Oprah Winfrey shows how racism still exists in the present day
You cannot be my friend and use that word around me. It shows my age, but I feel strongly about it. … I always think of the millions of people who heard that as their last word as they were hanging from a tree. – Oprah while in conversation with film director, Lee Daniels, who directed her in the film, “The Butler”. Oprah Winfrey holds the distinct position of being one of the richest women in the world, and by most accounts, is the richest and only billionaire of African-American origin. Known as a talk show host, change maker, influencer, and one of the world’s most generous philanthropists, she has truly “walked the talk” when it has come to following her self-created life mantra, “live your best life”. One would imagine therefore, that racism and Oprah would come together as part of a theme for discussion on her show, and not in fact, a part of her real life experiences. However, racism did rear its ugly head recently as Oprah faced racist behavior at a handbag store in Switzerland recently. She chose to speak out about it, and has since, received an apology from the store’s owner, and also from the Swiss Tourism Board. The fact remains, however, that racism is still alive and kicking, and can, in fact serve as a damper to women with black, brown, or non-white skin. It is natural that an international icon with as much power, money, and influence as Oprah, can and will receive attention and justice, should they challenge racist behavior; for others however, it is unlikely that the media, various boards, management and governments, or even the person responsible for racist behavior, will take notice or issue an apology. Oprah’s own brushes with racism began while she was growing up, and she has been publicly taunted on her own show by racists who later featured on future episodes of her show and apologized to her. She has always been vocal about issues which other talk show hosts have skimmed over but not focused on, and as a woman of color, is able to empathize fully with the uncalled for discrimination of people based on superficial appearances. In an Indian context, one can easily draw parallels between the racists abroad, and those within the country, who refuse equal rights to those from specific sections of the country. Preference on the basis of skin tone is natural in certain industries, and is creating much business for cosmetic companies whose products constantly propagate the theory that light skin is necessary for one to achieve success. As a woman of color who is one of the most well known influencers of the 20th century, Oprah has made it clear that she will not remain silent about racism and racist attacks against her. Her personal success is testimony to the fact that the color of one’s skin has no relation with attaining success or otherwise. While the now resolved and highly publicized, “handbag” incident could be considered by many as being “blown out of proportion”, it is in reality, a cause for concern. It is hope that women of color, regardless of background and career, will take a cue from Oprah, and stand up against racism and discrimination, which could otherwise negatively impact their lives and careers.