Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Oprah - Building Schools and Prejudice

Just recently, the $1.5 billion Oprah Winfrey opened up a "Leadership Academy" just outside of Johannesburg in South Africa. The school, primarily for 12 and 13-year old girls, is set on 22 acres of land costing roughly $40 million.

The story is being published everywhere on television and on the Internet but oddly enough, not everything from the press conference was reported in detail. During the press conference, numerous questions were asked about her motives and the school, even touching down on the fact that there was not one single white child attending the inaugural class. Now this obviously comes as a shock to most because Johannesburg is predominantly black but has a huge population of 7 million with 17% being Caucasian.

I searched long and hard for her specific quote in regards to the "white question" but will have to paraphrase with what I heard on television. When answering the question, Winfrey said something along the lines of 'I don't have to answer to the white people of this country.' It comes as a shock to me that she'd say such a thing but more importantly, how that will affect the youth attending this academy.

I feel that this comment was offensive for a few reasons but most importantly due to the context. The question simply asked 'why there weren't any white children attending the school', not 'why aren't you accommodating the whites.' Furthermore, if a rich Caucasian opened a school and only invited Caucasians, they'd immediately be branded a racist by the likes of Sharpton, Jackson, and ironically, Winfrey.

A lesson for Winfrey - If you open a "leadership academy" to youths and are commenting on the school itself, try to avoid comments that can be misconstrued by the youth you intend on molding.

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