The Problem of Black History

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I thought this story from the Times on the decline in the number of African-American caddies buried the lede. The writer pitches it as something we should be mournful about or at least feel rather wistful:

At the 76th Masters this week, there will be no club caddies required; only two black caddies started the season with regular jobs on the PGA Tour and one has since been fired. The great black caddies of the past, who carried the bags for Gene Sarazen and Jack Nicklaus and the game's other greats, are dead or well into the back nine of their lives. For a variety of reasons, no new generation has taken the bags from them. 

Caddying, once perceived as a menial job, has become a vocation for the college-educated and failed professionals who are lured by the astronomical purses driven by Woods's immense popularity. In 1996, the year Woods turned pro, the PGA Tour purses averaged $1.47 million. This year, they average $6.20 million.
I would argue that sometimes an absence of black people is actually the result of progress, or at the very least the result of some kind of change that doesn't immediately involve a boot on your neck. Caddying, perhaps regrettably, carries with it some connotations that don't really appeal to young black people today.

Moreover, the caddies  who spoke on the record didn't seem that wistful themselves:
At Alotian Club near Little Rock, Ark., Jackson oversees 14 caddies, only one of whom is a minority. Jackson, who earned enough as a caddie and caddie master to put his six children through college, was asked what advice he would give to an African-American youth who expressed an interest in golf. 

 "It would be my suggestion," Jackson, 65, said, "to try to be the player."
Indeed. There aren't actually that many black people in America. That the young among them don't aspire to Bagger Vance may well be different, but it may also be the result of actual advances.

It's the "Segregation gave us jazz and the blues" problem.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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