The big news this week in golf —- don’t fall asleep writer friends! — is Sergio Garcia and his comments about Tiger Woods and fried chicken. The racist-ness of it all. You can read the short article and see a video about it here.
Let me say this straight out. I have little (no?) respect for Tiger. He’s got a beautiful, almost perfect, game, yes. He’s a brilliant golfer, maybe the best who’s ever lived. But he’s a jerk. He doesn’t sign balls for kids. He’s flip. He refers to his opponents by childish nicknames. He breezes by the gallery (the fans) like they’re not even there. He’s above … above it all. Superior. Arrogant. Entitled. Painful. And don’t even get me started on the cheating scandals like this one, or this one. But this, this kind of thing, is what lets Tiger off the hook.
Damn it. Come on. Sergio. My god. Sergio, your “fried chicken” thing undid me. I’m from the midwestern south. I love fried chicken. I love fried chicken so much I’d request it — along with mashed potatoes and gravy and biscuits — for my last-ever-on-this-earth meal. But we all know what your fried chicken comment means, and you’re not fucking funny.
I come from, was raised in, homes where the ‘n’ word was used like “the” and “but.” As my stepfather once said, “I don’t mean anything by it, it’s just what they are!” And frankly, in too many cases, this … this … still is. Racial derogation and its destructiveness is part of the book I’m writing (how could it not be), and part of why none of us — even the folks in my family — are getting along these days. It’s over. Or it should be over. Racism is a giant wall that separates us.
But even me, me with my self-enlightened ways, am not immune to falling into the trap. I remember a long-ago dinner at home with my son where he was suddenly wearing a LeBron James bracelet — “King James” in white — LeBron new and special and uber-talented in the game of basketball. I was serving up the salad at our table and said something about all NBA players being thugs, hoodlums, LeBron included. My son started to cry, to protest. He surely would have left the table if he wasn’t so much nicer than me. He surely would have left the table if I hadn’t been falling all over myself trying to set that uncalled-for, shocking even to myself, racist statement right. I’d said it. And I said it without even knowing where it came from until it was out. Out of my own mouth. In shame. In shock. Some statement laying dormant there in wait for me and my past.
What comes out of your mouth that shocks you?