Featured, Race & Politics

Tiger Woods’s Decade-Long Nigga Wake-Up Call

Attributed to Benjamin Franklin, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes” is one of the most popular, pithy, and eternally relevant quotes ever. It’s also false. Well maybe not false, but incomplete and in need of an amendment for it to be truly true.

In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes and nigga wake-up calls

The inevitability of the nigga wake-up call is its primary characteristic. It is dependable and predictable; so punctual that you don’t even bother looking for it. You just look at your watch, see that it’s 3:17pm, and note “I guess the nigga wake-up call will be here in 13 minutes.” Its so reliable that you time other shit to it’s time, like a nigga-charting master clock. “Oh, the nigga wake-up call is here. So I guess its time to take the meat out the oven.”

Noting that a Black person is stuck in the Sunken Place — a reference to the bone-chilling, labyrinthic, and Kafkaesque destination in Get Out — has become a convenient and useful catch-all to synopsize a certain type of intra-racial obliviousness and self loathing. Considering what has happened and what continues to happen to Tiger Woods, its tempting to place him there and offer commentary on his residency. As compelling as that analogy seems to be, though, there’s another recent cinematic reference that’s a bit more fitting.

After Bane breaks Batman’s back in The Dark Knight Rises, he takes him to the same prison he was once held captive in. It exists several hundred feet below ground, with the only contact with the outside world a tunnel leading down to the prison. Naturally, many inmates attempt to scale this tunnel and escape — seduced by the daylight at the end of it — only to find that it’s virtually unscaleable; a lesson they learn while falling to their death.

Tiger Woods is in that prison. And the nigga wake-up call is that fall.

Of course, this analogy isn’t perfect. Mainly because Blackness isn’t a prison. But Tiger Woods believed it to be, and attempted to escape it. And he was close. So very, very close. Close enough to feel the heat of discarded Blackness on his cheek; the shine of it on his brow; the taste of it on his tongue. He thought — he believed — he hadn’t just left Blackness. He’d transcended it. He existed above it; floating over and then away from Blackness like a balloon escaping a toddler’s grip.

But then the Escalade (and all of the Escalade-adjacent women) happened. And his golf game went to shit. And the shift in how Tiger was regarded began to happen. He became “darker” and less clean. His pristine image — his ever-so-near proximity to not-quite-Whiteness but definitely-not-Blackness — sullied and defiled. He no longer was America’s favorite and favored not-quite-white but definitely not-quite-Black son; the glee felt and mirth expressed when he was successful replaced with a wicked obsession with his downfall. Even this week, as news came out that Tiger’s DUI wasn’t actually because of alcohol or illicit drugs but a bad reaction to the gaggle of prescription medications he’s on, the post mortems breathlessly chronicling his fall from not-quite-Whiteness haven’t subsided. “Tiger Woods is Lost” and perhaps this was the “Final Nail in His Coffin.” He was so close to almost being almost one of us, they say; the violence and horror of this determination obscured by their performative and artificial empathy.

All reminding Tiger of a reality he either forgot or just wanted us to collectively forget. He is a nigga. He’s been a nigga. Was born a nigga. And will die a nigga. And, for his own sake, I just hope he didn’t hit snooze.

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • Courtney Wheeler

    Wow Tiger. You looking crazy in these streets right now…like literally…

  • Uncle Remus

    https://vimeo.com/61499874

    Tough break, ni&&a…

  • AzucarNegra

    Finally!( in a huff) Now back to read the post.

  • Shouldn’t we be calling this a Cablasian wake up call?

    • Sigma_Since 93

      rimshot!

    • Janelle Doe

      Depends maybe whether or not they will be digging up stuff he did all the way back to pre-school

    • Kylroy

      Back when he was riding high, I had a friend point out “Tiger Woods is as White as he is Black, and he’s more Thai than either.”

      • grownandsexy2

        But when you fall from grace, you’re blacker than the ace of spades.

        • Quirlygirly

          See OJ

          • grownandsexy2

            I’m surprised they didn’t darken his mug shot like they did OJ to make him appear menacing.

            • miss t-lee

              Oh man! I totally forgot about that til now.

    • Brooklyn_Bruin

      He’s joining the Nation of Islam next, like Mike did.

      • TCB

        I initially thought when the leaked voicemails came out it was his time to do a Gangsta Grillz Mixtape, but now is definitely that time.

  • Chuck Moulton

    And, for his own sake, I just hope he didn’t hit snooze. <— sage words right there. sage words.

  • Sigma_Since 93

    Eldrick is a catch 22; he knows he’s Black when talking in the context of golf, he doesn’t want to deny is Asian heritage, and his overtures to the Black community have gone unnoticed.

    • Val

      Tiger Woods Black fan club. Party of one.

      • Sigma_Since 93

        Not a fan, it’s just reality. When Tiger talks about golf, he understands the Black struggle. He knows firsthand being turned away initially when trying to play practice rounds as a junior golfer. His child is named after Charlie Sifford who is the original Black golfing pioneer. When Charlie died a few years ago, Tiger gave money to his college. Tiger has contributed MILLIONS to help Black kids have access to golf. Here’s the problem.

        Ain’t nobody checking for golf!! Just because there’s a program that makes the game affordable didn’t remove the other barriers. You can’t catch the bus to the golf course. When my boys were in First Tee, they were usually 2 of a handful of Black kids playing. You would find Dwight folks leveraging the hayle out of the program; it was cheaper to pay the full $120 for First Tee for lessons for Liam than to have the club pro at their golf course provide lessons.

        All his philanthropic efforts in this area are like a tree falling in the forest with no one there to see, it.

        • Val

          You know why. It was that Oprah appearance.

          • Sigma_Since 93

            I’m not following.

            • in an oprah interview, he attempted to talk about being multi-ethnic…but it came out…ahh…wrong.

              • miss t-lee

                Is that what happened? Ok…lol

                • we all have our own version of the truth

                  • miss t-lee

                    Clearly.

  • Val

    The cops didn’t kill him or even beat him. So did he really get that wake up call?

    • Sigma_Since 93

      But that police report said Black. In the immortal words of K. Omari West, even in a Benz you’re sill a ninja in a coupe. As much as he’s tried to honor his genetic makeup, the world sees him as Black.

      • Quirlygirly

        I heard today that he was not drunk but had a bad reaction to some meds but they still took him in like he was a dunk and got a mugshot to boot.

        • Brother Mouzone

          Vicodin, no alcohol.

      • Val

        “…that police report said Black.”

        I bet that hurt Tiger’s feelings.

        • miss t-lee

          They ain’t got no Cablasian section on them reports, Val.

          • Val

            Asian was a choice though. Lol

            • miss t-lee

              They ain’t picking that option either, Val…lol

        • Brother Mouzone

          I just hope he wasn’t surprised by that.

          • Val

            The next morning after he sobered up he prolly was. Lol

      • Brother Mouzone

        That’s my whole thing when people like him INSIST on mentioning every 1/4 and 1/8th of non African blood in them. The world (and the cops) will always see your Black @ss as BLACK. Don’t run from it and don’t try to minimize the Black by elevating the level of non Black. THEY. DON’T. CARE…IT WON’T HELP YOU. The cops don’t pull you over and ask if you are mixed or just a light skinned ninja.

        • La Bandita

          His racist Asian mom told him to mention the 1/4.

  • ~*V. von Schweetz*~

    It’s hard out here for a Cablinasian

  • Yodie

    This writing is absolutely poetic!

    • La Bandita

      I know, right chica!! I would marry Damon just to read his 1st drafts – no I won’t!!

  • Val

    “Of course, this analogy isn’t perfect. Mainly because Blackness isn’t a prison. But Tiger Woods believed it to be, and attempted to escape it. And he was close. So very, very close. Close enough to feel the heat of discarded Blackness on his cheek; the shine of it on his brow; the taste of it on his tongue. He thought — he believed — he hadn’t just left Blackness. He’d transcended it. He existed above it; floating over and then away from Blackness like a balloon escaping a toddler’s grip.”

    Nice.

    • La Bandita

      I know, so deep.

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