Black Athletes … White Women (Re-visited)

By Roland Rogers, CEO and CoFounder,
Updated: May 30, 2005

NEW YORK, NEW YORK I was watching a golf tournament on television, as Tiger Woods extended his winning streak on the PGA tour. His winning streak is virtually unprecedented, and yet something more unusual caught my eye. There … in a sea of White golf fans, Tiger was embracing his wife, an angelic White woman.

I remember feeling a little uncomfortable about not focusing on the love they shared, but instead on the apparent negative reaction of people Black and White, surrounding them. Their deep-seated racism was very much alive.

Since the first Africans arrived in the New World in 1502, it seems Black athletes have been able to dodge the overt hatred of a society because of athletic prowess. However throughout American history, one constant indicator of the unequal status of Blacks has been the taboo against interracial sexual contact and legal prohibition of interracial marriage.

The 1920’s Black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, was fearless in the ring and in society. Yet, I remember the movie “Great White Hope” and the perils he endured because of his skin color and relationship with a White female. It can be said, without much exaggeration, that society believing, Black males possess more physical stamina, fewer inhibitions, inexhaustible sexual appetites, and uncontrollable passions, perceived Black athletes as America’s new phallic symbol, and feared them.

Growing up in Buffalo, New York and attending a predominantly Jewish high school, and playing basketball reinforced all those myths for me. Back in those days the cheerleaders were pretty little White girls and the basketball team was mostly Black. My family’s entrepreneurial sprit and middle-class lifestyle gave me social access to a city, which by the way was one of the stops on the Underground Railroad.

On Sunday afternoons my father, brother, and I sat around watching the Cleveland Browns pummel some team into submission. However, during the commercials, we saw a blonde waitress named Mabel selling Carling Black Label beer. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about the subliminal message of “Buy my product,” it was Mabel (a White women) who caught my attention. Even today when I see Black women promoting an advertiser’s product, I see them as White women. The majority have long black straight hair, are red-boned, and speak King’s English.

America has become homogenized and perception is reality.

My question to Tiger and Black athletes is, “What kind of impact, if any, should their private lives has on a social conscience?” And, “What impact does it have on young Black girls? Does it undermine their self-esteem and confidence? What about girls abandoned by their fathers?”

OJ Simpson’s infamous “trial of the century” proved a valid acid test. Suppose “Juice” had been accused of killing only Ron Goldman. Would his acquittal have created the kind of controversy and national debate it did?… I don’t think so.

The primary issue in the case centered on the abuse and killing of a beautiful White woman, by a Black man. It wasn’t going to be tolerated.

Should Mr. Woods for better or worse (after all, he did renounce his African American roots) be nominated for Black Man of the Millennium? Although he presents a mixed message, still he almost single-handedly has catapulted the Black man into a new social acceptance. He has infiltrated the country club, exclusive, good old boy’s network. He has been accepted on the golf course and Madison Avenue. Now perhaps my grandchildren will be able to look back one day and salute a true Black hero.

It makes me wonder if I should ever question whom any Black athlete chooses as his companion.

Part 2

Interracial dating has been going on for decades. Society’s discomfort in seeing black athletes and white women has been tolerated because the athletes are rich. Although love is blind, mixed couples have often found it hard to face the scrutiny of a society reluctant to allow their passions. Why does he do it? Because a black man seeks an accessory to power by choosing a white woman. Yet a friend of mine once told me, “ The most powerful people in the world are white males and black women”. He went on to say that while white males make and arbitrate laws, black women carry them out. Just take a closer look at our own government offices. The bosses are white; the secretaries are disproportionately black. One look around New York’s City’s upper Westside and you see black women raising white children while their mothers are building careers. It seems the only thing that really matters is the money.

With more black athletes signing mega contracts everyday, the main focus everywhere is the love of green dollar bills. Even our kids are validated by how much money they make in drug deals and who is wearing the latest designer sneaker while neighborhood gentrification is slowly easing them out.

I can remember a time when family values dominated the theme along the landscape of America. It was about a day’s pay for a good day’s work. My dad had three jobs. His 9 to 5 was as a railroad motorman for a steel company and in the evening he changed hats and sold insurance and later managed a family nightclub business. Still he found time to sponsor baseball and basketball teams for my brother and me with all the other kids in the neighborhood. In those days it was about making sure his family had food on the table and maintaining a sense of integrity. Still, my dad was so busy making sure all the neighborhood kids had their needs met, that he wasn’t fully there for my brother and me. There was an emotional hole that needed to be filled.

While playing basketball I met a woman and began dating. It wasn’t until after we went to the senior prom that I realized interracial dating wasn’t going to be tolerated. As we strolled through the ballroom entrance, the stares were in disbelief. I paid for my defiance by not graduating on time. My Spanish teacher flunked me by ONE POINT on the final exam.

After high school I stopped trying to change things and decided to leave America. I found myself fleeing to Montreal, Canada. Around the same time many African Americans from all walks of life (whom I had idolized) believed things here would never change and decided to seek acceptance in other parts of the world. Anyone who left gave up something but also gained something. My dream of playing basketball in the NBA was gone but also gone was my insecurity about being a black man in America.

Over the years I continued my quest for equality and freedom. My nomadic journeys took me to far away countries. Whether in the Caribbean or Europe my acceptance was tantamount to any experience in the good old USA. Then I came home. I wasn’t in Paris or Trinidad now; I was in America and history preceded me wherever I went and sometimes it seems to me that things have not really changed that much since then. I think in a way, that we have lost our sense of balance. As long as people substitute dollars for human values, every other social problem under the sun will continue to take a back seat! To some degree racism has been diluted as we approach the millennium and the love of money has become the new measuring stick! But money is just as divisive and cruel as racism ever was. Can a black athlete freely choose any woman without society’s judgment? Is money the great equalizer?