Thursday, January 10, 2008

On Race, Gender, and Golf

It's kind of weird to see the crying question making national headlines. I'm used to the back-and-forth between Morgan Pressel and the golf press corps on her tearitudinality, not so much Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail. Seriously, what's the big deal about a few tears?

I'm tempted to follow Tiger Woods's own lead and say a similar thing about Kelly Tilghman's banter-gone-bad with Nick Faldo last Friday on the Golf Channel (both Geoff Shackelford and the Golf for Women blog have posted an edited version of the clip in which she drops the "lynch him in a back alley" bomb). But then I noticed that not only is Tilghman getting criticized for the comment itself, for a wishy-washy apology, and for getting off easy with only a 2-week suspension, but also that Tiger himself is taking almost as much heat for (through his agent) accepting her apology, calling this a "non-issue," and declaring "case closed."

As if. People everywhere are trotting out the usual scripts and entering into the usual debates: intent vs. effect; context vs. symbolism; conscious vs. unconscious racism; identifying black vs. identifying multiracial vs. identifying postracial vs. identifying antiracist; insensitivity vs. hypersensitivity; "playing the race card" vs. "sanctioned ignorance"; blame vs. taking responsibility; and so on. It's like Ethnicity/Race Studies 101 out there in Blogoramaville these days, although of course many more instances of unconscious stereotyping and ignorance in the golfy media with respect to race and gender are not getting the CNN effect. Any ideas why this is so?

Given how oddly Tilghman's comment rings (most lynchings were very public spectacles) and Woods's response sounds, I'd love to see them announce when both return to the PGA at the Buick that they are embarking on a joint research project, studying works like W. Fitzhugh Brundage's Under Sentence of Death (North Carolina, 1997), Jacqueline Goldsby's A Spectacular Secret (Chicago, 2006), Sandra Gunning's Race, Rape, and Lynching (Oxford, 1996), Grace Hale's Making Whiteness (Pantheon, 1998), Saidiya Hartman's Scenes of Subjection (Oxford, 1997), Jonathan Markovitz's Legacies of Lynching (U of Minnesota, 2004), Anne Rice's edited collection, Witnessing Lynching (Rutgers, 2003), Stewart Tolnay and E. M. Beck's A Festival of Violence (Illinois, 1995), and Christopher Waldrep's Lynching in America (NYU, 2006), and collaborating on a Golf Channel/First Tee-produced documentary based on their research. If these products of Duke and Stanford put together and promoted something of use to the educational community, then the lessons learned can go beyond the media's rapid spin cycle.

[Update 1/13/08: Jennifer at Mixed Race America has a great, thoughtful post on the very issues I gesture toward--and bypass--in my 3rd paragraph.]