Last week, while promoting her film about racism, Oprah told her own story of discrimination. In an Entertainment Tonight interview she recounted how a saleswoman in Switzerland refused to show her a handbag because it was too expensive for a black woman, obviously, because everyone knows black people’s money doesn’t spend the same as white people’s.
“I’m in a store and the person doesn’t obviously know that I carry the black card and so they make an assessment based upon the way I look and who I am.” – Oprah
The media ran with the story, because there is nothing more the media likes than slamming racism. If a serial killer murdered 100 people, but his last victim called the murderer the n-word, the headline of Gawker the next day would be “Even at gun point white men can be racist.”
That’s why the story the story here takes off. It’s juicy to say that “even black women as rich and powerful as Oprah face racism in daily life.” But that’s not the real story here. The shop girl fired back.
“I simply told her that it was like the one I held in my hand, only much more expensive, and that I could show her similar bags,” she told SonntagsBlick. “It is absolutely not true that I declined to show her the bag on racist grounds. I even asked her if she wanted to look at the bag.”
Oprah has since apologized, but the problem isn’t with her. The problem with the media who is so desperate for intolerance to be true they don’t question whether or not it actually is – which is kind of, sort of, the entire job of being a journalist. No journalists here did the math and realized that many wealthy black women in Switzerland purchased purses. Nor did they question why a store wouldn’t take a woman seriously who arrived with her own bodyguard.
But what the media forgot most of all, is that women who buy $35,000 purses are narcissistic bitches. You don’t spend more than the mean annual salary of a US worker on a handbag unless you’re disconnected from society. We don’t live in an extremely racist world, we live in a color blind one where we can hate people of all ethnicity who frivolously waste fortunes on garish luxury goods. I’m a white male, and if a clerk told me a $35,000 handbag was too expensive for me, I wouldn’t feel discriminated against, I’d be mad at the clerk for not trying to physically slap the sense back into me.
But we can’t blame Oprah. She is probably a pretty good person for someone who is a billionaire mogul, swayed an election according to TIME, and perhaps one of the ten most famous people on the planet. But that still more than likely makes her a sheltered asshole. She’s had unchecked power and wealth for decades, and she’s gotten better than royal treatment since the 80’s. So before we cry racism, perhaps we should realize that Oprah’s standards for customer service are likely a bit higher than the average person – whether they’re black or white.
“I don’t know why she is making these accusations. She is so powerful and I am just a shop girl,” added the shop attendant, who has worked at the posh Trois Pommes shop for five years.
I don’t blame Oprah. She is promoting a film about racism and how being black can hold you back. The themes of the movie are undoubtedly true. However, they don’t ring true to her – since she’s had nothing but unbridled success. Because of that success, any delusional thing she says is likely affirmed by her legions of yes (wo)men. It’s not her fault that she’s been removed from reality. For instance, she originally claimed that she had went to the shop alone, but it turns out she was with a body guard. But you have to realize, to Oprah that is alone. Having only one person in her entourage is akin to you or me having negative four people in our entourage. The version of the story in Oprah’s head probably goes something like, “I was just minding my own business, my butler pre-chewing my gum for me while my servant manually blinked my eyes, you know, like a normal person, when this woman rudely….”
The point being that Oprah’s reality is not our reality, and that isn’t her fault. But the press should never become one of her yes men. They have a duty to figure out what really happened. They can’t just side with the person buying a $35,000 purse because it makes for a better story.