Opinion: Oprah Was Called The N-Word on Live TV Once

K. Revs

A recently resurfaced clip once again shows what Black people often endure to gain success.

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Photo by Tyler Callahan on Unsplash

There are 7.753 billion people in the world...

2,700 of those people are billionaires...

15 of those billionaires are Black people...

2 of those Black people are women.

So love her or hate her, it goes without saying that Oprah Winfrey (being the very first Black woman to become a billionaire and sharing that title only with Rihanna) definitely fought her way to where she is now.

One of the most notable signs of that fight being back in the 90's.

Now to be clear, Oprah’s climb was not without controversy.

Among them are her relationships with both Dr. Oz and Dr. Phil, two men whom are now notorious to the public opinion for lack of any real psychological certifications and exploitation of the guests on their show. Another is her former relationship with accused sex offender, Harvey Weinstein.

In the spirit of that, I want to make it very clear that this article is not an Oprah support piece.

It is, however, an unpacking of just how much her Blackness played into her rise to fame. And how it continues to be an issue thirty years later.

"There are (N-word's) here today, other than Oprah.”

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Oprah Winfrey via Oprah.com

Recently, Twitter lit up with a resurfaced video of the Oprah Winfrey Show from the early 90s. The episode in question was a part of a series called “Racism in 1992", in which Oprah had episodes that touched on experiences of racism from a variety of minority groups.

This episode, in particular, seems to focus on the Black experience. While we don’t know the full context of the clip, it seems to take place during a Q&A session of sorts.

At which point, a white woman called Oprah the n-word. Hard “er” and all.

“I try to teach this to my children, we live in a Christian community…I wanna say, if you’re going to say ‘n-word’, which is a terrible word to me, you have to open it to both races. Because Black people and white people are the same inside. N-word…if you want to explain it like that...there are some of those here today. Other than Oprah.” - Oprah show visitor per this clip.

If I had to guess, I would say that the woman quoted above was responding to an earlier comment by a guest who had spoken about their view of what classifies a, well, N-word.

In fact, it almost, if you squint your eyes and tilt your head, looks like the quoted woman was trying to, dare I say, defend Black Americans?

Almost.

Regardless of intent, the string of words that left this woman’s mouth speaks more volume than anything she could possibly say.

If only for the fact that she, live on air, comfortably and unabashedly, not only said the racial epithet out loud but used it to describe the very person whose show she was on.

And Oprah let it happen.

The Black Dilemma arises.

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Oprah Winfrey gives a speech during an MLK memorialThe Hollywood Reporter

Let the record show that the woman in the above clip did quickly walk the insult back by adding that “Oprah wasn’t a n-word!” after realizing her faux pas.

How did Oprah react to the whole situation, though?

She didn’t.

Yes, she nodded her agreement after the woman’s non-apology, but that was where her defenses stopped. And so arises the Black Dilemma.

Should Oprah have been more vocal in that moment?

Given the massive platform that she (already) had at the time, it’s easy to say that the answer to that is a resounding yes.

The complacency of her actions in that moment, letting a white, suburban, Christian mom whimsically sling the most disrespectful word possible at her, could have set a precedent to millions of white people all over the country as they witnessed Oprah essentially excuse white usage of the N-word.

And yet.

Would her career be what it is now if she had pushed back? Or would her white audience have turned on her?

Did she sit back out of cowardice? Or because she analyzed how every moment of those early days would impact her long-term career?

We will likely never know.

What we do know is that even after becoming one of the richest women in the world, racism is still something she faces regularly.

Simultaneously, she is a subject of contention among many Black Americans, with many believing she shed much of her Black identity on her way to the top.

The only thing that anyone can be certain of is that her intentions were hers and hers alone. And agree or disagree with her public persona, the woman is still richer than most of us combined.

This article holds my own opinions on the reported content. To read more of my musings on the world today, follow me on Newsbreak.

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