August 13, 2013

JAMES TARANTO: This Is Not Rosa Parks: Oprah Winfrey’s Swiss adventure.

We quite like this story as a parable of race relations in 21st-century America. Whatever actually happened at Trois Pommes, it was not a systemic indignity like the Montgomery, Ala., rule that required black bus riders to give up seats when white passengers boarded (to say nothing of the entire Jim Crow system of which that rule was a part).

What Winfrey construes as a racial episode is actually a story about class–a wealthy, privileged celebrity aggrieved by a lowly saleswoman’s lack of deference. And it’s not her first brush with this sort of impertinence: “The incident comes eight years after Winfrey was turned away from a Hermes store in Paris a few minutes after closing,” the News notes. Apparently fermé is un sifflet pour chien.

It’s reminiscent of the endlessly repeated claim that criticism of Barack Obama proves racism is alive and well in America. Somehow Obama’s defenders are unable to see past the color of his skin and notice that he is president of the United States. As for Winfrey, she went all the way to Europe to discover that racism is alive in America.

She’s got a role to promote. She’s promoting it. Collateral damage is just a bonus.