August 9, 2013
From the AP:
Talk show host Oprah Winfrey says she encountered racism while shopping in Switzerland – and the national tourism office agrees.
The media mogul, who is one of the world’s richest women, told the U.S. program “Entertainment Tonight” that a shop assistant in Zurich refused to show her a handbag because it was “too expensive” for her.
A spokeswoman for the Swiss tourism office, Daniela Baer, told The Associated Press on Friday “we are very sorry for what happened to her.”
But although the Swiss government is already apologizing for the incident, the owners of the shop deny that any act of “racism” occurred:
A Swiss luxury boutique denied any wrongdoing Friday after US chat show queen Oprah Winfrey claimed she had been the subject of racism when a shop assistant allegedly refused to show her an expensive handbag.
Trudie Goetz, head of the Swiss luxury chain Trois Pommes, denied her saleswoman had ever sought to stop Winfrey buying the bag.
“It’s a misunderstanding,” she said, adding that the saleswoman always put the customer first and tried to be “too kind”.
“She explained how beautiful the bag was, then she said, ‘Honestly this bag costs 35,000 Swiss francs, but I can show you other versions in ostrich, in pure leather and in velour’,” Goetz said.
Goetz said no disciplinary action was planned against the saleswoman.
I commend the store for standing its ground on the issue, at least for the time being.
It is impossible to say what the saleswoman was thinking at the time, or what exactly the exchange between the two women was. If the saleswoman’s suggestion that Winfrey consider a less expensive bag had no racial motivations, then this episode is just one more in the long list of imagined “racist” incidents, another example of an irrational black person seeing the phantoms of slavery everywhere. On the other hand, if the saleswoman did make the suggestion because of Winfrey’s race, this would simply mean that some whites still hold the rational view that a cheaper item is more fitting for a black woman because on average blacks are poorer than whites. In either case the white woman would not be guilty of any wrongdoing.