Let Freedom Ring
Happy Black Herstory Month
By Trissean McDonald
African Americans are appreciated in the month of February for their civil rights activism and their multiple contributions toward race and equality for all. Still, elements of society still treat black Americans as “less than” their white or other minority counterparts.
Media mogul Oprah Winfrey made history this year at the Golden Globes Awards as the first black woman to be awarded the Cecil B. DeMille Award. The award is granted by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) for “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment.”
Joining the ranks of Sidney Poitier and Lucille Ball, Oprah is the first African American woman to be given the honor. Her speech was so empowering that many thought it was the beginning of a presidential campaign.
“I want all the girls watching here and now to know that a new day is on the horizon,” Winfrey said. “And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say, ‘Me too’ again.”
Winfrey’s speech referenced an ongoing conversation about sexual misconduct allegations within Hollywood. Her own experiences in the past make her especially qualified to speak on behalf of the #MeToo movement.
Despite her global status as a renowned journalist, Winfrey experienced an incident a few years ago that reminded her of the challenges of being a black woman in the world.
She said that a sales associate in a store in Zurich, Switzerland refused to sell her an upmarket handbag because it was “too expensive” for Winfrey to afford.
“I go into a store that shall remain unnamed and I say to the woman, ‘May I see that bag right above your head?’ and she says to me ‘No. It’s too expensive.’ “And I said ‘No, no, no, the black one, the one that’s folded over,’ and she said, ‘No, no, no, you don’t want to see that one, you want to see this one because that one will cost too much. You won’t be able to afford that one’,” Winfrey said in an article posted by the Daily Mail.
The store owner denied all allegations and said that she would apologize for any inconvenience if she ever had the opportunity to speak directly to Winfrey.
“I would apologize and say it was all a misunderstanding. I surely did not intentionally want to insult Ms. Winfrey. I hope this nightmare ends soon,” said the store owner, who wanted to stay anonymous. “It is absolutely not true that I declined to show her the bag on [racial] grounds.”
Certain Americans tend to be oblivious, or at least feign their oblivion regarding racial disparities. But discrimination is global, and equally displayed in other countries. “I could have had the big blow-up thing and thrown down the black card and all that stuff, but why do that,” Winfrey said. Doing that, she implies, would have left her labeled as “the crazy/angry black woman.”
Winfrey’s often credits her earlier struggles with where she is today. As a young girl, she was sexually abused and became pregnant, but lost her baby shortly after its birth. Pain fades as scars heal, and Winfrey has since become a multi-billionaire with her OWN network. Outside of media, she continues to be a leading advocate for community activism.