"I think they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," said Shelia Ellington.
Ellington made this statement after a man reportedly used a PA system in a Wal-Mart along Rt. 42 in Turnersville, N.J. just before 5 p.m. on Sunday to announce, "Attention Wal-Mart customers: All black people leave the store now."
Patricia Covington, Shelia Ellington, and Virginia Tinsley were inside the store when the announcement was made, and told the Courier Post that customers and store employees looked stunned when they heard it.
"In 2010, I want to know why such statements are being made because it flies in the face of what we teach them [our kids] at home, and that's tolerance for people," said Ellington. "It was a disgusting comment. Once I heard that, I was absolutely shocked and appalled."
"I can't believe it in this day and age," Covington told the paper. "Wal-Mart needs to be more responsible."
The man was very calm when he broadcast the message, according to Tinsley. "He had a million dollar voice," the Washington Township resident said. "He wasn't nervous, [he was] really calm."
The women said the store's manager immediately addressed his shock about the incident to a large crowd of angry shoppers who gathered in the front of the store. He then made an apology over the intercom.
Tinsley said her husband then called 911 to report what had happened.
Washington Township police and the Gloucester County Prosecutor's Office are investigating the incident as a possible bias crime.
Wal-Mart management called the incident "unacceptable," and said it's working to make sure nothing like this happens at any other stores.
Wal-Mart issued this statement Wednesday:
"We're just as appalled by this as our customers. Whoever did this is just wrong and acted in an inappropriate manner. Clearly, this is completely unacceptable to us and to our customers."Store management is now working to limit which phones can access the PA system.
According to the nbcphiladelphia.com article and the update link offered there, all three women are boycotting the store.
I must say that there is no need for behavior like this, and the person who used Wal-Mart's public address system to make such a statements is a jackass, to say the least.
Wal-Mart committed no crime. If the person who committed this act is a Wal-Mart employee, there is no criminal act to be investigated. The employee can and should be dealt with internally in an appropriate manner, which in my opinion should not include termination. Suspension without pay for a week or two should be a sufficient punishment.
If the store surveillance system turns up footage of a perpetrator who is not a Wal-Mart employee, then perhaps a misdemeanor of some kind has been committed, and I would assume justice would be served accordingly. But "bias crime?" Not so much.
For these women to claim that Wal-Mart needs to be more responsible and that someone needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law? While emotionally understandable, these statements are generally illogical, and speak to a bigger issue.
That bigger issue is this: The fact that a division of NBC News is using a headline reading, "Wal-Mart Paging Victims: "It Was Disgusting" speaks to the perpetuation of racism in America that will never end if the Raaaaacism Industrial Complex does not stop making victims of people who are not truly victims.
Certainly these women had every right to be disgusted by the announcement they heard. I also agree completely with the statement made by Shelia Ellington, who described how such an act flies in the face of everything good people should be teaching their children. This was not an act of good behavior by a good person; it was a blatant act of stupidity by a jackass. However, it is my opinion that to once again throw the words "victim" and "racist" around in this instance diminishes the real meaning of these words that have real significance when they are truly applicable to a situation.
I hope Wal-Mart figures out who did this, and I hope reasonable and proper punishment is applied. Wal-Mart has clearly apologized and told these women that this is unacceptable by their standards.
I hope these women get over it quickly and get back to living life. I wish them well.
Finally, I wish the media would stop using "victim" and "racist" as tools to sell advertising revenue.