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"How Do You Feel Being A Little N*****? I Was Called These Things Growing Up" - Tiger Woods Opens Up On Race

"How Do You Feel Being A Little N*****? I Was Called These Things Growing Up" - Tiger Woods Opens Up On Race
By Michael McCarthy
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Tiger Woods has a new book, which he launched in New York yesterday  - The 1997 Masters: My Story.

A couple of things immediately strike us about this.

One, focusing on his most famous tournament and his arrival on the world scene as "sporting superstar" feels like a  much more interesting idea  than a generic autobiography and two, Tiger openly talks about the race problems he has encountered in golf, something the usually safe Woods normally shied away from.

Tiger has long been known to reach for the middle ground, being so guarded in his public appearances and in what he says. He was apparently furious when a book revealed he wanted to become a navy seal, for example. When it comes to race, he's been even less forthcoming. Even back in 1997, not long after the Masters when he became a star, he appeared in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, where he claimed it bothered him when people called him an African-American.

“Growing up, I came up with this name. I’m a Cablasian."

So it's definitely a surprise to see that Tiger not only writing a book, but addressing the prejudice he was subject to in being a black golfer over the years.


Ewan Murray wrote about the elements of the book addressing race in today's Guardian. He refers to parts of the books where Woods writes about rocks being thrown through his family home as a kid, and of being not allowed to change in the same locker room as white players in certain golf clubs. This is an incredible admission from a man who has never talked about this aspect of his life, and also that it happened in the 1990s, when he was growing up on the way to becoming the world's best ever golfer.


It's clear from the book that Woods had a goal, even at the age of 21, when he dominated the '97 Masters.

I knew none of this meant, necessarily, things would change dramatically for minorities in golf. I hoped my win would encourage them to play, or to chase their dreams whatever they were.

But it would have been naive of me to think my win would mean the end of ‘the look’ when a person from any minority walked into some golf clubs, especially the game’s private clubs. I only hoped my win, and how I won, might put a dent in the way people perceived black people.

I hoped my win would open some doors for minorities. My biggest hope, though, was we could one day see one another as people and people alone. I wanted us to be colour blind. Twenty years later, that has yet to happen.

Woods also writes about his relationship with Augusta, the scene of that breakthrough moment, and so many more of his most famous days since. Augusta has as difficult a history with race as any other course. Woods says he was disappointed when he went there first as an amateur in 1995.

Maybe I was underwhelmed because the club had excluded black golfers from playing for so long,” Woods says. “My dad said a couple of days later that Magnolia Lane didn’t impress a black golfer because of this history.

My dad said a couple of days later that Magnolia Lane didn’t impress a black golfer because of this history

His late father Earl is also naturally a huge part of the book, according to Murray. We all knew the influence he had on his son's development and career, but here again Woods focuses on the race element of his father's teachings. He worked with him to build his fortitude by verbally abusing his son, to prepare him for what he would be subject to on the golf course and in life.

I was starting to get a sense of where I wanted to go in golf, but I also knew that, being half-black, I had better learn not to let insults penetrate. Insults are only words, and I couldn’t control what anyone said. But I could control how I reacted to what people said. I had to figure that out on my own, with my dad’s help. He helped in ways that people thought were hurtful. But I wanted to feel the hurt, so that I could overcome it with my golf. My dad taught me how to feel it but not let it affect my game.

Did they think they could get to me? They couldn’t. I’d been hearing things in tournaments since I was seven or eight years old. People said things to me between green and tee, when they could get close to me. I saw but didn’t see. I heard but didn’t hear. Golf has no colour barrier when it comes to score, and who wins and who loses. There’s no judging. lowest score wins. I had total control over that.

Tiger delves into some of what Earl would say to him, which could be pretty shocking at times.

He was very good at it and used everything he could possibly use. It was some good stuff, and eventually, I started laughing at it. It was ‘you little piece of shit,’ or, ‘how do you feel being a little nigger?’– things of that nature. That was OK. I was called those things growing up. I heard it at school and in tournaments, and I also knew the feeling of being excluded. My father’s approach was what I needed, and it worked for me. Maybe it would be called ‘tough love’ now.”

Source: The Guardian


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