The media round for the new movie Lee Daniels’ The Butler this issue of racism has come up quite a bit. One would think with Oprah’s celebrity and let’s be real coin, that racism wouldn’t affect her life. Yet, that’s not the case. When Oprah was in Zurich, Switzerland for Tina Turner’s wedding she went into a store which didn’t name initially but has since been identified as Trois Pommes and a sales associate who clearly didn’t recognize or had never heard of Oprah discriminated.
Here is how Oprah relayed the story.
I go into a store and I say to the woman, ‘Excuse me, may I see the bag right above your head?’ and she says to me, ‘No. It’s too expensive. When Winfrey insisted she did want to see the bag the shop assistant allegedly replied: 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. Winfrey, who is a billionaire, continued: There’s two different ways to handle it. I could’ve had the whole blow-up thing… but [racism] still exists, of course it does.
When the incident came to the attention of the store owner, Trudie Goetz, she brushed the whole incident off as a simple misunderstanding. Eventually, she issued an apology saying she was truly sorry because her staff is well trained to treat customers well. And then she made an excuse for the employee
“I have to admit that the employee is Italian. Of course, she speaks English, but not as well as her mother tongue.”
Girl, boo. Even if that was the case, it’s a shame you have a woman who can’t understand English on the floor, assisting potential customers. Had she been more fluent in the language, she and the store stood to gain a lot of money. Now, they’re known internationally as that racist Swiss boutique.
While the store owner was ready to chalk it up to a misunderstanding, the Swiss tourism board was willing to call a thing a thing, recognizing the incident as terrible.
Daniela Baer, a spokeswoman for the Swiss tourism office, issued a public apology saying “We are very sorry for what happened to her, of course, because we think all of our guests and clients should be treated respectfully, in a professional way.”
Then the tourism board took to Twitter to inform the masses: “this person acted terribly wrong.”
Watch Oprah recount the incident on the next page.