The sales associate Oprah Winfrey indirectly accused of racial profiling has finally responded to the mogul’s accusations, and not surprisingly, she’s none too pleased about how the matter went down. In fact, she doesn’t think she racial profiled anyone. Instead, she thinks the whole situation amounts to one colossal misunderstanding.
Speaking to SonntagsBlick, the Italian shop clerk vehemently defended herself in an effort to clear up the situation and make the matter go away. Here’s a portion of her actual quote, as per The New York Daily News…
“I would never say something like that to a customer. Really never. I don't know why she is making these accusations. She is so powerful and I am just a shop girl. I simply told her that it was like the one I held in my hand, only much more expensive, and that I could show her similar bags.”
When Winfrey first recounted the incident of alleged racism, she didn’t bring up the clerk’s name or even the establishment. She was clearly just trying to use the story to illustrate we still have a ways to go with race relations, but given her incredible fame, it didn’t stay as a vague example for very long. Papparazzi photos were able to determine where Oprah shopped that day, and since there aren’t a lot of places that sell $38,000 handbags, it all traced back to the Tom Ford store at Trois Pommes, which immediately put everyone who works at the establishment on the defensive.
From Oprah’s perspective, the sales clerk refusing to show her the handbag was a sign of racism. From the clerk’s perspective, her initial apprehension at showing the handbag had more to do with almost no one wanting to buy a $38,000 handbag. In the end, it’s likely the truth is somewhere in the middle, a byproduct of the handbag being wildly expensive and Oprah not looking like she oozed money when she walked in, whether because of her outfit, her race or whatever. What it proves without a doubt, however, is the incredible imbalance of power a celebrity has when calling out a commoner on the street. Obviously, the OWN head wasn’t trying to do that, but when she did, it must have felt like the weight of the entire world was coming down on this girl who had no real chance to defend herself on an even playing field.
Store owner Trudie Goetz has already announced the sales girl will keep her job. Hopefully, everyone involved can simply move forward from this with a better awareness of their power to make others feel like shit, whether as an employee in a retail setting or as a celebrity with the media’s waiting ear.