Oprah: Rich Will Never Be Rich Enough for Racists

STORY BY Emily Kirkpatrick

Published: August 18, 2013

As one of the most iconic women in America, it’s probably a rare day in Oprah’s life when she’s not recognized constantly while going about her business in public. It’s surely an increasingly rare day when the multi-billionaire, media magnate is told anything is out of her price range. But such was the case on a recent trip she took to Zurich, Switzerland.

Oprah was in town for friend Tina Turner’s wedding when she decided to venture out for a day of shopping. While admiring a Tom Ford handbag at upscale boutique Trois Pommes, Oprah was denied service by the salesperson. She asked twice if she could see the bag, which was locked away in a cabinet, before the clerk replied, saying, “No. It’s too expensive.” The Ford bag was made out of crocodile skin and came with a hefty price tag around $38,200. Steep, but certainly not out of the question for a woman who’s net worth hovers around three billion dollars. Oprah, much to her credit, left the store quietly without the handbag and without making a fuss. However, recently, she opened up about the experience in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. The sales clerk has since apologized, but denies that the incident had anything to do with Winfrey’s race and was simply a misunderstanding. The owner of Trois Pommes, in a humorous turn of events, also happened to be a guest at Turner’s wedding, surely making for some awkward dinner table conversation.

This isn’t even the first time Oprah has been denied service at a high-end store. In 2005, the TV host was famously turned away from the Hermes flagship store in Paris. Reports on the incident vary, but the essence is that Oprah approached the store’s door near closing time, while their last customers were still milling about inside and asked if she would be able to dash in and make a quick purchase. She was firmly denied by both a clerk and the store manager. A spokeswoman for Harpo Productions cited this incident as, “Oprah’s ‘Crash’ moment,” referring to the Oscar-winning film where racism unfolds in subtle and nuanced ways.

To top off this all-around shameful, international incident, Rush Limbaugh has submitted his own ironically racist comments on the matter. The inflammatory radio show host and political commentator put his two cents in on the Winfrey debacle, saying on his show, "We don't know that the sales person based her judgment on The Oprah's skin color… Maybe it's because The Oprah's fat? Well that's another — how was The Oprah dressed? I mean she didn't look like The Oprah obviously. Was she wearing jump suit with tennis shoes? Maybe Air Jordans that weren't laced up?" Per usual, Limbaugh has shoved both feet into his mouth at full speed; not only falling to recognize that he is in no position to criticize anyone’s weight, but also tossing his own blatant prejudicial spin on the reporting of this story.

With his statement, Limbaugh perfectly proves the exact issues that undercut this story and exemplifies white America’s blameless perception of their own instinctual, reflex racism. Until we’re able as a culture to consistently recognize, address, and condemn racist remarks and behavior of this kind, no matter the form they take, we’re condemned to repeat our mistakes, never taking that much-needed collective step forward.

Other Stories by Emily Kirkpatrick
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