Friday, January 12, 2007

Celebrity Big Brother II

In a much more balanced five page article, Newsweek (Vol. CXLIX, No. 2, January 8, 2007, pp. 44-48) covered the opening of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls.

Nevertheless, Newsweek couldn’t resist crowning Oprah “the world’s most successful woman” in the subtitle, while toning it down in the text to “one of the most successful woman in the world.” Apparently, they couldn’t make up their minds about what to call her, but it gives “success” a peculiar meaning.

According to Newsweek, success is not:

“To listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with an open heart;
To appreciate beauty;
To seek elegance rather than luxury;
To live content with small means;
To study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly;
To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;
To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;
To bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, never in a hurry;
To find the best in others;
To give of oneself without the slightest thought of return;
To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a rescued soul, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;
To play with enthusiasm and sing with exaltation;
To laugh often and much;
To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.
This is to have succeeded ...
to have filled my niche and accomplished all my tasks;
leaving this world better than I found it.”

Success is to be like Oprah and be able to spend five years and $40 million building a school of “Oprahlicious” specifications. Quite a story. Big news. This is old news:

“And he looked up, and saw the rich men that were casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, This poor widow cast in more than they all: for all these did of their superfluity cast in unto the gifts; but she of her want did cast in all the living that she had.” (Luke 21:1-4 or, similarly, in Mark 12:41-44).

Forget the consequences this “Leadership Academy” will have on the girls development. The fact that, by selecting youngsters of one sex, half of the potentially more qualified are being excluded outright. The odds are that in a large group, even if they are all girls, there will be tragedy, sorrow and grief. That there would not be only happy endings. That the girls would not know any other boys of the same age, except their old friends in the shanty towns were they lived. The exposure to the danger of resurrecting, more then two hundred years later, the Société de Cordon Bleu, holding red, white and blue balls or quadroon balls, and the plaçage system.

Forget all that and remember the USA Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Public Law 88-352, 78 Statutes at Large 241, July 2, 1964) “To enforce the constitutional right to vote, to confer jurisdiction upon the district courts of the United States to provide injunctive relief against discrimination in public accommodations, to authorize the Attorney General to institute suits to protect constitutional rights in public facilities and public education, to extend the Commission on Civil Rights, to prevent discrimination in federally assisted programs, to establish a Commission on Equal Employment Opportunity, and for other purposes.”

“The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was landmark legislation in the United States that outlawed, under certain circumstances, discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Originally conceived to protect the rights of African-Americans, the bill was amended prior to passage to protect the civil rights of everyone, and explicitly included women for the first time.”

It is sad to see an American woman of color using her wealth to discriminate based on sex. It is sad to see an American magazine afraid of calling things as they are.

Newsweek might have considered the consequences of getting on the wrong side of Oprah. Smart move. It’s hard to blame them. After all Oprah is the American multiple-Emmy Award winning host of the highest rated talk show in television history. She is an influential book critic, an Academy Award-nominated actress, and a magazine publisher. She has been ranked the richest African American of the 20th century, the most philanthropic African American of all time, and the world's only Black billionaire for three straight years. She is also a co-founder of the women's cable television network Oxygen and president of Harpo Productions.

The Washington Post Company owns Newsweek, 6 VHF-TV stations, CableOne television and Kaplan, whose Kaplan Test Preparation & Admissions is its largest subdivision. Among the subsidiaries of Time Warner are four major companies: Time Inc. (of Time magazine fame), AOL, Warner Bros. Entertainment and the Turner Broadcasting System, of which CNN is a division.

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