Even the big “O” got caught up in the race game. In an absurd statement last month, she said that the Trayvon Martin and Emmet Till cases were the “same thing” in her mind. I have no intention of discussing just how wrong she is, since it should be overwhelmingly obvious.
Even if we assume that the events, as recalled by Oprah, are 100% accurate, it is far from certain that this is a case of racism. To toss it out like that, willy-nilly, is beneath someone of her dignity and stature. And frankly, as a big fan of hers, it is shocking!
Maybe the Swiss shop girl was having a bad day. Or maybe she was just not good at her job. Or maybe she just didn’t like Oprah Winfrey. Or maybe she thought the purse Oprah was asking for wasn’t right for her skin complexion, or it didn’t match her eye-color, or her shoes. Or maybe her back hurt and she didn’t want to reach for the purse on the display. Or maybe it’s just generally a pain to take the display purse down, and she got tired of having to put it back when everyone saw how expensive it was. Or maybe the display purse had a defect and she didn’t want to show it to anyone. Or maybe it was the last one, and she was holding it for someone else. Or maybe her commission was lower, or there was none, for the display purse. The point is, if you’re not absolutely certain — especially if you’re Oprah Winfrey — then you don’t call someone a racist.
In the movie, “Pretty Woman,” we saw how the snobby clerks at the expensive fashion store treated Julia Roberts. While the behavior appeared repulsive on the big screen, it was clearly not a case of racism. Julia, after all, was a pretty white girl. She just happened to be dressed like a hooker. I guess you could claim that Miss Roberts was “profiled” by her attire, and that is probably true. But, like in most cases of “profiling” people based on the way they act and dress, the snobby store clerks got it right — the girl in the knee-high glossy leather boots, platinum-blonde wig, and the mini-skirt was a hooker.
The Swiss shop girl makes some good points. Why didn’t Oprah complain? Why didn’t she tell the owner of the store, who she attended a party with the next evening? And, besides, who in the civilized world doesn’t know who Oprah Winfrey is? And that she could more than afford such a purse?
The shop girl claims flat-out that Oprah is not telling the truth. It looks to me like Oprah got caught up in the Sharptonism sweeping the country since the Zimmerman shooting, and I suspect she was embellishing a bit. She has already expressed regret and says she is sorry that it became such a big deal. I truly believe she regrets saying it, and still think Oprah is a paragon of the American spirit. But this event and the comparison of Trayvon Martin to Emmett Till has revealed the tiniest crack in her veneer.
The way to repair this crack is to admit that the story was embellished, and to admit that she too-quickly played the race-card, and to sincerely apologize to the shop girl for improperly calling her a racist. In other words, Oprah needs to OWN up to it.