The “richest self-made woman in America” is Oprah Winfrey, at least according to Forbes. And the self-described “shop girl” is the infamous sales assistant who apparently violated Oprah’s civil rights:
“Winfrey was in Switzerland in July when she walked into the Trois Pommes boutique in Zurich looking for a handbag to match the outfit she was going to wear to old friend Tina Turner's wedding.
She claims the sales assistant refused to show her the black crocodile leather bag because - seeing a black woman - she automatically assumed she would not be able to afford it.”
Now the sales assistant is disputing Oprah’s allegations:
“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. 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.”
“She looked around the store again but didn't say anything else. Then she went with her companion to the lower floor. My colleague saw them to the door. They were not even in the store for five minutes.”
“I don't know why she is making these accusations. She is so powerful and I am just a shop girl. I didn't hurt anyone. I don't know why someone as great as her must cannibalize me on TV.
If it had all taken place as she claimed, why has she not complained the next day at the wedding of Tina Turner with Trudie Goetz, my boss? She was there also at the Turner wedding as a guest. I don't understand it.”
While all of this could be chalked up as another brou-ha-ha from an obnoxious, self-centred celebrity, it is Oprah’s insinuation of racism that piqued my curiosity.
Memo to Oprah: Switzerland in 2013 is not Alabama in 1963 and you are not some powerless girl told to leave the lunch counter just because of the colour of your skin. It is absolutely obscene for somebody who has been able to make $2.7 billion (at least according to Time) in The System, to plead oppression.
A month from now, you will have forgotten this ever happened. But a month from now, that sales clerk could find herself unemployed and unemployable. For normal people (i.e. not you), things like that are a major setback in life, and you precipitated it.
Perhaps you misunderstood and jumped to conclusions? Perhaps when she said, “No, it’s too expensive,” what she meant to say was not what it ended up sounding like to a native English speaker? One hint that this might have been the case was her heavily accented English.
Also, perhaps $2.7 billion buys you enough leisure time to avoid jumping to conclusions? Or provides you with enough of a cushion in your life that you can, as a default position, assume the best intentions in the people around you who are there to cater to your every whim - like a handbag more expensive than my car?
Oh yeah, just one more thing: just because you are black and she is white doesn’t mean that she is automatically The Man and you are automatically a card-carrying member of the oppressed.
To me this is just another sign of the nostalgic memories of the 1960’s civil rights movement fading away.