Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Colored People

The other day my friend mentioned that she'd read an article by an "angry" Asian man who wanted to know why Tiger Woods is heralded as the "first African-American golfer who"...when Tiger is technically more Asian than he is Black. My first response to this "Tiger is more Asian than Black" theory (and I apologize Earl Woods, may your spirit rest in Peace) was to say that Earl Woods might have exaggerated his Asian heritage because Black people of a certain age like to claim some "Indian" blood to boost their self-worth. And while I found plenty of articles that try to quantify Tiger's racial lineage, it seems only clear that his mother is half-Thai and half-Chinese with some Dutch ancestors lurking in the mix. And his father was the product of two "Officially" Black parents, but his mother had a light complexion and rumor had it that she had a Chinese ancestor in her past.

So after my rigorous research, I can only conclude that Tiger is pretty much Black AND Asian. Which means that Angry Asian man is completely justified in asking why he is celebrated as the first African-American golfer to break all these records. Why is he always erroneously labeled by the media? Why all the Fried Chicken and lynching comments? Why does Black America claim him as their own (although somewhat grudgingly considering he refers to himself as a Cablasian.)?

I'll tell you why. BECAUSE HE LOOKS BLACK! It is really that simple. People see his dark skin. People saw his Black father constantly by his side and put two and two together and came up with, Black. But that doesn't mean it is right or fair. It also doesn't help society see beyond Black and White. Every little Asian (Thai, Chinese or other), biracial, or mixed child should also feel like they too can claim Tiger out in public and not simply behind closed doors.

So I have a solution. Rather than fighting for the right to label Tiger as Black or Asian and getting into a Tiger Turf war, I propose we reinstate the word Colored to the American lexicon. Yes it has a negative history but it perfectly describes Tiger Woods and every other person of color. We are colored. I am colored. Tiger, perhaps would be Multi-Colored. I think it works and nobody has to feel excluded. Pretty much anyone with a little bit of extra melanin can join this group.

Imagine a world where Colored people stopped trying to separate themselves and instead embraced their commonalities. I'm not saying we should all forget our unique cultures, not even. It's just that when we spend all this time trying to decide where a person belongs and who has rights to claim him it leads to tension and strife and generally there is no correct answer. So all I'm saying is go with Colored. It's easy.



Carleen Brice said...

I've often wondered why "people of color" is acceptable, but "colored people" is not.

Mango Mama said...

Since everything old becomes new again, I'll take colored for a spin and see how it fits. Who knows, with this post you may have started the post African American revolution:)

Me said...

CB: Good question. I think they should both be allowed.

MM: Let the revolution begin! Holla!

Ferocious Kitty said...

This sooo reminds me of the Racial Olympics skit from Chappelle Show where different racial groups vie for exclusive bragging rights to bi/multiracial folks like Tiger, Mariah Carey, etc.

About "colored"...why not?? LOL!


saralin said...

i like the idea, but where does that leave people whose heritage doesn't show up in the skin color? those of us that have the opposite situation to tiger woods, and got everything but the melanin?

Anonymous said...

i think his label is more due to a) his father and b) the "one drop" rule - so Black America will claim him. Same for Halle Berry.

As far as colored being easier, I disagree. It will inevitably be followed by a question seeking clarification on what kind of colored!

Me said...

Hey F. Kitty. Thanks for the comparison to Chapelle. At least I'll take it as a compliment!

Saralin, Thanks for bringing up a good point. I still say Colored works even if you don't present colored. You'd kind of just leave people guessing but they'd know you're not just White.

And anon: You're probably right in that just marking Colored will lead to more questions which is okay, but it will also put an end to folks having to explain their entire racial lineage. For those who have to say "I'm like Black, Thai, Chinese and part French." Wouldn't it be just so much easier to say 'I'm Colored?' And if the questioner wants/needs specifics which many times they don't, they can take the time to get to know you better. Of course all of this depends on personal preference. I'd never try to force the Colored moniker on anyone, but it would be nice if it was an option.

And thanks to everyone who stops by the Meltingpot!

black like me said...

sorry doesnt work that way. tiger is black wheteher he can accpet it or not. the black community tends to accept ppl of "mixed" heritages through the good and bad. the white and asian communities however (imo) only are receptive and suddenly, as in this case, possesive, when the person is doing something extremly credit worthy. so angry asian, shut up and be happy with yao ming.

black like me said...

ugh excuse all the typos above. its 4:45 in the morning...

Anonymous said...

also with the comment about black america claiming halle...um, halle states she sees herself as a black woman. im tired of all these accusatory "black america" this and that statements.

if she had "one drop" itd be weird but she is a black woman outwardly, and there are plenty of blacks with differant ethnic makeups, so still black.

Me said...

Black Like Me and Anon:

Thanks for the comments. And typos are allowed when we're writing passionately! As for your points, I just wonder how we can tell a person that they are Black when they are raised by an Asian mother whose blood runs through their veins. Flip it on it's head. Think of the all the light skinded Black people raised in the Black community. The world sees them as White, but they feel and identify as Black. It comes down to the question of who choses your identity? Yourself? or The world at large? You want to say each individual should be able to define their own identity, but you look at Tiger Woods and if he wanted to walk around calling himself Asian, people would be calling him a sell-out, self-hating Negro because he looks Black. But that's not fair because his mama is honest to God an Asian woman and she probably raised her son as Asian as she could since that is her culture. For all we know Tiger ate with chopsticks before he ever handled a fork. Although now that I think about it, I think in Thailand chopsticks aren't really popular, but I digress.

It's all good that we're "talking" about it, because this really matters. And just to get back to my original point, if we could just embrace the category of Colored none of this would matter. We'd all fit in and nobody would be left out.

Peace yall

Anonymous said...

"Tiger is black whether he can accept it or not"
black like me, IMO Tiger's ethnic/racial identity can be determined only in two ways: (1) his actual genetic make-up (which is a biological FACT) and/or (2) what he considers himself to be.

By neither of those is he solely (or even mostly) black. So no third party can try to "foist" that label on him.

Which brings me to the point that us trying to make people claim blackness makes if seem like blackness is some kind of curse / something that everybody is trying to escape, or that we want everybody to share our "misery". "You just as black as me, stop trying to run off with your uppity self!" Instead, why don't we make blackness something to be coveted, something whose exclusivity is guarded??? (I don't mean that literally, but I'm making a point so people can see the issue a different way.)

But I do agree with you that the main reason why Tiger is considered black is because the black community is much more accepting of mixtures. Whites and Asians are much less accepting, (ESPECIALLY when the mixture is with black). How many Asians do anyone seriously see out there trying to claim Tiger, as exceptional as he is? Much less more ordinary Blasians...