Back in October of last year, I asked if Walmart’s $5 million donation to the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African-American History was “too little too late.”
“While a donation to the Smithsonian is certainly generous,” I wrote, “one wonders if that money couldn’t have been more helpful to African-Americans if it were put into something else, like higher wages and cheaper health insurance for the thousands of Blacks currently employed at Walmart.”
Fast-forward seven months and Walmart appears to be showing a newfound commitment to the needs of the nation’s African-American community. In January, the company hired its first Black CEO, Rosalind Brewer, who now heads up the Sam’s Club warehouse retail chain. A month later, in February, Walmart donated nearly $10 million to promote healthy eating in minority communities. That donation came after working in conjunction with First Lady Michelle Obama and her campaign to fight childhood obesity throughout America.
“We want to help our customers make healthier decisions whether that's through their in-store experience at Walmart or through taking a class focused on nutrition education," said Andrea Thomas, Wal-Mart’s senior VP of sustainability.
In a word, Walmart has improved when it comes to the Black community, and that’s a trend that appears to be continuing even today.
On Thursday, the NAACP issued a statement in which it praised Walmart for being the latest store in America to drop its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a conservative advocacy organization. ALEC has come under fire lately for being a major backer of voter ID laws that would disproportionately keep African-Americans from the polls. Reports the Los Angeles Times, ALEC has also been a proponent for Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which is the lynchpin law that kept George Zimmerman out of jail after he shot and killed Trayvon Martin.
Other companies such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Kraft Foods have already fled ALEC. So though Walmart can’t be considered a leader in this field, the NAACP still appreciates their wise decision.
“We applaud Wal-Mart’s courageous and principled decision,” NAACP President Ben Jealous said in a statement. “We remain concerned about ALEC’s extremist agenda. Supporting ALEC is contrary to the goals of any institution or individual that supports civil rights, environmental sustainability, or a better life for all of America's families.”
To be sure, Walmart continues to do bad things — low wages, terrible benefits, helping to shutter mom-and-pop shops — many of which hit the Black community very hard. But, as they say, even a broken clock is right twice a day. And when someone who has wronged you in the past finally does right by you, it’s healthy to thank them.
Thanking someone doesn’t mean you have to ever forget all the awful stuff they did before. So, thanks Walmart.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: John Gress/Landov)