Wal Mart site makes racist links
About that Wal-Mart story
by John in DC - 1/05/2006 06:19:00 PM
There's a story going around about Wal-Mart, and I'm sorry, but I don't buy it. I'm not saying the story is wrong - it's not - but the conclusions folks are taking from the story... well, I just don't agree.
Here's the deal. On Wal-Mart's Web site you can find the movie "Planet of the Apes." And if you look at "similar items," you'll see an MLK history and other stuff dealing with the black community. Though now that I check, it's no longer showing "black" items - though I did see them on the site earlier.
A lot of folks are now sending this around accusing Wal-Mart of racism. Sorry, but that's ridiculous.
There's lots to criticize Wal-Mart over, but the Planet of the Apes isn't one of them. Companies can be evil, but they're not stupid, or not THIS stupid. Wal-Mart has been accused recently of discriminating against people with disabilities, but they weren't dumb enough to put it on their Web site.
All I'm saying is that just because Wal-Mart sometimes sucks doesn't mean they suck in this instance. I just don't believe any major American corporation is going to link the Planet of the Apes and black people, it's just not gonna happen. Something obviously went awry here, but I just refuse to buy that racism is the cause. Sorry.
Wal-Mart just released the following statement:
We are heartsick that this happened and are currently doing everything possible to correct the problem. The offensive combinations that have been identified will be removed from the site by 5:30 CT today. However, with thousands of movie items available, there is an almost endless number of possible combinations. Because of that, we will be shutting down our entire movie cross-selling system until the problem is resolved.
We are deeply sorry that this happened.
Our system, like those of most other on-line buying sites, refers buyers interested in a particular movie to other movies through a technical process known as "mapping."
Walmart.com's item mapping process does not work correctly and at this point is mapping seemingly random combinations of titles. We were horrified to discover that some hurtful and offensive combinations are being mapped together.
To further illustrate the bizarre nature of this technical issue, the site is also mapping movies such as Home Alone and Power Puff Girls to African American literature.
I don't agree with John, and here's why. This is no mistake. The programmer did this on purpose. Wal-Mart has a bad record on race as is.
When I watched Planet of the Apes, it was sci-fi to me, and not marketed to blacks specifically.
Yes, John, they can be this stupid. To wit, Wal Mart managers accused a black HR exec of presenting a stolen check from GAF. Did they call? No. They had the Pinellas County Sheriff arrest him.
And among the 40 lawsuits filed against Wal Mart, at least one deals with racial discrimination.
This is a cultural issue, and Wal Mart's culture doesn't value blacks. It may have started out as an internal joke, but it ended up online and no one corrected it.
But their admission makes it clear this was no accident. As does the speed of their response. Given their database, the ONLY way those movies could come up is on purpose. There is no accident in this, none.
If you check Amazon and Netflix, there is no such correleation. What you get is more Planet of the Apes films. No Martin Luther King or Tina Turner.
posted by Steve @ 12:02:00 AM