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The most successful black entrepreneur of the age wants you to know how terrible life has been in racist America. So Oprah Winfrey is using the pages of the September issue of O to drive home the Black Lives Matter message: you are racist and you just can’t help yourself. You were raised in white privilege, and even if you feel bad about the racial injustice that sustains you, there is a price to pay. Get ready to be re-educated, right here in this nice lifestyle magazine you may have enjoyed reading for two decades.
For the first time in its 20-year history, the cover does not present an idealized photograph of a beaming, smartly attired Oprah. Instead it features a digital rendering of Breonna Taylor, the young woman shot to death in a police drug raid on her home in Louisville. The raid appears to be an egregious police blunder and is still being investigated. It’s a great tragedy, and Oprah’s signed editorial is a heartfelt lament.
But, setting aside the facts of the case, it is also a convenient cudgel to smite any white readers in swinging distance. Almost every page of this issue conveys a most un-Oprah-like grievance, even barely contained rage. It’s embedded in the story selection, of course, with features like “Hard White Truths,” (We asked white readers about the moments when they’ve been mostly acutely aware of their privilege, and what they’re doing about it). Or Ask Dr. Joy, in which a psychologist “offers advice to Black women beset by needy white friends.”
Yet even the usual lifestyle filler — “Beauty O-wards; it’s time to celebrate the best of the best in makeup, skincare and haircare with our top picks for feeling gorgeous from head to toe” — offers no haven from the scolding. Every editorial page bears a footnote-like banner urging some act of contrition or self-flagellation. A few of the many:
HIRE more Black people and people of color, especially into management, if you’re in a position to do so.
DINE at Black-owned restaurants. People of color are two to three times more likely to be denied business loans, and Black restaurant workers tend to be the lowest paid in the industry.
THWART the racist cash-bail system by contributing to a local bail fund.
TAKE a knee the next time you’re at a sporting event.
READ the 1619 Project . . . a masterful examination of American slavery and its legacy.
ACCEPT the hard truth — if you’re a white American, you’ve benefited from a racist system.
The hard truth is that an accomplished, much-loved television personality, who overcame a life of childhood adversity through her own hard work and talents, is insulting the very country that gave her a path to stupendous success. Over the years on television, Oprah has no doubt inspired many people with her example. Now she chooses to spread white guilt among her loyal audience.
Who can know, in this time of contraction in magazine publishing, if O will survive this departure into identity politics and grievance-mongering. No matter. Oprah has greater “woke” ambitions for her empire. Word is that her production company is hard at work translating the 1619 Project into a movie or perhaps a TV series. The browbeating has just begun.Published in