Even the most successful black Americans can feel haunted by a vague, invisible form of discrimination. The author's advice is to stop looking for it.
A young Belgian man hops from his bicycle and walks into the Paul Andriesse gallery in Amsterdam. He's dressed in a heavy black bomber jacket, black jeans and white leather sneakers, and drawn to a large painting on the wall. It's an expensive piece and when he asks about it, an assistant refers him to the owner, who emerges from the back of the room to say: "I don't see clients without an appointment." When he tries to get one, the response is simply "No."
The young Belgian man, who happens to be the art buyer and fashion designer Raf Simons--one of the most celebrated and influential designers in the world--leaves the gallery and doesn't return. Asked about the incident later, he's not embarrassed: "That's how things work in the art world," he tells a journalist. "It's not a matter of being [famous] and walking in to purchase a piece...[that] isn't a license to get whatever I want."
Over in Paris, a middle-aged black woman approaches the entrance to Hermès's flagship store. The store's been closed for fifteen minutes, though a doorman and a clerk remain outside. The woman and her entourage attempt to enter but are refused and asked to come again another day. The woman is Oprah Winfrey, and this story, unlike the first, made international news. A spokesperson for Ms. Winfrey called it, "Oprah's 'Crash' moment"--referring to the movie about nuanced forms of racism. Ms. Winfrey for her part was troubled enough by the incident to contact the U.S. President of Hermès personally and to devote a segment of her talk show to it.