It was merely a prank, one in poor taste like the dropping of cotton
balls or engaging in a Compton
Cookout, but a prank nonetheless.
But the audacity of
hopelessness displayed by the villain who dared to utter "Attention:
all Black people please leave the store," at a Walmart in New
Jersey has become national news, for a post-racial world is but a pipe-dream
Victoria Arter was stunned by the loudspeaker
shoppers," she recalled hearing the calm male voice begin. "Will all the
black people please leave the store. Thank you."
Her shock turned to anger, Arter said, when
more than five awkward and frightening minutes elapsed before management
at the Wal-Mart in Turnersville came on the public address system.
"We waited and waited. Some people just left
their carts in disgust and said they couldn't believe it," said Arter,
an African American woman who was shopping at the store on Route 42 when
the announcement was made shortly before 7 p.m. Sunday.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is cooperating with
the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office and Washington Township
police, which are investigating the event as a possible
racial-intimidation crime. More than 10 African Americans have signed a
complaint with police.
"We're just as
appalled by this as anyone," said Ashley Hardie, a spokeswoman for the
discount-store chain, "and anyone who did this was wrong."
Law enforcement is examining surveillance
tapes inside the store. But the P.A. system can be accessed from 25
telephones in the building, and not all are within camera range, said
Bernie Weisenfeld, spokesman for the prosecutor.