Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Quote Of The Moment

"I became so frustrated with visiting inner-city schools that I just stopped going. The sense that you need to learn just isn't there. If you ask the kids what they want or need, they will say an iPod or some sneakers. In South Africa, they don't ask for money or toys. They ask for uniforms so they can go to school."


--Oprah Whinfrey, discussing why she chose to build her new school in South Africa instead of the U.S.

14 comments:

Brother Lightness said...

I never thought I'd be so put off by an African-American choosing to do something so positive in Africa. Clearly, she could have chosen her words much better.

That said, Oprah is just keeping up with the current fad. Isn't Africa in this season?

Brother Spotless said...

I don't think I've ever been hurt by what someone has said abot black Americans; I've been angered, I've been put off, but never hurt...until now.

I saw it occur with Bobcats owner Bob Johnson, and I see it here too: members of our own community who have "made it" are turning their collective backs on us. It seems that the only black Americans who give back to black Americans are rappers and athletes...

Brother Smartness said...

Are we serious gentlemen? Oprah isn't keeping up with the fad, she started it. Her words hurt because she speaks the truth. Granted there is a systemic problem in education, but she's helping children who need help. I get the sense that you feel Oprah is more connected with black Americans than Africans. And that, consequently, her efforts should be more concentrated within our borders. Don't let your sense of connectedness with the continent (or lack there of) allow you to point your finger at her for the help she's giving. You aren't entitled to criticize her. I think you should be quiet...

Brother Tallness said...

I don't think Oprah could (or would) have rephrased her comments any differently if given the chance. Whether it's Cosby, McWhorter, Henry Louis Gates, or whoever, the sentiment is the same: poor Black Americans, that is descendents of American slaves, have failed to maximize the increased opportunity in the post civil rights age and now find themselves mired in their own culture of failure.

The super rich have all sorts of external interests that leave them sort of deracialized. The only color they are really gonna be about is green. The real question to me is are you gonna see the attitudes of a cosby, bob johnson or an oprah among the black folks in pg county, md or westchester, NYC or buckhead, ATL.

Brother Spotless said...

It hurts because she looked at black children and said they aren't fit to recieve her monetary aid.

It hurts because she is quick to talk about (and use for tv show ratings) her experiences in the rural south with no running water, her adolescent years in the city when she was taunted for not being a traditionally beautiful girl, and the time she was raped, but she won't do much to create lasting change in either place for young girls. Yes, I know she donated much needed money to Katrina victims, but that won't create anything lasting like a 150 acre school will. Plus, it was the celebrity thing to do.

It hurts because she blatantly and without apology turned her back on her community. I'm not blaming her for building a school in Africa, nor would I blame her for building one in an impovershed community in any region; schools like hers are needed in many places and she ought to be commended for making such a commitment. But Smartness, HOW DARE YOU let her off the hook for her comments? Since when are children expected to possess the value-judgement necessary to answer a question like "what do you want" with an adult-like response of "clothes to go to school?" Of course they will say something materialistic, it's all that's on tv. No Smartness, YOU should be quiet...

Brother Spotless said...

Tallness, that is a very interesting take on black Americans. Is it true? Do we exist in a culture of failure??

Brother Smartness said...

"She...turned her back on the community"

Therein lies the dilemma in your understanding of this, Spotless. Her community is that of the underprivileged. It isn't the underprivileged rural south, but the underprivileged period.

It has to do with poverty and the desire for those within that circumstance to persevere in spite of it. And Oprah is helping to further those who have their eyes on the prize.

You're not in any moral position to tell anybody how to give assitance or aid. How dare you put yourself in that position as a moral judge? I think you should be quiet.

You have no right to speak, I will speak. No, I will not allow America or you Brother Spotless, to condemn her as a woman who turns her back on her community.

So let's not play holy to moralize on her...let's help her...and her cause.

Brother Spotless said...

BS. Her community is made up of the people who were around her when she grew up.

But even if her community does consist soley of the world's entire poor population, her comments prove that she is denying girls much-needed help because they didn't answer a question to her liking. Morally defend that Minister...

Solgenique said...

http://www.usaweekend.com/06_issues/061217/061217oprah.html

Winfrey says candidly that when she has tried to help kids in this country, "I have failed." Attempting to mentor a group of girls from her adopted hometown of Chicago, "I took them on ski trips, we had etiquette classes ... you'd teach them how to do their makeup, we'd read and talk about books. And when they went home, they were criticized and beat up because their families said, 'Who do you think you are?' " The failure taught her "you can't just give people money, new homes, new stuff and think that you're giving them a new life."

Ski trips? Etiquette classes? Make-up lessons? How are those not materialistic?

If this woman can handpick 152 students from over 3,500 applicants in a foreign country, surely that care could have gone into selecting students with the appropriate community support in this country?

Truth is, Oprah has a thing for South Africa and believes she's Zulu.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4096706.stm

"I'm crazy about the South African accent," she said. "I wish I had been born here."

That comment alone... She would have probably been the grandmother of one of those children who will be enrolled in that school and living in a rundown, one room shack of a house! Hasn't her show has been on the air longer than Mandela's been out of jail?

"Woohoo" for the girls who'll take this opportunity seriously, but as someone who personally knows of Africans who were given fancy European boarding school educations and today have NOTHING to show for it... I hope she has a better idea of what she's doing 'cuz us Africans are just as materialistic.

RAK said...

I believe it is Oprah's willingness to blame the victim that is so painful. To build a school in South Africa is a beautiful thing, a moment of benevolence that has a real chance of creating meaningful change. That deserves applause and support and repeated gifts of such a type.

Were Oprah to speak of her interest and love for South Africa as she did in Solgenique's post, that would provide a (weird) positive rationale. Oprah says: I did this good because it was personally meaningful to me. It had added value in South Africa because I am interested in South Africa.

That is not what the quote about ipods vs. uniforms says, however. The quote says: I did this good because they deserved it and you Americans did not. You are not civilized properly to appreciate my largesse. That is a strong, and sadly continually internalized, criticism of black American and rationale to undersupport it that has been around since before slavery, parroted sadly by leading black intellectuals from DuBois to Frazier to now Cosby and Oprah (ok, well, Cosby and Oprah aren't intellectuals, per se, but that's just another sad topic for another sad day).

The comparison Oprah makes is far too simplistic. It is blaming the victim at its worst. It does not actually look at programs that succeed greatly in American cities. Take, for one example, DC's SEED school. A public boarding school with great success (some philosophical issues can be raised, sure, but Oprah clearly isn't interested in those) that could be duplicated in Chicago. In Chicago, she could look at the U Chicago scholars (A Prep for Prep esque program) that sends its graduates to U Chicago and equivalent schools.

But it is easier to believe that inner city blacks don't want your help than to actually work through the many complicated issues of being underprivileged in a land of privilege in order to have a lasting effect. And Solgenique makes that point very poignantly.

In other words, for Oprah, Africa is the cop-out. And she's doing great things for students in South Africa, but there is no reason to explain such deeds by bashing black Americans.

Anonymous said...

whether we like to hear it or not there is some truth behind her words. as far as what is in this season, oprah has been building and giving in africa for years now. further more its her money if she felt africa was a more fruitful investment, so be it. black children benefited. they are still our brothers and sisters no matter where in the world they are. she could be wearing a $50,000 chain with "harpo" set in pink diamonds!

Brother Spotless said...

No one denies that it's her money and she's spending it to help others; I think that point has been brought up in most if not all of the comments. Her comments concerning black children overly simplified the black American child's condition; that's the problem here...

Dammy said...

I am sure this quote was not the only thing that was said during the talk/speech/conversation. I would like to know the context from which this quote was pulled. Then and only then can the person above me argue whether this was an oversimplification or not.
It seems to me that every time a Black person criticizes people for choosing trend above education, that person gets shut down and yet when there are no critics, the complaints switch to "Why is the situation and mind set in Black American not changing" You can't eat your cake and have it.

Brother Spotless said...

Oprah was being interviewed by Anderson Cooper.

Anderson asked why did she choose South Africa to build her school.

She replied with a laundry list of her love of the Zulu heritage and reasons why she enjoys visiting the region.

Anderson asked about urban cities, and the possible need for a school like this for US minority children.

She reponded with this post's quote.