Oprah for President?

01 February 2018

OPRAH WINFREY’S Golden Globes speech aroused many hearts and moved audiences at the 2018 Golden Globes Awards. While accepting the Cecil B DeMille award, Oprah, who became the first Black woman to win the award, praised her mother’s example as a hardworking maid and the women behind the #MeToo movement, declaring that “a new day is on the horizon.”
Her speech was so well-received that Twitter lit up with celebrities and liberals asking her to run for president in 2020. As some astute observers pointed out, electing another celebrity with no political or government experience to the White House isn’t the best idea. A country approaching a boiling point around racism, xenophobia, class exploitation and corporate greed could benefit from someone other than another rich celebrity as its leader.

The Me Too movement was created by a Black woman named Tarana Burke in 2005. She started organizing against rape and sexual assault because of her own experiences. While growing up working class in the Bronx, New York, Burke was sexually assaulted by a group of boys. She is currently the senior director for a non-profit organization called Girls for Gender Equity in Brooklyn. According to the Guardian, when Burke first discovered that #MeToo was trending on Twitter, she was afraid the publicity from social media could harm the movement she started. After deciding the hashtag is doing more good than harm, Burke was still reluctant to attend the 2018 Golden Globes because she did not want to be “the Black woman who is trotted out when you all need to validate your work.”

Her concerns were not unfounded; since the Me Too hashtag’s inception, the Me Too movement has been centered on white, cisgender, rich and famous women. In fact, some critics claim that Me Too has gotten the attention it has because people only care about rich, famous white women. When Time magazine named the “silence breakers” of Me Too as Person of the Year 2018, it prominently centered rich, famous white women on its’ cover. Me Too adopters Alyssa Milano, Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan are visible proponents of the movement, while creator Tarana Burke is not – just as she was not on the cover of that Time magazine. This is part of the disturbing trend of celebrity feminism, wherein the most privileged sector of the U.S. population becomes the face of movements started by less visible and working class women. Centering social justice struggles on the most privileged, rich and powerful people will do nothing for the most vulnerable people or the movements themselves.

Which brings us back to the night of the Golden Globes. Oprah and the other rich, famous and powerful celebrities wore black in solidarity with #MeToo and wore #TimesUp pins to indicate that the time for sexual harassment, assault and rape in Hollywood is over. In an effort to share their powerful Hollywood platform, some celebrities brought social justice activists to the Golden Globes including Burke, who assented after securing the presence of other activists and air time for their causes. As powerful as the all-black attire and #TimesUp pins visually were, it is important to remember that movements started by working class women of color do not belong to Hollywood or celebrities. Movements and actions that do not center marginalized people cease to be productive or effective in dismantling systems of power. This is especially true for Hollywood activism and celebrity feminism, hashtags and demonstrations.

When Oprah gave her speech at the Golden Globes it was a historic moment: she became the first Black woman to be given the high honor. In her speech, she traced her trajectory from humble beginnings as the working class daughter of a maid to a Hollywood powerhouse and the richest Black woman in the world. As a self-identified rape and sexual assault survivor, her support of the Me Too movement and pledge to be a role model for the young girls watching her is extremely important. However, none of this qualifies her to be President of the United States. In fact, America is currently in a terrible situation because enough (though not a majority) people elected a rich and powerful celebrity with no experience or qualifications for the Presidency. To avoid falling into the abyss of celebrity activism, how about we find a representative of the working class to be President? Say a woman of colour with political and grassroots organizing experience? America needs such a person’s expertise and values now more than ever

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