Sunday night, media mogul Oprah Winfrey took to her Twitter account to set the record straight about the backlash and criticism she often receives for how much help, or lack thereof, she gives to Black America.
In response to a Twitter follower asking, “When are you going 2 give back 2 the ghettos in America?” Ms. Winfrey offered up a quick retort that summarizes why her philanthropy motives and actions should not be questioned.
“When are u? I’ve put 500 African American men thru college. And u sir?”
While disagreements about who Oprah lends her help and fortune to is nothing new, it’s clear that the talk show queen is fed up with continuous accusations and highlights of what she doesn’t do for the black community and to be honest with you, I can’t blame her.
Far too often, we as a black community look to our media leaders to single-handedly fix the problems we face. When we see someone who has successfully pushed through the glass ceiling and beat both the racist and sexist odds stacked against them in the business world, we feel as though we are the only people entitled to their attention. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for reaching back and helping others. I come from a home that taught me that even in your time of need you are in a position to give back because your worst day will always be someone else’s best day, but I was also taught that philanthropy caters to no particular group of people.
While all statistics point to the black community and other communities of color needing more attention in education, job attainment, and violence control, it is not fair to look at someone like Oprah Winfrey as a solution to all of the issues existing in our community.
As much as we want Oprah to wave her magic wand and end inner city violence, starvation, and poor education for blacks, she can’t.
You see, for every talk show episode that Oprah moderated where people complained about her not focusing on a “black issue,” she was donating millions of dollars to one of the top HBCU’s in the country, Morehouse College. And when she wasn’t donating to Morehouse College, she was devoting her money and energy to hosting a fundraiser for the private historically black women’s institution, Bennett College, whose donations, along with others, helped to keep the institution in good financial standing. And let’s not forget Oprah’s Angel Network charity organization that she had during her on-air days. The organization raised more than $80 million, with 100 percent of the donations going to charitable projects across the globe, including rebuilding areas affected by Hurricane Katrina and building parks in Chicago. When the time came for Winfrey’s farewell speech as she departed her show and closed the Angel Network, she announced she would be giving away $6 million to six different charter schools across the country.
So in addition to Oprah investing $40 million to build a school for young women in South Africa who don’t come from the projects of America, but many from a tiny hut in Africa, she is also using her platform and fortune to serve the communities of Black America – whether we acknowledge it or not.
If the story of a black woman born in the American south in 1954 during the height of racism and segregation who overcame poverty, childhood molestation and abuse, teen pregnancy, and attended college while working her way up the media ranks to later host a number one nationally syndicated talk show and become the first black female billionaire is not inspiration enough to keep working on the betterment of yourself and your community, then I don’t know what is.
Yes, it’s hard not to want one of the industry’s most powerful individuals, who belongs to our community, to exhaust her last breath on fixing the problems that often go swept under the media’s radar, but we must also look at our own position to see what we can personally do to help the community that we see up-close and personal everyday.