Founder of JustPeaceTheory.com
Valerie Elverton Dixon
Oprah Winfrey is not a religious leader. She is a savvy businesswoman, a keen-eyed journalist, and a conduit for the qualities and the work of the Feminine Divine. Born, into a low income African-American family, she faced and conquered numerous personal and professional challenges to become one of the wealthiest women in the world. This is evidence that she is not only smart, but courageous. However, in my opinion, her skill and importance as a journalist does not garner nearly enough attention.
The essential truth about journalism is: “News is what people do not know.” For 25 years, Oprah Winfrey has used her program to bring news to a world-wide audience, and thereby she has made a significant contribution to the quality of our public discourse. Through various stages of my life—stay at home mother and homemaker, PhD graduate student, seminary ethics professor, independent scholar, writer, and lecturer-- I have been informed and challenged by the subjects she has covered.
In the program’s early days, when its format was similar to that of Phil Donahue’s program, I was often intrigued by the questions and comments from the audience. I remember when she took her program to a Georgia town that was experiencing racial trouble. The various perspectives represented in the audience and the thinking of her guests made me think more carefully about my own opinions regarding race in the United States.
She showed the difference between how being perceived as African American or Anglo American makes a difference as to whether a person could get the time of day on the streets of Chicago. When the same individual went out as a European American, he easily could get the time of day. When he darkened his skin and went out as an African American, he had a much more difficult time. I am sure this program helped Anglo Americans see the problem of race in America better.
Her program has helped to enlighten her audience about issues of sexuality, allowing the general public to hear the stories of Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgendered, Intersex and Asexual people. In the early days of the HIV-AIDS crisis she helped to educate people about how the disease spreads, shining a light on the persecution that people with HIV-AIDS suffered due to unwarranted fear. She has played an important part in breaking down barriers of discrimination.
Oprah has also taken her cameras to the poorest communities in the United States to show the economic inequality in the richest nation in the world. She did a program that illustrated the gross inequalities between school facilities in wealthy suburbs and inner city schools. One may have heard about such a disparity in passing, but watching her program made the reality very much more obvious.
She invited other journalists to her program to report on the status of women around the world, especially those suffering from rape as a tactic or war. She told the stories of sheroic efforts to bring medical treatment to young women suffering from fistulas in Africa. She has done programs on the continued existence of slavery, even in the United States of America. She has said that she does this because once we know what is going on in the world, we have an obligation to act to rectify the situation. This work of witness is the primary purpose of all good journalism.
And journalism is history is motion. When future historians want to know about the quarter century at the end of the 1900s and the beginning of the 2000s, the “Oprah Winfrey Show” will be an important primary source to consult.
I say that Oprah Winfrey is a conduit for the qualities and the work of the Feminine Divine because I think that her work embodies the qualities of God the Mother. She has managed her own wealth well and given her audience instructions on how to better manage their finances. She has also helped her audience know how to take better care of their physical and psychological health. Others have programs of their own to help disseminate this information thanks to her. She has been not only a conduit of knowledge, but of wisdom as well.
And she has been a comforter. She has not been shy about sharing her personal stories of abuse, and she has provided a forum for others, including men, to share their stories or humiliation and pain. Such stories unify us a human beings because a large part of life is learning how to live with our pain, how to bear the pain, how to live beyond the pain. Every story may not be the same, but the human condition is one where we all suffer at some point. Race, class, sex, sexual orientation or any other group designation does not shield us from the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” And there is always hope, especially when we can hear how others have lived through what we are going through.
As Oprah Winfrey moves to another stage of her life and work, I am grateful for the twenty-five years of her program. Thank you Oprah. And when we think of the extraordinary woman that she is, we see a glimpse of the Goddess, Earth Mother, Friend who is a divine source of truth, generosity and love.
Valerie Elverton Dixon