Oprah Winfrey said the racial circumstances of the George Zimmerman case extend far beyond whether anyone actually used the N-word or not.
“A lot of people, they think if they’re not using the N-word themselves, they actually, physically are not using the N-word themselves and do not have, harbor ill will towards black people, that it’s not racist. But, you know, to me it’s ridiculous to look at that case and not to think that race was involved,” Winfrey said.
She told CNN’s Anderson Cooper in an interview aired Thursday that it’s “not a part” of her to ever use the N-word, though she can “understand why other people do.”
“It’s impossible for me to do it because I know the history, and I know that for so many of my relatives whom I don’t know, whom I don’t know by name, my ancestors — that was the last word they heard as they were being strung up by a tree. The last degradation that they experienced as some harm was caused to them,” Winfrey said. “Out of respect to those who have come before and the price that they paid to rid themselves of being relegated to that word, I just don’t use it.”
She also stood by her comparison of Trayvon Martin to Emmett Till, saying both are symbols of their times.
“The truth of the matter is Emmett Till became a symbol for those times as Trayvon Martin has became a symbol for this time,” Winfrey said. “There are multiple Trayvon Martins whose names never make the newspapers or the headlines…there were multiple Emmett Tills, there were multiple lynchings, there were multiple young black boys…whose names are not remembered and often not even recorded.”
Winfrey first made the comparison last week when she said there was a clear “parallel” between the killings of 17-year-old Martin and 14-year-old Till. A jury last month acquitted Zimmerman in Martin’s death after he claimed self-defense. Till was brutally murdered in 1955 after supposedly flirting with a white woman.
Glenn Beck last week called Winfrey’s comparison of Martin and Till a “slap in the face to the memory of Emmett Till and anyone who suffered during segregation and the Civil Rights era.”
Winfrey is not the only one to make the comparison: Benjamin Crump, the attorney for the Martin family, said the night of Zimmerman’s acquittal that Trayvon Martin will “forever remain in the annals of history next to Medgar Evers and Emmett Till as symbols for the fight for equal justice for all.”