Forgive me, reader, for I have sinned: I once purchased (and read) a Michael Moore book.
It was New Year’s Eve eve of 2003 and, returning from spending Christmas with family and facing a red-eye from LAX to Newark Airport, I realized I’d forgotten my reading material. Moore’s “Dude, Where’s My Country?” was heavily discounted in the terminal bookstore. I was mildly curious and very broke — plus, I’m guessing “Atlas Shrugged” or “The Road to Serfdom” aren’t big sellers when people are just looking for something to take their mind off of popping ears and crying babies on their way to Minneapolis.
The vast majority of it was risible — and 17 years later, most of it remains so. I remember agreeing with one thing in the book (“Mumia probably killed that guy”), but the rest was rubbish that I suspect Moore barely even read, much less wrote. Even then, it was short and undemanding enough that I’d finished it — and gotten some sleep, no less — before the Continental 757 touched down in New Jersey.
I’ve long since lost the book and forgotten most of its contents, but one of Moore’s stranger ideas has stuck with me for over a decade and a half: He wanted Oprah Winfrey to run for president.
This was in the context of the 2004 election, where it was assumed, at that time, Moore’s Democrats would probably be nominating Howard Dean to face George W. Bush. (Things would soon take a very loud turn.) Oprah, meanwhile, offered a televised lifestyle accoutrement to upper-middle-class women — who always seemed to be of a moderate-liberal bent, in my experience, but Oprah herself never ventured deeply enough into politics to get anyone to change the channel.
This changed four years later when she endorsed Barack Obama, but even then, the idea of Oprah as a presidential candidate seemed a bit farfetched. After Donald Trump’s win in 2016, however, people started taking Moore’s idea seriously — if just because they concluded that the reason Donald Trump won was simply because he was a rich person on TV, proof there’s a legion of opinion leaders who’ll actively avoid getting the point if it means having to admit uncomfortable truths about their political worldview to themselves.
I always thought the Oprah-for-president idea was piffle, but I’m changing course, even though it’s too late for her to join the fray this year. Oprah should be the Democratic nominee, even though I don’t want her to win. After watching parts of her conversation with former NFL linebacker Emmanuel Acho, I’m convinced she’s the most visible, most on-brand personification of the new American wokeness.
Oprah is a woman who, in the midst of America’s cultural tumult, has the courage to tell it like it is. Sure, she may be a billionaire, one of the most powerful media figures to stride upon this Earth — but she’s going to lecture you white people about your arrant privilege.
“There are white people who are not as powerful as the system of white people — the caste system that’s been put in place — but they still, no matter where they are on the rung, or the ladder of success, they still have their whiteness,” Oprah said during a recent episode of “The Oprah Conversation,” according to TheBlaze.
“[Whites have a] leg up,” she added. “You still have your whiteness. That’s what the term ‘white privilege’ is. It means that whiteness still gives you an advantage, no matter. It is the fundamental issue.”
So much wokeness. So much power speaking truth to the common people. And, as Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz pointed out on Twitter, so much “utter, racist BS.”
Billionaire Oprah lectures the rest of us:
“You still have your whiteness. That’s what the term ‘white privilege’ is. It means that whiteness still gives you an advantage, no matter.”
What utter, racist BS. https://t.co/02PADVJkrZ
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) August 5, 2020
The episode of Oprah’s new show, which streams on Apple TV+, was titled “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man: Part 1.” It’s unclear from that title who this was supposed to be uncomfortable for, although you could quickly grasp the meaning from context.
“I firmly believe that if the white person is your problem, only the white person can be your solution,” said Acho, now a Fox Sports 1 analyst.
The “solution,” such as it was on the episode, involved ordinary white people spilling out their racism in scenes that felt eerily like Scientologist auditing for white privilege.
There was a guest named “Seth” who Winfrey said had “become woke during this period, and realized in that awakening that you are racist.”
“I was born in the ’70s,” Seth said. “I was born and raised in Manhattan. I’ve always considered myself to be liberal. Now I’m not only a friend of people of color, but also an advocate … but this movement over the last month has been powerful. … I realized that I couldn’t be not racist. I realized that I either was a racist or an anti-racist, and I wasn’t — I’m not — an anti-racist.”
Another confessor, “Lisa”, admitted to having the same “unconscious biases that white people have.”
These white privilege confessions seemed to have the intended message: “Look, white America: If these people say they’re racist, how bad must you be?” Real racists, however, aren’t going to sit through this — and neither are a lot of other people who aren’t racists, including plenty of people who aren’t white.
Acho, for his part, said white suburbia was partially to blame.
“Here’s what I told my friends with their white children,” Acho said. “I said ‘Y’all live in a white cul-de-sac, in a white neighborhood, in a white city, in a white state. If you were not careful, your children will live their whole white life, and at 26, 27, they’ll end up being a part of the problem, because you just let them and allowed them to live a completely white, sheltered, and cultureless life.”
He added that “white people — the proverbial phrase of white people — they run America. CEOs, Fortune 500 companies, execs, ownership. They run America. Not an individual white person, but collective white people.”
It’s worth noting those are individual white people, however — “CEOs, Fortune 500 companies, execs, ownership” — whereas the vast majority of white people are shut out of those positions of running America, as well.
There’s another irony here worth noting:
Said the billionaire made a billionaire by her overwhelmingly white audience. What a fraud. https://t.co/aNoUrga6SP
— Chris Stigall (@ChrisStigall) August 5, 2020
— Charlie (@CharlieBayer8) August 5, 2020
I understand liking one black media mogul doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not a racist, but I’d argue it makes you a lot less likely to be.
Whatever the case, there’s a difference between acknowledging racism and this sort of anaphylactic reaction, which will be summarily dismissed by anyone who wasn’t in lockstep with Oprah and her guests before they started watching.
One of the wealthiest, most powerful people in media lecturing us all on how privileged we are just because of our race is farcical — and, as Ted Cruz noted, “utter, racist BS.” And yet, it’s very much of the moment.
Seventeen years later, Michael Moore’s tossed-off idea has fully ripened. Sure, on the minutiae of how to run a nation, Oprah would be an empty vessel — but so is Joe Biden, at this point, and it’s difficult for a man who worked with arch-segregationists like Sen. James Eastland to stop forced busing in the 1970s to grasp the shibboleths of the new woke American left quite as easily as Oprah can. She’s the candidate they want — and which they deserve.
Alas, Moore and Oprah will both just be celebrities making money off of telling their audience how awful they are. If only she’d picked up “Dude, Where’s My Country?”, maybe she could have turned that contempt into votes.
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