Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Woods Bridges the Racial Gap

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Woods Bridges the Racial Gap

Article excerpt

Tiger Woods has America thinking new thoughts about golf. Will he also get us thinking new thoughts about race?

There's little to add about this 21-year-old phenom's domination of the Masters tournament last weekend: youngest and first black winner of that prestigious event, with the lowest score and widest margin of victory ever - and all within days of the 50th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's transforming entry into major league baseball.

Seasoned golfers, noting his fine intelligence and picture-perfect swing, are rethinking the physical possibilities of the game, and people who had never watched three consecutive holes of golf are talking about taking it up - or urging their children to do so. But what intrigues me about this lanky kid is his induction into that tiny cadre of black people who have managed - in the eyes of both blacks and whites - to transcend race. Even as I write the words, I confess I don't know precisely what I mean. It may be easier to name members of that exclusive group than to describe the characteristics that place them in it. Colin Powell. Bryant Gumbel. Arthur Ashe. Ron Brown. What? Are they all men? I don't know, though it does occur to me that the names that come to mind when I think of the most famous of the race transcenders all belong to men - and now that I think of it, mostly to cafe au lait men who have succeeded in areas (or at levels) formerly restricted to whites. Is that part of it? Maybe, but I know lots of lighter-skinned successful black men who do not seem to me to be a part of the group, and some darker ones who do. Bill Cosby, Vernon Jordan and Michael Jordan? Probably. Grant Hill seems a near-cinch to get there. In addition, the last two are successful in an area where black success is the norm. Doug Wilder, David Dinkins and Charley Pride - breakthrough successes all - are not (to my mind) race transcendent. Is Ed Brooke? David Robinson? Ed Bradley? The transcenders who come to mind are well-educated and articulate, characteristics that may be necessary to transcendence but are hardly sufficient. …

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