008

If only we could take it back...Part II

I'm returning to the Tiger-Tilghman issue, which I originally blogged about on Friday, January 11, 2008 "If only we could take it back" and you can click on the link to that post for a re-cap.

What I want to direct your attention to now is an ESPN continuation of the story vis a vis a Golfweek Magazine cover featuring a noose. The ESPN link (click here) covers the story about Tilghman's remark, Tiger's lack of reaction, Golfweek's decision to highlight the story using a controversial image, and the firing of the editor and vice president, Dave Seanor.

What I want to draw your attention to are a few quotes from Seanor:

Quote 1: "Most people who are objecting to it [the magazine cover]-- within the golf industry -- are saying this episode was just about over," Seanor said. "I think it's indicative of how, when you bring race and golf into the same sentence, everyone recoils."

Quote 2: "I wish we could have come up with something that made the same statement but didn't create as much negative reaction," he said. "But as this has unfolded, I'm glad there's dialogue. Let's talk about this, and the lack of diversity in golf."

Quote 3: "Look at the executive suites at the PGA Tour, or the USGA, or the PGA of America. There are very, very few people of color there," he said. "This is a situation in golf where there needs to be more dialogue. And when you get more dialogue, people don't want to hear it, and they brush it under the rug. This is a source of a lot of pushback."

The first thing I'll say is that I believe someone should have been fired for the noose cover. It was in horrible taste and premeditated and inflammatory rather than provacative. But I also agree with these quotes from Seanor--golf has not been quick to examine its history of racism (and sexism and homophobia). In fact, most everyone just wants to sweep all of this under the rug. And while I've already ruminated on the Tilghman quote, what I wish it did was to expose the sensitivity of race and the history of racism within the sport of golf--and the continued sexism of places like Augusta, which does not allow women members.

And if you do click on the ESPN link, please take a look at the video footage. There is a very interesting discussion about Tiger's silence and the role he should be playing in all of this. I think I'll save my own comments for another post, but what I will close with is to say that as much as I or others may want Tiger to comment on this incident, what I really wish is that Phil Mickelson or Nick Faldo or Jack Nicklaus would come out and say something--that someone other than Tiger, the person of color, would take a stand against racism and call for us to look deeper into the problems of the sport. In other words, rather than just calling on African Americans to decry racist incidents or a history of discrimination against African Americans, why not have white allies (or allies of any color) take up the charge and take a stand. This would be another example of anti-racist praxis--of going outside of your "identity" politics and to protest because racism is something we should all protest because it affects us all (yes, I know I'm sounding like a broken record about this, but this blog is called "Mixed Race America.")

I love golf. But it has problems. And rather than gloss over those problems and defend it absolutely, I want to shine some light on the past so that the future will not be as dark.


Anonymous said...

Jennifer - we're going to disagree almost completly on this post. Those three quotes you picked out were little more than CYA nonsense in a last ditch attempt to save his job. We agree that what Seanor did with that cover was premeditated and inflammatory - and designed to...surprise surprise - sell magazines.

We are also going to disagree on your view of golf's history. If you choose to focus on The PGA Tour prior to the 1960's when blacks were not welcome on Tour and that fact was no secret - then bring that same standard forward to the present day and point out that there are still only a couple of black golfers on Tour - then you will skip all the changes that have taken place in the last 40 years.

Do you teach a class on Shakespeare and then tell your class that the behavior back then is identical to the behavior today? I kind of doubt that.

This may be news, but the PGA Tour is a business designed for the support of its members - the players. They are very protective of their image and they take a fairly conservative route for the members' to protect their imaage.
However, the PGA Tour cannot go to neighborhoods and force people to play the game.

The Tour is intended for the best golfers in the world. If you take a look at the charter of the PGA Tour - it says just that. There are no exceptions and no exclusions. There are, however, exclusions in the LPGA membership rules. The LPGA is for women ONLY. Clearly, the sexism is not coming from the PGA Tour.

The Tour and its players donate millions to charities around the country - many of those charities relate to introducing poor and minority children to golf. Should I ask when was the last time you went to a poor neighborhood and took a kid to the driving range ?

Attacks on country clubs generally break down into class envy and claims that people who have money have done so on the backs of people without money instead of by hard work and education.

The "homophobia" assertion is a politically correct cliche with no real footing in this argument. It is a made up word designed to deflect a real discussion by use of name calling.

Jennifer - I would challenge you to define your terms better, and examine history a little closer.

Are there people who play golf who do not like people of other races, genders, or sexual preferences ? Yes. Are there people who play golf who hate people who eat meat or wear leather ? Of course. Are there people who play golf who don't like rich or poor people ? You bet.

The problem is not the game - the problem is the people.

Trying to solve the world's problems by condemning a TV host's slip of the tongue is ridiculous. And it is always easier to make generalities and paint with a broad brush than it is to dig into a problem and find the real root of a problem. And it is always easier to tell other people how wrong they are and what they have to do to live up to "your" standards than it is to apply that same standard to ourselves.

Jennifer said...

I'm going to be away from my computer for much of the day so I'll ask if there is anyone else in the blogosphere who wants to tackle Courtgolf's comments.

I don't think it's necessary to know the game to tackle the comments (esp. the slippery slope type arguments).

And before I leave, I guess I have a question for Courtgolf him/herself (if you'd like to answer, which you certainly don't need to answer): Who are you and why are you reading this blog?

I know that sounds really direct, but I generally have a sense of the people who make comments, who for the most part are part of the "choir" that I wrote about before.

Based on the two comments you've left before, you don't fit this profile (which I know is a vague thing to say). SO I guess I'm just curious.

I suspect as more people, the ones I say I want to talk to, find their way to this blog and leave comments, I am going to find myself more and more challenged. This happened in the post about defining race regarding some of Genepool's comments and some of what I'll term his more provocative/inflammatory language.

Perhaps I should blog about this...HA!

Anyway, I am simply curious, Courtgolf, because another blog has me thinking if I really want to be doing Racism 101 or Sexism 101, which is what I feel I have to do to thoroughly answer all of your points, in detail. And I know that sounds condescending and I don't mean it to--I just mean that as I interpret your comments, there are embedded within them an assumption about race, class, and sex and a perspective I don't share.

So if you are really just here to try to tell me you disagree with me and that I'm wrong and you really don't want to think through carefully the things I've read (because I'd urge you to re-read parts of this blog and the last post more carefully and think about the comments you've written in response).

Again as in your last comment, I detect a certain *tone* of antagonism that makes me uncomfortable and makes me feel defensive and I don't know if that's your intent or not. But I have seen this happen in other blogs--people who just want to argue for argument's sake, and I don't think that's productive. But if you are genuinely curious about my points of view, how I arrived at my thinking, and why I found this topic important related to issues of race and racism and more importantly, anti-racist work, then of course I'd be happy to have a conversation with you. But it's a conversation I want, not a series of monologues as CVT in a previous post alluded to.