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February 03, 2005

Everybody Loves Oprah

I'm going to throw out a wild idea. I've been in some fairly vigorous debate over at Vision Circle with the gents who make me think the hardest about black politics. There, I wrote the following:

Perhaps Democrats have only recently become non-racist enough for their liberal ideas to come from behind the condescention of radical chic and actually deliver some worthwhile patronage to black constituents. Hey but that's not my issue. I discount the racism on both sides, and thus have taken away the power of 'we love black people' to focus on more hardball issues - like the kind of permanent economic improvement that is not dependent on the political will of the majority.

As soon as I wrote that, it occurred to me that there is a very cynical way of looking at Oprah's success. America loves Oprah because no matter how wealthy and powerful she becomes, she is always open, friendly, accessible and (gulp) non-threatening. Oprah stays middle class. No matter what she does, she's still right there.

In the North, they say you can get high & mighty as you like, but don't get too close. In the South they say you can get as close as you like, but don't get too high & mighty. Oprah is from the South, can't you tell? She seems incapable of offending, and I believe that is her genuine personality. I don't dislike Oprah, but I do like Cosby better. I favor my father, who is from the North, can't you tell?

I am far from convinced that blacks and whites in this country have separate destinies. But there remain a host of things we have yet to do as blacks that stand out to me like sore thumbs. Unfortunately, those are things that are generally reserved for upper class folks with money, brains and/or power. So my sore thumbs are not considered 'authentic'. I know better than anyone that unique rage of the privileged class that Ellis Cose wrote about a decade ago. Every now and then, we get closer to the kind of promised land I could retire in, but I still look at films like Eddie Murphy's Boomerang and dream on.

What is the power of 'I love black people'? How does it disarm and disable? Just throwing it out there.

Posted by mbowen at February 3, 2005 10:39 PM

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Tracked on February 5, 2005 01:50 PM