Dear Oprah, Oops You Did it Again

I really am going to stop writing to you, clearly you’re ignoring me, but yesterday’s show was so amazing that I just had to comment.  The contrast to your show about black women and our beauty issues and this one is absolutely incredible. For one thing, for white women’s issues, you had, Hark! an actual white woman, Jessica Simpson, on to discuss it. There was no mocking or conclusion that white women are just crazy for starving themselves, or what have you. No. The media is at fault. You had a white woman there to put those issues in context, and even evoke a little sympathy for the beauty burden that white women labor under.

Contrast that to the black women’s hair issue where you had Chris Rock on to discuss black women. No black woman to provide a counterpoint, to explain the historical context of black women and our hair issues. No one there to say that there have actually been lawsuits over companies firing black women for not straightening their hair. No one to explain that at one point in this country’s history it was literally illegal for a black woman to show her hair. Geez, no wonder many of us think our hair is bad, hell it was actually criminal. Did you explore those issues as you did when you brought an actual Chinese woman on to talk about beauty issues in China? Lisa Ling was there to explain that these women aren’t breaking their legs and rounding their eyes because they’re crazy. Oh no. They’re doing it for promotional purposes, you know, to get ahead in the workplace. They’re not crazy like black women who put chemicals and weave on their heads…just because.

Chinese women and white women are important enough to be discussed in a considering and thoughtful way. Black women? Just fodder for a comedian who has made it clear that at the bare minimum he sees black women as a punchline. (Interesting trajectory for black male comics. When they lose the funny black women suddenly become their favorite punchlines. Remember Eddie Murphy and his “jungle bitches?” I’d be fascinated to explore the psychology behind that.)

And Oprah, I hope you had an Ah-hah moment when you compared the Chinese girl’s preference for white dolls to the infamous ‘doll study’ that we seem compelled to trot out every twenty years or so. Did you notice how quickly Ling distanced HER people from the comparison? Oh no, it’s something different entirely, you’re not going to get HER people caught all up in black folk’s craziness. And see Oprah, there’s the rub. Other groups have enough sense to know that constantly talking about how crazy their people are is not elevating or empowering. It doesn’t garner any sympathy. It just makes sane people want to stay the all living hell away from you. Unfortunately, my guess is you didn’t even notice. Mores the pity.

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7 thoughts on “Dear Oprah, Oops You Did it Again

  1. Years ago, a friend of mine told me that Oprah was too American. Now, this friend, like me was born in America, and so I didn’t get what she was talking about.

    But it’s episodes like the one you’re referencing here that bring her point home for me. When she made that comment, my friend meant that Oprah had bought into the American belief system, and that includes the belief that black people, women in particular, are aberrations, and we don’t know any better. We don’t matter.

  2. I think that’s kind of tough on Oprah. I know I might be jumped on for this statement. But Oprah doesn’t owe anyone anything. As black people we all seem to think that some other group of black people owe them something, an explanation, support, understanding. I don’t owe black people nothing. Feeling like you owe is one reason so many black women, sit around twiddling their thumbs waiting for black men. This is her show, she can do what she wants with it, if you want to say something different get your own show. Oprah owes me nothing, her show owes me nothing, if I decide I want to change the image of black women amongst other people including black people, I do that. I don’t wait for others to do it for me. It’s like you’re saying she’s forgotten she’s black, boy that’s a hypocritical because I’ve heard that same thing from black men who see me dating a white man. We can’t have it both ways.

  3. Clearly there’s a projection or reading comprehension problem here. Nowhere did I say anything about Oprah forgetting she’s black. To me, Oprah is a talk show host, nothing more, nothing less. And when she denigrates black women I will treat her the same way I treat any other media outlet that does the same. If you have beef with that, too bad. My blog, I write what I want. This is America, Oprah has the right to say whatever she likes on her show. Again, I have the same right to say whatever I like on my blog. Funny how that works.

    Nowhere on that post did I say that Oprah owes me anything. She doesn’t. This has nothing to do with her forgetting she’s black. Frankly I couldn’t give a flip if Oprah turned pink with white polka dots tomorrow. Her business. But when she denigrates black women it becomes my business, just as it does when Eddie Murphy or Don Imus or Touré or any other dickweed out there does it. I will object to the denigration and disrespect of black women anytime and anyplace I goddamned well please. If that bothers you, perhaps you need to find another blog to read.

    I felt disrespected by the show she did with Chris Rock where they mocked black women and he even called her a slave on her own show. My point is to compare and contrast the respect that was shown to white and Chinese women and the disrespect she showed black women on the exact same subject. Has nothing at all to do with Oprah’s blackness, has everything to do with MY blackness. I’m not waiting for Oprah to do anything, but I’ll be goddamned to hell and back before I’ll remain silent when she does such disgusting shows.

  4. I watched that show too and watched/laughed as Lisa Ling backpedaled like a son of a gun over that comparison. Oprah… she does not notice nuances when it comes to black folks because she believes a good deal of the negative stuff that is out there about blacks. She and Gayle when they talk can be a TRIP. That is all that I will say about that. As long as she does THAT, she is someone that I will continue to not watch on the daily.

  5. Well I watched this episode so long ago, cant really remember the specifics. But roslyn, I think Oprah didn’t have a Black women speaking about our Black hair issues or what not, is because Oprah filled the seat already. I mean why get a Black woman’s perspective, when you already have one…Oprah. I mean it is the Oprah show. (thats probably what she was thinking)
    Just like on the Tyra show, how she turns every topic with a guest about her own personal issues. But at the end of the day, it is HER show…

  6. But that means she’s wearing two hats. As the host can she really balance what the guest is doing? After all, what did she do when Chris Rock called her a slave? She talks about the difficulty she’s had with her hair all the type, but I’ve never heard her explain the history behind black women’s hair issues. Clearly she needed someone on that show to do that since apparently she’s not able to do so.

  7. As one who’s been in the workforce long enough to miss years worth of Oprah’s daily shows (and wouldn’t tune in even if I were on welfare or unemployment or laid up on a broken leg for weeks craving any kind of mindless sludge to take my brain off the pain) it’s still interesting to read about what she talks about. I do think it’s interesting that she didn’t defend herself as a woman with all the same hair issues any other woman would be going through. Maybe it’s because Oprah has a hairstylist on call 24/7? Possibly three. She just doesn’t approach problems the way her audience has to, I think.

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