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My original post spawned some enlightening comments from AlterNet readers of multiple races & backgrounds. The post also incited some intense debate and anger and miscommunication and offense, so I'd like to clarify my opinion on the subject.
I never meant to imply that race was not a factor in Oprah's treatment at Hermes that evening. On the contrary -- the more I've read about the situation, the more it genuinely seems to reek of racism.
What I should have been clearer about -- in retrospect, what I probably should have saved for a different post -- is my disdain for out-of-control celebrity entitlement. I didn't mean to infer that Oprah behaved in an obnoxious way at Hermes -- and, of course, even if she did, she still wouldn't deserve to be a target of discrimination. No one deserves to be a victim of racism, no matter how powerful they are or how much money they make.
I never meant to imply that because Oprah happens to be rich & powerful, she deserved what she got; or that she brought it on herself by being too demanding.
A close friend -- who weighed in on my original Oprah post -- emailed me this morning to explain her feelings on the matter, and the ways in which certain AlterNet readers' responses offended her. She says it best herself:
No one seems to be getting the black people's point about class versus race...What we're saying is that we are frustrated that white people seem to think that since Oprah is rich, her blackness is now insignificant, and she could never be discriminated against because her money somehow fortifies her against it. It's this idea that her class trumps her race, and that now she is part of the elite that are never mistreated -- like, "of course that doesn't happen to rich black people!" This Hermes incident shows that her race is still significant, no matter how much money she has. I'm disturbed that this is crystal clear for black people, but that white people haven't thought about this enough, nor really listened to what we are saying to have this click for them. This really shows that white people need to talk about race more, because they aren't getting it.
Laura Barcella is an Associate Editor at AlterNet.