Oprah Winfrey, the “Queen of All Media,” is not known for publicly responding to criticism of any kind. Over her many years in the bright klieg lights of television, movies, books, etc., ad infinitum, she has consciously elected to let her work speak for itself. But a recent Twitter-er seems to have hit a nerve with the media maven when he accused the Big O of not paying – literally $paying$ -- enough attention to the plight of black America. The tweet and her response may be found here: http://www.kulturekritic.com/2012/07/news/oprah-goes-in-on-twitter-follower-for-questioning-her-commitment-to-black-america/
It is not known who @awalkdatalk is. But he has raised a question many black people in Chicago have wondered about for years. A lot of the questioning has centered around the composition of both Oprah’s personal and professional staff members at Harpo Studios on the edge of the black ghetto known as Chicago’s West Side. They are and always have been overwhelmingly white and female. Again, this fabulous studio sits like a shining, luxurious oasis surrounded by hordes of unemployed, desperately impoverished black people, who would give their eye teeth at the chance to work for the Queen in any capacity.
The Queen has also come under recent scrutiny for alleged "cultural insensitivity" to the whole nation of India. She did a "special" there which critics say is fraught with all of the old stereotypes about Indian people and their country.
As is also well known (and criticized), she has funded an entire school system in South Africa. When asked once why she did not establish a similar system in America, she said quite openly that she went to Africa because she knew how much her largesse would be appreciated, implying, of course, that black kids in America would not appreciate such a grand gesture.
The same criticism was made about another black Chicago icon – Michael Jordan – throughout his fantastic career with the Chicago Bulls as perhaps the greatest professional basketball player of all time. He did build (or had built in his name and of course with his blessing) a “boys and girls” center, and on the West Side. But his main extra-basketball endeavors, besides being a pitchman for Nike and dozens of other corporations, was to build “Michael Jordan Restaurants” – either in already booming downtown Chicago or in the upscale and often racially and certainly economically exclusive suburbs. He never seemed to realize (or care?) what such fine dining establishments on the black South or West Sides of Chicago could have meant, would have meant, for the depressed economies of both areas.
In both Oprah’s and Michael's defense (not that either of them need one), the Tweet exchange between her and @awalkdatalk, afforded her the opportunity to “school” those of us who really have no concept of what philanthropy really is all about. Myself included. I’ve never been, and don’t expect to be, in a position to distribute such largesse as either of these two gazillionaires any time soon. Many philanthropists simply do not publicize or advertise their generosity, preferring to remain anonymous and incognito.
And so I believe Oprah Winfrey actually deserves kudos, compliments and congratulations for putting hundreds of black men through college – Morehouse College. By the way, that’s Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, alma mater. (How much do you think she's given directly to the school itself in addition to the over 500 male students she has sponsored?) And who other than her legions of accountants, bankers, lawyers and herself really know what else she has done and is doing -- and for whom?
But, in this society, the question always seems to be "What have you done for me lately?"