Tuesday, May 15, 2007

George Patton and Oprah Winfrey...

"A man who is not himself is nobody". (GSP Jr. 1944)

"I stand here as a symbol of what is possible when you believe in the dream of your own life. Don't be afraid. All you need to do is know who you are." (OW 2007)

They would have hated, respected, understood, and been proud of one another.

Some people are all upset about Oprah Winfrey's commencement speech at Howard, and the "good white folks" sound bite.

Seeing racism in this snippet of the speech is falling into the mind of Sharpton.

She is not seeing racism everywhere, she’s talking about historical fact. I grew up with black servants and I can imagine exactly this conversation going on. When Miss Winfrey was born, little southern black girls had a very limited future and her (or Secretary Rice’s) trajectory was almost unimaginable. Fortunately for all of us the white and black people around her, and the white and black people around hundreds of thousands of other Americans who happened to be black (and girls), let themselves imagine. And they worked, white and black, to create ways to let the imagined become real.

There are PLENTY of reasons- good, human, American reasons- to read this sound bite as not a racial artifact. Rudy Giuliani’s grandparents might have said something similar. The POINT of America is that with liberty, the cream can rise to the top despite all kinds of disadvantage. The POINT of good families, schools, and societies is that over generations, they inspire and permit their members to persevere and strive.

I believe those were General Howard’s points when he founded his schools, too.

Getting knotted drawers over this “sound bite” also betrays the ignorance of an outsider in time and culture. It IS an artifact of the speaker’s history.
My grandparents were of exactly the class and era and place that employed her grandmother. Though I disagree with a lot of her opinions and deplore plenty of her actions, I’m as proud as I can be of Oprah Winfrey. Her grandmother’s “good white folks” would be, too. Because in a perverse yet very human way, she’s part of the family.

People not from the south, or not from her or my background, or of a much newer time, have a very hard time really understanding that.

  • I notice the complainers aren't mentioning what she said about young black folks- "They don't know what you know. They're falling and they're failing. They're dropping out at rates of 50 percent and higher because we, our generation, didn't teach them who they are. We have a responsibility to raise them up, to lift them up, to save them, to liberate them from themselves."
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