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O, The Oprah Magazine

O, The Oprah Magazine September 2020

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in this issue

9 min.
four days to an ocd cure?

JERICA DAVILA, 32, had spent her whole life avoiding, to put it nicely, tossing her cookies. Her first memory, from when she was 3, is of her mom talking about her older sister throwing up. “I got such a terrified feeling,” Davila says. Around age 9, she made the connection between vomiting and germs, and started compulsively washing her hands and avoiding specific foods. Davila’s parents didn’t understand why she refused to eat food they prepared or go with them to certain places. They took her to a psychiatrist, who, believing her preoccupations were symptoms of distractedness, put her on Ritalin. But Ritalin only made her more laser focused on avoiding germs, to the point where she had trouble concentrating on schoolwork. Her parents then tried one counselor after another, each…

9 min.
a separate peace

WHEN DEVRA McMILLEN consulted O life coach Martha Beck, the 63-year-old Nashvillian was feeling unmoored: Last year her mother passed away, leaving Devra, who had been her mom’s full-time caregiver for ten years, unsure of what her next chapter might hold. As she was still reeling from that loss, she learned her brother had died as well, just as she was getting to know him (Devra was adopted at birth, and they’d only recently met). Martha told her new client that the way to find purpose was to do things that brought her joy, so Devra committed to getting outside in nature and spending time with friends—but her momentum was disrupted when she was called back for a follow-up mammogram and began struggling with yet more anxiety about her future.…

3 min.
how to deal with your white friends

WHEN IT’S TIME TO TAKE CARE OF YOU Dear Dr. Joy, The sudden, intense interest of white people who want to discuss racism has left me exhausted. Many of my white friends are trying to have conversations about “unpacking their privilege” and addressing racist behaviors they may have committed toward me. While I hope this engagement and energy will lead to lasting change, I’m also overwhelmed. As a Black woman, I don’t think it’s my responsibility to help others on their antiracist journey. But what am I supposed to do instead? —Lauren Dear Lauren, The past few months have been a lot to endure. While sheltering in place and doing our best to stay healthy, we’ve also had to continue to fight against racism, police brutality, and many other systems of oppression. The toll…

2 min.
the reckoning

The Warmth of Other Suns, the first book by Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Isabel Wilkerson, offered an epic narrative portrait of the Great Migration. In her magnificent latest, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (Random House), Wilkerson deepens and extends her examination of the inception and consequences of American racism, finding direct connections to the outcastes of India and the horrors of the Third Reich. Her historical opus draws on years of research, stories, and previously published works to reveal, for example, that the Nazis used U.S. miscegenation laws as a blueprint for their own approach to genocide, and that Martin Luther King Jr., on a 1959 visit to India, observed, “Yes, I am an untouchable, and every Negro in the United States of America is an untouchable.” That realization informed…

3 min.
the fire this time

IN OCTOBER of 1963, just two days after participating in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s Freedom Day demonstration in Selma, Alabama, James Baldwin described Sheriff Jim Clarke and his men as they terrorized the Black people who waited to register to vote. “The helmets were, you know, like a garden. So many colors, and with their guns and their cattle prodders,” Baldwin recalled of the police who bullied the Black men and women patiently standing in line. When asked if he was afraid when tensions with the police rose, he responded: “I was scared in the morning, but later on I wasn’t scared at all. Fear was swallowed up by fury.” Baldwin saw up close the brutality of Jim Crow and witnessed its effects on those who defended against it, as…

4 min.
making contact

THE BIBLIO FILES Just Us is the opposite of a lofty, theoretical book on racism. Its author, Claudia Rankine, is one of our leading intellectuals and teaches a course at Yale called Constructions of Whiteness, yet this essential, timely work of nonfiction is more playbook than scholarly tome. It features snippets of conversations she’s had with random white male strangers; deceptively easy-to-read factoids that remind us how little most of us know about how American racism has unfolded; transcripts of 911 calls and police interactions; and personal reflections on whether something a close white friend said reveals bias. The book urges us to step outside the safety zone of politeness to interrogate the uncomfortable and to listen, even (especially) when we don’t like what we’re hearing. O’s books editor, Leigh Haber, spoke…