With just one swing of a golf club, Tiger Woods's wife, Elin, has shattered, or at least cracked, the stereotype of the angry and uncontrollable black woman. I, along with what I suspect to be countless other black women, would like to thank her. Not that I condone violence against anyone, but for far too many years black men—particularly successful, high-profile ones—have pointed to the unpredictable temperament of black women as one of the many reasons they so frequently choose to marry outside the race. A couple of weeks ago Elin Nordegren Woods showed them that the rage of a woman scorned knows no color.
Constant images of black females with their hands on their hips, eyes rolling and tongues lashing out at their partners (and anyone else in their way), are the norm on television shows, in movies, and even on 60-second television commercials. So prevalent is the notion of the angry black female that our current first lady was caricatured on the cover of The New Yorker with a menacing look and a black-power fist in the air. Needless to say, the idea of this type of in-your-face, over-the-top behavior from a woman is less than desirable to men of any color, but particularly African-American men—men who say they have enough to deal with from mainstream society and don't need more hassles from their better halves.
I can't count the conversations I've had over the years with men of color who were quick to offer detailed examples of black women on the rampage due to some injustice caused to them in a relationship. These women's actions, according to the men, were totally unacceptable no matter the offense or the pain inflicted. And, of course, just one or two incidents were enough to convince these men that all black women were the same and that white women, by contrast, were uniformly docile.
But now Elin Woods has put a very big hole in that already flawed theory. Though we may never know what exactly happened that fateful night in the Woods household, we do know the superstar golfer had been quite unfaithful to his wife and that she, like most women, was none too pleased about it. In fact, the golfer reportedly told a friend shortly after the incident that his wife had gone "ghetto'' on him. An interesting comment coming from someone who probably hasn't been anywhere near a ghetto, and another example of how prevalent the idea of black women as aggressors has become, even when the alleged attacker is a Swedish blonde. But Elin Woods had been humiliated and hurt by someone she loved and trusted. Those feelings don't always allow for calm, planned reactions, no matter how fair your skin or your sex.
The fact that we all have similar basic human emotions never seems to be taken into consideration by some African-American men when they list their reasons for looking outside their community for romance. (For the record, I'm all for interracial partnership as long as it's based on love, and not on some ill-conceived, made-up notion that skin color always denotes personality, attitude, and disposition.)
It's been far too easy for these men to use the emotional excuse to dismiss black women as potential partners, and it's time for it to stop. We live in a society where beauty is narrowly defined by European features—meaning long flowing hair, fair skin, and a lean figure. Black men, like everyone else, are constantly showered with those images and no doubt grow to believe that beauty is in essence the opposite of what they themselves look like. In a world that can easily make people of color feel less-than, having what mainstream society considers "the best of the best" on your arm goes a long way toward making men of color feel worthy.
I get that. I don't like it, but I get it. And I'd appreciate and respect the decision more if men were a little more honest about their reasons. Elin Woods may have turned out to be just as volatile as the stereotyped black woman that black men say they want to avoid, but she's also a blonde. If that's what men really want, why not just say it, and stop blaming black women for the breakdown of black-male/black-female relationships?
In the end, I do feel sorry for Tiger Woods, his wife, and his two children. No one should have to publicly deal with all the unpleasant details of their marriage being plastered on the front page every day. But among the many lessons to be learned here is an obvious and simple one that I hope men of color won't soon forget: you can't always judge a book by its cover. If you do, don't be surprised when that book one day comes at you with a 9-iron.