by Michael Sharp
By now I'm sure that you've heard about golfer Fuzzy Zoeller's comments regarding Tiger Woods. When asked about Tiger's possible choice of a menu for the Champion's Dinner picked by the winner of The Master's golf tournament, Zoeller warned Tiger not to pick fried chicken and collard greens. Predictably, the media is appropriately disgusted and the corporate entities involved are befittingly appalled. The most pertinent question is: how do you feel? I mean you, not how the media tells you to feel, not how your friends expect you to feel, but how do you feel. Be honest with yourself, how do you really feel, deep down, when someone makes a statement like this? How would you feel if you heard this comment made in a more personal setting? How would you feel if someone you knew made this statement to you? These questions are really the primary questions that lie behind this current media spectacle.
As a black American, I'm rather irked. From a conditional standpoint, when anyone says anything that even seems close to being anti-black, I intuitively get ready to war. But as a grown man who refuses to be easily manipulated by anyone, I try to look beyond the obvious.
Now I don't know much about Fuzzy. Like many others, I really didn't follow golf until Tiger came along. I don't, however, feel that Zoeller is extremely prejudiced, at least not in the KKK kind of way -- just in the rich white golfer kind of way. I believe he made these comments not so much as a personal attack on Tiger or black folks but because he thought that they were funny. It's a likely bet that if the media wasn't there to witness it some of his friends would probably still be laughing.
The truth is like Fuzzy, we all are human. This isn't the first time a well-known personality has inserted his foot into his mouth. Nor will it be the last; at least not while Charles Barkley is alive. Incidents ranging from Jesse Jackson's "Hymietown" remark about Jews to the late Jimmy the Greek's ill-timed history lesson on the black athlete, we all make mistakes. Usually, these mistakes occur because our mouths work before our brains.
As a person who despises the inherent hypocrisies of political correctness as much as I despise being prejudiced against, I see the real problem as people not being able to express their true feelings. The true way to effect change is not by suppressing what people really think. The true way to effect change is to get people to voice what they feel, then discuss the problem areas and perceived lapses in judgment.
So, do African-Americans have a right to be upset? Absolutely! Do we have a right to limit and control what another person says? Absolutely not! This is America, the land of the free. So what do we do? We do what's been done to Fuzzy.
You can't change the channel without seeing Fuzzy apologizing profusely. Having been dropped by a major sponsor, and withdrawing from a tournament to avoid protests, Zoeller is really paying a price. The economic and political clout of Black America has reared its powerful head.
Black Americans must resist the temptation to succumb to the media portrayal of us as eternal victims. Truth be known, when it really comes down to it, we are listening to a man over 40 who still calls himself Fuzzy. He should be a source of amusement, not indignation.
(Michael Sharp, a member of the national Advisory Committee of the African-American leadership group Project 21, is a hydrogen plant operator in Freemont, Ohio.)
Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author, and not necessarily those of Project 21.