Oprah in the Swiss Shop

In the Summer of 2013 Oprah Winfrey traveled to Switzerland to attend the wedding of her good friend Tina Turner. In a trendy Zurich fashion shop she spotted a fancy alligator handbag on a shelf, and asked a saleslady to show it to her.

“No, the woman said, “It’s too expensive.” Oprah asked again, and was told: “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.”

Oprah told this story to Entertainment Tonight when they asked if she had experienced racism personally. The incident instantly made headlines, and arguments raced like wildfire across social networks. Was this racism, or just (as the saleslady later claimed) a simple misunderstanding?

Click on the title below to hear my take on this incident. Then check out the snippet from Entertainment Tonight. What do you think?

Oprah in the Swiss Shop

Oprah in the Swiss shop not receiving good service.
When the word race is added to the mix
The story circles the globe making everybody nervous.

Was the clerk Racist, or was she just lazy.
Either one could be the case
        motivations below the surface are always hazy.

But context always matters and events are not the same.
The March on Washington, voting rights, Trayvon
        all fueled this flame.

A movie about the past haunting the present moment
Servants in the White house in days gone by
The first black president and my-my-my

We’re so primed to see race as a motivation at every turn
Our thoughts and emotions automatically start to churn
When any incident first comes to light.

When we look through such a narrow lens
It’s hard to figure out what’s wrong and what’s right
        we’re so sensitized for every slight,
        we can’t wait to jump into any fight.

What would happen if we could step back
Or look at the situation from above?
Maybe see the people in it as similar to ourselves
        in their quest for love,
        life, liberty and maybe a little peace.

When I look at Oprah in the Swiss shop I see many things
A workplace, very bad service, and the open question:
        Was it because of the color of her skin?

We’ll never know the answer to that one
But with that level of unprofessionalism
        It’s not a place I’d want to shop in.

Rude, dismissive, disrespectful like getting a “puppy pat,”
        And nobody, nobody
        wants to be treated like that.

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