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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Stacy Snaps Sinitic Streak

(Photo by Wojciech Migda)
In an encouraging development for the hundreds of Americans who are interested in women's golf, Stacy Lewis won the Women's British Open this weekend. The reigning LPGA player of the year birdied the last two holes on the Old Course in St. Andrews, Scotland, to finish at 72 (even-par) for the day and eight under overall. It was an exciting and impressive victory, as well as a long-awaited occurence for LPGA spectators who were anxious to see a White girl win again.

Oh, did that sound inappropriate? Sorry; my sense of when it is and isn't appropriate to bring up the race of newsmakers must be out of step with modern social mores. I didn't think there was anything racial about Stacy Lewis winning the Women's British Open, but apparently, I was wrong.
During the final round of the tournament, one of the male announcers on the Golf Channel mused that "the last 10 tournaments" have all been "won by Asian women." The Sports Xchange began its article announcing Lewis's win by declaring that the 28-year-old "ended a streak of 10 major championships by Asian players with a victory on Sunday...." Countless other sports media noted in one way or another that Lewis’ win breaks a run of 10 straight majors won by "Asian" players. (Golfweek supplemented this bit of trivia with the fact that Lewis's "victory in the 2011 Kraft Nabisco Championship had been the last major not to fall to an Asian.")

There's been a lot of efforts recently to inject race into matters of national interest that are not inherently racial: e.g., the George Zimmerman/Travon Martin case, the controversy over New York City's "Stop & Frisk" policy and certain states changing their voting laws. The individuals who have perpetrated these efforts probably have varying motives for doing so, but I can't conceive of a good reason for racializing non-racial things. In the case of Stacy Lewis's victory at St. Andrews, it is significant and a propos that this was the first time an American won a major LPGA tournament since 2011, but why not just say that? Why even bring up the race of the other winners?

It's no secret that women from the Far East have come to dominate the LPGA Tour in recent years, so I'm not that surprised that nearly every sportscaster and golf journalist who reported on the 2013 Women's British Open made sure to work this Asian-winning-streak talking point into their coverage. I'm just so sick of people injecting race into things that aren't naturally racial.

When I was a kid, a Japanese friend of mine and his family were sent to an internment camp, like hundreds of thousands of other Japanese-Americans who were guilty of nothing other than sharing a heritage with a nation that had attacked us. It was a sad chapter in American history, and although it didn't seem right to me at the time, I didn't really understand what was going on. Once I was older and understood what was done to my friend and his family and other Japanese families and German-American families and why it was done, I wasn't sure how to feel; I felt angry, confused, furious and saddened. What happened to those Americans was wrong, so very wrong, and of course the people responsible for it rationalized their actions at the time, but then, don't the leaders of any government that oppresses its people always do that?

So, if you think I'm making a big fuss about something that's just small potatoes, then you need to understand where I'm coming from. Having seen the U.S. progress from a country with internment camps and segregated schools to a society in which so many people value tolerance and diversity above all else, I have an instant dislike for attempts to racialize any issue that isn't (or shouldn't be) racial. Years ago, the late Mike Wallace asked Morgan Freeman in an interview, "How are we going to get rid of racism?" Before Wallace had even finished his question, Freeman responded, "Stop talking about it." I couldn't agree more.

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