Apology Accepted! What I Learned From Oprah Winfrey’s Episode With Skinheads
Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher. -Oprah Winfrey
Oprah Winfrey is undoubtedly one of the most inspiring celebrities to grace the television. Her story of success as a woman who endured poverty and a painful childhood give you all the vibes to go forward. Her ability to transcend the energy is reflected in the show, some of the moments have opened my eyes and gave me an insight into humanity and virtue. We saw that with the likes of Jacqueline Saburido, Robert Downey Jr, the group of men who have been sexually abused, and a brave Ellen DeGeneres.
The one episode that caught my attention is undoubtedly the one where she invited “skinheads” or white supremacists back in 1988. As the show’s narrator describes, her intention was to expose the mediocrity and bigotry of the white supremacists, but she realized that the result wasn’t the one she wanted.
I watched the episode and the process was quite painful as some of their words made my blood boil. So, I could only imagine how Oprah and other African American audience members felt. One of the Skinheads, on the panel, says with a smile “white people build this great nation. Black people used to live in the jungle. They followed us here”. I saw the look of anger and despair on the coloured people as well as the Caucasian audience members who clearly disagreed with them. Some of them simply hid their disgust behind a fake laugh. Oprah’s vocal intensity spoke in a million different ways about how exasperated she was.
A few minutes later, she said with a big sigh of relief, “I would like to tell you what happened during the commercial break…”. She had asked the skinheads to leave and went on to explain the reason why. It is more than enough to give us a lesson or two about why it is imperative to keep negativity away from us.
In her own words, Oprah wanted to expose their “evilness” but after seeing their body language and “mercilessness” on the fellow skinheads while the other was expressing their racist agenda, it was clear that she was unintentionally empowering them. The skinheads exchanged hi-fis, closed fists, and thumbs up every time a racist comment was made. And, their negative influence was taking a toll on Oprah as well as the audience and it was clear that they wanted to use the same platform to recruit more people. Personally, I hoped that the episode will end.
Her decision to remove the skinheads and to speak about the same broke the audience into an applause. For a brief moment, after an hour-long expression of racism, we witness a sense of unity among women and men belonging to different race and they gave the same support to Oprah. Since that episode, she made a decision to never do such an episode where she deals with negativity as Television is a powerful medium that could be used for betterment and to influence positively.
The reason is simple, why should we?. Why should we expose negativity? Let alone deal with it?
“I was thinking. I don’t have to feel that! I don’t have to make myself go through that. I don’t have to put it out there in the world” says Oprah in her interview. We make that mistake a lot. We let people who want to drag us down, influence us.
More than two decades later, two of the skinheads who appeared in 1988 returned but this time they are reformed. It was visible in the brightness of their faces which pleased Oprah and the audience. One of them apologized to her and she said the two words that gave them and us a huge relief from what we endured in the infamous episode, “apology accepted”.
Oprah tried to change the mindset of those who were filled hatred but as opposed to giving them the platform, she chose to use the platform to give a much better message, there is no place for hate. And, she gave the reformed neo-nazis the chance to speak about how they changed, and she made sure that they are forgiven for their mistakes. The voice of those people who learned from life matters in a world where people are killed because of too much hate. A person is not a bigot forever after all.
We should keep negative energy away if we have that option and we should learn to forgive as well as encourage because reformed voices propagate the message in the language that should be spoken and understood.
Featured image: Oprah.com