I just received the following statement from Wal-Mart in regard to this story
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. (emphasis added)
John Aravosis of AmericaBLOG (cited in the e-mail to me from Wal-Mart) believes this explanation and considers it "ridiculous
" to think that this incident is indicative of anything other than a technical glitch.
However, if this was merely an accident, then the response time on Wal-Mart's part was remarkably quick.
Further, how can one explain away a list of four out of four African-American films, out of "an almost endless number of possible combinations" as "seemingly random"? Sorry, but that does not seem at all random to me. What are the odds?Steve Gilliard's
explanation makes much more sense than John's or Wal-Mart's:
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.