Wal-Mart is selling decorative prints of Japanese internment camps in its online shop.
The retailer is offering 15 posters of the forced relocation of tens of thousands of Japanese Americans, which occurred during World War II, including ones of children waiting to be transported and a group of Japanese women within the grounds of an internment camp. The pictures are described as “the perfect Wall Art for any home, bedroom, playroom, classroom, dorm room or office workspace.”
About 120,000 U.S. residents of Japanese ancestry, mostly from the West Coast, were forcibly relocated and incarcerated of by the U.S. government after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. About two-thirds of those in internment camps were U.S. citizens. No comparable order was ever given for the internment of German Americans or Italian Americans, and in 1988, the Senate voted overwhelmingly to pay reparations to survivors for what is regarded as a historic injustice.
Hey @Walmart why are you selling posters of the Japanese Internment? Described as “The perfect Wall Art for any home, bedroom, playroom, classroom, dorm room or office workspace.” https://t.co/uKwLdugQMl pic.twitter.com/0rAQ0F5HjU
— Jamie Ford (@JamieFord) November 11, 2017
Why Wal-Mart decided it would be appropriate to sell posters which seem to cast internment in a positive light is a mystery. The company has previously been lambasted for selling prints of the main gates at Auschwitz Concentration Camp. At the time, the company apologized. “We were horrified to see that this item was on our site. We sincerely apologize, and worked quickly to remove it,” Wal-Mart said in a statement. “The item was sold through a third-party seller on our marketplace. We have shared our disappointment with them and have learned they are removing the publisher of this item entirely from inventory.”
However, the keyword-heavy title and description, coupled with the lack of reviews of the posters, suggest that this might be an independent item automatically added onto Wal-Mart’s website, as the Auschwitz print was.
Online retailers have been repeatedly embarrassed by products added automatically by AI bots. In July, an AI program called My Handy Design inadvertently flooded Amazon with 31,000 phone cases, including one of an adult diaper, another of a toilet tube collection, and another of a galvanized steel wheelbarrow.
ThinkProgress contacted Wal-Mart for comment and did not hear back by the time of publication.