Is it a coincidence that Oprah is ranting on about racism right when she needs to drum up some publicity for a race-focused movie she’s in? First she accused a Swiss sales clerk of being racist because the sales clerk said some variation of “Are you sure you would to see that?” when this woman of the people (and PETA supporter) asked to look at a $35,000 animal-skin purse. Now, after offering a half-hearted non-apology, Oprah’s back again, this time saying that all Americans are racist even if they hold no negative views towards blacks.
This dazzling bit of Orwellian doublethink took place when CNN’s Anderson Cooper interviewed both Oprah and Forest Whitaker as they made the media rounds to shill their new movie, The Butler. That movie, which has been damned for anti-Republican inaccuracies, purports to show the entire civil rights movement, right up until Obama’s election, through the eyes of a White House butler.
Oprah opened up the subject by suggesting that Emmitt Till, a 14-year-old boy whom racists murdered in Mississippi during the height of the civil rights era, was exactly the same as Trayvon Martin, a drug-taking, violence-obsessed, hulking 17-year-old who was killed when the man he was trying to beat to death managed to shoot him first. Anderson responded by saying that, while blacks are upset about the Martin case, whites think that they are reading too much into it.
And there was the opening Oprah needed to begin discussing whites and race in America. It started off innocuously enough:
Oh, I know, I know. That’s why I love the film in light of this discussion is because it brings context to this discussion. I mean, look at the film, beginning with that lynching scene and ending with walking into Obama’s office, look at what has happened in the span of one man’s lifetime.
From this meaningless, New Age blah-blah, it was a short step to incoherence for Oprah and Whitaker. Inspired by Oprah, Whitaker offered that “This movie reminds us of the circular motion of things still trying working themselves is going on, as in Emmitt Till, and we’re looking at Trayvon, we’re looking at Oscar Grant, we’re looking at all these situations and recognizing we have to move ourselves forward with this change.” If nothing else, Whitaker reminds us that most actors do better with someone else’s lines than when they try to write their own.
Not to be outdone by someone other than herself, Oprah upped the incoherence ante:
Emmitt Till became a symbol for those times as Emmitt Till has become a symbol for this time. I mean, there are multiple Trayvon Martins whose names never make the newspapers or the headlines. The circumstances surrounding that allowed that to be. There were multiple Emmitt Tills, there were multiple lynchings, there were multiple young black boys whose names are not remembered and often not even recorded.
I’ve read that five times now and I still can’t figure out what Oprah’s saying. I think she had a talking point memo that urged her to use the phrases “Emmitt Till,” “Trayvon Martin,” and “lynchings,” with urgent intensity in the hope that some meaning would eventually emerge.
Talking nonsense was just the warm-up act for Oprah’s real point, which is that white people are inherently racist, even if they’re not actually . . . racist. Oprah had her answer all ready when Cooper pointed out that there was one juror (clearly a bad jury) “who did not understand, did not feel linked to Trayvon Martin, felt connected to George Zimmerman in a way, but not Trayvon Martin, she felt race was not part of this case at all.” Heck, Oprah practically stampeded him to get her point out there:
People don’t feel it’s race because people don’t call it race…A lot of people think if they think they’re not using the n-word themselves, they physically aren’t using the n-word themselves, and do not harbor ill will towards black people that it’s not racist. But to me it’s ridiculous to look at that case and not to think that race was involved.
In other words, if a black person is involved in anything whatsoever that’s not a completely positive situation, racism is at the root of it. End of story.
Let’s stipulate that there are racist people in America. These are people who judge others, not by the content of their character, but by the color of their skin. Let’s further stipulate that this is a bad thing, because it dehumanizes people. And while the race mongers won’t want to admit this, let’s stipulate that blacks are as guilty of racism as whites. But what all honest people have to acknowledge is that, while we have racist people living in America, America is no longer an institutionally racist nation, because our laws and traditions are strongly opposed to racism.
Oh, and one more thing: Let’s stipulate that we won’t assume that actors are stupid and ill-informed until they open their mouths and actually prove it.