Oprah Winfrey discusses problems with racism in 2013
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The US talk show host, 67, has spoken out about discrimination towards people of colour on many occasions. She described herself as a “product of the Civil Rights movement” and believed she would not have been a star if she was born two years earlier, due to school segregation laws. Oprah, whose TV interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry airs this weekend in the US, gave her take on how to end the “prejudice and racism”.
Oprah, who is currently worth £1.9billion ($2.7billion) according to Forbes, admitted she faced racism on a regular basis.
She claimed there were “nitwits” on Twitter who “used the N-word” to attack her and there were times when she experienced racism in-person.
The star claimed she “wasn’t let into” a French clothing store because the owners “were scared” after being “robbed by two black people the week before”.
Oprah also told the TV show, Larry King Now, about a sales assistant who suggested a luxurious handbag was “too expensive” for her.
She believed the “name-brand store” worker said she “couldn’t afford it” because of the colour of her skin.
Oprah wanted to reenact the “Pretty Woman scene” and “buy everything” while telling the salesperson, “big mistake, big mistake”.
But she thought the woman would “get a commission” on the sale so decided against it.
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The TV star’s comments in 2013 to the late talk show star Larry King, who died of sepsis last month after being hospitalised with coronavirus, were one of many times she’s addressed racism.
Oprah starred in the films The Butler, The Colour Purple and Selma, which all dealt with prejudice and discrimination experienced by people of colour.
In a 2013 BBC interview, she discussed racism experienced “all over the world” with the journalist Will Gompertz.
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Oprah believed films like The Butler, 12 Years A Slave and others all reiterated the horrors of racism and the need for the world to be more aware of it.
She said: “It would be foolish to not recognise that we have evolved and that we’re not still facing the same kind of terrorism against black people en-masse.”
While Oprah thought things had “got better”, she noted there were “still places where people are terrorised because of the colour of their skin… their black skin”.
She continued: “There are laws that have allowed us to progress beyond what we saw in the Scottsboro Boys and beyond even the prejudice we see in The Butler.”
Mr Gompertz seemed to try to elicit a further response from Oprah when he asked: “So are you saying, ‘Problem solved’?”
Oprah quickly fired back: “I’m saying, ‘Problem not solved!’”
She explained that films about racism “allow people to see where the root of the problem started” but also how to change things for the future.
Oprah continued: “This is how far we’ve come and this is how much further we need to go – of course, the problem is not solved.
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“As long as people can be judged by the colour of their skin the problem is not solved.”
She explained that some racism was perpetuated through “whole generations” and people today had different beliefs to those people.
Oprah said: “There’s a whole generation, I’ve said this for Apartheid in South Africa, I’ve said this for my own community in the South.
“There are still generations of people – older people – who are born and bred and marinated in it, and that prejudice and racism and they just have to die.”
Oprah was then asked whether she thought former US President Barack Obama faced different “treatment” and “challenges” due to being African-American.
Mr Gompertz particularly pointed out claims made during the election campaigns in 2008 and 2012.
One of the most shocking examples was the false and malicious “Birther conspiracy theory” that wrongly alleged Mr Obama was not a US citizen.
Mr Gompertz asked Oprah if she thought the then-President would have been “treated the same way and had the same confrontations if he was a white guy”.
Oprah responded: “It’s crossed my mind as much as it’s crossed your mind.
“It’s probably crossed my mind more times than it’s crossed your mind, just the level of disrespect.
“I think there’s a level of disrespect for the office that occurs and that occurs in some cases and maybe in many cases because he’s African-American.”
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