Oprah’s Missing the Point: This Movement is Not About “a Leader”

When it comes to the issues of police brutality and the injustices that impact the majority of Black America, Oprah’s clearly out of touch. She has been for a while, and she proved it in a recent interview with People Magazine promoting “Selma,”  Winfrey stated:

“I think it’s wonderful to march and to protest and it’s wonderful to see all across the country, people doing it. But what I’m looking for is some kind of leadership to come out of this to say, This is what we want. This is what we want. This is what has to change, and these are the steps that we need to take to make these changes, and this is what we’re willing to do to get it.’ ”

Umm okay … so apparently Oprah is up on the 100s of protests, die-ins, and boycotts that have taken place across the country over the last few months, giving way to the #BlackLivesMatter movement which is sparking outrage and support from around the world. But she missed that these efforts have been coordinated and lead by the very young people she claimed are missing a leader?

Of course a lot of folks were feeling some type of way about her statement. And rightfully so.

I have great respect for Oprah and what she’s accomplished as a Black woman coming from very humble roots. This is not to say that money and fame make you less aware or mean you aren’t part of the struggle, but it can if you’re not conscious of the bubble growing around you as you rise in wealth and stardom.

What bugs me most is not that she overlooked the many young people that are stepping up as influential voices, but that she assumed we didn’t have any just off of the strength that she wasn’t aware of anyone. Instead of having the humility to say “I haven’t been in the forefront of this movement so I can’t really speak on that” she took the condescending tone that has created a disconnect between our generations.

Is she assuming we don’t have leaders or a plan simply because she doesn’t know about it?

As a billionaire who’s built her career appealing to White, middle-class, middle-aged women, I don’t expect Oprah to be up on the latest grassroots efforts in Black America; but again, at least have the humility to recognize this.

Is it that Oprah is truly looking for a “leader” to rise up or is it a personality? Because we have quite a few leaders. Truth be told, everyone is a leader in their own right. It’s what we do with the influence and resources we have that distinguishes each of us. Would you rather us have folks all up in the spotlight, caught up in their ego trying to build their brand rather than work collectively?

And maybe her focus on seeing a “leader” rise up is the problem.

This just echoes what so many of us have been trying to get across: It’s not about individuals. As protest organizer Erika Totten stated in our interview: “What people don’t understand is that young people work together – it’s not about ego for us. This is about our survival. So the leadership is decentralized. We don’t need a figurehead because we work together. We are the people we’ve been looking for, all we have is us.

Like Al Sharpton and others in the Civil Rights generation, Oprah needs to wake up to the fact that how things were handled in the past is not always effective today. Instead of searching far and wide for the one quintessential leader to stand up and bear the brunt of fighting for justice, we all need to go to work and find our place in this struggle; and for the most part, that’s what’s been happening.  We might not have another Malcolm X or MLK, but who says we need one person to be at the forefront? It’s not about building a name, it’s about producing a change. Sometimes that gets lost when people put one person on a pedestal and place all their in hope in them.

Oprah’s comments are are just another example of how out of touch some of our celebrities and public figures can be. Between Ashanti stating that our generation hasn’t had anyone speak up since Tupac to Nicki Minaj trying to excuse artists who are not speaking up by blaming it on Kanye-gate, it all shows that we can not look to people with platforms to get it. Most of the time money and fame can numb you and disconnect you from the troubles of the community which you came from. As we’ve seen, this movement is not going to be mainstream, but will continue to grow from the ground up through the efforts of those of us who are dedicated to making a difference, and not focused on money and celebrity recognition.


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