You have to hand it to Oprah Winfrey. Once again, the media queen took full advantage of an opportunity to teach the world and her peers about how we should treat one another.
We all knew she’d come with a powerful, insightful message as she accepted the Golden Globes’ top honor, the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award during this year’s 75th anniversary of the annual ceremony. But, when she recalled the tragic experiences of a civil rights pioneer who recently died at 98, Recy Taylor, raped by six white men in rural Alabama in 1944, Winfrey reminded us of how far we still must go before justice and equality are more than mere noble ideas.
Taylor’s abusers admitted to their crimes but were never charged for their heinous acts as not one but two grand juries failed to indict them. As for Taylor, she lived during an era when Black women were viewed as little more than bodies to be owned, enjoyed without permission and abused at a whim.
Ironically, we are told that all she ever wanted was an apology — something she finally received in 2011 when the Alabama House of Representatives did so on behalf of the state “for its failure to prosecute her attackers.”
During Winfrey’s remarks and acceptance speech, she reiterated the inequities that women of all races, religions and ages face each day. She further noted that she’s encouraged by the growing number of women who have and continue to come forward to confront those men who have sexually harassed or assaulted them — acts that may have occurred yesterday or many years ago — all of which have remained dark, painful secrets for those women — until now.
As I listened to Oprah, I began to understand a profound truth about the horror millions of women have unjustly and suddenly found thrust into their lives — constant pain and fear that would become as familiar to them as their breathing in and breathing out — because more powerful men believed they had the right to do whatever they pleased, whenever they pleased, in order to satisfy their basest human desires.
Silence, I now realize, is sometimes the only response a woman can make.
In her final comments, Oprah said she believes we have begun to turn an essential corner as it relates to the full rights of girls and women. She seemed hopeful that the days when women will have to say, “Me Too,” are finally and thankfully coming to an end.
I pray she is right and recommit myself to doing whatever I can to bring her prophecy into the light of day.
But, if she is wrong, we will all have to share responsibility for this “guilty stain” on our souls — both in our days of the living and when we each one day meet our maker on the other side.