I heard the news about Tiger Woods’ accident and immediately thought about his two kids. As the seriousness of it unfolded, I prayed he’d walk again. And I rolled over in my mind how long it would take to recover, and rehabilitate, from such injuries. Mr. Woods is headed down a long tough road for sure. My heart went out to him.
And then I wondered about his golf.
The sports anchor talking over the horrific pictures of the mutilated car lying a good distance from the road referred to Mr. Woods as a black athlete. Of course, he was exactly correct. But he was also indescribably wrong!
And maybe that is part, if not all, of the racial divide in our country today.
Listen closely here, I’m the last guy on earth to talk about such matters. I don’t know nothing about nothing. I don’t claim to. I don’t know what black people think. I don’t understand most of the time what white people think.
Tiger Woods is a man. A son. A father. A provider. He’s got family. Friends. Aspirations. Hope. He is certainly a golfing icon. He’s lived on the mountaintop. And he’s spent his time in the valley.
Good golly, there are a hundred things about Mr. Woods to know and understand and like or dislike and ponder over before you get down to the black part. Why are we always forced to get that first?
And you’ve got to hear my heart here, Tiger is proud of his heritage. I’m not downplaying that. I’m just saying let’s take everyone at face value first. Don’t hop with the crowd. Be a little smarter about how we relate to everyone around us.
My ancestors came over from Ireland to escape the potato famine of the 1850s. I reckon that makes me part of the Irish-Catholic crowd. I’ve got O’Bannons and Murphys in my family tree. My Mom’s maiden name is Kennedy. But I don’t sit around all year waiting for St. Patrick’s Day. And it’s never crossed my mind to kiss the Blarney Stone.
We all have a unique and wonderful heritage. We should celebrate it and be proud of our past. But none of us needs to let that bog down our here and now… or our collective future.
Robert was the first black person I ever met if you don’t count the men that worked with Daddy out at the Tri-County Stockyards. We were 10 or 11. We met at the baseball field over by the pajama factory.
We got to throwing a ball back and forth. He had an easy way of gathering it in. And he tossed it back with a little zip to it—like you were supposed to!
He was always happy and friendly. One very hot summer day he invited me to lunch at his house. We’re talking the Deep South in the mid 1950s. I was hungry. And at that age an empty stomach trumped most everything else.
To my everlasting discredit, I remember feeling like something wasn’t right as we got to his front steps. It wasn’t my upbringing. Mom taught us from birth that we were all God’s children. Daddy judged everybody on whether they would work or not. He didn’t care about anything else.
Maybe it was just the times.
I do remember Robert’s mother never batted an eye when we walked in. She told us to “wash up, the food was ready” like little white boys dropped by her house every day. I didn’t realize what a lifelong lesson it was until years later.
I also remember it was the most disappointing meal that I ever sat down to. She had fixed cornbread, pinto beans and turnip greens. That is EXACTLY what we would have had if we’d gone to my house!
I was hoping black people ate hamburgers, French fries and apple pie for lunch.
I had a passel of close friends growing up. Many of us spent 12 years together in school. I cherish each one of them. But think about this; how many more lifetime friends could I have had if the black kids would have been included?
That’s my loss. That’s everybody’s loss.
I stood behind Tiger Woods on the fourth tee at The Masters one April several years back. The par-3 is over 200 yards long with a deep bunker guarding the approach. Tiger’s shot sounded like a rifle off his iron as he ripped it over the bunker and landed it softly just a few feet from a front pin.
An unbelievable shot; the best I’ve ever seen, from the most accomplished golfer maybe of all time.
And it didn’t add to or take away or make any difference if he were black or white or iridescent orange…
The “content of your character” indeed!
This article originally appeared on The Star: Hunker Down: Robert’s Mom set the example