Focus on sting of racial stereotyping, not the reaction of the victim

RE “BOUTIQUE prejudice: Oprah smooths the fuffles” (Aug. 14): Your editorial about Oprah Winfrey and the Swiss store clerk who refused to show her a $38,000 handbag was fine to begin with. But why did you have to bring up the issue of Henry Louis Gates as some kind of a contrast?

Winfrey’s incident happened in a foreign country, which does not have the same racial antagonisms as we do. Gates was arrested on his own property and roughly handled on charges that would have been thrown out of court if they had not already been dropped by the Cambridge police.

The implied meaning of the comparison was that Winfrey had not lost her cool, while Gates had lost his. You wrote, “Successful people often feel an extra bolt of anger when they feel stereotyped.” Certainly the average African-American, when stereotyped, feels not only anger but fear as well. As Trayvon Martin no longer can tell us, for them stereotyping can be extremely dangerous.

Peter B. Denison