Why We Should Stop Making Fun of Walmart Shoppers

walmartShould the progressive internet participate in the very acts of grotesquery that we hate seeing from conservative outlets? When we see libertarians and Republicans mocking poor people, we rip them new ones. And we should. Yet progressives and liberals constantly make and accept classist rhetoric against impoverished Walmart shoppers? That is the very essence of mocking poor people.

In a story about how Walmart was* selling – through a third party merc – a.. errr Nazi concentration camp motivational poster on their website, a supposedly progressive blogger couldn’t help but take pot-shots at Walmart customers.

Which Nazi slogan did Walmart choose to peddle alongside other items targeted to the low class, low IQ Walmart frequent shopper?…

That slogan means “God with us,” and would seem to appeal to the average gun-toting, Sarah Palin loving, right wing God fearing “Christian’ Walmart shopper.

First off, I wasn’t aware that the “average” Walmart shopper constituent toted guns. I know my parents shop there. Because it is the only place to shop for most of their needs. And while I try to avoid it like the plague, I’ve had to darken their doors several times. And here’s where I make my sad confessional: I’ve even gotten items from there. Again, no guns. Same with many of my neighbors who can’t really afford to not shop there. Lots of anti-gun liberals shop at Walmart, but they’re ashamed of saying so because, guess what, we’re so judgmental of anybody who associates with the company. And I’ve partaken in that judgmental attitude myself. The very workers that aren’t able to unionize there and make just over minimum wage are also shamed by the typical liberal commentary on the Evil Corporation.

And trust me when I say this: Walmart IS evil. Its domination is due to evil practices – like slave wages for both its domestic employees and employees of its vendors.

It uses tax breaks that the rest of us will never see to open up new stores. It then drives down its retail costs until the competition can’t keep up anymore and drops out, leaving Walmart with less and less competition for both jobs and sales. This is how it was able to monopolize the town my parents live in. This is why my parents shop there. Is it their fault there isn’t much of an option? Are they supposed to grow their own foods and slaughter their own meat, sew their own clothes?

Does shopping there make people “low IQ”? Certainly no less intelligent than anybody who makes that argument. But then that’d be making fun of people with less intelligence when the problem isn’t intelligence – it’s morality. Progressive bloggers who embarrass Walmart shoppers by calling them may be lacking in that department.

Even if there were other stores, usually the other options are other big box stores with similar tactics – like Target – but with heftier prices. We don’t all have an Aldi’s – which, by the way, is cheaper than Walmart in terms of prices and pays its workers living wages. But even still, when you’re poor you look at shopping like many other tasks, one that needs to be done easier and with as few steps as possible.

See, poverty is also psychological and there are very many things that the typical middle class or even lower income person cannot quite grasp. There are choices that are necessary for survival and there are other choices that seem odd to the typical viewer, but are still within the poor person’s rights. It’s important to understand that poor people do not have the same options that wealthier people do. And even given some of these same options, there is no monopoly for what a person or family should look like. We do good to keep this in mind when viewing the People of Walmart shaming pictures. The bodies of Walmart shoppers are not ours and they do not owe us anything. Many wear clothes that others consider too small or unflattering because it’s one of the few ways they can feel good about themselves.

To be sure, Walmart is a retailer. An evil and exploitative one, definitely. But we live in a capitalist society and if Walmart did not exist, someone else would have filled its evil, sinister vacuum. I think rather than blaming the people who work and shop there for the excessive nastiness that Walmart perpetuates on the people who work and shop there, we should blame the unchecked corporate capitalist system that perpetuates Walmart and their amoral and often immoral retailing practices.

Someone took advantage of Walmart’s selling policies and posted Nazi propaganda through them. Yes, hold Walmart accountable for not having safeguards. Sure, draw easy parallels between Walmart and fascism. They exist.

But don’t blame the “typical Walmart shopper”. That’s what fascists do.



*They took it down after complaints and an excuse. The Wonkette story off which the “progressive” article was based is here.


When he’s not riding both his city’s public transit system and evil mayor, Jasdye teaches at a community college and writes about the intersection of equality and faith - with an occasional focus on Chicago - at the Left Cheek blog and on the Left Cheek: the Blog Facebook page. Check out more from Jasdye in his archives as well!


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