Does Walmart Segregate Its Books By Race?

Say you’re shopping at Walmart and decide you want to pick up Barack Obama’s book The Audacity of Hope or maybe you’re an Indianapolis Colts fan and want to hear what Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy has to say in his book The Mentor Leader. But you can’t find either book in the Biography section… Oh, maybe you should look in those unmarked shelves that make up the “black” section of Walmart’s book selection.

Bob Dyer, a columnist at the Beacon Journal in Ohio checked out the book sections at two area Walmarts and found that, regardless of topic, if the author is black, the book gets lumped in with all the other books by black authors.

Writes Dyer:

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….

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.

Dyer contacted Walmart and asked why, when all the other books are so carefully meted out into specific sections, did the store lump together a section where you can find a tome on faith butting up against something called The Hot Box.

Walmart responded by saying they are just meeting the demands of the local customers:

The book sections in our stores are designed to meet customer demand and feedback at the local level… 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.

We know that some of you are current or former Walmart employees. Can anyone shed some light on how the individual stores set up their book selections? Is that left up to the local manager or is it something that comes down from the oracles in Arkansas?

Racial divide shows up on Walmart book shelves [Ohio.com]

Thanks to Bruce and Kyle for the tip!

Comments

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  1. Cantras says:

    I know that when I was in a tennessee Walmart, I cringed at a “black history month” or “AA heritage” or whatever black-positive-labeled display, featuring Audacity of Hope… and a handful of books about baby mama drama.

  2. Doubts42 says:

    I am willing to bet that wal-marts explanation was spot on.
    All Wal-Mart cares about is profit. They would not create a policy such as this for any other reason than to sell more books. Someone at some point figured out that in that store they sold more books by Black authors if they lumped all the black authors together in one section.
    No need to look for a grand racist conspiracy.

    • rushevents says:

      This is a damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation. If you don’t have an african american section you are racist because you are letting them be squelched by white writers and if you have a prominent african american section (like they do in my hometown) then you are also racist because you are separating them.

      • PunditGuy says:

        Who complained when the books were all together?

      • donkeydonkeypublicbathroom says:

        I think the perfect solution would be to have an African American section during African American/Black History month. There’s nothing wrong (or racist) about displaying book describing or written by/about someone of a specific ethnicity or heritage; libraries do it all the time through the year depending on the special observance month. But when you just put all the black books together, it looks all Jim Crow-y.

    • runswithscissors says:

      Being motivated by profit does not mean the actions taken cannot be racist.

      If I moved to WhitesupremacyTown and opened a restaurant and then over time learned from the majority of my customers that they would come to my establishment more often and spend more if I made it “Whites Only” – and I then did so (motivated only by profit, remember) – my actions would still be racist.

      I’m not saying WalMart is or is not being racist with this book issue, I’m just saying that a motivation of profit does not mean the actions taken are not racist (discriminatory based on race) actions.

      • XTC46 says:

        No, you wouldn’t be racist in that situation. You are not making a decision or judgement based on race. You are making based on customer feed back.Your customers are possibly being racist.

        • DEVO says:

          Exactly… The reason Walmart needs to put these books together could mean their customers are possibly racist. No? Of course not.

        • runswithscissors says:

          If they are making a decision and action based upon the race of someone, then that action and decision are racist – even if only done for money. One’s motivation may not be hatred or dislike of that race – it may be money – but the action taken can still be racist.

          Motivation and actions are separate, but closely related. Still, everyday people take actions that don’t reflect their motivations and conversely don’t act even though they are motivated.

          Full Racism
          Motivation: Racial prejudice
          Action: Discrimination, exclusion, violence

          Hidden Racism
          Motivation: Racial Prejudice
          Action: Repress motivation, deal with person of other race professionally and/or courteously.

          Financially Motivated Racism
          Motivation: Money
          Action: Discrimination, exclusion, violence

          Having a “Whites Only” restaurant because you think it’ll make more money is still racist.

          • zandar says:

            I agree. Their decision, ostensibly motivated by profit, tolerates racism, therefore condones it, just like they condone the systematic dismantling of the labor movement in this country by daring companies to sell their stuff to walmart at a loss, thereby driving them to the cheapest source, third world slave labor.

            You can’t excuse this shit by saying it’s all for the sake of profit. That’s be saying all the inequities in the world are justified because you made a buck off of it.

      • Doubts42 says:

        i did not say that the actions were not racist. Though I do not believe they were. i was saying that tthere was not a racist motivation or conspiracy. the motivation appears to be profit, the method appears to be intended to let those shopping for black authors an easier way to find them. this would seem to be the opposite of racism, unless it falls into the “soft bigotry of low expectations”. As in, “We put all the black authors together because the black folks are too dumb to find them when they are mixed in with all the other books”. I don’t see that as the case.

    • VanessaNYC says:

      Doubts42,

      Let’s flip the situation. All books written by white men are in one section. There’s no differentiation between any of the books. The books written by white women, blacks, Asians, Indians and all other groups are carefully placed into subject appropriate categories, so if you happen to be interested in cooking (for example) you can find cook books written by people of all different backgrounds (though the subject matter, cooking, would tie them all together). If you want a cookbook written by a white man, however, go over the the white man book section. Don’t worry, you’re not being ostracized, that’s just your demographic.

      Give me a break, “this isn’t racist.”

    • jackofnight says:

      I back this up as I work in a bookstore. Many customers who are black ask where is the ‘black or African-American’ book section is. They have a calling for such a section. The community asks for it and we try to accommodate it.

    • Big Mama Pain says:

      Thank you for a voice of reason. They probably forgot to take it down after Black History Month, big deal! Bookstores do specialty groupings all the time.

    • ChicagoDrew says:

      Ok, yes. You’ve all quickly deduced that a subtle form of segregation is at play here, but that’s all it is. Please learn the difference between that and racism before complicating this simple matter.

  3. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    How can you tell if some authors are “black” without significant amount of research prior to stocking the shelves? I highly doubt this is what’s going on….

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      They don’t need to do research. There are groups and blogs and word of mouth and Oprah, and combined they determine what black books black people should read, which subsequently become popular and must-haves for black people. Walmart picks those and shelves them together.

      White people? We just have the New York Times Bestseller List.

      • tbax929 says:

        Funny, I thought Oprah’s audience was predominantly white. In fact, I can’t stand her (I’m black), and none of my black female friends watch her, either.

    • viper2000 says:

      Maybe by the authors picture that frequently appears on the dust jacket, or on the back cover of the book?
      Granted, there’s not always a picture of the author, but a lot of the time there is.

      • lymer says:

        Not to be mean, but opening the book to see a picture of the author is probably considered “significant amount of research” for your average walmart stocker.

      • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

        That’s why if I ever write a book, instead of my picture on the dust jacket, I want the picture of a 4 year old Phillipino boy.

        But mostly because I’m too fat to fit onto a just jacket picture.

    • Cyniconvention says:

      Context clues. Open the book, see the speech patterns and names – Heck, even check the author’s name for some of them.

    • PatrickPortland says:
    • pinkbunnyslippers says:

      Again – all these fall under the “research” category. I don’t think an $8/hr stockboy is strategically placing books after he’s cross-checked it against Wikipedia, based on speech patterns of the book, pictures of the author on the inside flap, or how long Oprah’s had it in her book club.

      So this entire story is an insinuation that there is someone or some group somewhere in the upper echelons of Walmart who’s made it their goal to segregate black authors from white ones, and not only that, but manage to create a stocking protocol and seemingly trickle it allllll the way down so Steve-o Stockboy (who naturally pays attention to this sort of mundane directive, right?) can make absolutely positive that they’re putting black books in their own shelving universe.

      Sorry if I don’t buy it.

      • ihatephonecompanies says:

        This is probably EXACTLY what happens, except the stockboy doesn’t care so much. He just puts the books where the boss says to put em.

      • elangomatt says:

        plan-o-grams are not mundane directives. Assuming walmart is like other big box retailers, the employee at the store level has very little input in how the shelves are arranged. Each aisle in most stores have every inch detailed out and the employees stocking the shelves have to place each item in exactly its correct spot. Back when I worked in retail, I got in trouble once for trying to re-arrange a certain part of a shelf since the arrangement didn’t make any sense. I had to get the plan-o-gram back out and do exactly as it said.

        • Conformist138 says:

          This. I even understood the term plan-o-gram. My dear mother used to do this (cosmetics, different retailer). Whenever we went shopping, she always drug me to “her” aisle. The poor people at our regular store got far more impromptu inspections because of this, but I also realized that she knew what went where and nothing was on accident. And when the employees weren’t properly stocking or maintaining that section you could tell- she’d be pissed.

    • jbandsma says:

      How can you tell which authors are black? Well, the picture of the author on the back ought to be a hint.

  4. Jack Handy Manny says:

    What’s worse is that the end caps for the “black book” section is nothing more than Kool-Aid, Pork Rinds and Tyler Perry movies.

  5. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Part of me wants to say: They are simply organizing their books into the sections people want. So, does that mean black people want to read books by black authors simply because they’re black?

    Why should it matter the race of the writer?

    Not sure who to blame.

    • Darury says:

      Almost like people would vote for someone based solely on their race.

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      Good literature (and films) should contain universal themes that address and discuss the human condition.

      If a book was written specifically to appeal to a small subset of people, chances are it’s not good literature and not worth reading anyway.

      • goodfellow_puck says:

        What? So, you think that any book that doesn’t pertain to your cultural experience are not “universal” and therefore “not worth reading”?? Or are you saying you love books about feminism, LGBT issues, and life as someone who’s not a straight white guy? These books may have “universal themes” but it doesn’t mean people outside of that “culture” are likely to read them. It certainly doesn’t make them bad, it makes us narrow-minded. Not everyone has the white dude experience, and as such would prefer to read it from the POV of someone who shares OUR experience.

    • tchann says:

      To some extent, yes.

      I worked at a book store several years ago and remember vividly a woman who came in looking for books written specifically by black authors. When we didn’t have them segregated into their own section (which mean she actually needed to browse the shelves or do her own research) she started screaming at me that we were racist and that “Black people read too!”

      That is a direct quote.

    • tbax929 says:

      You’re contemplating blaming black people for the way Walmart arranges its books?

      Wait, what?

  6. Destron says:

    When I worked for Walmart the books were entirely handled by an outside vendor, even though they are lumped as part of Dept 3 (Stationary/Home Office) all the dept manager did was keep it zoned and clean. An outside vendor (Anderson in our case) set the modulars and arranged the product.

    http://www.amerch.com/

    • TheUncleBob says:

      Exactly what I was going to say. I’m not sure which vendor does our books now, but we have virtually nothing to do with them, aside from straightening them up occasionally. Orders, stocking, modulars, etc., etc are all handled by the vendor (I suppose Home Office might have a hand in this as well).

  7. pantheonoutcast says:

    The Borders near me has a “Black Literature” section. Maya Angelou appears there, as well as Toni Morrison alongside dozens of pulp paperbacks aimed at the young, BET-watching crowd. It’s pretty sad.

    Books by Richard Wright, however, were deemed “good” enough to reside in the standard, non-segregated “Autobiographies” section.

    • ARP says:

      I’d say that Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Claude McKay, Nela Larson, Jean Toomer, Langston Hughes, etc. should be in the “literature” section.

      BOT- I think this is fairly common to have a book sections dedicated to certain ethnicities or religious groups. I don’t see any issue that. Wal-Mart probably doesn’t have enough books for distinct sections like this, so it should be put in its general category (fiction, self-help, autobiography, religion, etc.) rather than lumped together randomly.

    • spazztastic says:

      That segregation of the books isn’t done as a ‘racist’ move; it’s done to be ‘culturally sensitive’

      • ARP says:

        Not sure if its snark or not, but are you also opposed to grouping books based on religion (Hinduism, Catholcism, etc.)?

    • Megalomania says:

      There are actually college courses you can take on “African American Literature”. It’s nothing about being “good enough” to not be in that section, it’s that people actually want to find books under this categorization.

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        I’ve seen the types of books that appear on the “African American Literature” tables at the bookstore. The majority of the titles are not the type of books one would read in an “African American Literature” course at the university level. Not at a good university, anyway. Tony Morrison and Octavia Butler and Maya Angelou do not belong in the “Ghetto Lit” section. Because that’s what those books really are – they appeal to the lowest common denominator of black people much the same way that NASCAR, “pro” wrestling and methamphetamine appeals to the lowest common denominator of white people.

        Intelligent, well-educated people of all races read the same literature. A person who actively uses the phrase “baby daddy” in normal conversation reads the books on the “Black lit” tables at Borders. That’s why I think it’s a shame when someone like Ralph Ellison appears alongside, say, Sapphire.

        • yusefyk says:

          Well, it might be not all bad. If those black teenagers looking for silly paperbacks, happen to find Angelou or Butler, that’s a positive.

          Though I agree that racial segregation of books is ultimately negative, because it is like saying “these are only here because of the author’s race, not because it is worthy of literature”

        • Sefford says:

          Look, the reason there is a Black Lit section at Borders isn’t due to some kind of covert ingroup outgroup shenanigans by blacks trying to shut out everyone else. It has to do with a shared cultural identity — much like how most canonized western literary figures are white males who, until very recently, wrote exclusively for a white male audience. And no, intelligent people, like everyone else, have tastes, and read literature that suits them, regardless of how highbrow or lowbrow it may be. So please get the off your racist, mono-culturalist high horse and stop posting.

          • pantheonoutcast says:

            “It has to do with a shared cultural identity”

            Yes. All Black people are the same, because they’re all from the culturally homogeneous “Land of the Blacks.” Much the same way that Asians can only truly understand Asian writers, Latinos can only identify with Latino writers, and Whites should stick to reading about themes and situations specific to Caucasians. All of our literature should be neatly categorized by race and culture so that no one gets confused or frustrated when it comes to selecting a book.

            I read you loud and clear.

            FYI, the reason why a book is considered canonical is because it has something poignant to say about the human condition as a whole. Not one particular race or culture. In the list compiled by Harold Bloom, arguably the greatest literary critic of the modern age, at least a dozen Black writers show up on his canon of American novels and poetry collections. Of course, he did say that Maya Angelou couldn’t “write her way out of paper bag”; if you are one of those people who don’t consider Angelou to be overrated, maybe you should instead consider the list compiled by the LOA – again, dozens of great Black writers appear there. They don’t need their own section in a library or bookstore because their work is already considered masterful and important.

            Also, you can’t deride someone for being a “mono-culturalist” and defend the segregation of literature based on race in the same paragraph. That’s called a “contradiction.”

            • Sefford says:

              lmao dude, people have more to them than just their own personal identity, and maybe, just possibly, want to connect with similar people with similar experiences via literature. the notion that literature speaks to the whole human race is a good one, but let’s be a bit more realistic — there are experiences specific to certain types of people, and they want to be able to relate to them. acknowledging these differences is an important part of accepting others.

              it comes back to a matter of the tastes of your particular audience. not everything fits into this monolithic mold of ‘all things to all people’.

  8. Chaluapman says:

    Borders and Barnes and Nobles have a black studies section. So what.

    • Tim says:

      Black studies is a specific academic discipline, and the books in that sections, I presume, are focused on that discipline. Not all black authors write black studies books.

      It’d be like putting all books by dead American authors in the “American history” section.

    • Garbanzo says:

      So what = not every book written by a black author is a black studies book.

  9. dr_drift says:

    Wait, so you’re telling me that your guys’ library and Barnes & Noble doesn’t have a “Black People” section where they stuff all the books written by and for black people? I just kinda assumed that was the case everywhere.

  10. PipeRifle says:

    Was just in a Chicago suburban Borders and can confirm, as others have said, the existence of a “black fiction” section.

    Such a potentially controversial move would not have been undertaken lightly. I mean, they have official little signs printed up and everything. This is something that has been focus-grouped, debated, and ultimately decided to be in the customer’s best interest.

    • Sol Collins says:

      Because business’s and consumer test groups tell me whats right.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      The thing with that is, how come there isn’t an “Asian fiction” section? There’s a whole “African American Interests” but there’s never a section for other minorities. That’s pretty weird to me considering that my area has a higher Asian and Hispanic population than there is African America.

      I’m not complaining since I really don’t need a book section for my particular ethnicity, but I find it curious that Amy Tan books can be kept in the general fiction section but Toni Morrison’s book has to be on its table under a sign.

      • ARP says:

        This sounds bad, but are there enough books? Meaning, do Asians write enough books about the “Asian Experience” or are geared towards Asians to have their own section (e.g. Vivian Tam). The Asian section would be comprised of Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Laotian, etc. which also have fairly distinct cultures. So I think it more just pragmatic.

      • SunnyLea says:

        Because no one asks for one?

        Look, I’m not saying where I come down on the side of segregated book sections when I say this, but…

        Both my husband and I work in book-related fields and have for many years. Not a day goes buy where we are not asked at *least* once where our “African-American Section” is. Now, where I work, we don’t have one. You can’t win on this one, since not having one gets you nasty looks, too.

        However, I’ve not once been asked for the Asian section. Perhaps if I had a higher Asian population?

      • ajlei says:

        Some stores do have an Asian literature/Asian studies section. Some have Native American literature/studies sections. Some do not. It’s based on demographic.

        -Borders employee at multiple stores

  11. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    I wonder how the black section works at the Barnes & Noble in Harlem…

  12. inelegy says:

    Next thing you’ll be telling me that they keep the relaxers and other black hair care products in a separate area and not with the TRESemmé, those obviously racist bastards!

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Did you seriously write out tresemme the same way at the company does, even with the french accent egu (é)?!

    • BlisteringSilence says:

      Actually, yes, they do. Though I don’t know why that’s surprising. It’s called marketing. It works. If it didn’t, Walmart (the true masters of marketing to the general public) wouldn’t do it.

    • VanessaNYC says:

      Inelegy,

      There is a huge difference between hair products and literature. I’d say books are a lot more powerful than shampoo. By segregating literature, we are segregating thought, saying that black people and white people think differently, are uninterested in each other and do not share common interests, even if we do share common interests (like: sports, classics, biography, cooking, etc!). Sure, there are cultural differences, but not so much that if I looked in the politics section, that I would be uninterested in reading a book written by my president. I’m a white woman, but I read Maya Angelou and Zora Neale Hurston. I should be able to go to the classic fiction section and find books written classic authors of all races.

  13. Destron says:

    I should also make note, that although we carried a wide selection of black movies at the Walmart I worked at, they were generally mixed in with all the other movies, we constantly got complaints that we did not carry enough black movies. We pushed that up to the home office and they put us on a special trait for stores with a high percentage of black customers, and it essentially moved ALL the movies of that nature to a single 4 foot section. We did not get any new movies, they just grouped them all together, and the complaints promptly stopped.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Did they actually say “black movies”?

      Did anyone ask what that meant to them?

      • Hoss says:

        I assume that’s where we find Barbershop

      • Destron says:

        Yes, often times they did. What they was actually looking for varied from movies with black producers, Tyler Perry for example, before the switch his movies were grouped into appropriate categories, comedy, drama etc, movies based on historical events relevant to them, and sometimes even movies with a primarily black cast.

    • frank64 says:

      Damned either way.

    • LincolnK says:

      what determined what movies went in that section? did you have a prepared list or have to subjectively judge each item as black or not?

  14. SuperSnackTime says:

    Are we acting flabbergasted that many consumers actively choose to consume along racial lines? And then we’re going to act flabbergasted when retailers, armed with HUGE amounts of objective data, realize that presenting their wares in a way that aligns with (some) consumers consumption habits may be a profitable strategy? Me smells some false outrage trying to brew.

    Hell… if enough consumers shopped for books based on whether or not there were more or less than 5 “e’s” somewhere in the title, guess what Wal-Mart would be more than happy to do?

  15. rpm773 says:

    Anyone remember those places where you’d buy music? On an actual disc, cassette, or record?

    I was in one once a long time ago, and they had put all the rap and hip hop in one section, away from the Hall and Oates.

    • Miss Dev (The Beer Sherpa) says:

      But ALL of the rap and hip hop artists were located there: black, white, latino, etc etc etc. The problem isn’t dividing by genre, it’s arbitrarily dividing by race. I.e. putting all “Latin” music in one section is fine because it’s a genre, but putting all music by Latinos in one section regardless of genre is an arbitrary distinction.

      • ARP says:

        But some books are about being black or afrocentric and people want to read those books because of their own experience or curiousity, so why not make it easier to find them? I don’t think it’s racist to do that. Or is it the dreaded reverse racism (the only type of racism that still exists-BTW) that white people don’t get their own book section, filled with….Mein Kampf (Goodwins Law?), Ann Coulter, and egg salad recipes, so blacks can’t have their own section. It seems artificial to intentionally ignore the audience of a book.

        • pantheonoutcast says:

          So then naturally there would also need to be an “Asian Books” section, a “Hispanic Books” section, a “Inuit Books” section and so on. There isn’t. Being black isn’t a literary genre.

          If you’re a writer, and your book only appeals to one small group of people, and ONLY because you happen share the same race (or other unessential characteristic) as that group, then guess what: You’re a shitty writer and your target audience isn’t all that intelligent.

          • Lightman says:

            African American literature is a literary genre. Being black is not sufficient to be writing African American literature, but African American literature is a studied and academically respected category.

            • pantheonoutcast says:

              In no way, shape or form is “African American Literature” a literary “genre”. Genres are defined by tone, content, and writing technique. Not by the ethnicity of the writer or the characters.

              A book written by an African-American could be called “African American Literature” much the same way a book written by Dostoevsky could be called “Russian Literature” – but that’s not a genre either. Dostoevsky is a very different writer than, say, Puskin. they don’t fit into the same genre.

              Or, a book written for an audience of African Americans could be considered “African American Literature”, but you don’t categorize literature based on it’s intended audience (Children’s Literature being the only possible exception, and even that isn’t a strict genre).

              If the protagonist of one’s novel is African American, it doesn’t make the book “African American Literature” (see Ralph Ellison’s unnamed protagonist in The Invisible Man). If the author is African American, it doesn’t make the books she writes “African American Literature” (see: Octavia Butler, who wrote Sci-fi. Not “African American Sci-Fi).

              Even if an African American wrote about the “African American Experience” in his or her novels, it still wouldn’t be “African American Literature” because it’s impossible to say that every black person has had the same experience as an American. Richard Wright and Barack Obama had wildly different experiences growing up “Black.”

              Lastly, I realize that scholars and academics talk about “(Insert ethnicity here)-Literature”. However, from a literary standpoint, this is a misnomer, and an unfair, ambiguous one at that. If you took a class in “French Literature,” you might read Both Stendhal and Camus, two of the most important French writers in history. However, their writings do not fall under the same genres, the former being a “Romantic Realist,” the latter, “Absurdist Existentialist.”

        • ajlei says:

          Your proposed white people section made me laugh.

  16. OnePumpChump says:

    Once I was at a K-mart and on a shelf full of chips and such, I saw a laminated page sitting on the shelf along with the snacks. It showed the correct arrangement of snacks for “non-hispanic” stores.

    • RayanneGraff says:

      This isn’t racist. Most hispanic people that are not totally Americanized eat different foods than we do. Same with Asians. It’s not racist to arrange popular hispanic foods all in one section, or to not carry certain hispanic food items in stores that do not have the demand for them.

  17. Cyclone says:

    Let’s cut the bullshit. This guy is as white as the background on this page. His ideals have absolutely no merit to this story.

    Black Consumerist, do you think that Walmart (and any other book store out there) having a black literature section is racist? Yes or No?

    • pantheonoutcast says:

      So in other words, in order to determine whether or not segregating books is racist, you want to segregate the commenters’ opinions by race?

      • XianZomby says:

        Yes.

        Otherwise, it’s like determining if what’s going on in the schoolyard is actually “bullying” by asking both the bully and his victim to offer an opinion. Or asking both the accused rapist and the rape victim.

        “Sir, do you think what you did to Ms Jones is rape?”

        “Nope.”

        “Ma’am, your take?

        “Yeah, he raped me.”

        “Well, as you can see, what we really have here is a a pretty balanced outlook on this situation and quite frankly, we can’t make a determination on this when the voting is so darn close. We’re going to just have to call this a draw.”

        • pantheonoutcast says:

          Which one is the “rapist” in your analogy?

          The store that segregates literature along racial lines?

          Or the group of people who demand that their books be segregated along racial lines?

        • VanessaNYC says:

          Well, you’re assuming that all white people are oppressors. We’re not. Many of us think the general system in America sucks and is unfair and we take action to change it.

          So, that said, if my opinion matters at all, this white woman wants to read books written by black authors and authors of all races and appreciates it if stores wouldn’t weed them out.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Let’s cut the bullshit. This commenter is as racist as the pages in his critically acclaimed book, White Power. His ideals have absolutely no merit.

      Non-Existent Racially Based Consumerist, do you think that Cyclone (and any other racists out there) think having a black literature section is racist? Yes or No?

      [Fixed that for you] This was changed to point out a man’s race should not be used to determine his ideals. More importantly, a man’s race in fact DOESN’T determine his values.

  18. libwitch says:

    I don’t think the issue is whether or not there is a Black (or African American section) – but rather what is in it. As someone who worked in big chain bookstores for a decade – I can say that it is not usual to put everything by all black authors in one section. Religion books go one section, sports go with sports, bio with bio, etc. If there is a Black interest section (or whatever you want to call it), it almost always limited to popular fiction that feature minority characters – regardless who writes it.

  19. banndndc says:

    This is actually pretty pervasive. Try finding Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man” – unarguably one of the greatest American books of the 20th Century – in the regular lit section of your local B&N or Border’s and then look for it in the black lit section.

    Just like student loans and college tuition it’s another well intentioned gesture with unintended consequences.

  20. cvt2010 says:

    So is it racist that my grocery store keeps all the hispanic grocery items together? Sometimes product placement is just what works best for the store, not some grand racist conspiracy.

  21. DovS says:

    I think that books that are specifically ABOUT African-American issues should be grouped together, regardless of the race of the author. Books which are not specifically about African-American issues, but just happen to be written by African-American authors, should be categorized according to subject like any other book.

  22. dudski says:

    Destron touched on this already, but Walmart’s book sections are handled by an outside vendor, Anderson Merchandisers. AM does books, CDs, and DVDs for Walmart – store employees do some work with DVDs, but have next to no involvement with CDs and books.

    The arrangement would be determined by Anderson or Walmart corporate and then set by the Anderson vendor. The system works in sections, it doesn’t create a tailor-made arrangement for each store. So if the demand for books by black authors is there, you get that section. If, a year later, there’s a surge in demand for religious books, then that section comes in, but there’s nothing in place that then reevaluates the entire selection and thinks “what could be moved where?”

    I’m not surprised that there’s a section where all of the authors are black – I’d be more interested in whether every author in every other section is white.

  23. kataisa says:

    This is another case of our hypersensitive, PC culture run amok.

    Let’s not ignore the inconvenient truth that there are many customers who specifically want to read books by black authors but it’s impossible to know if they’re black unless it’s specified. Organizing the books into a “Black Literature” section makes it easier to find these authors. I don’t think it’s inherently racist, meaning that it was not done out of malice or to stigmatize a group.

    No good deed goes unpunished!

  24. varro says:

    Likewise, books by Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are in the “honky” section, and those by “Dr.” Laura are in the “deeeeeead honky” section.

  25. epiphopotamus says:

    Sorry, have to defend Barnes and Noble here. They indeed have an African American studies section, however it’s all books on black culture and, well, African American studies. All urban fiction books are integrated with the other fiction books. Obama’s books are in biography, Dungy’s books are in sports.
    The difference being, having a “This is the stuff black people buy” section is a little racist, whereas a “This is where anyone can go to learn about black culture” section is not.

  26. Sol Collins says:

    This should be of no surprise to anyosne. It has been like this culturally, not just at Walmart, for some time.
    There is a distinct separation of cultures in American society today that seems to be the pink elephant in the room no one wants to talk about. Everyone is quick to jump on the tea party or others for being racist, but no one looks at this ‘racial seperation’ phenomenon that has & is occuring.
    There are ‘black’ magazines. ‘Black’ TV shows. A ‘black’ TV station. ‘Black’ Clubs/bars. ‘Black’ strip clubs. ‘Black’ stores. ‘Black’ barbershops.
    Of course you can substitute whatever PC term you want for ‘black,’ but it doesn’t change the point that it’s proliferated in American society.
    This phenomenon does not promote equality. It promotes separation on both sides of the color wheel.
    Blacks are manipulated on a whole to celebrate their differences with other races, thus separating them even more. Whites see this as reverse racism, and are called racist if they publicly point this out or try to establish ‘white’ things(regardless of intent).
    This all only perpetuates the problem and creates more of a division between races & cultures.
    This is a very horrible pattern. Seperate but equal doesn’t work, why we let ourselves be manipulated into such blows my mind. We’re not only doomed to fail as a nation on a financial and governmental basis, but we are letting them manipulate us into failing as a peoples too.
    This saddens me.
    I hope for a time when people realize the only color that really matters is the color of money, and stop wasting time concerning themselves with race/racism.

    • epiphopotamus says:

      “Whites see this as reverse racism, and are called racist if they publicly point this out or try to establish ‘white’ things(regardless of intent). “

      I would argue that ‘white’ things are already established, and because it’s the majority we see it as the norm. There are tons and tons of ‘white’ magazines. ‘white’ TV shows, ‘white’ stores, etc. We just call them magazines, TV shows, and stores.

      • nybiker says:

        Sort of how unless it’s mentioned, the sport being played is played by men. It’s not called the MNBA. Or MPGA.

    • ARP says:

      Blacks get their own station, music, books, etc. because regular society is predominantly white.

      • pantheonoutcast says:

        Which means of course, they couldn’t possibly enjoy the same things that whites do, right? They NEED their own things because they are just THAT different from the whites?

        I don’t buy it.

    • nybiker says:

      I remember when they called it “Black Starz.” Now it’s “Starz In Black.”
      From their website: “Starz In Black provides movies that connect with today’s black audience.”

      The problem with Starz is that they plastered their logo on all their channels during all the movies. So I canceled the package a few years ago.

  27. keepntabs says:

    I think that Walmart and any other bookstore should place the racially or gender targeted books in two locations, one place based upon the subject matter or literature type, and another place based upon target audience. This way if you don’t know if an author is of an specific race or gender you can still find the book based upon whether it is fiction, biographical, religious, gender related, studies, etc.

    I dislike shopping at Walmart with a passion, but the categorization of books is probably based upon customer request so they can find the books they want more easily, and not something negatively racial. The only race that Walmart sees in this set up is green.

  28. HalOfBorg says:

    And you know, that if Walmart is made to stop doing this, in 6 months the complaints/request/comments WANTING it this way will start piling up again.

    None of it matters to me, I just want a good SciFi section, with a Larry Niven section in that.

  29. yessongs says:

    Well, Obama’s book should be kept in the fiction section, or possibly political humor. Aw hell, just stock it in the bathrooms in case they run out of TP.

  30. sopmodm14 says:

    i tink ppl are reading more into it than it really is….pun intended ! lol

  31. kingdom2000 says:

    Where has this guy or Consumerist been? Wal-Mart has been doing that for years. I can’t remember what the section is called but they have books more or less deviced as teens, black, new releases, and romance. How clearly defined that is seems to depend more on the stocker then anything but yeah for their older stores at least its been a long term practice. I do know that Wal-Mart has been overhauling their stores so that may have changed for renovated stores.

  32. EarthAngel says:

    It seems that I have seen this in other bookstores here in Florida, too.

  33. jjcraftery says:

    I work for Anderson Merchandisers, which is the book/music/video vendor for most Walmarts.
    I’m just a lowly part time stocker, but in the Walmarts that I’ve seen and worked in, there is no “black” section.
    There is the Hardback Bestseller section, the Paper back best seller section, the novels section, romance, Harlequins, Latest and Greatest, Inspirational, Teen/Young Reader, and a section for whatever’s happening at the time. (tons of Twilight books, or back to school stuff, etc.)
    I’ve stocked plenty of books that were by, or about black people, and they went right in with the other books, in each section.
    So…..?
    In the music department, we have a small section strictly for Mexicano/Latino.
    Is that bad?
    It makes it way easier for them to find who they’re looking for, don’t you think? They come in and ASK ME where their section is. Seems good to me!

    I’m just saying…I’ve never seen this so-called black section in books. And I’m the one who puts them all out every week.

  34. crazydavythe1st says:

    Gee, these places can’t win. Not only that, but the article is outright false. The Wal-mart near me has an African American book section, but black authors aren’t limited to being in this section. In fact, if a book by a black author is on the NY Times bestseller list, it’s often in BOTH the bestseller area and the African American section. If it is not it is usually just in one area. It is not segregation at all. I’m just a white guy, so I probably shouldn’t say anything, but to me this cheapens the whole segregation issue when it is raised over something as ludicrous as this.

    It just looks like the media trying to stir something up again.

  35. CountSmackula says:

    Don’t know who stocks books for Wal-marts in south Louisiana, but every store I’ve been in has all the ‘black’ novels in their own section, just like the westerns & the ‘white’ hot steamers. The ‘black’ hard covers are directly opposite the ‘black’ novels (curiously bracketed by all sorts of biblical paraphernalia)..

  36. fredfurd says:

    I can’t believe this topic. It seems that some people are looking for any reason they can find to complain about racial discrimination. My God!, find some real reason to complain. This is nothing less than race baiting.

  37. backinpgh says:

    I’m black, and I’m gonna get real stereotypical here, but the type of black people who buy their books at Walmart are likely also the kind of black people who will only read books with a black person on the cover. Ream me if you wish, but I know too many just like this for it not to be at least partially true. Sad, but true.

  38. buzz says:

    I work for a vendor that supplies media, including books, to Walmart stores. [So I work AT Walmart, but not FOR Walmart.] The placement of books depends on several things, including: the space available in a given store, the promotions that Walmart is running, and release date of titles. I work at around 6 different Walmart stores, and each of them has some variations in book placement.

    I’ve stocked the “African American section” (as our paperwork calls it) and wondered why it is divided like this. Modular designs are created by a joint effort between vendors and Walmart. Walmart does a lot of research about product placement, that I suppose must indicate that this type of section is a good idea.

    We do have customers complain about political books, though. We stock whatever books are most recent/bestsellers so occasionally only one party is represented, unintentionally.

    This is not a defense/support of Walmart, just my perception of how things are done.

  39. Mr.Grieves says:

    But Obama is half white!

  40. Jade says:

    It is true, honestly. A lot of “black” items are segregated and at my Walmart I was told to call it “ethnic”. I can maybe understand certain items are made specifically for black hair and you might want to put them together, but so were Do-rags and chemical straighteners/perms. To make things worse many of these items I was told to “watch” and were the only hair products in security boxes. Like at CVS. For books you have a plan from Walmart “headquarters” and all the black authors were in the “other” category. This also included cookbooks of mexican and other “ethnic” foods.

  41. Groanan says:

    Walmart does what is best for its largest consumer base.
    The censorship in American Walmarts has nothing to do with principles or values, and I think that this sorta of segregation also has absolutely nothing to do with the views of Walmart.
    They must have done a study, perhaps from a Black History Month sale, that showed that they could push more books like this.
    It is more of a reflection on us consumers than it is on Walmart.

  42. JANSCHOLL says:

    Does anyone remember back in the early 90′s when Magic Johnson came out with his book about how to protect yourself against HIV/Aids etc? This was in a short time after he announced his own illness. Kmart refused to carry it saying their customers had no interest in such a book. Making this even more infuriating is that Magic is from a local town, his mom still lived here, the city is 65% black and lower income and the infection rate for Aids/HIV and other STD was and still is insane! I have never set foot in a Kmart since. While I personally may not have wanted the book, I wanted it for the straightforward ways it informed young people of how to stay infection free and protect themselves and whoever they were with. My kids were in HS at the time and admired Magic, so I thought this would have been good for them to read. I still can’t believe how Kmart (and other stores even) seem to KNOW what their customers want. Why were so many asking for the book if they didn’t want to buy it?

  43. paisley says:

    I worked for Anderson Merchandisers for several years, and can shed some light on this. Anderson is the distributor for Walmarts’ books, DVDs, music, and childrens books. Each Walmart is assigned their genres of books (and DVDs and CDs) based “store traits,” which basically is the demographics of the store’s customers (based on population statistics for any given city). So because of this, some stores have book sections that other Walmarts do not, and the African American book section is one of the genres that are determined by the store’s traits.

    The books are displayed each week by plan-o-grams that are determined by Walmarts corp office to Anderson, and as an Anderson rep you have to go in and re-arrange the books accordingly when stocking the books. In some instances, books end of having 2 places in the plan-o-gram- such as a Rachel Ray book in 1 spot in the Best Seller/Hardbacks and another in the Cookbook section. The problem is, in the weekly shipments you *rarely* get enough books to cover all spots on the plan-o-gram for the entire week- so when you run out of product on your store visits later in the week, you have to do your best to substitute and move titles around. All of the titles are determined by Walmarts corporate buyers, who also determine when a book gets pulled and sent back to Anderson (i.e., the book has been on the planogram for several weeks and is no longer selling as much, they replace it with a new title).

    They do the same thing with music and DVDs. For instance, a store is either considered “Rock/Country” or “Rock/Urban” depending on the stores traits (again, determined by Walmart corp from population statistics). This means the majority of the products sent to the stores, along with product placement on the end-caps’ plan-o-grams, are determined by the traits of the store. Its not anything to do with being racists- it all comes down to numbers and what sells the most based on its location.

  44. nacoran says:

    There are lots of books written by black authors that are really good. Toni Morrison, Richard Wright, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, etc. There are also plenty of terrible books written by white authors. Your right, not all black people share the same experience, but many of these books are about the black experience, particularly racism. You sound more upset about the fact that terrible black authors are included in the same section as the good ones. People, for better or worse, often identify with people like themselves, even adopting lingual codes to self-identify. I took an Irish Lit class in college. The class that used the room before us was an African-American Lit class. Both classes had about 40 students. When the other class filed out there was only one white student in the class. Our class only had one person who wasn’t white. The school didn’t assign the class based on race. The students, myself included, took a class that was relevant to their history. Walmart isn’t putting up signs forbidding people from browsing in other sections, just realizing that we don’t live in a Utopian world where everyone considers themselves part of the same culture.

    I just defended Walmart. Somebody hand me a wipe.

  45. DEVO says:

    It’s called demographics, and common sense after looking at sales analysis. I think the real question would be why do a lot of black people only want to read things from black authors.

    • VanessaNYC says:

      “I think the real question would be why do a lot of black people only want to read things from black authors.”

      Well, assuming you’re not black, does it bother you that black authors are weeded out when you look at the biography section or the classics section? If it doesn’t bother you, then “I think the real question would be why do (you) only want to read things from (non)black authors?”

      If you care to be exposed to books by black authors as you look in the various sections, then this practice of segregation should bother YOU. The segregation of books pisses me off because I want to read authors of all races. I don’t like the racial segregation that I see in the United States (I was born and raised in Canada) and this is just another example of it. I don’t know why so many people are ok with this.

      • DEVO says:

        The reason people are ok with this is because there are probably other things in life that are more important. I guess it’s picking your battles ya know. I do see your point that you think your not seeing all the books in the sections you want to look in. Maybe they should make a black section and also put the books in the correct sections too. Then we would be also leveling the playing field foe black authors. That would probably appease some. Like BET or any other divisive, double standards out there.

        • BlazerUnit says:

          The most reliable indicator I have toward knowing whether someone has done much critical thinking about race and racial issues is what I call ‘the BET example’. About every six months I run into someone online citing BET as an example of a horrible racial double standard. And I happily point out to them that never in the history of video media has there ever been a need for a ‘White Entertainment Television’.

          If you have to spend much time thinking about *why* that is…well, there you go.

  46. SPOON - now with Forkin attitude says:

    put the books in both places, if they want to segregate the books that way. its not as if any other big corporation or industry isn’t overtly racist, and there is usually at least 2 books on the shelf.

  47. kylere1 says:

    Anyone shopping at Walmart is a fool. Grow up America.

  48. sp00nix says:

    There are black TV stations and some stations have blocks of black comedy shows. I don’t see the issue with walmart doing this.

  49. VanessaNYC says:

    I have read “the Audacity of Hope.” I have read “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” I highly doubt I’ll ever read anything by TD Jakes… I’m an atheist.

    Put the damn books in the appropriate sections and stop assuming that only black people read books written by black people. Walmart is run by a bunch of jerks. Yes, what they are doing is racist.

  50. IntheKnow says:

    Wal-Mart makes all its sales, inventory and merchandising decisions from some of the best metrics and research available. If their local consumers, by the buying patterns and feedback show them this is what they like in the stores, then Wal-Mart sets up the store that way. Their stores in the urban areas do have a little different “appeal” and “appearance.” It is not racist at all; it is smart marketing.

  51. Segador says:

    Guess what? Hallmark segregates their cards by race, too.