When Oprah Winfrey recently announced plans to end her ground breaking talk show in 2011, one overwhelming response resounded from the scores of individuals within the Black community: “Good Riddance!”
Where is the love? What has O done to deserve this much venom? For the media pioneer and super-philanthropist, it seems like enough will never be enough.
Like it or not, Oprah Winfrey is the most powerful woman within the media industry, which basically makes her the most powerful woman alive. This is an indisputable fact as well as a tough pill to swallow for anyone who’s got issues with women – and Black folks. In a culture with a history of vilifying the victimized, you can bet that there’s a special brand of animosity reserved for those who dare to succeed.
Books were my pass to personal freedom. I learned to read at age three, and soon discovered there was a whole world to conquer that went beyond our farm in Mississippi.
Oprah Winfrey’s story is unparalleled. Who would’ve thought that a Black girl born into acutely unfortunate circumstances (bestowed with a misspelled Biblical name, no less) would morph into a billionaire media mogul, philanthropist and straight up icon? It’s the voyage from her humble beginnings that makes her heroine to some and an archenemy to others. Perhaps hers is a situation that illustrates the plight of the ‘double minority’ who faces opposition from nearly any & every direction.
Why do African Americans hate Oprah?
It’s a well-known fact that human beings tend to dislike that which they choose not to understand. Enter Ms. Winfrey: An exceptional, ambitious, unapologetic woman so resilient, she managed to derive fuel from stark adversity to propel her on this remarkable journey. This is a consummate visionary who has employed her God-given gifts to rise above it all; demonstrating the indestructible nature of the human spirit.
Now, some of us may remember Oprah Winfrey as a Jheri-Curl rockin’ anchorwoman in Baltimore, or the sister who ran ole Phil Donohue out of Chi-Town. It’s undeniable, however, that once Oprah stepped out of “their” lane and created her own, she not only became a living legend, but the brunt of severe criticism, especially from fellow African Americans.
“Crustaceans in a Cylindrical Container”…
From day one, Oprah Winfrey was under attack. Her weight, in particular seemed to be the joke-du-jour for opportunistic Black comedians. The Wayans, for one, couldn’t resist raking her over the coals in their hit sitcom, In Living Color. Who could forget Kim Wayans’ portrayal of a fiending, food addicted Oprah, who ate so much during one episode that she began to float upwards, subsequently exploding into a million little potato chips that rained on her unsuspecting audience? Harsh, no doubt, but that was just an arbitrary turd dropping before the sh*tstorm – so to speak.
Since her eponymous debut, Oprah Winfrey has revolutionized daytime TV while educating, empowering, and inspiring millions of people across the planet. Oddly enough, it seems as though Winfrey has been meet with increasing condemnation by her racial counterparts over time. You may be familiar with some of the following wrathful rationale – replete with Clutch commentary, of course:
- “Oprah hates Black Men.” There are some folks who say that Winfrey doesn’t give positive Black men enough shine. Have these people even seen her show before?
- “Oprah caters too much to Middle America, a.k.a., Midwestern White women.” Regrettably, virtually every arm of entertainment does this much more flagrantly than she ever has.
- “Winfrey insists on appearing on every cover of O Magazine.” Well…If she didn’t do that then folks would be creating a freakin’ score sheet denoting the various racial/cultural imbalances of O’s chosen cover person from month to month (can a sista get a break, please?)
- “She’s amassed untold wealth in part by empowering women. Men, not so much.” – Women comprise the most historically marginalized group, bar none. It’s very possible that many chauvinistic fellas face extreme difficulty with this one on a number of levels.
- “Oprah just doesn’t do enough for African Americans.” Oh yeah? By some standards, her existence should suffice. Damn a dollar. Oprah Winfrey is a symbol of hope to millions because of her indomitable spirit, not her ‘so-called’ politics. Remember the Chinese Proverb: “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” In other words, charity is a tool one must learn how to use. It’s time to put an end to inappropriate notions of entitlement.
- “Oprah & company started a girl’s school in South Africa, not the USA.” That’s a good one, but imagine if she started one in South Central instead of Chicago, or Philly, or Oakland, and…. You catch the drift. Besides, most of the young South African girls she seeks to serve have the quality of life similar to that of our great-grand mothers – and live in a culture still reeling from a criminally insane version of apartheid (much like the one our great grandma’s endured too).
- One Black Commentator contributor suggested that Oprah uses her powers to facilitate “White Self-Congratulation,” while widely ignoring the Black experience. This is an interesting perspective, however, our culture is a product of cultural rape and severe brainwashing. Some things can’t be cut & dry. This country is tyrannical at its core; progress sometimes must wear a disguise.
The list goes on and on, quite literally to the break of dawn… Constructive criticism is one thing; casting dispersions, another.
The Black Hole of Judgment
The inherent human need to judge is proof that no one is perfect. Yes, Oprah Winfrey may not be at the top of every Black person’s list, but it often seems that she is judged too harshly for her “crimes” while not receiving enough credit for her blatant acts of kindness and generosity. In an attempt to get the ‘bigger picture’, let us not look at opinions, but facts to in support of this:
- Oprah’s Angel Network, which has donated millions to improve the quality of life for the underprivileged. Since it’s inception in 1998, it has raised over $51 million for benevolent endeavors.
- Oprah Winfrey assisted 250 African-American men in continuing or completing their education at historic Morehouse College.
- In addition to investing 40 million and some of her time establishing the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, Oprah has made great efforts to improve the lives of AIDS-affected children within the entire continent of Africa.
- As a philanthropist Winfrey has donated an estimated $303,000,000 of her own money to benefit the lives of others.
- In February 2003, Winfrey received hateful criticism for airing an episode titled, Is War the Only Answer? which featured rare anti war footage. Ironically, the program that featured people from around the world asking American not to go to war, was interrupted in several east coast markets by network broadcasts of a press conference in which President GW Bush and Colin Powell summarized the case for war.
This is just a portion of some of Winfrey’s good deeds, and as writer Gabrielle Beckles elaborates:
Oprah Winfrey is the most successful woman of all time. She owns and presents the highest ranked talk show of all time, she inspired an entire anti-intellectual nation to read, she is the only black billionaire and she is the most philanthropic African American of all time. She has put the nation’s social problems on the map and has revolutionized self-help.
So why the hate folks? Despite Oprah Winfrey’s overwhelming positive world wide positive contributions, will enough ever be enough?
With great power comes great criticism when you’re a Black woman running thangs. One of the greatest contradictions worth noting is the tendency to denigrate folks such as Oprah and Bill Cosby while effectively ignoring the no-deeds and counterproductive actions of other high profile African Americans. Countless annals can be produced on the mindless, deleterious and self-serving impact of specific influential Blacks Americans. Where’s the stream of criticism for those who knowingly contribute to the demise of not only our culture, but the overall mindset of Earth’s inhabitants?
This is not a call for all African Americans to stand up and profess their love for Oprah Winfrey, instead an appeal for an open mind and equal analysis of all influential African Americans. You may not care for her, but if you care for yourself, and community, seeking inspiration in what she does “right” rather than getting lost in that which she does not may very well help you live your own best life.
“I have a lot of things to prove to myself. One is that I can live my life fearlessly.” –Oprah Winfrey