Vanity Fair made it official. Tiger is now a member in good standing in the pantheon of gang banging, drive by shooting, menacing, thug life, sexually on the make, young black males. At least that's what the lengthy pack of Tiger bashers quickly branded the pumping iron, buffed, ghetto trademark ski cap wearing Tiger that ungraces the cover of Vanity Fair. They and a handful of black commentators gloated that the magazine dumped on Tiger something that Tiger allegedly spent the better part of a decade fleeing in horror from, namely his blackness. The nonsensical talk of Calabanasian, as he coined his mixed-race (Caucasian, black, Native American and Asian) heritage, and his public duck and dodge of any identification with black causes, supposedly was final proof that Tiger had danced down the OJ Simpson path, and of course, we know what happened to him. The Tiger baiters bet that now that he's been scorned, trashed, and battered by corporate, and Golf World America he'll suddenly have an OJ racial epiphany.
Any other time, the Vanity Fair shot would be laughed away or shrugged off as just fun and games stuff. It would do little to change the universal perception of the carefully honed Wheaties Box, wholesome, image of the Golf World's reigning superstar. Indeed, when the photo was snapped in 2006, the devoted family man, clean Gene image of Tiger was still deeply frozen in the public's psyche. The parade of porn figures, lap dancers, cocktail waitresses, and call girls who allegedly wound up in Tiger's lair have rendered that image laughable, even pitiable. That makes the Vanity Fair cover thug life looking Tiger totally believable.
Still, the Tiger as racial martyr, closet thug, and America's new racial bad boy is silly stuff. The racial stereotypes that the Vanity Fair-Tiger shot reinforces is not. It's the shortest of short steps to think that if a fallen from the perch Tiger can be depicted as a caricature of the terrifying image that much of the public still harbors about young black males, then that image seems real, even more terrifying, and the consequences are just as dangerous.