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Remember that time a young Tiger Woods burst onto the scene at the 1997 Masters, winning by a bucketful of strokes? Then remember the next year, when angry old white man Fuzzy Zoeller quipped that the "boy" was playing very well, and that the media should just tell him not to serve fried chicken, collard greens, or "whatever the hell they eat" when he picked a menu for the Champion's Dinner?

That worked out so well for Zoeller that perennial underachiever Sergio Garcia thought he would give it a try. For those who don't follow golf, it's worth knowing that these two have been engaged in a bit of a feud over the last few weeks. Garcia bombed out in typical Garcia fashion at The Player's Championship, dumping two shots into the water on Sawgrass's back nine. Tiger won the tournament, and Sergio whined that Woods had intentionally distracted him by pulling a club out of his bag while Garcia was addressing his ball. As Tiger fans are prone to doing, they cheered when Tiger pulled a three-wood, and Garcia was highly offended by those cheers. Nevermind, of course, that Tiger was located off the fairway a safe distance from Garcia.

Now comes the fun part, though, as Sergio Garcia has elevated a childish quarrel to something entirely different. At an event in London, Garcia was asked whether he would reach out to Woods at the upcoming US Open. His response:

"We will have him round every night," García responded, according to The Guardian. "We will serve fried chicken."
Under pressure from the European Tour and probably sensing that he had just done irreparable damage to his image, Garcia issued a non-apology, mainsplaining to the golf world that his "joke" wasn't racist at all. Since I'm sure there's some other explanation for making a fried chicken joke in reference to Tiger Woods.
“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.”
Here's the thing, Sergio. Your comment was meant in a racist manner. What you should have said is that you made a stupid mistake. It doesn't make your comments any more defensible, but people sometimes do hurtful, insidious things to people they're mad at. But now you're lying, and you hold the mistaken belief that we're all ignorant, stupid, or unaware of history.

Just why is the fried chicken stereotype racist? There are a number of reasons, some of them old and some of them current. Fried chicken was a dish commonly made by slaves, and it persisted among free blacks who were, at the time, too poor to afford more expensive meats. During prolonged American apartheid, fried chicken played well in black communities, as it was easy to make and even easier to refrigerate. Black people then had to worry about those things, as a meal at most restaurants was outside their reach.

Fried chicken references were often a part of racist blackface productions and other hideous minstrel shows. Later, many fast-food chicken restaurants used caricatures of black people as mascots for their restaurants. To say that fried chicken has persisted as a racist meme is an understatement, and this is nothing new.

Today, fried chicken accompanies watermelon in the pantheon of foods used to simplify and objectify black people in America. The typical racist joke implies that you can get a black person to do anything by offering them certain types of food, and an offshoot implies that black people are too simple to make diverse meal choices like their white counterparts.

What Sergio Garcia said is inexcusable. In a disagreement that threatened to paint him as a childish whiner, he's upped the ante, taking refuge in racist rhetoric about a man who has done much to provide Garcia with access to riches. His comment, coupled with a shamefully indignant response, should earn Garcia a spot outside the ropes of decent society. There is an odd reluctance to treat open racists in this way, though, and even ESPN responded in equivocal fashion, calling it a comment that "could have been racially offensive."

Garcia's comments were racist, and they provide a window into the mindset of a golfer who has decided that Tiger Woods is not due the respect that Garcia affords other players. It is time for Garcia's principal sponsors, TaylorMade-Adidas, to send a message. There are many golfers out there worthy of the company's gear and endorsement dollars. Sergio Garcia is not one of them.

Originally posted to Coby DuBose on Criminal Injustice, Race, and Poverty on Wed May 22, 2013 at 11:42 AM PDT.

Also republished by Black Kos community and Barriers and Bridges.

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