Tuesday, October 22, 2013
The Mammy and the Mulatto: The Oddity of Oprah and Obama
Aside from the dust up between the Dixie Chicks and George W. Bush and the former's disapproval of the U.S. war in Iraq, we have never seen a celebrity beef with the President of the United States that has been so personal as the rumored rift between media mogul, philanthropist, and part-time actress Oprah Winfrey and current Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama. Because nearly every American resident, including beasts, has some form of access to information and the media (television, internet, newspapers, and word of mouth), I refuse to presume your ignorance by intricately detailing the alleged rift between the two public figures, but I will write an extremely brief synopsis.
It is reported that Winfrey declined an invitation to the White House that was to be a gathering of celebrities to promote and support the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it has been labeled by the media pundits (mainly Fox News). Considering her global influence and likeability played a major role in helping Obama win the 2008 election, I can see how people may believe there to be dissension amongst the ranks of America's Black exceptions.
What is odd about this alleged rift between the two internationally recognized figures of color is that both of them maintain positions of ethnic/racial exceptionalism in the United States, and for the most part, both of them have a soothing appeal towards white audiences while maintaining a revered, and often times tepid, relationship with the Black American populace. One would assume that the two of them would be lifelong friends and allies. The irony is that both Obama and Oprah have been whitewashed to an extent by the media so that they are more palpable to a non-Black audience and are upheld as the embodiment of the American Dream; You too can be loved and admired by white America if you do like them--don't be too Black and don't be too Black.
Both of them are bipartisan in their approach to bridging the racial gap in American society, yet it seems that maybe Ms. Winfrey felt her contributions to his campaign, via her constant television and media presence, were to be the precursor of her being privy to White House access, and the receipient of nepotism at its best. Maybe Oprah, for all her success, wealth, and notoriety, forgot that a celebrity endorsement is much different than corporate lobbying for a political campaign. Donations and support are given in exchange for pushing a lobbyist's agenda.
What was Winfrey's agenda? Just to be seen in the White House and on the arm of Barack and Michelle Obama? Was she trying to grow or seemingly exhausted and ungrowable leviathon of celebrity? Until now, and I was a child when Oprah hit the national scene in the mid 1980s, I, and probably every other American, has never known Ms. Winfrey's sociopolitical views barring her position on child abuse. She was building a brand and that brand may have been damaged when after becoming a billionaire and thriving for more than two decades in the entertainment business, she decided to throw herself into America's political arena. Some say backing Obama had affected the success, or lack thereof, of her OWN television network. Maybe she thought her position in America's hierarchical structure was higher than it really is. She is a celebrity and philanthropist. Plain and simple. She is not a politician or one of the invisible hands that clandestinely governs the nation's government, people, and economy. She is a Black, female billionaire who lent her voice in support of Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. He won in 2008, was reelected in 2012, and no longer needs her stamp of approval. And just maybe, America's favorite talk-show host is upset and thus, declined his latest invite.
The conundrum of being a Black "exception" is that one often believes their exceptionalism should be celebrated, if not deified, by all--even other Black exceptions. American media posited Oprah as a rotund, congenial comforter of sorts for her viewing audience ala Mammy while the same media, and political, machine posited Obama as the congenial mullato that can literally appeal to the dichotomy of America's racial makeup--Black and white. Each of them has achieved enormous success in their respective fields and serve as measuring sticks for their contemporaries and standards of success for their less fortunate, less wealthy, and less famous Negroidian brethren, but do not seem to realize that they have no need to be beefing if that's what it really is. I mean, who really turns down an invite from the POTUS? Oprah. That's who? Oh, and former Chicago Bears defensive tackle and Hall of Famer Dan Hampton.
Posted by Gee Joyner at 8:22 PM