By Steven Kurlander
It seems that these days, when a celebrity is promoting a book or movie, it’s SOP to make a controversial statement about racism to heat up the coverage.
First, it was Sarah Palin’s rather stupid remark about how the national debt was “going to be like slavery when that note is due” while on a tour to promote her new Christmas book.
Her comment drew condemnations that her argument was improperly cloaked in racist terms-even though she slyly prefaced her remarks by saying “this isn’t racist.”
Then last week it was Oprah Winfrey’s turn while on a promotional tour in Great Britain for the movie “The Butler” in which she costars.
Oprah stated to a reporter that some Americans are pushing back against a beleaguered President Obama solely because he is Afro-American.
“There’s a level of disrespect for the office that occurs in some cases and maybe even many cases because he’s African American,” she said. “There’s no question about that. And it’s the kind of thing no one ever says, but everybody’s thinking it.”
In terms of what Oprah stated, the real question is how much of his unpopularity is due to his dismal job performance (that is now exaggerated by the high expectations the rock start president set at the beginning of his presidency) and how much is actually due to American’s racial bigotry toward the first African-American chief executive
Obama is losing a lot of respect these days. In fact, he is suffering from the worst unpopularity of his presidency. A new Quinnipiac University poll found that American voters disapprove of the president by a margin of 54 percent to 39 percent.
That’s the lowest approval rating he has had since becoming president, and most of the new dissatisfaction is with Obama’s mishandling of his healthcare initiative..
Winfrey also argued that such understated racism about the first African-American president was primarily based in an age group brought up in a pre-1960s culture of racial bigotry that was prevalent particularly in the American South.
“There are still generations of older people who were born and breed and marinated in that prejudice and racism and they just have to die,” she stated.
Immediately, Winfrey drew fire for the statement:
“It is patently absurd to suggest that racism is caused by old white people when racism and religious bigotry cut across all generations and ethnicities. But folks such as Winfrey don’t want to look at it that way, for they have a different agenda,” wrote Noel Sheppard, the Associate Editor of NewsBusters, a website of the conservative Media Research center.
Sheppard is right. Every American of any color skin, creed, religion, sexual preference, and even height, weight and even hair color and texture is a bigot to some extent and harbors hatred and antipathy toward others that is based in their upbringing and religious and cultural mores.
And those capacious prejudices are always in play in politics, but really, very much less like they used to be.
America has truly evolved into a very tolerant color blind nation and continues to do so.
The truth is that we live in truly harmonious times that allowed the election of the first African-American president and the accession of Winfrey as one of the most popular and wealthy American women of our times.
So in 2013, it’s not so black and white when it comes to how most Americans feel on any certain day about politicians and celebrities too, whether it is President Obama, Oprah Winfrey or anyone else.
Winfrey and other passionate supporters of the president in fact diminish their creditability by continuously playing the race card to defend the lackluster performance of the president in a time when racial acrimony has truly been permanently diminished in the US.
So here’s the real deal:: Black or white or red or yellow, over half of Americans are not very happy with the president these days for many significant reasons, the least probably being that he is an Afro-American.
Oprah is a really smart, extremely successful talk host and actress who truly achieved the American dream. She continues to have tremendous influence on the way any Americans think and perceive the issues of the day. With that celebrity and wealth befalls a sober responsibility to engage in serious, responsible dialogue.
Sadly, Winfrey can’t detach from the same dated racism she decries and does not live up to such expectations. She is no better than Sarah Palin in irresponsibly invoking buried passions of bigotry to shamefully garner attention to herself and her brand.