May 4, 2008

Why Oprah left Wright: Because she's black enough

I've always guessed that Barack Obama has spent a lot of time studying Oprah Winfrey's success. But, they are very different in important ways.

Allison Samuels reports in Newsweek:

[Oprah] Winfrey was a member of Trinity United from 1984 to 1986, and she continued to attend off and on into the early to the mid-1990s. But then she stopped. A major reason—but by no means the only reason—was the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

According to two sources, Winfrey was never comfortable with the tone of Wright's more incendiary sermons, which she knew had the power to damage her standing as America's favorite daytime talk-show host. "Oprah is a businesswoman, first and foremost," said one longtime friend, who requested anonymity when discussing Winfrey's personal sentiments. "She's always been aware that her audience is very mainstream, and doing anything to offend them just wouldn't be smart. She's been around black churches all her life, so Reverend Wright's anger-filled message didn't surprise her. But it just wasn't what she was looking for in a church." ...

In time, she found [a new church]: her own. "There is the Church of Oprah now," said her longtime friend, with a laugh. "She has her own following."

Friends of Sen. Barack Obama, whose relationship with Wright has rocked his bid for the White House, insist that it would be unfair to compare Winfrey's decision to leave Trinity United with his own decision to stay. "[His] reasons for attending Trinity were totally different,'' said one campaign adviser, who declined to be named discussing the Illinois senator's sentiments. "Early on, he was in search of his identity as an African-American and, more importantly, as an African-American man. Reverend Wright and other male members of the church were instrumental in helping him understand the black experience in America. Winfrey wasn't going for that. She's secure in her blackness, so that didn't have a hold on her.''

Once again, we come back to Obama's Achilles heel being the need to prove he's black enough.

Everybody always says that "Obama is comfortable in his own skin," yet his autobiographical writing is supremely uncomfortable. Last year, I called him "an unfunny Evelyn Waugh," and indeed in its "enough, already!" self-pity, Dreams from My Father is a little reminiscent of Waugh's more overly sincere autobiographical novels, such as Brideshead Revisited. Like Waugh, Obama's analyses of other people are coldly impeccable -- it's his self-conception that's worrisome.

In Britain, it wasn't unthinkable for a novelist to become Prime Minister, as, in fact, Disraeli did. But I don't think anybody ever recommended that Waugh enter politics. Nobody read Brideshead Revisited and said, "Yes, this is the kind of steady hand we want on the tiller of state."

With Obama, I just can't tell. I don't think it's too much to ask that he figure out some way to reassure the voters that his internal conflicts aren't going to get in the way of his duties.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

7 comments:

Concerned said...

Why DOES everyone say that Obama is comfortable in his own skin? To me he looks exceedingly uncomfortable, and is painfully hollow.

Big bill said...

He is a nice kid who wants everyone to like him, and for the most part college kids do like him.

I worry that his Sally Field-ish need may not be enough to handle Putin, the Dear Leader, or (God help us) the Chicoms.

daveg said...


I worry that his Sally Field-ish need may not be enough to handle Putin, the Dear Leader, or (God help us) the Chicoms.


Do people still believe any of this garbage? If we really were scared of China wouldn't we be doing something about the huge amount of trade that is basically allowing them to tool-up the nation?

Does anything think Putin represents any threat whatsoever to the united states, in any way? He is probably a better friend of the American people than some of our our leaders in that he is less corrupt.

Sidney said...

And not because Wright wanted Oprah to tithe 10% of her income?

herto said...

In South Africa the common wisdom was always that being Colored (i.e..e. of mixed race) was far tougher than being from one of the black tribes. The reason was that Apartheid recognized the identity of the tribes, so that blacks, in spite of being politically oppressed, still had a sense of identity and belonging. But coloreds just fell in-between the cracks. Once the ANC took over, after a brief honeymoon, the coloreds again find themselves on the losing side of society, not really fitting in anywhere. This is why I am opposed to interracial marriage, because it creates individuals with identity problems which they then foist on the majority and we have to say and think things we do not believe only so those confused individuals can feel a little better about themselves. When the real problem is that they lack identity. I also think most whites are more comfortable with genuine blacks, even the aggressive kind, than the washy washy colored variety.

bigboy said...

herto said...
“In South Africa the common wisdom was always that being Colored (i.e..e. of mixed race) was far tougher than being from one of the black tribes. The reason was that Apartheid recognized the identity of the tribes, so that blacks, in spite of being politically oppressed, still had a sense of identity and belonging. But coloreds just fell in-between the cracks. Once the ANC took over, after a brief honeymoon, the coloreds again find themselves on the losing side of society, not really fitting in anywhere. This is why I am opposed to interracial marriage, because it creates individuals with identity problems which they then foist on the majority and we have to say and think things we do not believe only so those confused individuals can feel a little better about themselves. When the real problem is that they lack identity. I also think most whites are more comfortable with genuine blacks, even the aggressive kind, than the washy washy colored variety.”

Firstly, the Coloreds aren’t the product of interracial marriage. They are the product of years of miscegenation involving Asians, Khoi-San people and Bantu Africans, and Europeans. Their falling between the cracks, as you put it, has less to do with their lack of identity because of their mixed-race status and more to do with the nature of South African society. By law and custom they were seen as neither here nor there, so to speak. And Coloreds do have an identity and a culture. It’s just others who have a problem seeing it. Their problem isn’t that they have identity problems, but rather that other people feel they have no identity.

Additionally, how exactly have the Coloreds in South Africa foisted their identity problems on the majority in that society? If anything, many of them today feel marginalized, not because they are confused, but because they feel (not without validity IMO) that the government only cares about blacks.

Secondly, where is your evidence that mixed-race people in general have identity problems which they foist on the majority? There are many societies outside of the U.S. and South Africa that have mixed-race populations that are quite content with themselves and don’t have identity problems (whatever that means). What is more, these people often identify with their national culture in some way or another more than their mixed-race reality.

Even in the U.S. there are many popular and anonymous mixed-race people who are comfortable with themselves; some identify with one race, others as mixed-race people. Tiger Woods seems psychologically healthy, as well as Keanu Reeves (who is seen as white). Being the product of an interracial marriage doesn’t guarantee that one will have identity issues, and products of interracial marriages aren’t the only ones with identity problems.

With respect to your last sentence, there are probably more whites who feel less comfortable around “genuine blacks” than someone like Obama. In speech and manner he’s more like them, which is why so many whites actually like him. However, this is one of those things better left unmentioned.

What is a genuine black according to you? Are you talking genetics here or someone born into the African American community in the U.S.? If you mean the latter, there are many genuine blacks who look just like Obama, and I certainly don’t need to point out genuine blacks like Jeremiah Wright who are just as aggressive as their duskier African Americans counterparts.

In contrast, I know of many very African-looking people from the English-speaking Caribbean and Africa who, because of speech patterns, cultural attitudes, and mannerisms, are seen as white acting by many Black Americans. Maybe they’re not genuine blacks.

If you are opposed to interracial marriage because you are worried about your genetic/racial inheritance being watered down or obliterated, then say so (I wonder if this opposition extends to Asians or just people of African background). People are tribal by nature after all, and it is your right to be opposed to interracial marriage just as long as you don’t infringe on someone else’s right to engage in the practice. But I do get tired of these “the progeny of interracial marriages have identity problems” nonsense being bandied about by opponents of, what is in U.S. society, a rare thing.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I'd like Obama to be smarter and less neurotic. But realistically, all he has to be is less bad than the alternative. And the more McCain prostitutes himself to the neocons and the Bush-worshippers, the lower that bar gets.