The Age of Oprah, Cultural Icon For the Neoliberal Era

A Black Agenda Radio Interview by Bruce Dixon

f you work hard enough, if you prepare long enough, if you visualize astutely and pray on it resolutely, it really can happen for you. At least that's the way it works in the world of Oprah Winfrey. In the Age of Oprah, author Janice Peck explains, there's no such thing as collective problem-solving; there are only individual, market-driven and spirit-centered solutions. Water polluted? Buy it bottled. Dissatisfied with your kids' school? Find a private one or home school. Dead-end job with no respect and no benefits? Polish that resume and assume an attitude of gratitude, or get ready to start your own business. House falling down? Maybe you can qualify for an extreme makeover. Is the world view of Oprah really uplifting after all? Or does it disempower individuals and disarm communities?

Bruce Dixon interviews Janice Peck, author of The Age of Oprah, Cultural Icon for the Neoliberal Era.

The Age of Oprah, Cultural  Icon For the Neoliberal Era 

A Black Agenda Radio interview by Bruce Dixon

The following is a rushed and lightly edited transcript of BAR Managing Editor Bruce Dixon's on-air interview with Dr. Janice Peck, author of The Age of Oprah, Cultural Icon For the Neoliberal Era, broadcast Monday, June 2, on WRFG Atlanta's Just Peace show.

Those wishing to hear the audio of this interview, about 23 minutes, can click the flash player below.

Click the flash player below to listen to or the mic to download an mp3 copy of this BA Radio interview.

BD: Unless you've lived the last 25 years in some cave under a mountain with no cable TV, Oprah Winfrey is one of those figures in American life that need no introduction. We're all familiar with the outlines of her life and career, how she rose from rural poverty in Mississippi to head a vast media empire of radio networks, TV and movie production houses, multiple magazines, a web site and of course a long running syndicated talk show with multiple spin-offs. We know Oprah is a billionaire, and we're acquainted with various, intimate personal details of her life, her favorite colors, how many dogs, cats and houses she has, and how she likes to shop and especially how she likes to give away money and things to the less fortunate.

Don't we already know just about all there is to know about Oprah? What else is there?

JP: You're right the vast popular literature on Oprah is enormous. I think there are things we (still) want to know, and that's what drove me to write the book about her.

What I wanted to do is not look at Oprah from a personal perspective, but to situate her historically and politically, to understand how she became this very powerful, this world and international icon in relation to some political and economic developments in the US over the last twenty-five years. In some ways what I've done is tried to write a political history of the enterprise of Oprah and what she's done, something quite different from most of the things we usually see written about her.oprah_hands

BD Since this is a political history of Oprah, how Oprah relates to culture and politics, does that mean that you had to sit down and talk to her about this?

JP: I actually did not interview Oprah Winfrey for this project, for a couple reasons. One is very simple. In the nineties when I was teaching at the University of Minnesota and first got interested in studying television talk shows, I wanted to go to Chicago to be in the audience and interview Oprah Winfrey, and I was told by her publicist at the time that Ms. Winfrey did not talk to academics, she did not give interviews to academics. Well, I thought, that's alright, I don't really need to talk to her. But also because the kind of book I've written is not really a biography, where you need to talk to the individual and learn a lot about her personally. I'm writing about her as a cultural phenomenon and public figure. I'm looking at her through the lens of this enormous amount of media coverage we have on her. In some sense talking to her wasn't what my book was about, it's more an observation about her power, her cultural significance from the perspective of a media analysis.

BD: So if we want to know where her favorite shoe store is or something like that, we'll have to read the manazine, huh?

JP: Yeah, there are plenty of other places where you can find those kinds of things. I didn't think I needed to repeat them.

BD: We probably couldn't afford to go to her favorite shoe store anyway.

JP: Most people cannot... I chose the title “The Age of Oprah, cultural Icon for the Neo Liberal Era because in 2000 Newsweek magazine had a cover story that referred to it, to our age as the Age of Oprah. I thought that was a perfect title because I'm trying to make the argument that Oprah Winfrey represents certain important things about our era. That's where I got the first part of the title.

BD: You're calling her a cultural icon for the neoliberal era. Now we understand that you're not calling her liberal, or even neoliberal, but that neoliberal is a label for the times in which we are living. So what are some of the hallmarks of this neoliberal era that we're living in, and what makes Oprah a ciltural icon for neoliberalism.

JP: Neoliberal and neoliberalism is a term to refer to an economic theory and also a set of policies. We can historically situate that with the election of Ronald Regan in the US and of Margaret Thatcher in England. It's a theory about what kind of relationship the government should have to the economy. It's a response to what was seen as a kind of economic crisis in the 70s, with high inflatiion, what was called stagflation. This was seen as a way to correct that.

After World War 2 in the US the idea of the relationship of the government to the economy was that the government needed to intervene in the economy to make sure that we avoided crises like the Great Depression, for example. So it was the responsibility of the government to focus on full employment, and economic growth on the welfare of citizens and that would gurarantee economic and political stability/ When there was this crisis in the seventies with rising prices and inflation (falling profits) neolibearalism was presented as the solution. It's got several things that are very familiar to us. First of all, very drastic tax custs, especially for big corporations and those at the top of the economic ladder, Deregulation, where government holds back from regulating the airlines, the banking industry and so on.

Privatization of services that had been the responsibility of the government so utilities and mail service and prisons and defense --- we now have all these privately owned prisons, for profit prisons, and we hve contractors fighting the war in Iraq. And finally large cutbacks in spending on social programs. Most people can see that in cuts of like education. At the public university where I teach only seven percent =of its budget comes from the state of Colorado. And we especially we've seen cutbacks in the services that were to assis the most needy citizens.

BD: So neoliberalism basically started with Reganomics and the descendants of Reaganomics, privatization and militarization which are still with us. So what is it that makes Oprah the cultural icon of neoliberalism? She doesn't talk about the army or about privatization, so what's that got to do with her?

JP: That's a great question. That's the project I am trying to accomplish with this book. Basically Oprah has risen from the middle and eqarly eighties from somebody who was just a talk show host. Today she is seen as somebody who is a kind of a world figure, everybody knows her by her first name. My argument is that the way to undersand the journey of this woman is to understand neoliberalism as a political and economic project. For example, if we start looking at neoliberalism it argues that any political or social issue that we encounter today must be seen through the lens of the market, the free market. It turns all problems into individual ones that can be solved in the market. If there's contamination of the water table, for instance, we should buy bottled water. That kind of attitude, that we should solve problems with the market and through individual activity and indivdual transformation is ultimately the same message that Oprah Winfrey sells to us.

BD: So you're saying that Oprah is the messenger, she brings us the message of what's required for us to adjust our attitudes neoliberalism and this neoliberal order require of us ordinary people, how it requires us to look at all of our problems as individual problems. None of our problems then, need to be addressed by organizing and communicating with each other.oprah_giveaway1

JP Neoliberalism emphasizes a kind of minimal government, a stripped down, hollowed out government and maximum personal responsibility. I think this term personal responsibility will probably ring familiar with your listeners. We hear it all the time, we hear it from politicians and also we hear it from Oprah. If we have problems, if our lives are not going well if, we don't have the things we want in our lives, then what we need to do is take personal responsibility, put our minds to it, have the right attitude and so on. That is the key to bringing about positive change. To give you an example of this, where Oprah very much exemplifies this idea that the market and individual positive attitudes are the solutions to social problems, Your listeners may be familiar with a show that was on this season called Oprah's Big Give. It's a “reality” show where people are competing, who can give the most, who can find the neediest people, and so on. There's a couple of points in that series that really stood out.

One was in Houston, where one of the contestants decided that they were going to help this public school, this grade school in the city that needed computers, and had no playgrounds and basically had very few resources. You've got all these kids at the end, they built the playground, the kids were screaming with joy, the teachers were sobbing, they were so pleased. It's a city school, it's a public school where most of the kids we see are black or Latino. We've got this really “feel good” moment where the kids get this, but if you step back from it one of the things we might ask is why are public schools in the United States are so drastically underfunded and why is this seen as a solution, this charity, as opposed to taxation, where (through) the government, that we all pay taxes to we are all collectively responsible for things like education.

That is the way in which Oprah models the (neoliberal) attitude we should have toward the world. We can be personally generous with others when we find people who are the deserving needy but we don't ask questions about the way our society is organized and the way resources are distributed.

BD There are even imitators... the “Extreme Makeover (Home Edition)” show where they build somebody a new house every week

JP: Other people have studied this too, they call it “charity TV”. In the final episode (of Extreme Makeover) this season they went to New Orleans. They found a couple families who were made homeless by Katrina. They built them new houses, and everybody feels real good, but they don't step back and ask the questions most of us would like to have answered...

BD: (Such as ) Why whole neighborhoods never got their sewer and water service restored, or why vast square miles of real estate that black families actually owned are gone.

JP: ...and what parts of the city are going to be rebuilt and which citizens of New Orleans are going to be welcomed back. None of those questions are asked, nor why the levees were in such terrible shape to begin with, because of this gutted government that doesn't pay for things.

BD: Oprah's life and career are offered as living proof of the maxim that if you can dream it, you can envision it, you can pray on it, it'll happen for you, no matter what the odds. Most people will agree that this is a message that has no politics, liberal, neoliberal or otherwise that it's a profoundly positive and empowering message. What, if anything are these people missing, what ?

JP: There's nothing wrong with saying we should dream, have dreams and aspire to fulfill them, but I think it's important not to decontextualize that. Because of the misallocation of resources in our society you have to begin with those kind of questions. The idea that the only thing that stands in the way of someone like me, who is at this point a professional middle class white woman with lots of education and a good salary, that there's no difference between me and some woman, also my age, in her fifties, a woman without all those resources, that we're the same and all we have to do is take personal responsibility and dream big, that's actually a very harmful message, because it's a desocialized message, it's a depoliticized message. I

Part of what I'm arguing here is not that she's personally a liberal or a conservative or whatever, but that there is a politics to her message...

BD: Like you just said, it's a desocialized politics that puts the personal responsibility for being poor and oppressed exclusively on the poor and oppressed.

JP: Yeah, and it's a comforting message for those who don't have to feel that they have any responsibility or any obligation to their fellow citizens, because we're all simply about personal responsibility. I'm trying to argue that that is a political move which ultimately denies that we are all responsible for one another.

BD: Speaking of comforting messages, Oprah is also one of those characters who, like a certain presidential candidate this season, who is said to have “transcended race.” Now, “transcending race” should be a good thing, shouldn't it? Why is this not a good thing with Oprah?oprah-obama05

JP: I have a chapter in my book that's about this question of “transcending race”. The idea that we should aspire to live in a world in which we all regard each other as equals and fellow citizens regardless of race, that's a very nice idea. I'm not opposed to that. But to say that Oprah “transcends race” in my analysis has a lot to do with the fact that she is a very comforting presence for her majority white following. The way she accomplishes that is not to do or say anything that would make her white followers uncomfortable. So to present the world as though it's a post-racial world, and race is no longer a problem, that we've swolved all that in the sixties and so on, is a very comforting thing for her white followers.

So Oprah has disassociated herself from a lot of the political aspects of the civil rights movement, even as she mentions certain kinds of heroic figures, like Sojourner Truth or Martin Luther King. Early in her career she talked about going to an all black college and not feeling comfortable with her fellow students...

BD: Why not?

JP: Because they were angry...

BD: Oh dear. All those angry black people

JP: ...and she was not comfortable around those kinds of students. At the beginning of her career she gave interviews distancing herself from that kind of black history and black experience, so when you say she has “transcended race” I say in my book that in some ways that just means that white people like her. We don't live in a society that has transcended race, so it's only possible to do so if you cover up, if you avoid certain kinds of issues. That's been very much the case with Oprah Winfrey.

BD: So Oprah can keep enough of her black self to be able to do that neck thing that sistas do, or to drop a couple paragraphs in fluent ebonics if she needs to, but she makes folks comfortble, she's a comforting figure for people who maybe shouldn't be all that comfortable.

JP: You don't get to be popular the way she is if you make too many people uncomfortable. It's the same sort of thing with the Cosby show, (which) was the number one TV show for years. In order to be number one, to have that massive audience, it's got to be careful not to upset people.

BD: There's a saying that goes “nothing succeeds like success”. Oprah's done very well for herself in building audience share and influence, and a vast personal fortune. So isn't the lesson for bright young people, especially black people, who are looking to change the world through media, isn't the message to follow in her footprints, right? be upbeat and positive, to give the market what it wants. Isn't that the lesson of Oprah's career?

JP: It's certainly the lesson that she would like to pass on. But as a media critic I guess I would encourage not only black young people, all young people who are interest in going into media to think about some other kinds of contributions they could make to society as well.

BD: So thank you for this half hour, this twenty-five minutes, really. Say the name of the book again, please.

JP: the book is the Age of Oprah, Cultural Icon for the Neoliberal Era. It seems to be selling OK. I was interviewed by the New York Times last week about a story that has to do with Oprah's ratings declining over the last few years.

BD: Why would Oprah's ratings decline?

JP: There's been a flurry of news stories in the past week that began with a Times story... her ratings have declined for the last three years straight. She is still the number one talk show, but she has lost a quarter of her female audience age 25 to 54 over the last 3 years. Her circulation for the magazine is down too. There are questions too as to whether her endorsement of Obama has hurt her, but I guess we'll have to discuss that in another venue, since we are out of time now.

BD: I guess we will... we've been talking with Dr. Janice Peck, author of The Age of Oprah, Cultural Icon for the Neoliberal Era. Thank you so much, Janice.

JP: Thank you for inviting me.

Dr. Janice Peck is Associate Professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communications of the University of Colorado at Boulder.  If you don't see her book, the Age of Oprah at your local bookstore, ask for it.  They'll be glad to get it.



Janice Peck is just trashing Oprah because she feels uncomfortable with a black woman having that much money and power & is trying to find a way to turn that into a bad thing. Yes it would be nice if the government solve the world's social problems but until we get that kind of massive social change, it's essential that private philanthropists like Oprah, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffet keep doing their charity work.

And I never once heard Oprah claim that if your poor it's your fault. On the contrary, by building schools for the poorest girls in South Africa she sends the message that it's the responsibility of the rich to reach out the poor. That's the exact opposite of neo-liberalism, regardless of what this third-rate pseudo-intellectual has to say.
And how does this thesis square with Oprah launching the presential campaign of Barack Obama? Not only is Oprah demanding racial equality at the highest levels of power, but she's supporting the most pro-government socialist candidate we've seen in decades.

Oprah Winfrey : World Class Sellout

Oprah Winfrey is a non-threatening Black woman whose multiple neuroses manifest themselves in a manner conducive to Capitalist exploitation by way of assuaging yuppie angst.

Why are all successful blacks called sellouts?

No one accuses Jay Leno of being a sell-out? No one accused Bob Barker or the numerous game shows of being sell-outs? Why does a black have to threaten whites in order to not be a sell-out? The only sell-outs are the blacks who let some third rate white professor trash the greatest black icon in popular culture.

And no one threatened the white corporate establishment more than Oprah when she asked Obama to run for president back in the Fall of 2006, but his book on the best-seller list, and then campaigned for him in late 2007, single-handedly winning housewives in Iowa and sending the black female vote Obama's way. If Oprah were a sell-out she'd have campaigned for a white candidate, or not campaigned at all. She proved herself to be quite rebellious and defiant in the face of white power. She did the same thing when she took on the powerful beef industry and beet them on their own turf.

Janice Peck is a fool!

This Janice Peck sounds like a real hack. No wonder she's just an associate professor and not a real one. We can have socialist solutions to our problems, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with private individuals like Oprah giving money to build schools in Africa or houses in New Orleans or Bill Gates giving money to Africa. Yes it's the governments job to solve social problems, but there's nothing wrong with private individuals helping too, and even shaming the government into taking more action. Yes we need the government to give people a helping hand, but that doesn't mean individuals can't take personal responsibility for not abusing their kids, not smoking, not abusing alcohol. Personal responsibility and government responsibility are both needed if we're going to solve are problems. I can't stand idiots like Peck who make these moronic two dimensional black and white distinctions.

Great interview

Ms. Peck was very clear that there is nothing wrong with charity, that it is the unasked questions about neoliberalism that are the problem. Of course, some here are actually helping her make her point with their pro-personal responsibility outrage, but what can be expected of people who call Obama a socialist?

What's wrong with charity?

Peck did indeed say there was something wrong with charity. She condemned Oprah's Big Give for encouraging charity because she argues that all social problems should be solved with taxation. If Peck wants to encourage governments to tax their citizens more than more power to her, but to do so by attacking Oprah for promoting personal charity is a pretty dumb way to do it. We need more social responsibility from both government and individuals and to argue that they are somehow mutually exclusive makes no sense at all.

Neoliberalism and Social Responsibility are mutually exclusive

They are mutually exclusive insofar as Oprah supports the policies of Neoliberalism, which privatize governmental functions. That is to say, without Oprah Neoliberalism would be considerably weaker, thus government would be more likely to HAVE that social responsibility.

Seeing some rich person use a fraction of "her" wealth for charity isn't very inspirational in terms of influencing others toward charity. Far more inspirational is when a poor person gives to charity.


Charity is temporary and not dependable while justice is permanent, dependable, and systemic.

Oprah's the greatest black philanthropist of all time

She's personally given several hundred million of her own money to charity, despite being born and raised with extreme adversity. That's the opposite of neoliberalism because neoliberalism is about the poor having to fend for themselves, and Oprah's entire show and life shows that we have a social responsibility to give the poor a helping hand. And Oprah also promotes poor people giving to charity on her show all the time; in fact those are the people who she spotlights on her show. And Oprah in no way believes that any governmental functions should be privatized. On the contrary she just did several shows promoting Michael Moore's "Sicko" and she argued that if police and firefighting are government services are provided by the government, then health care should be too. Trying to connect Oprah in any shape or form with neo-liberalism requires a huge leap of logic. Peck just can't stand that a black female could climb out of poverty to become one of the richest and most influential people on Earth and is using these absurd arguments to slime her.

Why are we sellouts and not prominent whites?

Simple. Regardless of what a white entertainer/politician or general spokesperson says or does, in the end he/she pledges allegiance to global white supremacy one way or another just as we do--knowingly or unknowingly.
We on the other hand are at the bottom--the bottom feeders and have been for centuries now. It matters not that Obama has made so-called history or that Oprah is the wealthiest woman in the U.S., etc. The fact is that it has always been up to us to save us and not the very government today whose ancestors passed on to them to keep us at the bottom of this ditch we never got up out of. Conspiracy--yes. How else could it have happened to begin with and maintained for all of these centuries without complicity largely from those who look like us. This is why we call them "sellouts." Although technically they can only be that if they were truly ever with and for us to begin with. Some were never with us. Many of us just foolishly accepted them simply because they shared our complexion which is always a foolish idea. Blackness is color, culture and consciousness and without the latter two, in particular, the consciousness part, we can all forget ever being saved by us.

The Oprah groupies always seem to be Barack groupies as well.

Oprah's done more for blacks than anyone

Oprah overcame adversity of every kind to be the most philanthropic black of all time. She has shined the spotlight on Africa with the school she built there, shined the spotlight on New Orleans by rushing to build an entire neighborhood there immediately after Katrina and put her popularity on the line to help a black man reach the white house. To listen to this idiot white associate professor slime all the good work Oprah has done, spin it and twist it, and put in the worst possible light is enough to make me puke. Janice Peck I think you're a racist; I think you're a filthy disgusting racist, I think you need to climb back under whatever rock you climbed out of.

Call off the lynch mob folks.

Every nonwhite person who criticizes or scrutinizes a black person/place/thing is not a racist.

The author was using Oprah as an example of celebrity culture colliding with the neoliberal policies that have done more harm than help.

The sensitive skins of black folk will be our downfall. Any criticism or perceived diss of sacred cows such as Jesse, Al, Barack, any black athlete/celebrity, or Queen Oprah is met with vehement charges of racism. If we could only get as riled up about continually being played by the Democrats for our votes and then slayed by them as they aid and abet domestic and foreign policies that do nothing to improve our lot.

Those who are steamed to the gills about this book need to step back and have an Oprah-free day. Regardless of your racial group, all people need to reduce their daily intake of celebrity culture. We are entertaining ourselves to death while the powers that be get over on us big time. Oprah will survive this book just fine. Will we survive a govt hellbent on corporate greed and world domination? Let's explore the latter more and defending Oprah from so-called evil racist authors less.

In the pre-Neoliberal US

Oprah would have to pay a lot more taxes (personal and business) than than the amount she gives away now. The robber barons contributed some great public works, too.

She's just like other rich folks, sucking up the wealth by letting the "little people" shoulder an unfair portion of the tax burdens, while reducing needed services.

Once upon a time, we used to have money for more services and to maintain our infrastructure. What happened to it? And how about that neat trick of doubling our SS tax so they could hand it over to the wealthy as obscene tax cuts? Do you enjoy watching as YOUR money is handed over to billionaires?

Ophrah The Greatest Show On Earth

The author coined Ms Winfrey to a tee She gives the I pulled myself up from my bootstraps story. But she did it by vilifying blacks and using the "I'm a credit to my race" model. What about "Her not feeling comfortable in an all black school" And she is black that's a telling statement. Sounds like a self hating Negro to me. She takes her phony self to Africa "to help the poor children. Come on, I thought Charity began at home. But she couldn't give to a school inner city school because they would spend it on Ipods and Tennis shoes. Is she kidding. What a Paradox she is the queen of the capitalist.

When she does give she does so with tons of stipulations. Here you can have this but you have to do this and that and the other. I remember Oprah's early shows they were along the same lines as Jerry Springer, Ricky Lake and the others. Now she is supposed to be some kinda role model for Blacks No thank you.

Oprah Winfrey is a modern day Aunt Jemimah a rich one true, but an Aunt Jemimah nonetheless.

Oprah's the furthest thing from an Aunt Jemimah

Oprah was the first black to stand up and support a black man running for president (a man who will raise Oprah's taxes big time btw). When the rest of the black community was telling Obama to "wait his turn" Oprah was campaigning her heart out for him, defiant in the face of the white establishment. When the rest of the world had forgotten about Africa, Oprah went there to build schools. It was Oprah who rushed down to New Orleans to build a community there and shamed the government into paying attention. It was Oprah who spent her career promoting black works of art by Toni Morrison (repeatedly putting her in her book club, making her work into movies) Maya Angelou, Halle Barryy and turning The Color Purple into a broadway play. It is Oprah who according to Business Week has given more money to charity than any black ever, despite being raised by an unwed welfare mother. Oprah has given more money than people with several times as much wealth as she has; indeed no one has overcome more adversity to give more to the poor than Oprah Winfrey has.

And to hear her get slimed by a useless academic blowhard like Janice Peck is more than I can handle. Janice Peck sounds like one of those white people who likes black people when they're poor and disenfranchised, but as soon as one of the crabs crawl out of the bucket, Peck is right there to pull them back down.

Janice Peck is a whie woman using pseudo-intellectul rhetoric to try to manipulate African Americans into hating the most philanthropic African American of all time. Janice Peck you are a disgusting, revolting, hateful human being. Why don't you find some white person to hate on, and please just leave us black people alone.

Is Dr. Janice Peck a racist?

There's been a lot of debate here about whether Dr. Janice Peck is a racist. In my opinion Dr. Janice Peck is a racist because she refuses to give a black cultural icon the benefit of the doubt, and instead takes all the positive things Oprah has done and paints them in the most negative ugly way.

I watch Oprah all the time and never once have I heard her say or imply that we should privatize anything. On the contrary Oprah's the biggest media cheer leader for pro-socialism figures like Michael Moore and relatively left-wing politicians like Obama, and the reason she gave for building a school in South Africa instead of America is that America has a PUBLIC school system so it's not the job of private U.S. citizens to be building schools in America.

The fact that Oprah believes that people in rich countries like America should help poverty stricken girls in Africa makes her message the polar opposite of neoliberalism. But it doesn't surprise me to see a white woman like Dr. Janice Peck see evil in Oprah's good works. White people always see evil in the actions of blacks, and that's why the incarceration rates for blacks is so high and black spend more time in jail for the same crimes as whites. Whites always find a way to criminalize the behavior of blacks, even when the black has given more money to charity than anyone else in show business. And in my opinion, that makes Dr. Janice Peck a racist and shame on the University of Colorado at Boulder for allowing this sick woman to teach there, even if she's just an an associate professor.

There's poverty right here!

I am mesmerized by what I'm reading here. I think some of the posters are using terms they know very little about. Obama, a socialist? Michael Moore, a socialist? No socialist can win a nomination of either the democratic party or the republican party. Michael, South Africa has a public school system as well. The Department of Education in South Africa sets the syllabus, hires educators and builds schools.

If Oprah said the reason for not building a school here is because of the existence of the public education system, then she should not have built one in South Africa. I suspect that you have fabricated this "reason". It does not matter to me where and how Oprah spends her money, but what I find condescending is the idea that "go to Africa if you want to locate poor people". There are millions of poor people here in the US.

I was born and raised in South Africa. Yes, there's poverty there. There's poverty everywhere. I just wish to ask all these neoliberals, our self-appointed guardians and philantropists not to shed any tears for us. We have enough tears of our own to shed, thank you...

I never said Obama was a socialist

I said he was relatively left-wing, and indeed the National Journal ranked him as the most left-wing person to run for president this time based on life-time voting record. And Michael Moore describes himself as pro-socialist and Oprah explicitly made the point when he was on her show that we have socialized activity in the form of police and fire service, so why not health care too? And Oprah did indeed tell Larry King in May 2007 that the reason she was building a school in South Africa is because America has a public school system, by contrast if she didn't build a school in South Africa those girls would be denied further education.

Yes there is poverty right in America, but Oprah is a citizen of the world, not some U.S.-centric fool who can't see past her own borders. South Africa is a country where blacks were only recently liberated, and if people like Oprah don't step up to the plate, all the progress they have made will be squandered, which is why Nelson Mandella asked Oprah to build a school there in the first place. The entire region of sub-Saharan Africa is in a state of emergency, and needs all the help it can get. Too bad some people are just too stupid or U.S.-centric to realize that. And btw Oprah has sent a few hundred African American men through college, built an entire neighborhood in New Orleans, so it's not like she just ignores poverty in America. But America is not the only country in the world and it's high time Americans realize that.

It's TV as much as it's Oprah

I haven't read the book, so I can't say how Ms. Peck handles this, but part of the problem is commercial TV itself. If you get very far out of line with corporate interests, you lose your corporate sponsors.

If Oprah tried to spend any serious time on things that really, structurally mattered (as opposed to jumping on easy, harmless-to-the-powerful bandwagons), her media empire would die within weeks. I'd love to see her decide to do that, and she certainly has the cash to make it interesting, but I think Peck is right -- Oprah's basic message is charity, rather than social change. Like almost all billionaires, she has no fundamental problem with the way the world is set up.

Oprah does advocate social change

She devoted several shows to promoting Michael Moore's movie SICKO which calls for dramatic structural change in the health care system. She launched Barack Obama into the stratosphere and he has the potential to bring dramatic changes like talking to hostile countries, raising taxes on the rich, wants to pay teachers more money, and is trying to limit the influence of corporate contributions on campaigns.

Also, Oprah got her start popularizing trash TV into a huge industry in the 1980s and 1990s, and a Yale study by sociologist Joshua Gamson found that tabloid talk shows did more to make gays mainstream and socially acceptable than any other development of the 20th century.

Further, Oprah's been pushing new age inclusive spirituality for well over a decade, and I credit her with the decline of of dogmatic organized religion. Oprah's also done more to make literature accessible to the masses, women, and people of color than anyone else.

And what's wrong with promoting charity? Even if we did raise taxes on the rich by an order of magnitude, some people, and some countries would still be far richer than others, and encouraging people to give to the less fortunate will always be constructive.

Oprah is as much of a fraud as her good friend Obama. Oprah does

If she was REALLY about social change she wouldn't host her good friend Bill Cosby a few years back on her show when he went on his bash-the-poor-black-folks tour, where she did nothing to challenge his anecdotal, stereotypical, class condescension nonsense that represent the current and worse mindset of the black bourgeoisie. All she did was nod her head in agreement with Cosby and co., laughed at his most outrageous tales of so-called black nihilism and ghetto fabulousness, and legitimatize what the black upper-class -- and more importantly, the white upper-class, her core base -- thought and still think of those that are disenfranchised all along: childlike savages that in need of moral guidance and chastisement of the *better* class. It surely doesn't help that she often recite her own rise to power as the modern day Booker T. Washington. Oprah is pure neoliberal, so Dr. Peck is on the money! (And because of this interview I went straight to Amazon and bought the book. It also helped that the best black political scientist in America Adolph Reed, Jr. gave it a glowing review.)

When Oprah often does a show about poor black people it's to show them in the worst possible light as possible. In one interview where she invited Anderson Cooper who did a piece about poverty in black neighborhoods, she had the gall to say to him, "Don't you think the problem with most of them is that they're uneducated? When I saw that one woman in the piece she seemed so uneducated!" Well, no shit, Oprah, of course the poor is poorly educated, but is that ultimately the fault of their own or our do-nothing government? She mentioned nothing about how the Republican congress through No Child Left Behind gutted the educational budget, leaving an already inept school system even worse. No, she couldn't be that bold and criticize that Bush Administration because doing so risks losing that core fan base of hers that is comprised of mostly white, wealthy conservative women. Further in her expose of poor black people she hosted none other than Henry Louis Gates, Jr., professor at Harvard University -- someone who is notoriously known as a radical centrist whose views on race and class is comparable to Time magazine's Joe Klein -- who basically said in so many words that the problem with black people isn't systemic and class disparities, it's in their behavior. If black women stopped having babies out of wedlock, black men stop dropping out of high school or turn to the streets and sell drugs, etc., they too can become a success story. Again, that's at the core of neoliberalism!

So please spare me this notion that Oprah is somehow this generation's Rosa Parks or Angela Davis. She's too afraid to invite black feminists on to discuss certain topics pertaining to black women, afraid that she's going to once again scare off her base. She's as much of a sellout as her good friend Barack Obama. It was no surprise to me that she came out to support him.

Michael, et al.

Of course, you didn't say Obama was a socialist. And I never said that's what you said! Go read my post again. Christine said it. This is what she said; "Not only is Oprah demanding racial equality at the highest levels of power, but she's supporting the most pro-government socialist candidate we've seen in decades". This is why I stated that "I think some of the posters are using terms they know very little about". Let's be clear on one thing; Obama is not a socialist! Secondly,what is a pro-government socialist?

Michael, you said Obama is relatively left-wing and that the National Journal ranked him as the most left-wing person to run for president this time based on life-time voting record. Can you define "relatively left-wing"? He has been anointed by the National Journal to carry the mantle of "socilist"? Are you kidding me?

You say if Oprah did not build the school, those girls would be denied further education. Denied further education by who? Nothing can be further from the truth. Woen are not barred from attaining education in South Africa. Women have been training as physicians, lawyers, engineers etc. in South Africa before Oprah had a penny. The vice-president of South Africa is a woman. Women hold more cabinet portfolios in South Africa than here. You need to visit South Africa and assess the educational standards and the opportunities shared by all South Africans including American students who do not think that Africans ought to be pitied and taken care of by Americans as you seem to think. But you would have to leave your superiority complex behind, otherwise South Africans may teach you a lesson or two. I'm going to repeat what I said; "All you reactionaries and bourgeois elements need to concentrate on your problems in your countries before you try to spread the rotten tactics that will hinder our peoples' march to scientific socialsm in South Africa. Believe me, we have enough tears of our own to shed".

Stop tearing down black people Janice Peck

I agree with those who say Dr. Janice Peck is a racist who is manipulating black people into hating our own using fancy academic jargon like neo-liberalism. Peck has us sliming Oprah, Bill Cosby, Barack Obama & any other black person who doesn't bend over backwards to threaten white America. The truth is it's very easy to demonize anyone using selective examples. Oprah allowed Bill Cosby to come on her show. Well maybe Oprah just respects Bill Cosby as a black cultural icon, and no more thought went into than that.

And it's false to assert that Oprah does not respect radical black feminists. In fact Oprah picked Toni Morrison for her book club more times than any other author and even turned Beloved into a movie. Oprah calls Toni Morrison the greatest living author and no one defends the black underclass more than Morrison who said the following:

"The little nuclear family is a paradigm that just doesn't work. Why are we hanging onto it, I don't know. I don't think a female running a house is a problem. It's percieved as one because of the notion that a head is a man...The child's not going to hurt the women. Who cares about the schedule? What is this business that you have to finish school at 18? The body is ready to have babies. Nature wants it done then. I want to take them all in my arms and say: Your baby is beautiful and so are you...And when you want to be a brain surgeon, call me--I will take care of your baby"

That's the type of progressive open minded pro-black material Oprah is getting her audience to read. As for the discussion about her school in South Africa, the girls at her school could not afford an education had Oprah not provided one. Again, no good deed goes unpunished when you're black and successful. What Janice Peck is doing is what powerful whites always do to keep black people down: Divide and conquer. Peck is manipulating blacks into blaming successful blacks like Oprah, Obama, or Cosby, for their problems, because divided black people will fall. No wonder there's so much black on black violence when whites are constantly playing black people against one another. Peck believes that the system is corrupt (which it is) but in order to justify that belief she must tear down any black who worked the system to their advantage. Peck is obsessed with Oprah because the thought of a billionaire black woman turns her stomach. Well, Janice Peck, I feel the same about you.

Stop tearing down South Africans Tenny

"As for the discussion about her school in South Africa, the girls at her school could not afford an education had Oprah not provided one". Absolute rubbish! What is your basis for this generalization? There are millions of girls in South Africa who are attending school without Oprah's help. Those girls don't come from rich families like many girls here in these United States!

The parents of African children in South Africa have always sacrificed their meagre resources in order to enable their offspring to get an education. My parents were poor, but still managed to send me to the University of Fort Hare. I would never suggest that helping people who can't make ends meet is wrong. But I will point out that "crows are black the world over. Poverty is poverty. It respects no boundaries. It is a consequence of capitalist greed and the irrational and illogical distribution of wealth which favors certain professions and skills simply to divide the proletariat. I have seen people who sleep in the streets and dig food from trash cans in this country. I'm sure they could use some help, your pity and sympathy. You all have to stop thinking you are better than South Africans because you aint! That includes Oprah...

Oprah and Obama Aunt Jemimah and Uncle Tom

You know Brother Malcolm said That if Africans and African Americans were ever to reach across the waters to each other there would be nothing that could be done to stop us. It's just my opinion but I don't think Brother Malcolm was talking about Barak Obama (Uncle Tom) or Oprah Winfrey (Aunt Jemimah).

Preston Nailed her on every point. Mzimkhulu being Indigenous to South Africa knows of what he speaks. As well as some of the other posters here in analyzing the era of Oprah.

I don't understand such blind devotion to these bourgeois who vilify black people every chance they get. Oprah and Obama pimp their black skin but don't have a black consciousness.

For instance one Obama's main Advisors Zbigniew Brezinski signed the National Security Memo 46 Subjet: Black Africa and the US Black Movement.

Objective of our policy toward Black Africa is to prevent social upheavals which could radically change the political situation throughout the area - The Success or failure of policy in the region depends on the solution of International and internal issues whose importance to the United States is on the increase.
March 1978 Under Pres. Jimmy Carter

Madonna tried to steal a African baby, when it hit the fan- she ran to her "black mammy" Oprah Winfrey to make it all better. After all Oprah had some African babies of her own to exploit. Call it charity if want it exploitation! Winfrey can keep her charity and Obama needs to take Glen Fords advice and keep on steppin out of Black America.

Neither one of them are doing us any favors Whether in Africa or the Diaspora.

Vanessa are you a billionaire?

If not the use of the word "us" in relation to you and Oprah is rather curious.

On the mark, sister Robin, Good stuff indeed!

During the earlier phases of our struggle in South Africa we looked to the struggles of our brothers and sisters in this country for inspiration. We listened to African-American music-we still do. We followed African-American fashion trends-we still do. We adopted the dance styles and the speech mannerisms of our brothers and sisters in this country. You may wonder why. The apartheid system did not want us to see South Africa as part of Africa. The only Africans we saw were the migrant workers who came to work in the mines.

I remember one particular incident while riding in a bus in 1974 just before the rumble in Zaire when Muhammad Ali fought George Foreman. One man in the bus was reading the sports section of some newspaper when he suddenly asked; "Where is this Zaire"? The same man would have been able to discuss jazz music with you. He would have easily used the same language as was used in Harlem at the time.

The Black Power movement in this country gave rise to the Black Counscious Movement in South Africa under the leadership of Steve Biko. The late Stokely Carmichael who later became known as Kwame Toure was our hero before he married Miriam Makeba. I was in boarding school when I learned to recite the "I have a dream speech". The ministers of religion and students of theology in South Africa learned of Liberation Theology from our brothers and sisters here. Bishop Tutu was part of that awakening.

Of course, the US and South African governments tried very hard to sabotage this collusion and solidarity and apparent coordination of the methods of struggle among our people with their inherent philosophies. This is what sister Robin is talking about y'all. During the reign of Ronald Reagan in the 1980's, another memo written by Secretary of State, Alexander Haig, surfaced, describing how this relationship was posing problems for US policies with regard to South Africa and the struggle to overthrow the apartheid system. It was blatantly stated that the relationship needed to be reinforced because black South Africans were beginning to look elsewhere for support and solidarity having realized that the US government was in cahoots with the fascist government of South Africa. Alexander Haig further pointed out the danger inherent with this strategy i.e. there would be nothing the US government could do if African-Americans decided to join the struggle against apartheid. When Robert Sobukwe, the leader of the Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania was serving jail time on Robben Island, Andy Young took his children to stay with his family in Atlanta and sent them to school. The Free South Africa movement,in which our brothers and sisters went to the streets in this country demanding that the US government divest from South Africa and stop its collusion with the racists was testament to the maturity of this special bond. This was solidarity in the proper sense of the concept! Whenever I visit South Africa, I travel on the same airplane with brothers and sisters who have not stopped supporting the emerging and young democracy in South Africa. It is their principled dedication and committment to our cause that I extol. It is their selfless giving of themselves to their kith and kin that deserves our admiration, respect and praise for the simple reason that theirs is not to seek publicity or gain but to push for viable efforts aimed at assisting "all" South African in their quest for the total liberation of the country from the grip of all capitalists and opportunists, black or white, male or female!

Right on Nyeka!!!

The distortions we see today about the struggles against apartheid are so ridiculous. I remember listening to crazy state appologist Robin Wright on NPR speaking about how Muslim countries see all these wonderful things like the end of Apartheid in South Africa, the end of military dictatorships in Latin America and the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and they want to be a part of it. What a bunch of nonsense and prattle! The United States created the military dictatorships of Latin America and later the death squad "democracies" which replaced them. The United States fervently opposed the liberation of South Africa from oppression of an elite racialized few as did Britain and France and America's proxy Israel. And since the fall of communism in Eastern Europe the people of those lands are rushing right back to the third world where they came from. What horrid distortions. Yet they are so common. The Mandela who embraced Castro, the Mandela who embraced Qaddaffi is completely whitewashed from the American consciousness. He is reduced merely to one of Bill Clinton's pictures with famous people and one of America's "successful uses of diplomacy." Why it is we are so diplomatic with openly white supremacist goverments and so hostile and vicous towards say the people of Vietnam, El Salvador, or Angola is never really addressed. Instead they just throw up different things that happened at different times for different reasons and call them our sucesses. Nyeka the battle is not over in South Africa nor on any spot on the globe. The struggle continues!!!

Brother Nyeka

In a lot ways we are worse off than our Brethren in South Africa. At least they have the security of the Land and knowing where they come from.

We were violently ripped from "Our Mother's" Bosom and everything we've learned of Mother Africa has been negative. As a result even elder members of our families admonished us to turn away from Africa and all things African.

I am not college educated but my Mother was and she was the one who told me about the Apartheid System, She spoke out against it. She also told me about the Middle East being a Part of Africa and how they carved up the land. Unfortunately some other family members were not as progressive and they tried to shut her down. But she always stayed true and taught us to do the same.

Even Malcolm was villified to black people. When I look at the Movie Spike Lee made and at the end you see the likes of Bill Cosby in an X hat...well it makes you sick to your stomach. When Malcolm was alive You couldn't get the Jello Pudding Pop guy(my Mother's phrase) within 10 feet of Brother Malcolm.

What the Pudding Pop man did to the people in New Orleans was disgusting. And I should look up to this lunatic who brought us "Fat Albert" "Dumb Donald" and pudding pops! Who is this side show freak we are supposed to admire. For What he's just a comedian whose time is over.

Even though I didn't go to college I try to read as much about our history as I can. I would love to go to Africa just to stand on the soil. Here we have all these bourgeoisie blacks Obama, Oprah and their likes running around telling us how to act then someday we can be just like them. No Thanks!

What the so called "Talented Tenth" don't understand is that if you don't know where you come from how can you know where you're going. And like Frantz Fanon said they're not important anyway. Most of them are just legends in their own minds.


Teach us siter Robin!

Sister Robin you don't need a college education. You should be a teacher of these college-educated robots who are "educated" because they know to "walk" when the robots turn green and to look left, to look right and to look left again before crossing the road!.

How can you be educated when you have no idea who you are? What is the meaning of your education when you are ashamed of who you are? What is the value of your education when you have no backbone, no principles, no courage, no shame, no pride and zero consciousness and knowledge of the power relationships that compel each to membership in either some privileged class or that class that shoulders the burden of feeding the world while being ripped off by the forces of evil and backwardness, the capitalist class.

Malcolm had no formal education, but was not only an asset to the oppressed but was also a force to be reckoned with in the corridors of power due to his analytical mind which led him to brilliantly express the immediate obstacles faced by the masses of our people in a manner that was easy to comprehend as he laid the foundation that, properly nurtured, would have taken anyone to the unavoidable conclusion that the class struggle was the engine that could resolve the contradictions of the capitalist system. His life was cut short by the enemies of humanity, the servants of the capitalists because he was on a confrontational path with that system which was, in essence the only logical next step in his mercurial development as a leader, fighter and scholar of African and world history.

Go to any supermarket and you'll find every commodity with a price tag. Such is education today. When you graduate you are tagged with a diploma which determines your value, social rank and how you can be utilized to maximize profits for the owners of the means of production many of whom are billionaires who have one thing in common. They have no respect and use of the very education they mysteriously encourage us to partake of its benefits. A huge majority of the richest capitalists have no formal education, and many, like Bill Gates dropped out of school and have no regrets for doing so while telling us to stay in school if we want to succeed in life.

Formal education has its uses but is no panacea for contemporary society's ills and shortcomings. It tends to exacerbate existing problems just like any drug which induces hallucinations, delusions and the ability to drown oneself in self-pity, defeatist attitude and self-blame. I am not saying we should not go to school. All I'm saying is that one does not need a college education in order to be conversant with humanity's problems. You, sister Robin, are a perfect example of this truism!

Brother Nyeka Thank you

What you said is an honor to me and from the bottom of my heart I thank you.

Your post are educational and have learned something from every one of them. You're right about so many of educated among us or what Carter G. Woodson called The "Miseducated and the Highly Miseducated. I love What Frantz Fanon said in his book The Wretched Of The Earth:
"Of course if we choose to us a language comprehensible only to law and economics graduates it will be easy to prove that the masses need to have their life run for them. But if we speak in plain language, if we are not obsessed with a perverse determination to confuse the issues and exclude the people, then it will be clear that the masses comprehend all the finer points of ever artifice.
It's a great book and should be required reading.

Your post perfectly describes the way most college educated people I know and know of act. From Colin Powell, Condi Rice, Obama or the shame of shames Clarence Thomas, to people who live in suburbs. It seems all the higher education here does is make the schools and bankers rich and makes the student dumb and in most cases broke paying back student loans.

Peace to you Brother Nyeka

Another Thread

Ms. Peck's essay was also published on "Dissident's Voice". You should read the thread! Just like here, Yanks are clueless as to the meaning of neoliberalism and totally miss the point of the essay.

If these are the "dissidents" in the US, I guess the world-wide anti-neoliberal movement must continue without them, just as it has so far.

Oprah and Barack: Black Trojan Horses

Excellent interview despite being rushed and lightly edited, Mr. Dixon.

Those respondents to the interview who are outraged that Mr. Dixon and Miss Peck would dare have open-minds and present a view of Oprah as professional critics/analysts, as opposed to viewing Oprah as "Black Professional Fans" or in Mr. Dixon's case as one the many Black folks who support Black folks only because they are Black and successful need to wake up.

Whites and Blacks who seriously analyze Black public figures fairly (as Dixon and Peck have done) are not automatically racists or self-hating or jealous and joined in a conspiracy to dethrone him or her.

Oprah is an Global and Black American media, political,social and financial Phenomenon. Oprah's impact on the culture, especially the Black culture deserves be critically analyzed, especially within a BLACK PUBLICATION like BAR that critically analyzes Black public figures routinely.

Some Black people are way too protective of Black people like Oprah and Obama that they have no personal relationship with.

I respect their talent and accomplishments, just not their tactics and I do not believe in supporting Black people just because they are Black/talented/accomplished and because white folks watch their talk shows or vote for them in elections.

We as a people really need to dig deeper to learn what really motivates those Black people we hold in high regard and the corporate media tells us to hold in high regard.

Exactly how is Peck racist?

Some of you need a refresher course on what racism actually is. Racism is when you dehumanize people because of their ethnic background, or make up wild ass distortions based on some feeling of superiority and claim you are just adhering to facts, the second being much more common. Racism is not pointing out the hypocrisy of Billionaires.

I think Dr. Janice Peck is an extreme racist

and she reflects badly on the University of Colorado at Boulder. I think Dr. Janice Peck is an extreme racist because she distorts the cultural influence of a black icon in order to make herself feel MORALLY and POLITICALLY superior. Think about how idiotic Dr. Janice Peck's thesis is. Neoliberalism emerged out of a white man (Ronald Reagan) and two white women (Maggie Thatcher and Ayn Rand) but instead of punishing these white icons for their political crimes, this white woman, Dr. Janice Peck decides to smear a black woman who climbed out of poverty, overcame abuse, rape, teen pregnancy, illegitimacy, and obesity to give hundreds of millions of her own money to charity.

What is Oprah's great crime? She encourages people to think positive. Well maybe Oprah had no choice but to think positively, maybe that's what helped her get through some really dark times & she wants to share her wisdom with her viewers, but for this white woman Dr. Janice Peck to single out a black woman to demonize is really no surprise because white society will always blame black people for their crimes.

Aside from the sheer unadulterated idiocy of associating positive thinking and charity work with neo-liberalism, any academic with half a brain knows that neoliberalism can be traced to the 1980s, and Oprah didn't even start to focus on self-help and charity until the late 1990s.

The true proponents of neoliberalism are white people like Ayn Rand, Thatcher, Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Tony Blair. But Dr, Janice Peck would rather CRIMINALIZE a black woman who dares to become rich in America. Whites think any black with money must have done something criminal to get in. Dr. Janice Peck is no better than a white cop who stops a black in an expensive car. In some ways she's much MUCH worse because she actually thinks such hatred through.

Jill thats nonsense

What nonsense! Of course Reagan, Clinton, Thacther or Blair were Capitalists and war criminals to be honest. But there is nothing, nothing worth liking about Oprah or the whole other bevy of ridiculous bourgouis spokespeople for transnational capitalist interests we call "politically engaged celebrities." Danny Glover is a notable exception but for the most part they are all completely worthless bourgouis liberals. Oprah is a worthless capitalist.

As another poster said in this thread earlier.....

...slandering people of being racist when they analyze a powerful black celebrity -- who said celebrity is pimping neoliberal/Bookerite/Cosbyite ideology for the public to consume and respect -- will ultimately be our downfall as a people. Nowhere did Dr. Peck say that neoliberalism came from Oprah Winfrey. Anyone who has studied the origins of neoliberalism knows quite well that this economic and political ideologue began with Ayn Rand, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. However, this does not exampt Oprah from peddling this Horatio-Alger-pull-myself-up-from-the-bootstraps philosophy that's at the ROOT of neoliberalism. This book is a long time coming because for YEARS I've pegged Oprah's so-called self-help teachings to be muddled in neoliberalism in its easy way of shifting the blame to the victim and using such catchphrases as "personal responsibility" as the essential key to become a success story in the United States of Amnesia. Nowadays you can't tell the difference between a Newt Gingrich and a Oprah Winfrey, both have displayed incredible amount of disdain and condescension for those at the bottom.

Hell, even so-called black progressives will come to this site and will say with a straight face that most of the problems of black America is the fault of their own because of the "breakdown of the family". That's another neoliberal chestnut to use, and the whole "breakdown of the family" was used by politicians to gut The Great Society from helping the poor. (And that was thanks to the Joe Lieberman of the era, Daniel Patrick Moynihan.)

Had Dr. Peck been black the Oprah/Obama groupies would accuse her of being a sellout that's jealous of her own people being successful. Y'all better get together and realize that everyone that's of our skin ain't our kin!

Actually Dr. Janice Peck does seem racist

As many here have pointed out, blacks spend far more time in jail for the same crimes than whites do because there is a tendency to criminalize the actions of blacks based on very weak evidence. That's exactly what Dr. Janice Peck is doing to Oprah. What the hell does Oprah's promotion of charity and self-help have to do with neoliberalism? Not a damn thing, but that doesn't stop Peck from sliming Oprah with the association.

And Oprah does not promote the Horatio-Alger-pull-myself-up-from-the-bootstraps philosophy; she just happens to be the best living example of it. So now we must criminalize Oprah because she was successful? Because Oprah was one of the few people who was able to overcome oppression, we have to blame her for that oppression.

Oprah is a good good woman and believe it or not she really does care abot people. You cynical types probably think that's just an act, but Oprah actually got demoted from her job as a news reporter because she couldn't stop crying every time someone's house burned down or there was tragedy she had to report on.

And I've watched Oprah long enough to know she really does care about black people. Her company is always looking for ways to turn black literature by Toni Morrison, Alice Walker and others into movies and broadway plays. Oprah knew she would anger a lot of her fans by building a school in Africa, but she did it anyway because Nelson Mandella asked her to and she wanted to honor his legacy.

And regarless of how you feel about Barack Obama, Oprah campaigned her head off for him because she wants nothing more than to see a black man in the white house, a black woman as first lady, because she knows the powerful symbolic image that would send to the world.

Perhaps you can fault Oprah for not doing more to challenge the system, but if she had white people would have destroyed her. They're already trying to simply because all the help she gave Obama. Oprah is doing the best she can within the limits whites have placed on her. Oprah understands how hard it is to be black (she was discriminated against even by other blacks who felt she was too dark) and is only trying to help her viewers make the best of a bad system.

Oprah does not preach personal responsibility, but rather she teaches personal empowerment. And there's been a lot of research showing that people who feel a sense of personal power, what psychologists call an internal locus of control, do in fact have more success. There's been volumes of research showing the negative impact of stress, so Oprah's focus on positive thinking and meditation really does help people.

Sure Oprah may not be a Martin Luther King or an Angela Davis, but to dismiss such a loving charismatic black woman as worthless, to libel her with the taint of neoliberalism, is a horrible, horrible thing to do to a black woman as philanthropic as Oprah, a black woman who built the nicest school in Africa, all because she wanted to give poor black girls a sense of self worth.

Black people need to wake up. Dr. Janice Peck is criminalizing one of the most loving black woman I have ever seen. Neoliberalism was created by white people and this white professor really shouldn't be dragging a black woman's good name anywhere near it.

Peck's arguments are among the dumbest I have ever heard. Oprah fixed a bad school for a freaking reality TV show instead of blaming the government, hence Oprah is promoting neoliberalism??? You could just as easily say Oprah is shining a spotlight on poverty, and thus raising public awareness that the system needs changing. But Peck prefers to view Oprah in a negative light, the same way the judges and juries who send black folks to jail choose to criminalize black people. Blacks are never given the benefit of the doubt. Whites like Dr. Janice Peck will always criminalize black people based on weak evidence and faulty logic. Whites like Dr. Janice Peck have blacks attacking one another, instead of attacking the true roots of black oppression. Dr. janice Peck can go to hell.

More nonsense!!!

Oprah and nonviolent drug offenders sentenced to harsher sentences are not in the same boat. Oprah is a completely worthless mouthpiece for bourgouis culture. There is nothing racist about pointing this out. It could to be pointed out about Bono, Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, George Clooney and various other so called celebrity activists. Oprah is worthless. Bono is worthless. Brad Pitt is worthless. George Clooney is worthless. They are all worth attacking as completely worthless and not to be given any attention when they speak on any issue of any relevence as it pertains to any political issue. There is nothing racist about pointing out that Oprah can go to hell. To hell with Oprah.

Matt, I must respectfully disagree

I don't see Oprah as worthless at all. I see Oprah as an enormous talent. Her ability to make an audience laugh, cry, and get excited is quite impressive. Perhaps she may be worthless to you, but she is quite worthwhile to the millions who are entertained by her, she is worthwhile to all the black colleges she has given money to, she is worthwhile to all the people in New Orleans she built houses for, she is worthwhile to the hundreds of African American men she sent through college and the hundreds of poor African girls she provided an education for.

And I don't see Oprah as a mouthpiece for borgouis culture. In fact if you listen to what she says, she argues that happiness can be found when people reject the need for wealth and materialism. That's the message of the Echart Tolle book she promotes "A New Earth". Sure Oprah may also promote materialism when she gives away free stuff on TV, but again, that's just in the name of entertainment so she shouldn't be criminalized for that.

As you point out, the criticisms made about Oprah could be made about Bono, Angelina Jolie, Bradd Pitt, and George Clooney. But Janice Peck instead chooses a black woman to criminalize, just as the cop on the street chooses a black person to stop and question. Racism exists at all levels of society, and just as a black drug dealer will get more jail time than a white drug dealer, a black celebrity like Oprah will get tougher treatment from a white academic like Janice Peck than a white celebrity will.

Oprah has done nothing wrong. She is guilty of nothing excepting providing wonderful entertainment for millions of housewives, promoting black literature and a black political candidate, and teaching people ideas for achieving inner-peace, and encouraging viewers to help the poor. I'm not one to defend Oprah, but when I see a white academic like Dr. Janice Peck criminalizing Oprah for doing things that are at best wonderful, and at worst harmless, I am reminded that no matter how successful Oprah is, she's still black in America and still has to deal with the bias that is used to criminalize blacks throughout society. Us black people need to stick together instead of tearing one another down for not being perfect. I'm not a huge Obama fan but Oprah sent a great message of black unity when she risked her popularity among whites to support him. United black people stand, divided we fall.

Black Agenda Report

On the other hand, would BAR post an article about Bono insidiously promoting neoliberalism? The reason BAR posted Peck's article is precisely because Oprah has at least a drop of black blood in her.

Those who pass as black in the US must unite? A very neoliberal stance. No wonder the US does not have a left; it has been usurped by multiculturalism.

orpah is not great

oprah show does nothing but promotes materialism. She always have some stuff on there about fashion, home furnishings, and and expensive tropical getaways. unfortuanellty my barber ,who's a women, watches oprah at the shop so I have no choice but to watch it. I can't belive how mind numblingy boring and pointless it is. She peddles to white women and gives them a negative view on blacks. One show she came on with a long ponytail. And she kept on swinging it throughout the show saying that she was proud to have her hair that long it took along time to grow so she was going to swing it. Then she said as little black girls you always look in awe to white girls because they can swing their hair in ponytails and you want to do that also.

she peddles stuff self hating stuff like this to white folks feeding into their sub consious that they are better than us and wee wish we were like them. she is a black mammy that makes white folks feel safe.

Man, we have some thin skins around the criticism of "black icons". And what is an icon? A wooden figure in a box prayed to with a cultish devotion, be that figure black or whichever. The cults around both Oprah and Barack put me in mind of nothing so much as what Brother Malcolm used to say; "You'd best be real careful as to how much of the white man's world you take as gospel truth, because if you're not careful, he'll have you hating your friends and loving your enemies".

When the real push for justice in the United States, so long delayed, comes with all its terrible deliberation and heated stride, Obama and Winfrey will be on the other side. Count on it.

I feel Dr. Janice Peck is a racist

Dr. Janice Peck, please do not come into a black forum and trash the most philanthropic African American of all time. Oprah has given hundreds of millions of her own money to charity. How much have you given Dr. Janice Peck? I demand that you, Dr. Janice Peck make your charitable contributions public before you criticizes the most philanthropic black in American history. Dr. Janice Peck you may have fooled some people into thinking you're smart with your fancy lingo, but I see right through your talking points and see an extremely mediocre intellect. No wonder at your age you're still just an associate professor at a third rate school. You try to hide your mediocre intellect by using big words like neoliberalism, but the low quality of your ideas reveals the dumbass that you are.

Oprah was born poor, she was raped, she was black, she was fat, she had a baby at 14 that died, she was illegitimate, she had a thyroid problem. She had every disadvantage you could imagine.

What about you Dr. Janice Peck? I bet you grew up in a nice white middle class family. I bet you had it damn easy, and yet Oprah's the one who has given hundreds of millions to the poor, well you Dr. Janice peck trash a black philanthropist by pulling ludicrous theories out of your ass and blowing hot air for a living.

Dr. Janice peck don't you dare talk about poverty because you have no idea what it is to work for living. You think you're dumbass theories are work? No the real work is done by the janitor at your university who cleans up after your dumb ass. Is he black Dr. janice Peck? I bet you like him if he is, because he's a black who knows his place, unlike Oprah, right Dr. Janice Peck? Dr. Janice Peck you have poisoned the atmosphere of this forum with your bigoted propaganda. You have manipulated some people here into thinking black unity is neoliberalism and manipulated some here into thinking a black woman who wears a ponytail or makes whites comfortable is a sellout. So I guess blacks have to be streetthugs who scare white people in order to get the approval of Dr. Janice Peck; that's a real formula for success. What about Asian Americans. Are they sellouts when they integrate into mainstream culture. Nope, it's only black people you put this burden on, isn't it Dr. Janice Peck.

Dr. Janice Peck please do not criticize another black person ever again. It's okay if us black people do it; but I don't want YOU to do it.


The truth hurts. Wealthy neoliberals like Oprah give 10% to charity so they don't have to pay 20% in taxes. These neoliberals are not only disorganizing our PUBLIC institutions; these neoliberals are not only decentralizing any effort to permanently solve the problem; these neoliberals are just outright robbing our children.

Black Censorship on BAR and in Black America

There level of censorship practiced by Blacks against Blacks and Blacks against Whites who criticize Blacks is the typical childish behavior often seen on this website from several anti-BAR posters regardless of the Beloved Black One being critically discussed.

Black on Black censorship is practice often within Black America as well. If you are Black and accept a White persons view of a prominent Black person you are self-hating. If you develop your own view of that Beloved Black One ‘i.e Oprah/Obama or whomever he or she might be that is based on critical analysis and not race-pride you are jealous and ignorant, DIVISIVE and not interested in BLACK UNITY. You can only win with Oprah-ites and Obam-ites by closing your mind to critical thought and just skinnin’ and grinnin’ and going-along to get-along with them. The ant-BAR posters are nothing more than school-yard bullies.

The race-pride of some Black people cannot allow them to even acknowledge the possibility that a White or Black person's view of other Blacks they worship is nothing but the racism of Whites or the jealously of Blacks when it is not overflowing with blind loyalty and idol-worshiping.

Come on people, please!

Oprah gives a lot more than 10% to charity

She gives $50 million a year to charity; hundreds of millions over the years. And Oprah was born into poverty, so the fact that she's even given away one million makes her a million times better than that slimebag Dr. Janice Peck. I am astonished to see the level of ignorance of people who equate charity with neoliberalism. I think D Janice Peck is a racist who hasn't done anything for black people herself. And any black who agrees with her is not exercising critical thinking; they are simply being manipulated by a pseudo-intellectual white woman who uses academic jargon to rationalize her resentment for successful blacks. Some blacks are just so excited that a white woman with a PhD would talk to us, that they're willing to smear the greatest African American philanthropist of all time.

The Point of The Book

As someone who has been dealing with this issue for a while, Dr. Peck has no problem with people helping out one another. As she actively stated, charity to help others is fantastic!!!!! BUT, and this is a massive but, that charity distracts from real problems like the lack of development in the Black Areas of New Orleans or why the city didn't take the effort to ensure that the minority kids in Houston's center got the same level of education (and, therefore, the same opportunity at life) as the white kids on the fringes.

I think that Peck's book will add more to this commentary as well as point to the ways in which Oprah has come to represent our generation, much to my own personal chagrin both culturally and economically. I applaud Mr. Dixon and BAR for giving her some space to express these ideas and challenging readers to think critically about itself.