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‘It’s Chipped Away at the Fabric of Who We Are’: Oprah Winfrey Slams the Media’s Portrayal of Black Men as Absentee Fathers

Media mogul Oprah Winfrey is done with society being fed images of Black fathers not caring for their families.

Ahead of Father’s Day, June 20, Winfrey joined forces with actor Sterling K. Brown and several other celebrities for a special celebration of Black fatherhood. 

Vernon Winfrey and daughter Oprah Winfrey arrive at the opening of Charlie’s War at the Nashville Film Festival at the Green Hills Regal Cinema May 2, 2003, in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Adriane Jaeckle/Getty Images)

For Winfrey her mission is simple: to contribute to the undoing of inaccurate portrayals of Black fatherhood in the media.


“I wanted to turn the table on that narrative of Black fathers not being present in their children’s lives,” Winfrey told People magazine in a June 14 exclusive. 

“It’s chipped away at the fabric of who we are as a society and a world,” said the OWN network founder. “The images on the evening news or portrayals in films, gangsters, stories that show absentee fathers, or focus on men being in prison, away from their children and not caring about their children, that’s what you’ve heard, but that isn’t what we know and feel.”

Winfrey recalled that while filming her hit show, “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” she witnessed firsthand how uncommon seeing a Black father was for her audience.

”I remember the very first time I was doing a show on parenting, on single parents. And my way of showing or widening the screen at the time was just to include a Black father in that group of parents, but not make a big deal about it,” she recounted. “ I remember a woman standing up and later saying she had never seen a Black father reading to his children. That was not an image anybody had seen on screen. And so a lot of the white people who were watching the show were like, ‘That’s a foreign concept to me.'”

While the concept may have been foreign to some viewers, Winfrey had known her whole life that Black men do take care of their children. The talk show host was born poor to a single teenaged mother in Mississippi. As a teen she was sent to live with the man she knew as her father, Vernon Winfrey, in Tennessee.

Winfrey says her mother and father were only acquainted once. Vernon truly did not know if she was his child, but the possibility was enough for him to step up. But Vernon is anything but an exception. Winfrey says she grew up knowing countless men just like him. 

“I saw that over and over again in my father’s barbershop. Men would come in, hardworking men, doing everything they could in their lives to support their families, working sometimes two and three jobs to do that,” she added. “So that’s the story I know of Black fathers — the ones I grew up with and the man I know. The narrative of the absentee father, it’s not accurate that that is the only picture.”

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