Oprah Gives But Doesn’t Speak Truth to Power

By Walter L. Hilliard III

I recently read about a Black Twitterer asking Oprah when is she going to give to the American Ghettos?  We all know she built a school in South Africa, but we don’t hear much about her giving to Black American causes.

Well, Oprah gave a testy response to Brotherman, telling him she’s put 500 men through college, and how many has he put through?

Ohhhh, that must hurt!!!

But I’d ask, would it not be more valuable if she spoke up about racism and positively influenced the minds of 45 million Black people and over 300 million Americans?  Surely, that’s more than even her influence on the lives of only 500 men.

“To he whom much is given, much is expected.”  Yes, she’s provided about $12 million for Black men going through Morehouse College, the historically Black, all-male college, and this is truly honorable.

However, I don’t believe that’s really Black people’s issue with Oprah.

Generally speaking, most Black people have slowed their roll when it comes to criticizing Oprah over the years because she is successful and rich, which seems to fulfill most of their expectations of her because of Black’s infatuation with materialism.  But Oprah, despite her power and money, doesn’t speak truth to power, she doesn’t really attack racism because that would mean she’d be attacking White racism and White privilege — and this would not go over well with her predominantly White female audience or the mainstream media.

Whether it’s Oprah or Bill Cosby or Will Smith, bringing up the issue of race or getting on White folk’s case about racism, especially in regards to Hollywood, is not something the most successful and powerful Blacks in the media are willing to do.  Why?  They’re too scared.   The “fear of pissing off White folks” is embedded in the Black Psyche, from the masters whip during slavery to lynchings and on through Blacks “staying in their place” today, not making waves at work, on the Democratic plantation, or anywhere else.   However, Oprah and Bill have no problem criticizing Blacks.  And we all know Cosby has been doing this, vilifying poor Blacks, for years now.

The fact is, many Black folks issues with Oprah revolve around the fact that she seems to deal with race in a superficial, “Oh, it’s not that bad” kind of way, when it really, really, really is “that bad.”  I mean, have you heard her make her periodic “Am I having a racial moment” comment when she talks about things like not being able to get into one of the exclusive clothing stores in NY to shop? There are over a million Black men in prison, record levels of racial discrimination cases filed with the EEOC, double and triple Black unemployment, and half the kids at many of our city high schools are dropping out.

But you’d never know the severity of all these problems in the Black community if you watched Oprah on her “let’s discuss any issue but anti- Black racism” Bully Pulpit OWN.   The reality is that she mentions racism about as much as her buddy, whom she supported, Barack Obama does.

And other Blacks in the media aren’t much better.  For example, how pathetic is Soledad O’Brien’s “Black in America” series because she really doesn’t explore racism or White privilege.  She deals with the symptoms, Black folks issues, and not the cause, racism.  And if she interviews one more Black pastor, I’m going to screammmm!!!  You know someone doesn’t know what’s really up, or what’s going on, with Black people when they always show up with their cameras and questions and want to talk to a Black pastor.  Most Black people already know that most of these pastors are the last people they should be talking to with all of the undercover drama going on in these churches.

At some point, Cosby, Oprah, Smith, LeBron James, Obama, Black preachers, Black politicians and other so called leaders, as well as everyday Black people, are going to have to stop indulging in “delusion,” stop acting mentally ill, stop letting their fear of the consequences of standing up to racism prevent them from speaking up and doing something about it.

Oprah and others should be doing weekly shows, talking about how White racism and White privilege destroy Black lives when there are over a million Blacks incarcerated, healthcare is still insufficient, poverty persists, and Blacks are still the last hired and last fired.

Just giving money to Black causes doesn’t make the needed impact and doesn’t challenge Whites to question their views about race or how they view Black people.

Racism in America persists because Blacks don’t do anything about it except complain among themselves.  Whites are not going to deal with racism or remove the barriers until Blacks demand that they do so like they did in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement.

So what are you going to do Oprah?  Your OWN network has the power to reach deep into the minds of the masses.

What are you going to do Black Man?  Black Woman?  Black people?

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