Will Alexander, When Oprah said that “whiteness” gave the poorest of the poor an advantage over blacks, strangely, it reminded me of Whitney Houston. Houston went from singing the most heart-stirring version of the national anthem I’d ever heard in 1991, to the reality show train wreck that tarnished all she ever did in life.
“Crack is whack!” she told a skeptical Diane Sawyer in a 2002 Primetime interview. “I partied a lot, trust me. [But] You get to a point where you know the party’s over.”
Sawyer tried to make her see the obvious, but Whitney wasn’t listening.
I remember wondering whether the highly edited TV version of Whitney Houston was ever real. Was the broken version of this global superstar who she really was the entire time?
Before the drug years, Oprah dedicated an entire show to Whitney to launch her 1999 summer concert tour. “If you’ve never heard her sing live, let me tell you, she hit the notes that can really make you cry,” Oprah told her audience as she introduced Whitney. “Involuntarily, you’ll just start weeping and you won’t know what it is.”
Whitney’s talent was real. So was Oprah’s. Oprah had a magic that made an awful lot of people cry over the years. Good tears. A few years after the Oprah appearance, Whitney’s addiction made her unrecognizable. America cried. But this time it was from a sense of unspeakable loss. Grief. The classy singer who we all thought we knew so well, was gone forever – long before she actually died.
Oprah’s not on crack, but she’s under the influence of a different kind of drug: The dopey doctrine of white privilege.
Wikipedia: “Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of Barack Obama was one of the most widely covered and studied developments of the 2008 presidential campaign, as she has been described as the most influential woman in the world.”
Economists estimated that Oprah’s endorsement gave Obama over a million more votes. She later told reporters, “And I only pray in the deepest part of my being that America will rise to this moment [to elect the first black president].”
America did. Twice. But it was Obama who needed prayer. Oprah gave us the man who bent the arc of racial harmony toward division and mayhem at biblical proportions.
We also got a hint that Oprah was strung out on the white stuff in her moving endorsement of Stacey Abrams in 2018.
“All of us may have been created equal,” she said at an Abrams rally in Georgia. “But if ya woke! If you woke; if you woke just-a lil’ bit – you got sense enough to know that everybody’s not treated equally. … We see injustices – big and small – all around us every single day of our lives.”
There are clear signs that Oprah’s hooked now. Under the influence of the white stuff, this otherwise sober multi-billionaire staggered into a distorted sense of reality:
“There are white people who are not as powerful as the system of white people – the caste system that has been put in place,” she said to her white guests who were all doped up on white fragility. “But they still, no matter where they are on the rung or the ladder of success, they still have their whiteness.”
Did you catch that? A caste system! Oprah’s not just dabbling in white privilege, she’s on the hard stuff now. She snorts the sort of intellectual crack that causes you to hallucinate about the existence of a caste system – in America!
Given Oprah’s euphoria over Isabel Wilkerson’s new book, Caste: The Origins Of Our Discontent, she’s found the ideal manifesto to feed her addiction. It’s a book filled with melodic phrases and masterfully crafted “aha” metaphors that honey over a deeply flawed assumption: that “race is the primary tool and the visible decoy” of an ingrained American caste system that keeps blacks locked in the bottom rung of society.
“America is an old house,” Wilkerson writes in Caste. “We can never declare the work over. … When you live in an old house, you may not want to go into the basement after a storm to see what the rains have wrought. Choose not to look, however, at your own peril. The owner of an old house knows that whatever you are ignoring will never go away.”
What’s being ignored, she writes, is that in the U.S., race is “the visible agent of the unseen force of caste. Caste is the bones, race the skin.”
The major flaw in Wilkerson’s thinking on hierarchy is that she fails to make a distinction between the immeasurable value of blacks as human beings, versus the value of the economic performance of blacks in the marketplace. Failing to practice the habits, disciplines, and rigors that upward mobility demands is the real problem that’s being ignored “in the basement,” especially in troubled black neighborhoods. The demands of upward mobility are universal, colorblind, and impartial to rich or poor. Ignore them at your peril.
Chicago’s poorest black communities, and communities like it, need tough love right now – a principled compassion. One that tells them the truth; that although all sorts of inequities are built into life, God created us as human beings – a species, regardless of color, with superior capacities to adapt, overcome and make unlimited progress in the direst of circumstances … like Oprah did. Any idea or assumption that says otherwise is crippling, even subhuman.
Instead, “the most influential woman in the world” endorses a tyrannical race-based system that churns out unseen political chains that institutionalize victimhood. That’s why it never goes away; she’s choosing not to look at it, and poor blacks are in peril. Victimhood puts some outside force (legacy of slavery, government, “white folks”) responsible for black progress, rather than the ingenious but often messy exertions of individual effort, which none can escape.
Victimhood is the intellectual drug that caused a Chicago BLM organizer, Ariel Atkins, to hallucinate that “looting is reparations.”
Like Whitney, the current version of Oprah has become unrecognizable. She’s hitting notes that really make you cry. Unlike Whitney – who mostly hurt herself – Oprah’s drug of choice is on the path to crippling as many lives as she once empowered. But you can’t tell her that. She won’t listen. She’s high as a kite on the white stuff.
And folks, I think we might’ve lost her for good. The party’s over. And we’re grieving.