Intro for August 13, 2013
Oprah Winfrey went to a luxury goods store in Switzerland and wanted to look at a very expensive bag. She says the salesperson refused her service because “that one’s too expensive”, suggesting that the clerk assumed that Opes, being black, couldn’t afford the tote. The story made headlines everywhere last week prompting an apology from Swiss tourism and the store owner. Now the woman who denied O is insisting that it never went down that way. That she was totally professional and not racist and that the Opes is lying. Conservative members of the media are backing this claim, positing that Opes made it all up so that she could promote her movie, The Butler. And besides, how is it possible that Opes would go unnoticed?
As you know, I don’t go to Oprah Church. I am a heathen. I am a heathen and even I believe her. For starters, Opes isn’t Mariah Carey. Opes actually leaves her house frequently without having her hair done and makeup professionally applied. So it IS possible to not recognise Oprah. It happens all the time. I have a friend who was at a wedding once in Montecito and was doing some sightseeing. She asked a woman where she could find some travel supplies. They had a full-on 5 minute long conversation. She didn’t realise it later until another local asked her later what it was like talking to Oprah. Oprah? I’ve never talked to Oprah. You were JUST talking to Oprah. But even Oprah, so mighty, even Oprah can be and is discriminated against.
This sh-t goes down all the time in Europe. You’d know if you watch soccer. Click here if you want an example. But the other reason I believe Oprah is because, well, I’ve been there. Not Switzerland but France, just 3 years ago, in a sweet shoppe. During the Cannes Film Festival. The entire world has descended on the South of France and still there are those who don’t want a “certain kind” buying their sh-t. Like many of you who’ve grown up non-white, it’s a lifelong experience. When Jacek and I were first together. Back then, he never understood why I’d duck lower in my seat whenever we passed through the smaller towns. Now that we’ve been married for so long, he understands, he’s seen it too. He’s felt it when we go into a diner with 10 open tables and for some reason we can’t get service. Which is why when we pulled up at a gas station in a pretty homogenous community on our cross country ride from Vancouver to Toronto a couple of weeks ago he told me to put my seat back and lie flat. A group of men, each holding a 6 pack, was loitering outside. But we were low in the tank and we had no choice. Probably nothing would have happened. The fact that it COULD happen though is the point.
In a particular environment, you’re almost ready for it. You put your internal armour on and you brace. It’s when and where you don’t think you have to brace that’s the most jarring. Like in a boardroom when someone announces that you have to reconsider your workforce numbers because the “chinks” are taking over. Or at a business dinner with a client who spends an inordinate amount of time explaining the menu to your black colleague because they wanted to make sure he wasn’t confused by food that wasn’t all fried, and thought they were being helpful.
Oprah however has the access and resource to make it so that that incident didn’t hold her back, didn’t make her feel powerless. But what do you do in a racist situation where you don’t have the power? Do you confront the executive? Do you blow off the deal? In those cases, not only are you the victim of prejudice, you’re the one who has to have the “courage” to risk what you have to make it right. It’s unfair X 2.
Attached – Oprah Winfrey last night at the LA premiere of The Butler.
Yours in gossip,