A Tradition of Exclusion

The 79th Masters Tournament begins today at Augusta National Golf Club, in Georgia.  Many Americans will tune in, attracted by the regular ads (airing since January), the drama of the tournament, the manicured landscape, the brilliant azaleas and, for birders, the calls of great-crested flycatchers ringing behind the hushed voices of the broadcasters.

But the tradition at Augusta National has a dark side as well.  Established in 1933, the organization did not admit African American members until 1990 (26 years after the Civil Rights Act) and did not offer membership to women until 2012 (an internationally famous woman and a local female business leader were accepted).  The Club might respond that blacks have been essential participants on the pristine course since its inception.....as caddies; indeed, Augusta National required Masters participants to use their African American caddies through much of the Tournament's history, highlighting the racial disparity at the Club.

Too often, we humans, focused on tradition and our personal passions, ignore the behavior of organizations that we support through membership, sponsorship or indirect participation.  Many Catholics, enamored with the traditions of their Church, continue to offer support despite its lackluster response to the child sexual abuse scandal and its ongoing opposition to gay marriage, contraception and women in the priesthood.  Manifesting a tradition of exclusion, organizations such as the Augusta National Country Club and the Catholic Church face dwindling support from younger generations that eschew tradition in favor of social progress and individual rights.