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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Oprah Winfrey: A Waste of Opportunity

In his book, Dude, Where's My Country?, Michael Moore begged Oprah to run for President. Moore pointed out Oprah's universal appeal, good politics, and immense social and financial power. Moore still has a petition on his website imploring Oprah to run. Others have shared Moore's goal of persuading Oprah to run for President and take America back from the conservatives.

But Oprah doesn't want to be President. In fact, it's becoming more and more clear that Oprah doesn't want to do anything to drastically help society. To be fair, Oprah is one of the most charitable women in the world. Through Oprah's Angel Network and the Oprah Winfrey Foundation, Oprah has donated untold millions of dollars to good causes. The problem is that Oprah falsely believes that relatively small charitable donations are all that she needs to do, or perhaps can do, to help the world.

People are starving to death all over the world. Most of Africa cannot even access clean water. Our environment is being destroyed by mega-rich corporations who immorally exploit it for greed. In short, there simply isn't enough money to go around. If Oprah were a true philanthropist, she would give up the opulence, keep enough for her to be comfortable and give the rest away. More importantly, she would actually speak her voice and use her influence to do good.

Oprah realizes these contradictions and has found a way to cope -- she believes that extravagant, unneccessary spending is "a good thing." At a school fundraiser this week, Oprah callously and shockingly made the following statement:

"I have lots of things, like all these Manolo Blahniks. I have all that and I think it's great. I'm not one of those people like, 'Well, we must renounce ourselves.' No, I have a closet full of shoes and it's a good thing."

"I was coming back from Africa on one of my trips...I had taken one of my wealthy friends with me. She said, 'Don't you just feel guilty? Don't you just feel terrible?' I said, 'No, I don't. I do not know how me being destitute is going to help them.' Then I said when we got home, 'I'm going home to sleep on my Pratesi sheets right now and I'll feel good about it.' "

Wow. Oprah has recast the world into a strict, binary terms: either you are filthy rich or you are destitute. Either she sleeps on Pratesi sheets and has a closet full of shoes or she sleeps on a cardboard box in an alley. Oprah doesn't consider that she could do away with spending ridiculous amounts on expensive sheets and could have 10 pairs of shoes instead of a closet full of shoes. Oprah doesn't consider that she could live a lower upper class lifestyle -- with a nice home and car, with plenty of money for retirement -- and give a lot more to good causes than she currently does. Hundreds of millions being wasted on Oprah's opulence could be used to help feed starving people, provide clean water and help fight the corporate destruction of the environment. I suppose Oprah believes that I live "destitute" despite the fact that I have a roof over my head and food in my belly. Perhaps this is why Jesus said that a camel go go through the eye of a needle before a rich person enters Heaven.

To me, the larger problem with Oprah's statement is that she isn't guilty about being so rich. She doesn't see that she has a duty to help make the world a better place instead of living a bizarre life where money provides her main source of fulfillment. Although Oprah likely votes Democrat and is what some might consider a "liberal", I certainly don't believe she is a liberal. Oprah is part of the problem, not the solution. Oprah has always been totally unwilling to use her position of power to help affectuate positive change in the world. If Oprah would have implored viewers not to re-elect President Bush, he would have lost in a landslide. Instead she kept quiet and African-Americans faced increased oppression under four more years of W. Bush. Oprah even helped President Bush by having him on her show alongside Laura Bush to conduct a softball interview devoid of tough questions that helped increase Bush's potential re-election changes.

Oprah should be ashamed of continuing to waste her life interviewing petty celebrities while this world has so many problems. To be sure, there's nothing wrong with her show or the kind of entertainment it provides. But the kind of power that Oprah has attained via her wildly successful show should not be used simply to provide her with a ridiculously wealthy lifestyle. Small amounts of charitable giving (and considering her 1.2 billion net worth, her charitable giving is indeed relatively small) cannot compensate for a complete lack of public comment about the horrors of the white corporate world in which we live. As the (arguably) most powerful Black American in the world, Oprah has a duty to her race in particular, and the human race as well, to use her power for good. Her failure to do so makes her a waste of opportunity, and nothing more.

Comments on ""


Anonymous Tom said ... (2:27 PM) : 

We are all lucky that Bill Gates is the richest man in the world. He is not extravagant with his money (like Larry Ellison is), in fact he still drives himself to work in a 10 year old car. He plans to give away 95% of his money, leaving "only" 5% to his heirs. With his wealth combined with his dedication to charity he is literally changing the world for the better (AIDS in India). So for all your criticism of "white corporate America" I think you at least have to acknowledge the good example that Bill Gates is setting.

On the other hand, I don't think Oprah "owes" it to anyone to give away her wealth, like Gates has chosen to do.


Blogger Michael Alexander said ... (3:40 PM) : 

Sure, I think it's great that Bill Gates wants to donate a lot of money and is doing great things now. From what I understand, this hasn't always been the case; Bill Gates has become much more philanthropic as he has aged. But he's certainly doing more than Oprah.

A key difference between Gates and Oprah, however, is that Oprah has a great deal of social power due to her beloved image among the masses and her television program, whereas Gates does not. Oprah helps no one by doing fluff interviews and allowing Bush to come on her show for a softball interview. Well, I guess she helped Bush and his corporate buddies, but that's about it.


Blogger Tran said ... (5:10 PM) : 

I couldnt help but comment on this post, and I gotta say, it is just like my very first post on my blog (www.whitemanranting.blogspot.com)

Oprah, I'm sorry to say, doesn't do a single charitable thing for anyone, ever, in anyway, ever. Oprah manufactures tax write-offs, and that is all. I would be willing to bet that she, like most celebrity powerhouses, donates no more than the amount she is allowed she can then right off.

And, your next question most assuredly is, what is so wrong with that? Well, not only is she not actually giving anything up (since the money would have otherwise gone to taxes) but she also gets free publicity and goodwill. Companies pay millions for goodwill such as that generated by advertising and positive brand recognition. Oprah is no different; except in the regard that she doesn't even pay for her good will (she gets it as a bonus for her "donations").

Her own statements make clear her cold-hearted, uncaringness. I am glad to see that someone else has finally recognized that Oprah is not the saint that so many hold her out to be.


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (1:30 AM) : 

oprah is evilll


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (7:21 PM) : 

...but honestly why SHOULD Oprah feel horrible about being rich? She did not exploit the weak in order to come into her wealth.
She makes significant contributions to charity and uses her public image to encourage the educational development of this country.
It's UNDERSTANDABLE that she doesn't want to get mired in the political ickiness. Who would? It's a convoluted system where your every word is analyzed and turned against you. So stop trashing Oprah and respect her choice in how she wishes to help out.

It's ridiculous how some people critize others even when they donate .


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