Black Women Aren’t The Help Anymore
By Thembisa S. Mshaka
Oprah Winfrey received the Cecil B. deMille Award at the 75th Golden Globes on Sunday night. As is her custom, she made herstory, becoming the first Black woman in the history of the Globes to do so. She made more herstory when she became a billionaire. Oprah is still the only Black woman who graces the cover of her own magazine every month. She is one of two Black women with ownership in domestic cable television networks, the other being Cathy Hughes of TV One. This latest honor joins a collection of honors, awards, trophies, and statuettes that could probably fill a few rooms at this point; from her talk show to her onscreen roles, from O The Oprah Magazine to her exhaustive production credits, Oprah Winfrey has spent the last four decades changing the way we see Black women for the better, and similarly, the way we see ourselves.
She has traversed the nation and the world inspiring us to live our best lives and turned it into multiple revenue streams. Her leadership in media and business are unparalleled. She surrounds herself with teams of dynamic, capable and dedicated executives. Oprah runs a well-oiled machine.
So when she turned her brilliance as a broadcaster and orator to the world from the Golden Globes stage, and invoked the power of a full circle moment that started with bearing witness to Sidney Poitier being honored as she watched from home; then deftly threaded that needle, sewing together a through line of breaking through, ending silence, working for visibility, justice and change—not just in the world of entertainment, but in the area of sexual violence—she moved everyone within the sound of her deep, velvety voice profoundly. Oprah Winfrey ran out of fucks long ago, y’all. She only says what she means, and she always makes it count when she speaks. Oprah Winfrey personifies mining and revealing, honoring and sharing, the truth. And after two years of pathological lying from politicians, purveyors of fake news, and the current occupant of the White House, Oprah’s truth was like pure, cool water to lost desert travelers.
The truth of enduring years of trauma from sexual violation in silence is not to be overlooked. It is why she ended with it. Oprah wanted the idea of no one “ever having to say ‘#metoo again’ to be the last thing we heard. Her speech is a call to action to believe victims, to eradicate shame, and to institute protections and regulations to end sexual violence.
But Americans are gonna America. Apparently, dismantling institutional patriarchy and putting an end to enabling sexual predators is way too confronting, so Oprah’s speech becomes a shiny thing that twinkles “Oprah For President!!!” like media personalities as world leaders is now the proven way to go. #OprahForPresident and #Oprah2020 crested in a wave of social media hits immediately. Did some of y’all even hear anything Oprah said?!
So now, after squandering votes by sitting out the election, wasting votes on unwinnable candidates from immature third parties, “giving Trump a chance”, and damning Hillary Clinton—the most experienced presidential candidate in history–to political hell…America wants Oprah to turn her attention away from her life’s work and billion-dollar empire? For what? Oh. For that thing that Black women do so well. Make everything better. In this case, specifically, to clean up behind the nightmare, the fire and fury if you will, of the reverberating, caustic nightmare that comes when narcissism and a nincompoop combine in the form of Donald Trump.
America doesn’t deserve Oprah Winfrey for President of these here Divided States. Yeah, I said it. Oprah is not the help.
Based on Trump’s abysmal performance, white men should be barred from holding the position for at least a generation, just like Black men probably will be after President Obama, despite all he achieved—because, racism. President Barack Obama, despite his missteps, pretty much got America together economically. He brought her back from The Great Recession, gave 30 million people access to health care, and sent two women to the Supreme Court—in the face of rabid, unbridled obstruction from The GOP. He cemented our stature abroad and gave us hope at home. But Oprah would not be inheriting that America.
Oprah would be reduced to a political referee, handcuffed by the corruption of Congress. She’d have to divorce herself from her fortune during her time in office. She’d have to deal with every political stripe, even the proud Neo-Nazi, bring back slavery, throw all gays into asylums stripes. After everything, she’s already done to make America great?
Oprah Winfrey doesn’t deserve that.
She’s much more powerful outside the White House. Grooming and financing candidates. Encouraging new voters to get and stay engaged. Endorsing politicians who can change policy on behalf of the 99%. We have Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Fmr. Senator Barbara Boxer, Ambassador Susan Rice…were any of them to seek election in 2020, they could benefit greatly from the power of Oprah.
I want Oprah to become the progressive version of the Koch Brothers. I say we let Oprah become the money and the muscle to turn the tide of hatred masquerading as legislature. To keep Congress out of every woman’s womb. To educate children for the digital age, instead of imprisoning them for life from the age of thirteen. To raise wages for the working class, and break the 30-year chain of flat income for the middle class. To get political—by using media to redirect action, to restore our faith in finding and presenting the facts. Black women have proven that they can rescue entire states from peril—see: The Alabama Senate Race of 2017. They tried to rescue the Collective Becky from #45—but that was a job Black women could not do alone. Stop trying to turn Oprah into The Help. This is not her mess to clean. Not her burden to bear. Not her ministry! She didn’t even bring it up on Sunday night.
But what if she actually wants the job and runs for President of the United States?
Your move, America.
Thembisa S. Mshaka is an award-winning creative, 25-year entertainment industry veteran and author of Put Your Dreams First: Handle Your [entertainment] Business. She is also Contributor-At-Large for Poised Magazine. Follow Thembisa on Twitter @putyrdreams1st