Thursday, January 24, 2008

The audacity of Oprah

When Oprah Winfrey endorsed Barack Obama and sold out thousands of seats in South Carolina, a lot of folks thought it was unfair. She can turn a book into a bestseller, but to endorse a presidential candidate? Outrageous. Even though Bill Clinton can use his white male former presidential swagger to campaign tirelessly on Hillary's behalf, let a powerful Black alliance come to the table, and the white, wanna-be progressive masses cry foul.

Patricia Williams tackled the issue about a month ago in The Nation. I'm a little late on it, but it's still a good read, especially when put in the context of the recent "race and gender don't matter in this campaign" platform. Check it out:

In a very straightforward sense, it's no wonder that the Double O's are such an arresting team: one of the world's most influential black men links arms with the world's most powerful black woman, and together they sell out an 18,000-seat arena in Columbia, South Carolina, so fast that the computers crash. It's an unprecedented performance of black power in the heart of the old Confederacy. For someone who lived through the most hateful moments of the civil rights era, it's exhilarating and hopeful--and vaguely scary in the vertigo it induces.

From another perspective, to many people Oprah embodies a comforting sort of motherly everywoman, whose embrace has been perhaps too comfortably nonpartisan. If some part of her audience felt betrayed when she lost more weight than the average soccer mom, it stands to reason that they'll feel betrayed when she takes an overt stand in the political realm.

The campaign is getting real dirty right now, but at the very least, it's a Critical Race Theorists wet dream.

Let the games begin.

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