Here’s a heart-warming tale of Christmas giving, and good will towards men, Wal-Mart style. Wal-Mart officials allegedly had a hard time imagining a black man could handle a $13,600 check. That’s the gist of this story out of Tampa, Florida, in which a black man, Reginald Pitts, was strong-armed by local police, because Wal-Mart reported he was trying to pass a bad check. Ironically, Pitts was at the Wal-Mart store to deposit a check to purchase holiday gift cards for his company to give out to its favored employees. “I keep going over and over the incident in my mind. I cannot come up with any possible reason why I was treated like this except that I am black,” Pitts told the Associated Press. Wal-Mart employees called the Sheriff’s office to come and arrest Pitts, after he submitted the check to cover 520 gift cards for his firm’s workers. Pitts was manhandled by a deputy from the Hillsborough County sheriff’s office. The deputy grabbed Pitts by the arm. The deputy said later Wal-Mart had called and reported that Pitts had committed a felony. An embarrassed Wal-Mart spokesperson told the AP, “We probably could have handled it better, but I won’t know until we complete the investigation.” Wal-Mart workers at the store made Pitts wait for two hours, and made him show his driver’s license and phone numbers to his firm’s bank. They called Pitts’ supervisor, who assured Wal-Mart over the phone that the company was good for the check.
This story has a happy ending. Pitts’ company took out the gift cards — but they bought them from Target instead. Wal-Mart’s corporate line is that the company does not tolerate racial discrimination. But at the store level, it looks like racial profiling is alive and well during this holiday season.