The Father, The Son and The Oprah Winfrey
I’m tempted to flippantly dismiss this as some sort of savior complex in which some folks are waiting for a magical person to do the things that we could be doing for ourselves however that would be too Newt Gringrich-ish of a thing for me to say. But what I will say is that I think it’s less about Oprah and more about the apex of Black middle and upper class life, which has seemingly abandoned principals of leadership for personal accomplishments. Sure we have a lot of captains of industry wielding both power and wealth from the Black community, but how many folks of means do we see doing the work within the community?
Since the days of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and civil rights movement, Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party there hasn’t been a stand out leader, or even leaders, who has championed the cause (s) of the Black community. And who could blame folks as most of those, who rose up in protest and alliance to the community found themselves killed or removed from their position of power in the community. With no leaders, the movements died. And there was nothing left for many of us to do but shrug our shoulders and start looking out for Numero Uno. Meanwhile, the overall condition of the community has not improved and in some instances it has gotten worse. Yet very few in positions of power want to jeopardize their stations in life at the risk of losing personal opportunities and vantage points.
So when folks hinge so much hope on the success of those folks in positions of power like Oprah, what they are actually looking for is to rekindle the days of past when we all seemingly worked together for the advancement of the community. Like it or not, we all do carry the burden of being Black in America including teachers, doctors, moms, dads and even the youth. And the higher your stock gets, so does the burden. Sometimes, it is painful to watch rappers, athletes, entertainers and even politicians “make it” to certain positions with the support of Black folks only to turn their backs on the community. It does happen. That’s why it’s important that we do hold folks accountable. However I’m just not sure that Oprah fits into that category.
The irony is that as much as folks in the community decry Oprah for not opening her change purse and dividing up the loot, we sure did pull a collective hissy fit when The Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), which has been struggling as of late, said that it would start creating more programming to attract black viewership. What’s good for the goose should be good for the gander too. Don’t you think?
Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.