Tag Archives: Oprah Winfrey

Front and Center: Why Oprah Winfrey’s Golden Globe Address Flew over the Heads of the Majority of Women’s Rights Activists

During the mentoring process, one rarely understands why they are being taught certain things. Oftentimes, one could be convinced that their mentor is insane as they seek to prepare you for a “higher purpose” as the next generation of race men/women.

There is no doubt that experience has taught the elders of our community that this next generation of black leaders must be equipped with the ability to inventively ply our craft in uncomfortable arenas. This process extends beyond readings and exposure to lectures. The most poignant way my work as a “race man” was explained to me came from Michael Eric Dyson who asserted, “Jones, when you get up on that stage, at that panel discussion, you have to let all of the ‘Niggas’ out like an exorcism is occurring.” Of course, this was Dyson’s method of reiterating what I learned long before at the foot of many elders; that being, it is imperative that I represent our people at every moment.

By the time I became a Professor of African-American Studies, I fully understood that I must not temper my words and analysis even when those in attendance would certainly consider my words harsh and inappropriate as they realized they were daggers directed at the throat of white supremacy. A worldview that has incubated whites for so long that they no longer recognize its existence.

It is this understanding of how black leadership must behave in front of white powerbrokers that makes me so appreciative of the genius that Oprah Winfrey displayed at the Golden Globes while accepting the Cecil B DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award.

In front of a mesmerized audience, Oprah Winfrey offered deafening commentary regarding White America’s muting of the horrific sexual assaults that black women have endured since the Jamestown Colony was established in the early 17th Century. In a style that most black professionals recognized as “a courageous way of addressing powerful white folk when they are in the room,” Winfrey positioned black women in their rightful frontline position as the foremost victims of the historic sexual violence perpetrated by the same white men that white women have loved, comforted, protected, married, and produced children with as they built a life that partially rested on the sexual and economic exploitation of Black America for centuries. Winfrey’s comments were based around the riveting story of a poor black woman named Recy Taylor who was a victim of a rape by six white men who the white community, meaning men and women, hid as they considered the brutal crime to be a non-issue. According to Winfrey,

Recy Taylor died 10 days ago, just shy of her 98th birthday. She lived as we all have lived, too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up.

Had the white women in attendance listened closer to Winfrey’s comments they would have discerned what politically astute segments of Black America heard. They would have heard that the fact that the perpetrators of the attack on Recy Taylor were never captured speaks volumes about a white community, a populace that we must remember is majority female, that has never taken definitive action against the rape and lynching of black women. Let’s be clear on this matter, it was no secret within that community regarding who the perpetrators of this or the millions of other sexual assault crimes were. There was a general acceptance among whites that the black women who worked in their homes, fields, or traveled along roads such as the one that Recy Taylor was traveling as she left church on that eventful day were so inconsequential that neither man’s law nor God’s providence covered them.

One must always be on guard for the voluminous impact that emotional moments have on the mind, particularly when it comes to political analysis. The site of so many well-known white actors and actresses standing in public clapping their hands in support of this latest social movement is particularly riveting for those who have been silenced for far too long, unfortunately for those who cherish this moment in time, such a display has no impact on the matter of sexual violence directed at women in general and black women in particular.

The impact of such public displays are so limited that I would suggest that those in attendance should be challenged not with the #MeToo, rather the internal introspective inducing query of #WhereWereYouAndWhatDidYouDo? when you heard your “paw-paw”, “daddy”, “uncles”, “brothers”, “sons”, “husbands”, “fiancées”, and “boyfriend” laugh and banter about the rape of some nameless, faceless, and defenseless black woman. As Malcolm X posited, the black woman is the most disrespected person on the planet. Historically speaking, the black woman’s lack of worth in the eyes of bigoted whites throughout this nation has been cemented by not only her race, but also her gender. My question to those assembled for Winfrey’s poignant commentary is, “Where was that hiding place that you were able to totally hide your new commitment to protecting black women? Or is it merely another occurrence of currying favor from an emotional audience by co-opting the latest faddish social movement?”

I hope that black women are not unduly moved by these recent expressions of female solidarity by white women. The historical record indicates that their only priority is not protecting womanhood, rather securing equality with the white males that they rival ‘by any means necessary.’ Unfortunately for the liberation of black women, the historical record also predicts that they will forget recent betrayals by white women political initiatives and be swept-up with emotions that lead to them yet again abandoning their political interests in favor of helping white women achieve their selfish individualistic goals. In the end, such political naïveté will guarantee that black women will find themselves in the same troubled position that they have always been, meaning cast aside, disregarded, and devoid of a single advocate beyond themselves.

So I applaud Oprah Winfrey for situating the sexual violence perpetrated against black women front-and-center where it should be. However, I am also a historian who understands that the historical record is the best indicator of future behavior and political priorities, hence, I understand that the white women who are at this present moment clapping wildly at Winfrey’s commentary are the descendants of women whose moral compass made it unconscionable to report their “loved ones” for the ghastly attacks on the black women who worked for them, nursed their children, cleaned their homes, and enriched them by applying their labor for a pittance. I pray that black women will finally realize that no one, not even the majority of black men, has their best interests at heart.

Let us not forget that the black women Winfrey speaks of are the very women

(W)ho have endured years of abuse and assault because they, like my mother, had children to feed and bills to pay and dreams to pursue. They’re the women whose names we’ll never know. They are domestic workers and farm workers. They are working in factories and they work in restaurants and they’re in academia, engineering, medicine, and science. They’re part of the world of tech and politics and business. They’re our athletes in the Olympics and they’re our soldiers in the military.

These are the women who birthed me, loved me, cared for me, and guided me toward an understanding that I must speak on their behalf at every turn. I just wish that these women would make themselves the center of the universe that they obviously are and not rely on white women to aid them at any moment because that aid is not only unreliable but also only offered as a means to further advance a white agenda that has never been kind to our kind.

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

WHY BLACK AMERICA HAS IGNORED A SERIAL RAPIST OF BLACK WOMEN

“The most disrespected person in America

is the Black woman, the most unprotected

person in America is the Black woman.

The most neglected person in America

is the Black woman.”

—– Malcolm X —–

 

Let’s face facts! For the majority of the nation, including a good portion of our own community, they are TOO Black, TOO Loud, TOO Lascivious, and TOO Ignorant to be cared about. A slanted reading of History tells their tale of being little more than a big butt or someone to visit when you want some wild bestial sexual escapade; they are best represented by the personas of video vixens that are created in the patriarchal imagination of some cinematographer. Many women come to mind, women such as: Karrine “Superhead” Steffans, Amber Rose, Esther Baxter, Keyshia Dior, Melyssa Ford, Black Chyna and Draya Michele.

I speak of the Black woman, a group that regardless of their individual academic or vixen3professional accomplishments are never viewed as ‘anything’ higher than an exotic animal with a big butt; unfortunately, too many of their own, meaning African-American men also view them in this unfavorable light.

I can think of no other logical reason that Black America has ignored the trial of Daniel Holtzclaw.

I must admit that I was also unaware of who Daniel Holtzclaw, 28, was until I viewed some random news show such as 60 Minutes or 20/20. I was shocked to learn that Hotzclaw, a law enforcement officer and former collegiate football player with serious aspirations of making it to the National Football League, had raped and/or sodomized thirteen Oklahoma holtzclaw1City African-American women while patrolling the African-American community in the period between February – June 2014. Holtzclaw is currently facing 36 counts of rape, sexual battery, and forcible oral sodomy of 13 Black women whose ages range from 17 to 54.

One would think that such activities from a law enforcement officer who is supposed to “Serve & Protect” law-abiding citizens would be the lead story for months; particularly during this moment where officers’ authority is scrutinized on a daily basis. However, there was nary a peep regarding Holtzclaw’s activities from anyone other than the victims, many of whom were hesitant to come forward.

Although it is difficult to admit, Black America, including African-American women, has quite simply been too busy with other pressing racial matters — Ferguson, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Mizzou, Bill Cosby — to pay much attention to a serial rapist who victimized droves of African-American women.

As they have been known to do, African-American women apparently made the conscious decision to place their victimization on the back-burner and busied themselves protecting and uplifting their men and their beloved community. One of the greatest examples of such is the post-slavery decision to make lynching, instead of the more common rape/sexual assault that African-American women were subjected to, the single-greatest issue facing Blacks in the late-19th Century and early 20th Century.

African-American women have commonly operated from a logical perspective that if the lot of Black men improved, then they would also be taken care of. Unfortunately for African-American women, this expected reciprocity remains undelivered to this very day. Many African-American men behave as if their ‘sisters’ are little more than a survival tool that can be used when needed and discarded when of no longer utility.

In light of this dubious history, it is unsurprising that the African-American community, including self-sacrificing Black holtzclawwomen, have no idea of who Daniel Holtzclaw is, let alone the horrific crimes he committed. There have been no hashtags, social media campaigns, or columns written to propagate this matter. We, meaning the entire African-American community, have remained silent.

Make no mistake about it, this silence is derived from the fact that we, meaning every segment of the African-American community, do not cherish and value Black women the Assataway that we should. Although we know that they are our mother’s, sisters, aunt’s, girlfriends, daughters, and wives, it appears that for a wide-swath of Black males they have come to believe that Karrine ‘Superhead’ Steffans is a more apt representation of the Black woman than Oprah Winfrey, Angela Davis, or Assata Shakur.

Although the current climate of activism that we see occurring in the African-American community is long overdue, there is a tendency to focus upon certain types of injustice over others. Unfortunately for African-American women, it appears that they are once again at the back of the bus when it comes to our community rallying around issues affecting them and as they have been known to do, they suffer in silence and take one for the team. It appears that the only exception to this rule is if an African-American woman has been killed by a law enforcement officer who happens to be white.

I intuitively desire to resist Malcolm X’s admonishment that “the most disrespected person in America is the Black woman, the most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” However, I can not truthfully say that there is a major part of me that knows he is speaking the unadulterated truth. And for that, I am ashamed of the Black men who have consciously chosen to continue one of our communities most unfortunate traditions, the denigration and disrespect of our mother’s, sisters, aunt’s, girlfriends, daughters, and wives.

James Thomas Jones III

#ManhoodRaceCulture

#AfricanAmericanNewsandIssues

Selma: Revisiting and Unveiling More of the King Legacy

Despite the reverence that many people have for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., nearly a half-century after his assassination, he, and his philosophy of non-violent patriotic civil disobedience, has become a controversial figure for most African-Americans. King’s legacy has caused more than a few African-Americans to battle as if they are a modern-day manifestation of the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s. MLKKing’s supporters freely dole out love and admiration that is usually reserved for a deity who possesses the ability to walk on water. Conversely, those who tend to cast a disparaging gauge upon King do so with a venomous hate that is usually reserved for enemies that are deemed to possess no redeeming qualities. Put simply, there is rarely a grey area in matters surrounding Dr. King. So when the movie Selma debuted, I knew this was yet another opportunity to view how King’s image was being considered in the twenty-first century.

I must admit that I have significant reservations regarding the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his storied career of non-violent civil disobedience. My admiration for King does not extend beyond an acknowledgment of his obvious bravery in the face of virulent white hatred, however, my admiration ends abruptly after such Selma 1acknowledgement as I am not an advocate for either non-violent civil disobedience or integration, let alone assimilation. I have always thought that Dr. King refused to consider the depths of unregenerate evil that seemingly wrapped itself around some white Americans like a custom garment that brought them untold measure of comfort and coziness. Hence, I view any reconstruction of King’s life and by extension the storied history of my ancestors struggle for Civil Rights, with a curious eye.

However, I must admit that after watching the movie Selma, I was impressed with the manner in which the director, Ava DuVernay, handled this historic icon. Such a feat is all the more impressive when one realizes that DuVernay freely acknowledges that she is Selma 4not a historian of any sort; a qualification that I think should be required for anyone seeking to direct a history period film. However, I do tip my hat to DuVernay for having the courage to present a conflicted, often troubled, King to the big screen. Selma firmly displays that the road that King and his entourage of Civil Rights compatriots traveled was far from smooth or absent miscalculations and errors.

Unfortunately, Selma has one major flaw; that being its portrayal of President Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ). The historian in me cringed at the maligning of LBJ, King’s greatest supporter during the highly-volatile sixties protest era. LBJ was portrayed as the villain who resisted any overture toward racial equality and Civil Rights. In fact, LBJ served as not only an advocate for racial equality as evidenced Selma 2by his signing the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act, but also served as a blanket of protection for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Unfortunately, LBJ is portrayed as having racial animosity that rivaled the morally repugnant views of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and George Wallace, the Governor of Alabama. This portrayal is in a word, unfortunate.

When considered as a whole, Selma provides us a greater look into the personal life, trials and tribulations of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And for that I would most definitely recommend that everyone goes to view this film.

James Thomas Jones III

#ManhoodRaceCulture

© Manhood, Race, and Culture 2015