Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Color Purple

I saw the funniest political cartoon the other day. It was a huge picture of Oprah breastfeeding a baby Barack Obama. (Whoever writes/draws those things is a genius of John Stewart proportions.)

Oprah Winfrey is a very interesting subject. There is no middle ground with this woman - people either love her and adore her, or they despise her and want her off the air. But one thing is for certain: everyone knows who she is, and everyone has at least some opinion of her.

This is what I think.
I think women are much bigger fans of Oprah than men are, and I think there are two main reasons for this. First, Oprah is intimidating. She's a big personality, loud, unabashed, honest, rich, successful, powerful, with a zero poop-tolerance. She does not back down from dealing with tough issues that most people would choose to ignore. These traits must be difficult for some men to deal with. It is much easier for them to just call her names and roll their eyes at her, than it is to admit that she might just be more woman than they could handle, and could wipe the floor clean with them. Men have issues with that kind of thing. Sorry, men.
Secondly, Oprah attributes a great deal of human behavior to emotional and psychological influences, things that plenty of men don't want to discuss. "Mushy girl stuff" doesn't usually appeal to their practical nature, and Oprah loves talking about mushy girl stuff.
Anyway, I digress.

After laughing hysterically at this political cartoon, I started thinking about people's impression of Oprah. One thing that you often hear discussed, frequently, is that Oprah is racist, something I think is completely untrue. I know I'm supposed to be saying African-American (at least I think that's the politically correct terminology), but for the sake of not having to type those 16 characters over and over again, I'll use black....that should be ok for me to say since she often refers to herself as black. Oh well, I'll take my chances.
Oprah is black. A great number of her guests are also black. Plenty of the causes she supports and projects she's involved in have to do with issues in the black community. That this leads people to believe she's racist is complete hypocricy. I'm white. If someone told me to invision a woman who had been beaten by her husband, or a man who's beaten the odds and thrived with a severe disability, I would automatically picture a white woman and a white man. This has nothing to do with me being racist, it has to do with a tendancy to initially relate to people of my own race. It's not because I think that no black women are beaten by their husbands, nor is it because I don't think a black man could overcome a disability. So when Oprah's producers approach her with an idea for a show about great current musical performers, she might be first inclined to book Alicia Keys, where Dr. Phil might automatically think of Justin Timberlake. And when she's trying to book guests for a show about working mothers, the mothers she first pictures are probably going to be black. Do you see what I mean? It's about relating and familiarity and habit, rather than an intentional snub to white people. Maybe I haven't given the greatest explanation, but I'm sure someone catches my drift.
I also feel it necessary to mention how, 1)she is equally hard on every race and ethnicity when she smells B.S.; 2)she is eager to praise every race and ethnicity when she witnesses greatness, and; 3)she can do whatever she wants, since it's her TV show, and millions and billions of people are going to watch it regardless of what she does.

So here she is, Ms. O, publicly supporting a presidential candidate for the first time in her career, and he's black. Well guess what, I'm inclined to support Barack Obama too, and I'm white as the driven snow. Though I suspect our main reasons for liking him are different, I think we have one reason in common. Racism is a huge issue in the United States, even moreso than in Canada, I believe. What better way to turn all the back-woods, bigoted hillbillies on their ear, than to elect a black president? This might be an irresponsible reason, but it is excused by the fact that Mr. Obama is very intelligent and qualified, making him, in my opinion, an excellent candidate for Leader of the Free World. The fact that he's black is just icing on the cake for me, as I'm sure it is for Oprah as well, irresponsible or not.

I think racism is immature and petty. There are plenty of white people I love, and probably an equal number who I wish would get shot with a ball of their own snot. There are plenty of black people who are accomplished and outstanding, and plenty who are a pain in the ass. Character has nothing to do with race, and when people start to judge others based on character instead of race, the world will be a well-oiled machine.

It wouldn't matter if she was purple, I love Oprah. She's a smart lady with a good heart. I don't think she's racist at all. In fact, I think we share the same view of racism.

And what woman doesn't want to have something in common with Oprah?!?