“Excellence is the best deterrent to racism or sexism.” – Oprah W.
In a war you need snipers but you also need close range shooters. There are some individuals who directly impact black culture like Malcolm X and Harriet Tubman. Those individuals are close range shooters. There are others who are black that indirectly impact black culture like Jack Johnson (first black heavyweight champion of the World – you must see the documentary Unforgiveable Blackness) & Cathy Hughes (owner and founder of TV One/Radio One). They are “snipers.” There are some who would suggest that those who directly impact black culture are more important than those who indirectly impact it but I beg to differ. There are some individuals who make an explicit impact on black history. We credit Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with the 1964 Civil Rights Act. We know that Harriet Tubman helped to free over 300 slaves. It is important that we acknowledge those who also work in other fields (pun intended) (outside of social activism) and by sheer virtue of the color of their skin and their individual success make huge strides for the race and culture as a whole. These individuals may not necessarily commit to a prominent, public role in advancing the social causes of blacks – but their own individual success helps to change the perception and capacity for what we ourselves and others believe are the parameters of possibilities.
I cannot tell you how many black people I have come across who “don’t mess with,” “don’t like,” or “can’t stand” Oprah. For whatever reason they feel she has not done her “part” for black America/black Americans. Rarely do these individuals acknowledge her contributions including:
- Motion Pictures – Oprah Winfrey either Executive Produced, Acted In, helped fund etc.: The Color Purple, The Great Debaters, Precious, Native Son and The Princess & The Frog. Not to mention the influence she had in promoting movies like The Secret Life of Bees and Akilah and the Bee.
- Legitimizing The Candidacy of Barack Obama – It was a huge risk for her to “stick her neck out” and endorse the candidacy for a first-time President. This to me showed her integrity and despite all of the criticism that she endured for “getting into politics” she was one of the first to financially and morally support then Senator Barack Obama.
- Mentorship/Support of Black Entertainers – Oprah has featured hundreds of black celebrities on her show in order for them to “tell their stories,” sell their products, promote their movies and sell their CDs ultimately exposing them to 7.4 million individuals.
Finally, as the media mogul & 3rd most powerful woman in the world (according to Forbes behind Michelle Obama & Irene Rosenfeld CEO of Kraft), she is a shining example for excellence in business, media and philanthropy.