There’s a good bit of attention generated by part of an interview Oprah Winfrey had with swimmer Diana Nyad. Winfrey questioned Nyad on her statement to producers before the show that she is “not a God person”. On Nyad’s reply that she’s an atheist, but in awe of the wonders of our world, Winfrey then took it upon herself to redefine God so as to dismiss Nyad’s statement and declare her a God person after all.
I was just thinking about this, putting it in other terms. Imagine the person she was interviewing was Barack Obama, the topic whether he identifies as African.
“You told our producers you’re not an African, but you’re deeply aware of your African roots?”
“Yeah, I’m not an African person [this could have happened in real life, if it was Whoopi Goldberg in the interview]. I’m an American.”
“But you have African roots?”
“I don’t understand why anyone would find any contradiction in that. I can stand in a hall with people who have African roots and think of themselves as Africa, I can marvel at the strength and beauty of our shared cultural influences…”
“Well I don’t call you an American then. I think if you can accept and love your darker skin, the history of your ancestors, then that is what African is. It’s not being born and raised in Africa.”
I don’t get that this woman felt it’s okay to redefine someone else according to her dictates on what’s what, when in any other context that would have been outrageous.
Never mind even African identity, what about religion? What if Oprah spoke to someone who was born into a Jewish family but converted to Christianity, but still appreciates the beauty in Jewish culture. What if Oprah told that person that then they are not a Christian? Would that have been okay?
It bugs me that people are so insensitive and feel such a right to dictate when someone else declares no belief in gods, when in any other context such liberties would not be tolerated.