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View Full Version : Racial divide shows up on Walmart book shelves



xSnoofovich
03-09-2010, 13:22
http://www.ohio.com/news/102043983.html

U.S. store chain segregating titles by subjects' skin color

At many area Walmarts, the book section is extremely well-organized.

The self-help books are here . . . the religion section is there . . . cooking and diet books farther down . . . and right over here is the black section.

You think I'm kidding?

At Walmart, apparently, skin color trumps all.

The ''black section'' contains everything written by and about blacks: romance novels, self-help books, religion, sports, even an autobiography by the current president of the United States.

Now, whether or not you're a fan of Barack Obama, can't we at least agree that the thing that defines him is not his skin color but his job title? We have lots and lots of African-Americans in this country about 38 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau but during this country's entire 234-year history we have had only 44 presidents.

Yet there he is, right in the middle of six monochromatic shelves, peering out at us from the cover of The Audacity of Hope.

At the Walmart on Arlington Road in Springfield Township, you'll find two fancy, hardcover books by people who are household names in professional football. Drew Brees, quarterback of the 2009 Super Bowl champion
New Orleans Saints, smiles on the cover of Coming Back Stronger: Unleashing the Hidden Power of Adversity. Tony Dungy, coach of the 2006 Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts, smiles on the cover of The Mentor Leader.

But you won't find those books side by side. Why? Because Brees is white and Dungy is black.

The black guy goes in the black section. After all, who other than a black person would want to read a book by an insightful, ethical, inspirational football coach?

At the Walmart in Montrose, Storm Warning, by hugely popular white pastor Billy Graham, can be found in the religion section. But Life Overflowing, by hugely popular black pastor T.D. Jakes, is in the black section, along with Dungy and Obama and Sister Souljah and Adrienne Byrd and all those other people whom Walmart believes are pretty much the same.

The positioning of books within the black shelves would be laughable if it weren't such a sorry commentary on Walmart's thought process or lack thereof. For instance, directly beneath a faith book by gospel artist Kirk Franklin is a steamy novel called The Hot Box, whose back cover promises ''fiery titillation.''

Where does it go?

The megachain's deep thinkers must have agonized over some of these decisions. Imagine the gnashing of teeth over Obama:

Let's see . . . the guy is actually half-white, so maybe we should put him in the regular section . . . but he is also half-black, and people seem to regard him as the first black president . . . so I guess we should put him in the black section.

No doubt the placement of To Kill a Mockingbird presented a similar dilemma:

Gosh . . . the plot revolves around a black man falsely accused of rape, and there are a bunch of black characters . . . but the book was written by a white woman, and most of the characters are white . . . so we'd better put this one in the section with the real novels.

Did the knuckleheads making these decisions give a moment's thought to anything beyond black and white? Hard to tell.

Wal-Mart responds

When asked why many of its stores have a ''black section'' that lumps together everyone from romance novelists to preachers to the president of the United States even though they have little in common beside skin color Wal-Mart Stores Inc. responded without really responding.

''The book sections in our stores are designed to meet customer demand and feedback at the local level,'' read an e-mail from Phillip Keene, a media-relations official at the company's headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

''Like many national bookstores, and book sections at retailers across the country, some of our stores have a section for African-American-focused books, while a store in a different area of the country might have a large science-fiction section or Western section. . . .

''Additionally, our books are separated into hardcover bestsellers, paperback bestsellers and other categories and it's possible that titles could be moved to different areas of the book section based on demand or interest for that particular merchandise.''

OK, then.

If I'm correctly reading between the lines, the one and only issue here is effective marketing, and Wal-Mart thinks that drawing distinct lines between white and black will add up to more green.

I doubt it. I think it's insulting and financially counterproductive.

Wal-Mart is doing nothing more than feeding one of this country's worst habits: looking at absolutely everything in black and white.

No one can dispute that skin color colors much of how we perceive things and how we are perceived. But not everything is black and white. And until we can get that through our collective heads, we have no chance of solving the race problem that has haunted this country for centuries and periodically threatens to tear it apart.

Gypsy
03-09-2010, 17:12
Shameful. But, hey, it's Walmart.

FlakeySnowballer
03-09-2010, 23:56
Why? It is very practical i think. For example i don't like reading books written by Arabs authors or books about war and so on. Some people don't like black authors other don't like white authors.

xSnoofovich
06-09-2010, 11:12
Why? It is very practical i think. For example i don't like reading books written by Arabs authors or books about war and so on. Some people don't like black authors other don't like white authors.

But, why would it matter who wrote the material? Usually I disagree with the author, if I don't like his premise, but it just seems wrong to totally discount someone's point of view because of their race.

I mean seriously, how would one even know, if there wasn't a little picture of the guy/gal on the inside cover....

FlakeySnowballer
06-09-2010, 21:51
But, why would it matter who wrote the material? Usually I disagree with the author, if I don't like his premise, but it just seems wrong to totally discount someone's point of view because of their race.

I mean seriously, how would one even know, if there wasn't a little picture of the guy/gal on the inside cover....

It is a question

dontcallme
06-09-2010, 21:57
It should surely depend on the content of the book. When I go to the library I often go to the Africa section to get out a book on African history or a political figure.

But if there's a romance book by a black writer then surely it should be with the rest of the romance books. If a black coach writes a book unless he's mostly writing about black issues then surely it should be in the sports section.

But it's a bookshop and if they think this arrangement is better for selling books then it's up to them I guess.

TolkoRaz
06-09-2010, 22:06
Its not that long ago when libraries had segregated areas for blacks and whites. In fact, balcks were probably banned from many libraries in the US.

Former Secretary of State Coln Powell gave an interesting speech towards the end of last year I attended in Washington. He was explaining how far America had gone at integrating the blacks. With great style he recounted how he and his young wife had travelled around the US in the 60s unable to stop for many 100s of Kms for a meal or for the night because the hotels and restaurants were 'white only'. In those days, they had to plan their trips with military precision and stop at the homes owned by black friends or family members.

To think that was only 50 years ago is incredible!

xSnoofovich
07-09-2010, 10:19
It is a question

It is an answer