“We’ll have him ’round every night,’ We will serve fried chicken.”
“I apologize for any offense that may have been caused by my comment on stage during the European Tour Players’ Awards dinner. I answered a question that was clearly made towards me as a joke with a silly remark, but in no way was the comment meant in a racist manner.”
“The comment that was made wasn’t silly. It was wrong, hurtful and clearly inappropriate.
“I’m confident that there is real regret that the remark was made.
“The Players ended nearly two weeks ago and it’s long past time to move on and talk about golf.”
OK. That is the end of the quotes section. Now for the opinion, analogy and conclusion section.
Sergio Garcia is a Spanish golfer who competes on the US PGA tour. He has endorsement deals with US companies and makes a boat-load of money in Spain, in the US and other countries around the globe. He is a rich young man who (probably) has a pretty damned good life. I know he used to date Martina Hingis (color me jealous).
Sergio is not from the US. He has not had the do’s and don’ts of our culture ingrained in him since birth. He has not been raised in a society that would ostracize a successful person for saying something stupid after having a few drinks (Jimmy the Greek). However, he has been around long enough to understand this and if he wants to be accepted in our culture and make money in our country and be followed by fans that reside in this great country, then he better be able to respect and abide by our customs and culturally significant rules. If I traveled to Spain, I would try to abide by their rules of civil society. If they do not tolerate eating with my hands, I would not do it…even if that is what I would do at home in Michigan. Simple enough, eh?
Is it simple enough to say that he should know better. And the fact that he should know better makes it a foregone conclusion that the man is a racist? I don’t think so. That is my opinion. It might be true that he is a racist. I do not know the man and do not know how his brain works and what prejudices he may have.
Is the fact that somebody was not born and raised in our culture a reason to take pause before sharpening the pitch forks and enlisting the racial police mob? I think so, but evidently I am in the minority.
A personal analogy is this. My wife was born & raised in The Philippines. She came to America in 1997 and has lived here since that time. She understands do’s and don’ts of her adopted country (she is a citizen). But, the fact that she understands them does not preclude her from making mistakes in spur of the moment conversation. This is due, in my opinion, to the fact that these cultural rules are not ingrained in her the same manner as they are with me and my fellow natives. One example is the use of the word ‘boy’. My wife uses this as a term of endearment & maternal instinct. She will sometimes refer to males ranging in age from birth to anybody 15 years or so younger than her. So, she has used this term to refer to men in their 20’s. This is not at all meant in a demeaning manner. She understands that this can be touchy. She understands it intellectually, but it is not natural to her. She uses the term in conversation because it is natural to her. It is ingrained in who she is, that that word is just a word. Not a loaded word.
So, back to Sergio. Perhaps, just perhaps, he used the fried chicken remark as an off-the-cuff remark not because he didn’t understand the cultural significance of it, but because the significance is not part of his DNA as it is yours and mine. If my wife had made this mistake, she would feel like crap. She would not be able to rest and would do whatever it took to try to make amends. Much like Sergio did.
But then again, a true racist that made the mistake of letting his real feelings possibly affect his bottom line, might also do the same thing.
There are not easy answers here. And that is my point exactly. Don’t jump to the easy conclusion. You don’t know and I don’t know. Those that read the quote and immediately branded Garcia a racist, are using their jump-to-conclusions-mat much too quickly, in my humble opinion.
Also, a parting thought. Does telling a racially insensitive joke make you a racist? Is Fuzzy Zoeller a racist? Was Jimmy the Greek a racist? I am willing to bet that 90% of American adult males (not just Caucasian) have told a racial joke at some point in our lives. But, it does not define us. It does not make us racists.