One Man Protests Racism at Walmart

This weeks podcast is a short interview with a African American man with his own message. He was standing outside a Durham, NC shopping center with a sign that said, “Walmart some staff have the disease of racism. To support it is evil and demonic.” The other side of the sign said, “Racism by some staff is common. Responsible managers act.” He shares his experiences with racism at Walmart perpetrated by staff and ignored by local and regional managers. Thankfully this mans story has begun to be told. How many more stores like this are there?

MP3 3m 55s 1.8MB 64kbps

12 thoughts on “One Man Protests Racism at Walmart”

  1. Hey Brian,

    Thank you for interviewing Don Carpenter. I am sure he is not alone in his experience. This is ‘Audio Activism’! Please let me know if I can help with anything like this.

  2. I have found “profiling” to be evident at wal-mart as well. I have started to prove this to my wife recently on wally~runs that we make twice a month. First, let me say that I am sleeved in tattos, and believe that people like me are profiled by wally-world employees. First, I am constantly being followed around the store. Dude! This stuff is too cheap for me to steal it! You’ve made the bargains too great, I’ll pay…I’ll pay! Next, as I am paying, I will watch the the man/woman at the exit door [this person checks customer receipts upon exiting the store] and will watch 7-12 people, some with full carts, walk by them without being stopped. I, however, am always stopped…they sometimes stop me by callimg out to me while they are busy with someone else..”sir, sir, just one moment please.” The last time we were there, I watched the manager get the exit-guard[?] attention, then point to me. The register I used to pay was directly in front of him as well. I think that the next time I’m going to test them by saying, “sorry, I’m in a bit of a hurry, cant stop.” to see what happens. Maybe I’ll get tackled by the rent-a-pig that hates thier job in the parking lot! Anyway, I dont want to sound like the whiney-white-slacker-kid, because I’m not. That’s my point really. I have a highly technical, and well-paying job, college graduate, 2 children, taxpayer, etc. And to boot, I have a tendency to be quite well-mannered. Add to this…when I wear my sleeves down, noone follows me…Nor am I stopped as i exit. Could it be that I am both the “standard-harmless-white-guy” as well as the “hooligan”??? Anyway, thanks for the topic…..there’s still a glitch in the matrix.

  3. There are problems connected to management and not connected to management in many Walmart stores.

    The company is very slow to accept the fact that they have people working for it that have a racism problem instead of accepting it and taking care of it.

    The company is ver slow to answer any associate inquiries and the words…bad judgment are used for an excuse to any problem.

    I have seen signs of racism and or reverse discrimmination at some stores but it was usually ignored or tolerated.

    Walmart cannot force people to do and say what is right, but they can answer the public or the associate questioning the overt acts to explain.

    Walmart tends to allow associates to speculate rather than tell them the truth.

    Let’s face it they cannot control everyone they employ.

  4. The Cult
    Becoming a part of the Cult, consists of being recruited a member of the cult, as a person that can be relied on to assume responsibilities and accomplish all or almost all things requested.
    Depending upon the position you hold and the person that you are attached to the most, any position can be engaging and can be so different from any other experience that you have had prior to Walmart in almost any retail sector that you feel you are being chosen for great things.
    Along with morning meetings and consistently being told how much you mean as an individual to the company, by your recruiter, management and the general population you feel an inclusiveness that is hard to describe. Before the end of each meeting the feeling, gets closer to being accepted into a religious organization or sorority, and when you are accepted, in some way you sincerely begin to believe what you are being told is that you belong to a new family. “The Walmart Family” You begin to believe that “The Walmart Way” is the better way, the only way.
    I did not see it happening and I begin to correlate past experiences with this new and empowered way of working. I am sure I felt something then that most typical retail employees seldom if ever feel. A sense of power. As the brainwashing continued, I found myself accepting any number of practices that are not truly acceptable according to written company policy but are known to the members as unwritten rules that are to be followed by all without question or concern.
    I found myself accepting the unacceptable. Policies and procedures that were just plain common sense meant nothing soon. Even when I complained about something that was going on or went to the office seeking information, or asked why, eventually I you would accept that it was the way it should be in the end and continued to feel that someday I would get the recognition and the position that I truly did deserve.
    Depending on your view of what a job is you may find yourself accepting and or doing things in order to please the management that has been so good to you.
    I found that seldom if ever did I say anything that would offend anyone. Situations that would normally be questionable to me, even according to Walmart company policy or my own moral beliefs became acceptable. Things such as Gender discrimination or favoritism becomes acceptable and some how I knew inside bringing it up as unfair would label me as a problem.
    This in turn would cause the person or manager who was so good to me, to be hurt and unhappy I would think or even suggest it is what it is.
    I found it was not hard to accept and believe all of it was for my own good. I started to believe the company would never want to mistreat or discriminate against anyone even when it looked that way. I believed the reasons or concerns I had, what ever they were, were being handled in a justifiable way and it is was all for the good of the family.
    Once I became a bona fide member, the procedure continued and changed occasionally to fit the position that I held within the cult.
    The inclusiveness, the confidentiality of different situations became paramount to my standing within the cult.
    If at any time, I became a maverick or bucked my immediate supervisor I found that I would immediately pulled aside and put on notice about my conduct and how I should go about repairing any damage I inflicted upon the cult. All of it was done in a very nurturing way and during this type of situation I was informed how I would be now and always expected to conduct myself in the future.
    It is when the situation becomes personal and changes the actual way that a person views life, that it simulates brainwashing.
    It is when one person recruits another and has no reason for doing it other than their standing within the cult that it is not normal. When the only reward is the person’s standing within the cult will be higher because the person knows what they are doing what is right according to Walmart. Once you have entered the status of truly being brain washed all situations that are accepted by the cult as justifiable are accepted personally as well.
    My personal experience has resulted with the inner conflict that occurs with mentally trying to accept “The Walmart Way” over biological family members and numerous coworkers that have had situations requiring one to take sides.
    All issues due to any number of internal or external situations that present themselves seem to trigger an automatic defense system. To do anything other than this would cause one to be shunned by the cult and would cause members to inflict mental strain and stress on the person not conforming to what is considered to be a part of your responsibility to the company as an associate.
    There is a psychological aspect to being a Walmart associate that truly finds no special job code.

  5. I too have had a recent experience re: Racism at Wal*Mart. I have obtained the attendion the corporate office. Please encourage Don Carpenter to send me an e-mail at gaylescreating@hotmail.com

    My story was on the front page of the Pioneer Press in St. Paul, MN. Please see below. You can reference the validity of this story by clicking this site:
    http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/11914650.htm

    Or you can visit the following: st.paulpionnerpress.com

    Posted on Fri, Jun. 17, 2005

    Shopper alleges Wal-Mart racism

    Black woman says Eagan store refused check and called police; retailer admits error, denies bias

    BY MEGGEN LINDSAY

    Pioneer Press

    Gayle Bryant expected to be relaxing inside her new home by midnight.

    Instead, sobbing with humiliation and rage, she sat outside the Wal-Mart in Eagan. As police and onlookers lingered, Bryant made up her mind that nothing like this would happen again.

    Store employees had accused the Ramsey County social worker of using a bad check to buy $92.69 worth of bottled water and household goods. They called police, who waited for her to leave the store and then stopped her for questioning.

    Ultimately, Wal-Mart agreed her check was good and offered $1,000 for her trouble, blaming the incident on an over-alertness for fraud but admitting that employees hadn’t followed policy.

    Bryant says it was triggered by something else: She’s black.

    “It’s what you feel. It’s an internal gut feeling. Race is the last card I pull,” she said. “But I know if I went in there and had been white, this never would have happened.”

    In fact, it’s happened before, she said. A bakery store clerk in Mankato, Minn., seven years ago refused to put change directly into Bryant’s hand. And, many times, she has been stung at the indignity of being trailed by salespeople in department stores as she shopped.

    Wal-Mart’s refusal to accept her check April 3 was the last straw.

    “It was the worst experience of my life,” she said. “I’m out there alone in the middle of the night, essentially being flogged in front of my community.”

    Bryant, 40, spurned the company’s offer and filed complaints with both the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and the St. Paul branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

    Wal-Mart and the Eagan Police Department say that race played no role in the incident and that the company has comprehensive anti-discrimination policies in effect.

    “We have apologized. We are actually trying to continue to make contact with her and make (this situation) right,” corporate spokeswoman Sarah Clark said. “We do not feel that this has been handled properly.”

    The company remains in conversation with Bryant over resolving the dispute. A corporate spokeswoman with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. in Bentonville, Ark., said it investigated the circumstances once but is looking into it again.

    The company’s Office of Diversity director called Bryant; so did other representatives and a claims investigator. All apologized. An Eagan store employee has since been “severely” disciplined, Clark said.

    Bryant is pushing the retailer for a larger monetary settlement and wants the company to retrain employees on diversity. She is holding out the possibility of filing a lawsuit or a nationwide appeal to NAACP offices.

    “We want Wal-Mart to handle this, to take care of this. They have assured us that they are taking this matter seriously,” NAACP-St. Paul branch president Nathaniel Khaliq said. “We are encouraging both parties to get together to try to resolve the issue.

    “If that doesn’t happen, we will notify our regional and national office. They then will notify branches throughout the country to see if there have been other similar complaints against Wal-Mart dealing with discriminatory complaints and policies,” he said.

    A LONG NIGHT

    Bryant had gone to Wal-Mart to buy an ottoman and bathroom accessories for her townhouse in Eagan, the first home she has ever purchased.

    She was excited about her move to the suburb, one of many St. Paul-area locales she has lived in since she moved from the Detroit area to Minnesota in 1996. She attended graduate school at Minnesota State University, Mankato, and has worked in St. Paul for five years as a social worker for developmentally disabled children.

    In Mankato, she spoke out in the Free Press newspaper about the racism and isolation she felt living in such a predominantly white community and started a diversity consulting firm, Creating a Better World.

    Mondays are her days off, so she made an evening out of picking out new furnishings that Sunday. She went first to Target, but couldn’t find quite what she was looking for, so she headed to Wal-Mart.

    She brought her checks — preprinted starter checks that her bank, Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union, gave her after it misprinted her last batch of checks. Those checks were missing the customary security lock symbol on the front and a watermark on the back.

    Bryant hadn’t had any trouble with them before. In fact, she wrote a check for $196.97 at the Wal-Mart in Inver Grove Heights two weeks earlier. The cashier didn’t even ask for her driver’s license for verification.

    On April 3, although Bryant’s check was approved at the register by the SCAN service — which verifies the checking account — the cashier called over other employees and asked to see her driver’s license, she said. The employees — two cashiers and the store’s assistant manager — then told her they couldn’t authorize her check, and left her waiting in the store for about 30 minutes while they took her check and went into a back office.

    She said no one asked her to use a different form of payment or told her they did not believe that her checks were real.

    The assistant store manager finally told her that though he couldn’t get authorization for her purchase, he would take her check as payment, Bryant said.

    “I was set up,” she said of what happened to her after she left the store. Three Eagan police officers were waiting in the parking lot to arrest her on suspicion of theft and using a counterfeit check.

    “Allowing someone to leave the store is the general operating procedure for theft and shoplifting. If (employees) think there is fraud, they can call us immediately,” police Lt. Jeff Johnson said.

    The employees followed Bryant out to the parking lot, and a police audio recording of the incident reveals assistant manager Axel Rabell insisting that her checks were phony.

    “(He) is watching all of this. He’s accusing me of making those checks. As this is going on, people in the store and employees start to come out. Everyone knew what was going on except me,” Bryant said.

    After Bryant’s criminal history check came up empty and she talked with the officers, they decided not to arrest her and let her go home. She returned the merchandise first.

    “(Rabell) laughed at me when I asked for a receipt. He said I didn’t need one because he knew it wasn’t a real account,” she said. Rabell did not return phone calls seeking comment.

    ‘DISPARATE TREATMENT’

    Racial profiling is “rampant” but rarely reported, said Myron Orfield, associate professor at the University of Minnesota Law School and the director of its Institute on Race and Poverty.

    Orfield knows nothing about Bryant’s situation and would not comment on it directly, but said people in white communities often aren’t aware they are pr ofiling someone.

    “Studies show stunning levels of disparate treatment. And it’s a hard thing for people to come to grips with. A large part of racial prejudice is overt, but so much is ingrained and covert,” he said.

    A 2003 institute study of racial profiling among 65 law enforcement agencies found that black drivers were stopped about 214 percent more than should be statistically expected.

    Little other concrete evidence of the phenomenon in the state exists, however.

    “It’s hard to quantify. Unfortunately, I hear about this much more frequently than I’d care to,” said Lester Collins, executive director of the Council on Black Minnesotans.

    Although Bryant said she believes she was singled out because of the color of her skin, the Eagan Police Department also is emphatic that race played no factor in the incident.

    The only factor was what her checks looked like, police said.

    “Wal-Mart called us. We’d respond to any call for service,” Johnson said.

    Employees were on the lookout for fraud because a customer with fake checks had duped Wal-Mart only the night before. Everyone’s guard was up when Bryant came in with her printed starter check, he said.

    But the mess-up was “absolutely not” race-related, Wal-Mart’s Clark reiterated.

    “It is clear that we did not follow our check-cashing policy as we should have. This was a mistake, rather than common practice,” she said.

    Wal-Mart first offered Bryant a $50 gift card, then increased the settlement offer to $1,000.

    Taking neither, Bryant said she wants Wal-Mart to reaffirm its commitment to diversity issues and make its policies on check cashing crystal clear.

    She also is waiting to see what will happen with her state human rights complaint, which may take more than a year to resolve. Of nearly 1,200 cases the Department of Human Rights resolved last year, 47 claims were settled and the department found probable cause that discrimination occurred in 44 instances. The rest were largely dismissed or dropped.

    “It’s about the principle. You cannot do something like this in 2005 and get away with it,” Bryant said.

    Clark, however, said both anti-discrimination and check-cashing policies are in place and posted, and Bryant’s Eagan incident was a mistake of procedure, not process.

    The NAACP’s Khaliq holds little stock in that response.

    “This is one of most egregious cases of racial profiling and discrimination that we’ve seen in a while,” Khaliq said. “There is no rhyme or reason to why they would put her through what they did after the company’s own check system approved her check.”

  6. Galye,
    I don’t know Don Carpenter’s email address or his other contact information. I saw him near a WalMart and stopped to speak with him. My only hope at the time was to share his story and tell him he wasn’t alone. Despite the fact he was all by himself on a sidewalk braving the hot weather.

  7. Hi there folks! Man I really cant stand walmart! and we don’t even have them here in Australia. But have watched a few good documentaries about there shit practises.

    Down with Racisim down with slave labour in asia, down with walmart.

  8. yeah i have experienced racism at wal-mart all well but the difference with me is that i dont know who to tell or what to do im only 17 and my cousin that was with me is now 22 both females hispanic and we experinced a very unpleasant time there if anyone know a website were i can protest or do something id really appreciate it thank you

  9. The website Hel-Mart has a links page to sites organizing around anti-walmart activities. One of them is Wal-mart Watch.

    Jeannette, I am not a lawyer or qualified to give you legal advice, but if you feel your rights have been violated talk to your parents or an adult you trust. They may want to seek the help of a lawyer. I bet in your town there are local community groups that can point you in the right direction. What ever you do tell people. Make sure lots of people know what happened to you.

  10. A couple of months ago, my TV set ceased to function. So I went to wal-mart to purchase another. The one I wanted was out of stock so I purchased a nice TV stand instead for @ $87.00, I got a couple of other things that brought the total to @ $112.00. While at the check out counter I notice a white middle age woman who was just ahead of me being rung-up, her total came to something like @$180.00, she handed the clerk her credit card, (the clerk not bothering to overly scrutinize the card or the signature), said thank you and come back soon. I handed her my credit card and she responded “can I see your ID please”, I said “why did I know you would ask me that”, she responded
    “I just need to verify your signature”. So my question is: “does wal-mart only verify every other customers signature???, or just the people of color???”, you see, being a black man I wonder about these things.

  11. I’m writing to you regarding the story you did involving Wal-mart and allegations of racial profiling. I worlked for Wal-mart in the Loss Prevention department as an investigator for multiple years. I was terminated in January of 2005 shortly after reporting the members of the security / Loss Prevention team of racial profiling. An investigation into my termination by a government agency uncovered that the reason for my termination was false and also that Wal-mart was unable to provide any documentation or evidence that I was terminated for any wrong doing or policy violations. The practice of racial profiling was not only condoned but also encouraged by management. I have documentation in my possesion where I reported this activity to multiple executives through out the company which proves not only did Wal-mart know that this activity was going on but also that they did nothing about it. I also have witnesses that are still currently employed at Wal-mart in the Security / Loss Prevention department that are willing to confirm this activity still goes on and is also encouraged by Wal-mart. If you are interested in pursuing this story further feel free to contact me.

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