Opinion: HBO Tiger Woods doc explores the 'Great American myth' of a non-racist country

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A new documentary on the rise and fall of Tiger Woods – “Tiger” – reveals details about the pro-golfer from people who knew him intimately. (Jan. 5)

AP Entertainment

It was after Tiger Woods’ historic 1997 Masters win that in many corners of the country, particularly the conservative ones, Woods’ accomplishment was presented as proof that America wasn’t racist.

There were many striking aspects of part one of the new HBO documentary Tiger, which premiered on Sunday night (part two debuts Jan. 17). One of the most powerful was the documentary’s reminder that at the time some believed Woods’ win signaled racism in America was in its dying stages. 

Woods, following that Masters, was used as a bludgeon to the notion that the country was hostile to people of color. Conservative politicians and media bathed in this. Some of the reason why was tactical. At the time, prominent Republicans like Newt Gingrich pushed back against some national policies and belief systems like affirmative action, feeling that racism had waned to such low levels, these type of policies were no longer needed.

If racism didn’t exist, or was minimal, the argument went, why…

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