To ‘Russian Oprah,’ I will not stop talking about race
Black in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics: How racism is too easily dismissed
When the electoral college news of 2016 came in and Donald Trump was elected president, I heard nonstop from people of all walks of life that they were moving. They couldn’t imagine this man being the president. They were leaving the United States and going somewhere else where they would be appreciated and not discriminated against.
Every single time I heard someone declare their move, my immediate response was, “Uh huh.” I love to travel. But from numerous conversations with black pen pals outside of the United States and world travelers, I’ve never been convinced that the rest of the world is this extravagant and peaceful, race-free world. Too many times, I was left thinking it was the cover version of the original song.
I thought about this while listening to a WBEZ interview between Emanuele Berry, the Executive Editor of “This American Life,” and Russian American author Yelena Khanga. The woman, who was nicknamed “Russian Oprah” because of her talk show, proved my point once again. Her grandparents (a Polish-Jewish woman and an African-American man) met in jail.
Because the Rabbi, her great grandfather, wouldn’t bail them both out, the two somehow made the best of it and became a couple. According to the “Get Back to Where You Once Belonged” interview, her grandparents left the United States and moved to the Soviet Union to escape blatant racism. Instead, the bigotry just traveled along with them and their offspring in a different form.