The events that precipitated golfer Tiger Woods' car crash early Nov. 27 have not yet been made public, but reports are circulating that Woods drove his Cadillac Escalade into a tree and fire hydrant near his Florida home after a domestic dispute with his wife, Elin Nordegren, turned violent.
According to reports, the scratches that appeared on Woods' face and the blood that filled his mouth when he emerged from the vehicle didn't result from the crash but from his wife attacking him. Nordegren reportedly didn't bust the windows of Woods' SUV with a golf club to rescue him after the accident but because she was lashing out at him amid rumors that he'd taken a mistress.
In the aftermath of the accident involving the multiracial Woods and his Nordic bride, public discussion has turned to race and gender. The blogosphere is filled with commentary about how the brown-skinned Woods would have been excoriated if word spread that he had scratched up his blond wife for alleged infidelity and chased after her with a golf club when she tried to flee. Many commenters have drawn comparisons between Nordegren and Chris Brown to demonstrate how double standards apply to women and men in domestic violence incidents that are only exacerbated when race is involved.
Take TMZ.com commenters Andre and Jake. Andre remarked:
"Wow C. Brown goes crazy and beats Rihanna and everyone says he should be thrown under the jail but Elin beats Tiger and everyone says 'go Elin' funny how that works. It's wrong no matter if it's a man beating a woman or a woman beating a man..."
And Jake said:
"Put her in jail. This is such a disgusting double standard. If Tiger was the aggressor, he would already be in jail. Put her in jail. So what if he was/was not having an affair, she could have killed him."
"One of the most annoying myths that men (of all races) often make about women (of different races) is that somehow, all brown women--especially the black ones--are mean or crazy or might throw hot grits on you or scream 'GIT YO SH**' at the top of our lungs while we set all your belongings on fire in the driveway. That somehow white women (and often Asian women are lumped in here too) are just these nice, passive, docile creatures who would never, ever say a harsh word or curse you out or lift a finger in anger."
Hence, Woods' dispute with Nordegren indicates that all women, especially those who've been scorned, are capable of a wide range of behaviors, even violence. Moreover, it indicates that men of color can be victims and aggressors, alike. All too often, though, these realities are overlooked.
Because some members of society are labeled as innocent and docile and others as menacing brutes, the nation expresses shock when public figures of a certain type behave in ways that aren't so much unconventional but human nature. I in no way recommend violence as an answer to relationship problems. By allegedly reacting violently when faced with romantic betrayal, however, Elin Nordegren behaved the way that any number of women and men--black, white and in-between--would have in similar circumstances. That said, if it's true that she did physically lash out at Woods, Nordegren shouldn't be cheered for doing so, just as it would be wrong to cheer a man of color guilty of domestic violence. One of the major drawbacks of stereotyping men and women and people from different ethnic groups is that they often lead to gross double standards.
Update: Woods has released a statement on his Web site calling the rumors spreading about him and his wife malicious and false.