Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Cult of Consciousness

"I'd rather have a smart enemy than a stupid ally." 

By now, almost everyone knows Oprah Winfrey received the 2018, Golden Globes' Cecil B. DeMille award for lifetime achievement. Her acceptance speech was inspiring. It was one of those moments where the right person was on the right stage saying the right things at the right time. I knew the warm and fuzzy feeling she created would enrage those who hate seeing others enjoying nice things. White supremacists took to social media to do what they do, but they were not alone. Many of the “leaders” inside the Conscious Community also took this opportunity to attack her.

Apparently, Oprah is a “Negro Bed Wench”. I know this because the “leadership” inside the Conscious Community sent out social media decrees that were shared and commented on without any fact checking. From the posts I’ve read, “Oprah has a history of covert transgressions against the Black community”, and, on top of that, “her wealth and fame are rewards for her being a useful tool of white supremacists”. A claim so crazy Alex Jones also leveled it against her once rumors of a potential 2020 presidential run dominated the news cycle.

Oprah’s speech and the attention it garnered was the perfect opportunity for some to point out her latest act of racial treason. Did you know she gave Ron Clark money to build a fake Harry Potter school instead of investing in Dr. Umar Johnson’s school? No, this isn’t a typo. There are Conscious leaders who believe Oprah gave a white man money to build a school where kids can learn spells. This is what happens when people blindly trust the internet postings of people in leadership positions. A Google search could have solved this, but who has time for that?  

This controversy was reborn a few days ago, but it has been swirling beneath the surface for two months now. Here are the facts. On November 3, 2017, Oprah donated $5 million dollars to the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta, Georgia. This is a very real school that has educated very real children in grades 5-8 (90% of whom are black) for over a decade. Her donation didn't seem like a controversial gesture. Oprah helped put Ron Clark on the map in 2000 when he was named Disney’s American Teacher of the Year.  She donated her money to a school ran by a person she has known for seventeen years. This is what passes for selling her people out.

I’m not writing this to defend Oprah Winfrey. I’m certain there are very well compensated lawyers and P.R. experts who could do a better job than I can. This is a defense of commonsense. There are people who claim to love the community who are constantly pumping their followers’ heads with bad information. The same folks defending Dr. Umar Johnson from attacks they believe to be illegitimate are using illegitimate attacks against Oprah Winfrey.

Thankfully, some tried to add some truth to the conversation.

Social media might be the best and worst thing that happened to social activism. It's an almost perfect weapon for circumventing the media's ability to craft or distort narratives; it's also great for connecting with like-minded individuals, but it has succeeded in elevating too many people above their calling. Some of these movements are starting to resemble cults. There isn't enough critical thinking or questioning taking place. 

A leader is more than someone with followers, money and/or power. True leadership requires integrity and credibility. People need to know that the people they are following can be trusted. Quality leadership never leaves the people following them worse off. The comments sections of these posts are depressing. There are people spreading misinformation because someone they trust said it was true. This diminishes the movement and is indefensible. This has to be called out for what it is: Ignorance.

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