Op-ed submission by Project 21

There’s an interesting wrinkle in the Tiger Woods scandal. There are some blacks who are angry that none of Tiger’s mistresses were black. For example, a recent New York Daily News headline declared “Tiger Alienates Black Community with White Lovers.”

It’s probably the least of his troubles, but it exposes a big problem in the black community. Whether he knows or cares, Tiger has been alienating the black community for some time because he was sought as a Great Black Example to foster racial approval and acceptance. The only problem was that Tiger rejected them.

Frankly, it’s about darn time for somebody to have the courage to live outside the box and boundaries of race.
Who can blame Tiger? After all, being the “Great Black Example” is no small task. That person must abide by certain codes of conduct and pass extensive loyalty tests that may override reason, individual choice and common sense.

There are three main rules, all of which Tiger Woods broke and thus “alienated” the black community.

First, where there is any racial ambiguity regarding the Great Black Example, the one-drop rule affirms their blackness. One must emphatically and unequivocally announce their blackness. Tiger Woods instead calls himself “Cablinasian” – a mixture of Caucasian, black, American Indian and Asian. But, because of his celebrity, this was overlooked. Whether Tiger accepted it or not, his Great Black Example status defined him as black.

Next, it’s best when the Great Black Example marries within the black enterprise. This is crucial when they are of mixed race because it solidifies their blackness. President Obama did this with flying colors in marrying Michelle, who is intelligent, attractive and unambiguous in her dark-skinned blackness. Ebonie Johnson Cooper, for example, told AP that, “Had Barack had a white wife, I would have thought twice about voting for him.” Woods caters to no constituency on the course, and his swing secures his trophies and endorsements – not his wife’s skin color. And Tiger’s wife is everything the alienated black community disapproves of: white, blindingly blond and married to the Great Black Example.

Similar abandonment issues affected other Great Black Examples such as Quincy Jones, Van Jones and O.J. Simpson. In Tiger’s case, however, his cheating revealed a certain amount of profiling and preference that supposedly disgraced black women. But is there anyone who really denies the beauty of Beyonce, Mary J. Blige, Tyra Banks, Lauryn Hill or our First Lady simply because Tiger Woods wasn’t unfaithful with a black woman?

Finally, the Great Black Example must have a hair-trigger willingness to decry any and all perceived racism. Tiger failed greatly here. When CBS broadcaster Kelly Tilghman said golfers challenging Tiger should “lynch him” to win, Tiger took the high road. Through his agent, Tiger said, “We know unequivocally that there was no ill intent in her comments.”  He further called Tilghman a respected friend. Such grace and dignity, eschewing conflict and finding strength in forgiveness, is not permitted. Conformity to victimhood is required.

Truth be told, all this proves the Great Black Example is extinct. An individual obligation to a group based solely on race or gender is inhumane. A person belongs to God and themselves. No group has a right to lay claim to someone else’s existence.

It is time for the black community to accept and rejoice in this, for this is true freedom. There is no alienated black community, and woe to the person who works to manufacture one. There is only the fruitful character of the individual, and therein our responsibility lies. There was a time for power through a collective force of identity, but that time is gone. The time now calls for living and thinking through the lens of character. Our only obligation to each other is to be ourselves.
At the risk of alienating blacks, Tiger Woods remained his own man.  More power to him and his “to thine own self be true” outlook.
Rejoice in God-given individuality! We owe to ourselves and others so that we don’t rise and fall according to mere examples of our race – but united within the human race.

Lisa Fritsch is a member of the national advisory council for the Project 21 black leadership network and a writer and radio talk show host in Austin, Texas.