*******I don’t hate Oprah. I truly love Oprah. She’s more than the richest black woman in the world, in my opinion. She has so much influence and clout in this country, and maybe the world! But that doesn’t exempt her from being human. And in being human, she CAN actually be wrong sometimes. And as her homegirl, it’s my duty to tug at her coat and let her know, when I think she’s wrong. The love I have is still there! *******
In my Black Culture blog, I did an article about how the Oprah Show is quickly turning to Jerry Springer tactics. For about a two week period at the end of April, Oprah did nothing but showcase black Hollywood pathos. She talked about how Monique’s brother molested her, she talked about how Todd Bridges nearly destroyed himself with methamphetimines, she talked about how Naomi Campbell is an out of control temper tantrum throwing diva.
I know some might say, “Oprah was just speaking the truth about these folks” I agree that it’s fact, but I disagree that she ought to be the one displaying it. At this time of a dangerous cultural slide back to the 1930s that America is experiencing in the media, Oprah, as a powerful media mogul, ought to display the BEST that black people world wide have to offer, to counter the negative. She’s in a unique position to do that, even as the rest of the media show black people in general, and President Obama in particular, in this horrible, racist light. She is arguably the greatest influence in American culture and actually has the power to shape this culture, through the women she influences. The black pathos may be fact, but it’s not truth! It’s too one-sided to be truth! Anyway we can get this stuff from CNN and the rest of those outlets easy enough.
But why do I keep watching? To see what she will do. So this past week, she did a show on the issues of weight (once again). She invited Geneen Roth, author of new book, Women, Food and God, to talk about women’s issues with weight. Geneen says that women’s relationship with food is based in how they live their lives. If they are happy it comes out in how they relate to food. Or if they are depressed, etc. It works itself out in how women eat. One thing I’ve noticed about Oprah is she has always tried to fit her essential black self in a white woman’s emotional box. What do I mean? I mean that Oprah has tried to see herself through the eyes of white women. She has always portrayed herself as having the same essential issues as they have. Something like the double consciousness that WEB Dubois talked about. The truth is that as black women, we are different in our experiences from white women. Because of the way race and culture play out for different races of women in this racist society, we have to admit that the emotional issues of white women essentially aren’t the same as for black women. Or I should say that the way we look at the world, our basic understanding of who we are in this world is not the same as it is for white women.
In addition, Oprah has embraced New Ageism and these authors like Geneen Roth who write from the perspective of the “AHA moment” concerning women. Because white women are so emotionally removed from themselves that they don’t understand themselves until they have an AHA moment! And maybe it’s true for some white women. But I highly doubt that it’s true for someone like Oprah, who is the only black female billionaire! I tend to believe that billionaire status wasn’t handed to her. I trust that she had to struggle and be aware of herself, and people around her as well. I don’t imagine that Oprah has no clue about herself. I don’t imagine that Oprah sees herself as a victim. But the women she talks to may see themselves that way and in order to empathize, she projects herself as “one of them”! Then the Geneen Roths of the world come in to help those women see the “Truth”! It’s contrived, it’s marketing, and it sells books. White women as victims–crying about the size of their daughters thighs! And even I, Oprah, am one of you! Please. Oprah’s just playing into that lazy “I’m a victim” mentality of some urban moms who watch her show! Uggh! Yuck to the victim stance!
So to put the marketing flavored icing on the Oprah cake, here she comes with a “revelation”! It’s her grandmama’s fault that shes fat! It’s because grandmama beat her with a switch, and forbade her to “say something” during and after the whuppings, that Oprah is so overweight right this minute. Triple Uggghhh!
I can’t tell you all how disappointed I am in my girl Oprah right this minute! She even shed three or four fake tears, because you see, grandmama stifled her voice back then, she was unable to speak to the pain of the whuppings she received in those days. And it has manifested as overeating in her life up until the present time.
Now I’m a big follower of Oprah. Been following her for nearly twenty years. I was waiting for her and Steadman to marry! I saw her wheel out all that fat! I saw the pictures of her running the marathon. So I’ve read many things written about her and many of her own quotes. One in particular comes to mind. She said that her father, Vernon Winfrey, once told her that the women in her family are big and she would be big as well, and to basically just accept that. (I’m paraphrasing, but I remember it clearly). Another quote Oprah made is that she HATES exercising! Bob Green, her long time personal trainer will attest to that. But we all know that she and Gayle love eating good food!! When they drove across America, they had access to the best American food, and they ate with relish! And for sure, enterprising food entrepreneurs send her good food to test in hopes of their businesses making it on her show. And you can’t blame them. There was one show of a cake lady whose business blew up when Oprah mentioned her on her show! The woman couldn’t even handle answering all the calls by people placing orders, much less baking the cakes!! So I’m sure people still send food to her for consideration.
So rather than just admit that she likes eating, and that food is readily available to her, and that she hates exercising, and for these reasons she’s overweight, she instead allows it to be a “spiritual reason” that goes back to the whuppings her grandmama gave her as a child. So there’s the AHA moment and the selling out of her grandmama, black culture, as well as her audience, by telling that untruth!! Geneen Roth, long in the book game, wins big time in book sales, is put back on the book map by Oprah’s endorsement, and will probably make the NYT Best Seller list!!
Why do I say that she sold out black culture? Because there are many people of her generation that will say that they got whippings as kids. When they did wrong, they were corporally punished. The whippings seem harsh by today’s standards, but the effects of racism in those times were much harsher! I bet that many high acheivers who are black will say that they were whupped when they got out of line! This “harsh” punishment to the rearend was a mechanism to keep children on the very straight and narrow path of excellence in an era where slip ups could cost you your life! So in my humble opinion, Oprah sold out an aspect of black culture to make a false point about her weight. Yeah I said it! So let’s redeem Grandmama with Oprah’s own words according to Wikipedia:
Winfrey’s career choice in media did not surprise her grandmother, who once said that ever since Winfrey could talk, she was on stage. As a child she played games interviewing her corncob doll and the crows on the fence of her family’s property. Winfrey later acknowledged her grandmother’s influence, saying it was Hattie Mae who had encouraged her to speak in public and “gave me a positive sense of myself”
So why did she do it? Maybe to help Geneen Roth who was a victim of Bernie Madoff. By Oprah putting the issue of her weight in such dramatic terms, Geneen Roth, who lost 30 years of retirement savings because of Madoff, will sell many books, helping to rebuild her nest egg. Maybe they are good friends, I don’t know. But I hate that Oprah called out her grandmother in this manner. So it ends up looking like her grandmother was a child abuser, and Oprah still feel the effects of those whuppings in her life!!
Oprah, In my humble opinion, what you should have said is–I’m very stressed out! Running this Harpo Empire is difficult, being a billionaire is difficult. Having so many people who rely on me and look to me for guidance, as though I’m God is difficult!! I get frustrated sometimes by peoples expectations of me, by all the negative talk against me, by all the people trying to get a piece of me by seeking ways to sue me! I gets tired sometimes–too tired to do workouts to stay physically fit, which I hate anyway. I’m stressed and so I reach for food, that delicious, down home food that comes to me free of charge. Those delicious red velvet cupcakes, or those hamburgers with havarti cheese, or cookies, or lasagna or whatever I like. And it’s very hard to resist. And so during times of high stress, I eat. I don’t like that I do, but I admit that I do. I’m still working on how to deal with this about myself.
So what about it all? I’m disappointed that Oprah had to go there with all of this and blame her grandmother. That was really wrong in my opinion. And now it’s very hard to even find tapes of this admission. Maybe she feels a little embarassment. I hope so. Anyway Oprah will do a show on the Smith family, Will and Jada and the kids, and how they all do it right in Hollywood. And I hope she continues to use her influence and clout to speak to the good aspects of black family life everywhere in the world, and to leave the pathos to Jerry Springer.