Billionaire media mogul Oprah Winfrey described “whiteness” as a potential “weapon” used by white people against non-whites in the latest episode of her eponymous Apple TV series, The Oprah Winfrey Conversation.
In an episode entitled “How to Be an Antiracist,” Winfrey referred to a May incident in New York City’s Central Park in which a white woman, Amy Cooper, called the police on a black man, Christian Cooper, following a dispute involving the woman’s dog.Apple TV+ / The Oprah Conversation
“White privilege” may be a more effective linguistic term is reconfigured as “white advantage,” speculated Winfrey.
So I’m guessing you all saw the tape of Amy Cooper in Central Park calling 911 and reporting that an African American man is threatening her life. Everybody’s nodding? Good. And that brought to life, I think, this idea of using whiteness as a weapon.
You know, a lot has been said about Amy Cooper, but I said that I think of her as a great teacher for us in this moment.I think she happens to be here to show us in a way that just talking about it a lot of people might not have recognized whiteness as a weapon.
So I want to ask this group, do you understand now more clearly what that means? Using whiteness as a weapon?
The episode’s featured guest was Ibram X. Kendi, who directs Boston University’s Center for Antiracist Research. It included five white guests, who accused themselves of being “racist.” Winfrey praised her guests for doing so.
“To be antiracist is actually to be willing to admit” that one has committed “racist” acts, stated Kendi. At no point in the episode was “racism” defined.
One of the white guests, a woman, indicted all white people while framing the killing of George Floyd as a a function of “racism.” “I’m disgusted,” she said. “I’m ashamed of the white race.”
Winfrey described “racism” as endemic to American society. After a white woman guest wondered aloud why she had “racist” thoughts about a black man in a park as she was walking with her children, Winfrey replied, “Because everything in your world has told you that when you see a black man, danger, danger, danger. That’s why. Your world is television, news, society, the world.”
Winfrey described “white privilege” as a sociological phenomenon affording whites unearned benefits over non-whites. She asked her white guests if they understood how they were beneficiaries of “white privilege” and “whiteness.”
Did you even know you were privileged? did you consider yourself to be white privileged before you read [How to be an Antiracist]?
A lot of white people still don’t get why they’re considered white privileged, because they’re — particularly middle class and working class white people say, “Look, I don’t have any privilege, because I have to work as hard as anybody,” you know, they don’t understand that the whiteness itself gets you through life in ways that blackness cannot.
All three episodes of The Oprah Conversation, thus far, have focused on “racism,” “whiteness,” and “white privilege.” In the first episode, Winfrey declared, “Whiteness gives you an advantage, no matter what.” She also warned of “unconscious” racial prejudices among whites.
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