Oprah Winfrey is an amazing human being. Oprah Winfrey should not run for president. These two statements are not mutually exclusive, but after her inspiring, standing-ovation-worthy Golden Globes speech, the internet is filled with memes and think-pieces rallying for a Lady O 2020 White House bid.
Oprah’s acceptance speech for the Cecil B. Demille Lifetime Achievement Award was a soaring battle cry for the country to do better and be better. It also buoyed the spirits of millions of Black women and girls looking starry-eyed at the embodiment of dreams really coming true.
Because Americans are so desperate for a whiff of a leader, no sooner had Oprah stepped off the stage than #Oprah2020 began to trend online. Oprah becoming President Winfrey with Stedman Graham as First Gentleman makes for a cute idea, but this should never happen.
No More Presidents With Zero Elected Office Experience
A wealthy entertainment mogul with no elected office experience should not be the president of the United States. Former reality show star and prolific golfer Donald Trump, obviously falls into that category. It also happens that Trump is an inarticulate man accused of numerous accounts of sexual harassment and assault and he believes there were “fine people” among the white nationalists whose violent behavior resulted in multiple injuries and one death in Charlottesville, VA last year.
Oprah, beloved Oprah, is almost everything opposite from Trump. She is Black, a woman, an actual billionaire, she’s intelligent, empathetic and she uses her wealth to help other people secure more stable and prosperous futures. However, she still falls into the category of a wealthy entertainment mogul with no elected office experience.
Trump rode into the White House on a wave of hate, intolerance, and willful ignorance. He went around the country with his dog whistles and sound bites and it worked. But just because the United States is now under the rule of a geriatric toddler does not mean we should keep the barrier to entry to the White House down in the bowels of where ever it is now.
Oprah is no doubt a more than competent leader and she has a proven track record of success stacked with financial and cultural contributions that are unmatched. That does not mean, however, that such experience translates well into a career in politics. When is the last time Auntie O was told “no” about anything or had someone override her decision on something?
Oprah is perfectly suited for and is uniquely qualified to be exactly what she is—a trailblazing media dynamo. Let her stay in her (fabulous) lane. Being smart and popular are not enough to hop in a moving truck for 1616 Pennsylvania Avenue. Pretty much anyone is a step up from Trump, but let’s not allow him to be the measuring stick to determine who is worthy of the oval office.
Leave Oprah And Everyday Black Women Alone
Remember after Barack Obama first ascended to the White House there was a noticeable uptick in racist actions and statements? Because a Black man became president, some people felt emboldened to take it back to the “good ol days” and be openly racist. And surely you recall the terrible names First Lady Michelle Obama was called and the grotesque drawings and photo shopped pictures of her that were splashed all across the internet. She wasn’t even the president.
Now, imagine the constant racist AND sexist abuse that a Black woman president would have to endure. It would be brutal. There would be headlines about menstrual cycles, angry Black woman attitude, and sexual indiscretions with other world leaders. Ask any Black woman in digital media who writes about race, class, gender, etc about how their Twitter mentions are in shambles on a regular basis. When people say they want to hear women’s voices, they often do not mean Black women and certainly not Black women speaking on intersectionality.
Also, the anti-Black woman air that would inevitably stink up the media landscape would seep into everyday life and non-celebrity Black women would have to be on even more of a high alert at work and in the streets because of folks thinking they have a license to bully the demographic “in power.”
That’s not to say that Americans should allow sexism and racism to rue the day and keep Black women from the highest office in the land. Not at all. But if we’re going to subject a Black woman to the thankless, tiresome, somewhat evil position of leader of the free world, at least let it be a Black woman who is prepared for and wants to take on that challenge. Although there have been rumors that Oprah is thinking about running, she has never publically stated an intention to do so.
Support Black Women Politicians
Since it is quite possible that Oprah isn’t even interested in running for president, all of this giddiness about having a Black woman in the oval office could be used in more practical ways. Support the up and coming Black women politicians who are gaining the experience, have the political know-how, and are eager to ascend to the top.
Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) is in her first term in Congress and there has already been buzz around her for a 2020 run. But even outside of Capitol Hill, there are many other Black women all over the country who are making their mark in local and state offices. There are people like State Representative Attica Scott from Louisville, KY and newly elected mayor of New Orleans LaToya Cantrell. There is work to do on the ground that builds up to the big office and the work that these women are doing is invaluable. Resources like Higher Heights offer ways to learn about and support Black women in elected office.
So instead of forcing Oprah to say “no” 10,000 times in interviews about whether or not she’s running, let’s support the Black women who have the chops and want to go all the way. There’s a billionaire, philanthropic media mogul who would probably be eager to pour money into the right campaign.