Oprah is "a traitor"

// 21 January 2008

Apparently Oprah Winfrey is in trouble with her female fan base for backing Barack Obama instead of Hillary Clinton, The Times reports. Oprah has been very publicly backing Obama by accompanying him on a tour of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina in mid-December. Her support has been credited with broadening his appeal and contributing to his recent successes. However, the girls aren’t happy. A discussion thread has been started on Oprah’s website entitled “Oprah is a traitor”.

austad68 said that she “cannot believe that women all over this country are not up in arms over Oprah’s backing of Obama. For the first time in history we actually have a shot at putting a woman in the White House and Oprah backs the black MAN. She’s choosing her race over her gender.”

Hang on a second – Oprah should have NO responsibility to back political candidates based on race or gender. The issue as I see it is not whether she has a greater loyalty to her race or her gender – it’s the fact that whichever candidate she backs, it will be seen as a race- or gender-based statement because she is a black woman. The idea that a black woman has a responsibility to back political candidates based on their race or gender, and will do so based solely on these criteria, is endemic of sexism and racism.

Positive discrimination is a total insult. A belief that black or female political candidates should be given preferential treatment implies a belief in their inherent incompetence. To believe that Oprah must be backing Obama because of his colour is an insult to him and possibly to black people in general. And whatever you think of the cult that is Oprah Winfrey, it is an insult to her to insinuate that her political beliefs comprise nothing more than a personal crusade against sexism and racism.

Apart from anything else though, I’m wondering if The Times might be blowing this all out of proportion. Is this angry messageboard really representative of the views of American women in general? Maybe I’m being optimistic, but I seriously doubt it.

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