There was an error in this gadget

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A 10-Minute Glimpse Of The Future [In Wal-Mart]

I am a Caucasian. I have been all of my life. I grew up in an extremely racist Italian-American household, so I consider the rest of my life something of an internal recovery process. Being around blatant racism for the entirety of my early development, one becomes all too comfortable around racist jokes, demeaning language and stereotypes. I consider myself far more enlightened since turning my back on that particular mindset.

Having said all that, last Thursday, I found myself in Wal-Mart. I don't usually shop there, but I was dispatched by my wife to exchange a gift (a baby wipe warmer with a malfunctioning top latch) given to us for our new baby (born on the 4th of July; my little boy patriot). As I went about taking the defective item (made in China; but of course) into the store, up to the service desk and retrieving an identical item from the appropriate store shelf, I noticed something. In the world of Wal-Mart, I, a Caucasian, am a minority.

Including myself, I counted 8 white people in Wal-Mart out of roughly 50 to 75 people that I spotted during my visit. The most amazing thing about this is that I'm including Wal-Mart employees and the number of white people I saw in the parking lot, which was zero. I actually DID see two in the parking lot, but they were an elderly white couple I spotted on the way out that I had already seen inside the store. The balance of the people I saw in Wal-Mart that day were African-American or Hispanic.

I don't shop at Wal-Mart, based on their anti-union stance, their general abuse of their employee population and their being the biggest reason for American job loss over the last quarter century. In the history of me, this was the third time I had ever set foot in a Wal-Mart. I have no clue if this represents the usual shopping pattern at Wal-Mart, and I'll never know, as I don't plan to shop there in the future. Based on what I saw during my visit, and based on what I normally see in their parking lot (the local Wal-Mart shares a parking lot with Paul's Omega, my favorite Greek "we make everything" restaurant), I'm drawing a conclusion that this is normal for any given Wal-Mart.

What strikes me is that based on demographic shifts that experts are predicting will occur in the coming century, Wal-Mart today represents the population of tomorrow's America (if America as we knew it still exists or can return to normal after our current president gets done with it). Not only is Wal-Mart making billions of dollars a quarter on the backs of today's minorities, but they are, based on my amateur observations, poised to increase in strength as time goes on if we extrapolate the sales figures using these very same demographic shifts.

It's this thought that makes the act of simple digestion an impossibility. I don't begrudge today's minorities a shot at the American dream, but I wonder what kind of country I'll live in in the sunset of my life with an irresponsible corporate citizen like Wal-Mart holding such vast retail power with tomorrow's majority. I shall continue to avoid shopping at Wal-Mart with every fiber of my being, but I'm beginning to realize that my little stand doesn't mean much now, and will mean even less going forward economically for the Walton family and their offspring.

No comments: