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Diatribe: Being Judged By Your Appearance Even If You’re Oprah.


OprahI’m often amused by the way people perceive each other based only on the way they look.  Far too many people judge others based solely on their appearance without making an effort to learn more.  Frequently, the first impression that we make on strangers is determined by what we wear.

If I stop at a department store in my local mall on the way home from the office, salespeople will most always approach me to ask if I need help.  Perhaps they assume that, because I’m dressed nicely I have money to spend.  On the other hand, if I drop by the same store after finishing chores at the barn, dressed in jeans and boots, I’ll be all but ignored by the same sales staff.  Wardrobe choice is not the only means by which people are judged prematurely.

Recently, Oprah Winfrey claimed her request to see a handbag in a boutique during a recent visit to Switzerland was denied because an employee thought she would be able to afford it.  Winfrey, apparently, believes the clerk’s reaction was determined by her race.

“I was in Zurich the other day, in a store whose name I will not mention.  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.’” – Oprah Winfrey to Entertainment Tonight.

When Winfrey insisted that she really did want to see the almost-$40,000 bag, the clerk 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.”

The store eventually apologized saying the incident was simply a “misunderstanding”.  They were, of course, correct … they misunderstood that Oprah earned approximately seventy-seven million dollars last year alone, is worth more than a billion dollars and can afford to buy all the purses that she wants … regardless of the color of her skin.

Have you ever been judged, like Oprah, because of your appearance?


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From → Diatribes

  1. Yes, we once walked into an appliance store having done our homework and ready to buy. We were dressed cleanly, but defiinitely casually. Several store clerks, obviously on commission, passed us by. It was their loss as we bought a refrigerator and washer/ dryer that day.

    With that said, as a 54 year old white man, there is no way for me to walk in the shoes of an African American who is discriminated against by appearance perhaps daily. Even Oprah is not immune. We should highlight discrimination like this as it is not right.


  2. This is getting weird. I was thinking of the same movie scene as I typed my comment. Where is Rod Serling? What was her line after she went back – “You work on commission, right, Big mistake (as she held up the bags).” There is a great book called “The Millionaire Next Door.” The people who have a lot of money, don’t always flaunt it. They got that way by being smart, not looking smart. Signing off humming Roy Orbison’s tune.


  3. thedogs'mother permalink

    I’ve always been an Accidental Minority. I have dark skin, dark hair and dark eyes. Before marriage I had a very unusual last name. I have been mistaken for an American Indian or a Hispanic person. Kids can be stupid and I was called ‘Squaw’ by some. In college my sorority called their lawyer to fight national because of their policy of Whites only (late 70s!). They were all excited to fight *the woman* and win a victory for minorities in the Greek System. I felt bad to break their hearts and I was Caucasian as they were.


  4. Yes, hubby & I like to be comfortable & so we dress accordingly. We once went into a high end furniture store because we wanted to buy a new couch. We wanted to buy the type that reclines since we are both getting older & want to get off our feet. The clerks just kept ignoring us even when we wanted to ask about prices on a piece we were considering. We finally walked out the door & have never visited this chain again.


  5. Sunny permalink

    I was in Paris one year, and I love buying Christmas ornaments, so I went into a small shop run by a woman. French people are known not to be friendly to Americans to begin with. To make a long story short, I had items and money in my hand and she refused to acknowledge me but waited on a French woman. She wouldn’t look at me. I walked out. Possibly because anyone can see I am an American woman who could afford to spend and is confident.

    I had gone into a store in Niagra Falls, Canada one year, and as I was selecting items, the women started making remarks about my spending money on their junk and laughing. I thought it was cattiness.

    If these people look at themselves one way and judge others the same because they are backward, they have a problem as American women are quite different and very resourceful.

    As far as Oprah’s experience with the woman salesperson, these people know American woman have money to burn when they travel. Apparently, they treat women the same way they are treated in their country which is demeaning. It is all about their poor self image.

    If it happened in America, she would be in there with cameras and have them on the news. I don’t think anyone in this country is that stupid to try and pull that one on Oprah.


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