MSNBC’s Melissa Harris Perry is calling out billionaire Oprah Winfrey over her desire to purchase a $38,000 handbag in Zurich. Yeah, the same bag that is the center of the racism row the talk show diva and a sales assistant at Trois Pommes boutique are having. Melissa Harris-Perry’s own words: “Denied her right to buy a $38,000 handbag! The outrage!…This particular slight might be well categorized as one-percenter problems.” (H/T Mediaite)
While rightfully acknowledging racism’s acidity no matter your economic strata, Harris-Perry placed Winfrey’s purchase into much-needed socioeconomic perspective by unveiling the “Nerdland’s Guide To Spending $38,000,” which included a two-story house in Buffalo, a year’s tuition for the show’s intern, or, most pointedly, thirty months of food for a family of four, which would also work out to eleven years of SNAP benefits for an average family. Many people, Harris-Perry was saying, are prevented by systemic inequality from getting enough to eat, let alone an exorbitant status symbol; and for them, the obstacles to food and shelter is more than just a snooty shop clerk. Source: Mediaite
Here’s the handbag that has some people up-in-arms:
Melissa Harris Perry should worry about her own money. Oprah Winfrey didn’t steal her vast wealth from anyone. She earned it fair and square. So, if she wants to buy an island like Richard Branson, that’s her business. Harris Perry was right on one point that the scourge of racism knows no socioeconomic status. Racism can follow up right up the ladder into an upper income tax bracket. Never mind the fact that Oprah Winfrey has given a lot of money to charity and has put a lot of kids through college. That’s more than Ms. Harris Perry has ever done.
The Wall Street Journal backs Melissa Harris Perry’s view in a roundabout way:
What Winfrey construes as a racial episode is actually a story about class–a wealthy, privileged celebrity aggrieved by a lowly saleswoman’s lack of deference. And it’s not her first brush with this sort of impertinence: “The incident comes eight years after Winfrey was turned away from a Hermes store in Paris a few minutes after closing,” the News notes. Apparently fermé is un sifflet pour chien.
It’s reminiscent of the endlessly repeated claim that criticism of Barack Obama proves racism is alive and well in America. Somehow Obama’s defenders are unable to see past the color of his skin and notice that he is president of the United States. As for Winfrey, she went all the way to Europe to discover that racism is alive in America.
[UPDATE 08/13/13] Oprah Winfrey says she is sorry for the uproar, media response caused by her comments about incident in Swiss luxury store - @Reuters