by Yvette Carnell
Oprah’s special on India aired in the U.S. back in April, but it only aired in India this past weekend, and most Indian critics didn’t like what they saw:
“It’s all the stereotypes and all the clichés the West has, between the elephants and the palaces and the snake charmers and cows,” Aseem Chhabra, a freelance journalist and columnist for the Mumbai Mirror, told ABC News. “That exists in India, but it’s this imagery of India that some people seem to have, and I think I expected a lot more from somebody like Oprah Winfrey.”
And the criticism didn’t stop there:
“Oprah, your comment about eating with the hand is really not that big a deal to us; we are used to gross Western ignorance regarding our ancient country,” according to “An open letter to Oprah Winfrey from an Indian who eats with her hand” on the CNN-IBN website
Harpo, the company that produces ‘Oprah’s Next Chapter’, responded to the criticism:
The intention of the program was to explore the beautiful culture and spirit of the country. We enjoyed the time we spent there and were touched by the people who so generously shared their stories for the show.
I’m not sure that statement will sooth critics who are calling Winfrey culturally insensitive and obtuse for how she framed her special on India. This is also ironic in the sense that many people around the world would expect much more from a black woman who grew up in poverty than, say, a white journalist. Brown and black people around the world expect more from African-Americans, and feel, rightly or wrongly, that Oprah let them down.
An interesting question to ponder is whether or not blacks are fully assimilated? There was no real outcry from the African-American community when this special aired, so does that mean that we are the same as middle class whites? Or does it just mean that we just don’t watch OWN?