Ah, another adventure into Race In America. And into Ohio. According to an Akron Beacon Journal columnist, many of the Wal-Mart superstores in the area have a specific section to which all books by and about black people are relegated.
Barack Obama's Audacity of Hope is in that section, as are many other books written by black folks:
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.
Terrific. Wal-Mart was reached for comment and responded even-handedly:
''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.''
Right. Because science-fiction interest books are the same things as books written by black people. Just a little niche! What, are the sci-fi books written by aliens? Books about the African American experience in their own section is one thing, but just throwing any old book into a specialized section simply because it was written by a black person? Sigh.
Obviously this is a) No surprise coming from Wal-Mart and b) Probably not evidence of some seething, malicious racism at Ohio Wal-Marts. It's just another sad "Well, shit" moment, here in this frayed old country of ours. Go Buckeyes!