Generally speaking, I don’t use my blog as a platform to discuss celebrity news. But I believe that – even in the vacuous world of the celebrity – social commentary can be found in one way or another. The following is a prime example:
First, the story: Billionaire media mogul Oprah Winfrey has been all in the headlines this week for offering up an anecdote about a potentially racial encounter she experienced in Switzerland. While she was at an upscale store there, she asked to see a $38,000 handbag. Apparently the clerk refused to show her the bag, assuming she wasn’t able to afford it. Since the time Oprah shared this story, she has oddly apologized over the misunderstanding (my guess is so that she can save face with her largely white following. But that’s neither here nor there).
My initial reaction to the story was “Damn. That was racist.” [Well actually, my VERY first thought was "Wait. Who, in all of heaven and Earth, doesn't know who Oprah is?" But I digress.] The fact is: the clerk made an assumption (a very costly one) about Oprah’s ability to pay for the bag solely off of her appearance. Black people in this country are almost instinctively hardwired to believe that our racial appearance often dictates how people view us even before a word exits our mouth. That being said, I understand Oprah’s inclination to suspect the role of race in this situation. So ends that conversation.
But in an interesting turn of events, Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry – a scholar whom I deeply respect – went in another direction. Rather than focusing on the moment, Harris-Perry goes in hard on Oprah and her spending habits. Check it:
One the surface, I get it. There is an ongoing belief that wealthy folks must be held to a higher standard with their money because of their status. The handbag that Oprah was looking at was worth more than many families in this country bring home in a year. Kimye’s decision to spend over $700,000 on toilet seats is ridiculous in a country where children are sleeping on the streets. Puffy buying his kid a $360,000 car as a birthday gift reeks of social irresponsibility. In general, the spending habits of celebrities is out of control and far out of touch. I hear you loud and clear. And I agree.
But here’s where my issue lies (and even I’M surprised I feel this way): what this boils down is us casting judgement on wealthy people for doing (or not doing) deeds with their money in a manner satisfactory enough for us. In that same vein though, I have to ask: are we? While we criticize celebrities for the way they spend their income, how can we justify receiving an income that far exceeds what we actually need in life? I’m quite sure that at one point or another, each of us has devoted our resources to non-essential deeds or items; none of which have actually contributed to society. If you don’t believe me: ask yourself why you traded in a perfectly fine vehicle just to get a new one. Ask yourself why you’re spending money on bottled water when tap water works just as well. Ask yourself why you’re going out to eat when you have food in your fridge? Ask yourself why you’re living in a house that costs $150,000 when you could have purchased one for $50,000. Ask yourself why you spend a hoard of money on Christmas gifts each year. Do we need that stuff, or do we just want it?
I’ll go on record agreeing that $38,000 is way too much for a handbag. But I say all this while I’m still fuming over a bad flat screen TV I bought to replace a perfectly good tube TV I had. I say this knowing that I have three monitors on my computer at work (because, you know, one monitor is soooo 2008). I say this while I check Facebook notifications from my $600
mass of hotness and badassery smartphone. I’m sure many of you can lay claim to some of the same kinds of items.
The point of this post isn’t to make you feel bad about how you spend your money. Not at all. But while you’re spending your money on stuff you don’t need, you can’t righteously attack celebs who do so. I defer to my Savior BFF: Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
I found that verse scrolling though the Bible app on my $600 phone.