From The Press Box

By Shannon J. Owens
Updated: January 15, 2008

ORLANDO — Thank you, Kelly Tilghman, for your insightful words about Tiger Woods. I have long believed it is dangerous to be colorblind. And thanks to you, I can finally prove it.

For those of you who have been completely detached from your Internet and television this past week, you missed yet another entertaining episode about race relations in America.

Tilghman, the first woman lead play-by-play announcer for PGA Tour tournaments, had a brutal tongue slip on the Golf Channel when she tried to make a witty retort about the domination of Tiger Woods and said younger golfers should “lynch him in a back alley.”

Some people believed there was no intentional harm. When the subject came up on ESPN’s First Take, host Dana Jacobson excused the misstep by saying, “Sometimes people who are colorblind don’t think about the choice of words they’re using.”

Even guest commentator Greg Anthony, an African American, said he had always been a supporter of Tilghman and added, “This is a perfect example where your character will allow you to get the benefit of the doubt.”

So if Tilghman represents the cream of the crop in character, then God bless the skim milk. Before the obligatory e-mail rants fill my inbox from those too sensitive to dialogue about race, I will say that after watching the video, I do think it would be misguided to call her a racist from a two-second tongue slip.

And I would not berate Woods for calling her words a “non issue” and making nice with Tilghman, a friend of 12 years.But the situation does reflect what a colorblind world devoid of history education and culture would look like.

We might all go around saying insensitive and inappropriate things with little regard for how it affects others.

Besides, the whole concept of ignoring one’s ethnicity requires us to forget everything that has happened in this country, painful and pleasant, so we can feel more comfortable with our past.

Racism is a part of our history, but it still lives in our present — 40 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King.

Just when you thought lynching and nooses finally were cleansed from modern vocabulary, along came the Jena 6.

In 2006, a group of Louisiana black high school students made national news because they were sent to jail for a school fight with a white student. Fighting cannot be condoned, but to give some background, the kids acted in response to a group of their classmates hanging a noose from a tree on school property.

In 2002, a Taylor County high school in Columbus, Ga., made national news when the students had their first desegregated prom.

In 2007, Don Imus opened a vein of controversy when he called the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hos.”

And I would suspect there are many stories of racially charged events that never made a newspaper or a television broadcast.

Martin Luther King Day is less than a week away, and I wonder if we have twisted his famous words: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

To judge someone by the content of their character does not mean we have to ignore or be afraid to accept that we are all made different.

And you know what? There is absolutely nothing wrong with being different. That is why all of the 6 billion human beings on this earth have unique fingerprints.

Still, that does not excuse the fact that we should all be treated equally and embraced for our differences.

We cannot nor should we strive to forget our birth-inherited characteristics and experiences. We should learn to respect them.