Cultural Icon of Mainstream (White) America
This chapter analyzes iconic figures in American popular culture to highlight the ways in which race is read and utilized by audiences, fans, and television programming. It specifically examines the career of Oprah Winfrey and her thirteen episode series “Racism in 1992” by discussing Winfrey's claim that she “transcends race.” This inquiry highlights the interconnection between the rise of the neoliberal political-economic project over the last quarter century and the emergence of a post-civil rights racial ideology of colorblindness that is part of the fundamental reformulation of thinking about the problem of race in American society. The ability to evoke a “para-social relationship” and “intimacy at a distance” with a majority white audience reflects Winfrey's skill at simultaneously embracing her black heritage while keeping at arm's length aspects of the black historical experience that might alienate white fans; this fits perfectly within the colorblind ideology of post-racial America.
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