Oprah Walks Into a Store ...

Earlier this week, Oprah Winfrey revealed that she, too, was victim of subtle racism during an interview with Entertainment Tonight. She told a story that while in Zurich, Switzerland, she went into a store and asked to see a handbag on the shelf, but was refused:

"I go into a store and I say to the woman, 'Excuse me, may I see the bag right above your head?' and she says to me, 'No. It's too expensive.'"

When Winfrey insisted, the shop assistant allegedly replied: "No, no you don't want to see that one, you want to see this one because that one will cost too much. You will not be able to afford that."

The star said she left the shop calmly without arguing, but that the experience was proof that racism continues to be a problem

Oprah, whose net worth is $2.8 billion, could've bought the entire store, of course, but she didn't name the store or the handbag in the interview. Nonetheless, the ensuing media storm revealed that the store was the Trois Pommes and the handbag as a version of "Jennifer" bag by designer Tom Ford. The price of the bag? A cool $38,000.

The store's owner was put on the defensive, of course, and claimed that it was not racism - rather, a "misunderstanding" by the salesperson, and refused to dismiss the employee. Others, however, disagreed. The Zurich tourism board, realizing that the event had been a complete PR nightmare, immediately apologized and said that it was "never happy when our guests' feelings are hurt."

We can't help but notice: $38,000 FOR A HANDBAG? What was it made of? SOLID GOLD? Maybe it came with a car.

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If you have to ask "can I take a look at that bag" and it's a $38000 bag, then regardless of the color of your skin, it's telling the shopkeeper that you absolutely can't afford it. The fact that Oprah was ignorant of that fact may not be her fault but that doesn't make the shop keeper racist. Almost anyone who would buy a bag like that would know exactly what it was and would have planned out the purchase very carefully and would never say, "can I take a look at it" nonchalantly. If someone is spending that much on a bag do they really want one that was handled by a stream of people that just felt like touching it? No, it devalues the bag, just like how a high end shoe is almost worthless after a few hundred socialites have tried it on. Oprah is being ignorant, mean and petty about this and should apologize to the salesperson and the store for the bad press that they absolutely did not deserve. It had absolutely nothing to do with racism. It has everything to do with an elitist snob who thinks that everyone in the world has a right to go around handling $38000 handbags for fun or else the people selling them deserve worldwide condemnation.
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Oprah is claiming that this is racism, so to her it was overt, not subtle. It could have been one of many other kinds of discrimination (as I pointed out), or none at all. As someone has pointed out below, it would only be clear racism if someone else (of a different race) asked for the same bag and had no problem getting a look at it. If Oprah was so bothered AT THE TIME (not later, when she could give out a one-sided story to the press), she might have asked why it was she didn't appear to be the type of person who could afford the bag. It seems to me like a relatively small thing at the time has been blown up sky high after Oprah had a lot of time to think about it.
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