(The following thoughts and/or reactions are soley my response to what I saw today. I have not looked into any factual basis for what I experienced/observed. In other words...it is totally from my perspective.)
I had some time to kill after an appointment in Burnsville today. Nothing like a mocha and some browsing at the local Christian bookstore to make the time fly by so I ventured into Northwestern Bookstore in Burnsville.
I have recently been worshipping at Sanctuary Covenant Church in Minneapolis and they will often have worship times that include hip-hop, latin, gospel flavored music and I am more of a "The Refuge" (contemporary Christian / Alternative Rock) kind of guy so I thought I'd expand my musical base a little....and maybe start to recognize more of the music I'm listening to and trying to participate with.
First I browsed the "new artist" section and picked up a Remedy Drive CD. Then on to the Gospel Section and picked up The Essential Fred Hammond. Next I ventured into the hip-hop section and...didn't pick up anything at first because all of the cases were empty shells. (Sort of like at Blockbuster when you are looking for a movie!) It was very noticeable because the hip-hop section is pretty small, on it's own rack set apart for the rest of the CD's and is the only section that was presented this way.
Oh yeah, and then there was the sign over the rack that said "Thou Shall Not Steal" - God and NW bookstores.
I don't think this would have bothered me a couple of years ago...but recently God has been opening my eyes to people who are different than me in new ways. And this little "empty shell" display that required you to get your CD from the clerk up front, combined with the "Thou Shall Not Steal" sign made me angry....and sad. I eventually grabbed the Urban D Unorthodox shell (he had come to Sanctuary a few weeks ago and led some worship time) and went to the front counter. I asked why they had they had the hip hop section displayed this way - and the clerk said that it is because "a lot of those types of CD's get stolen".
Okay, I get that. It makes sense to me for the store to notice that a certain item is more likely to be stolen and try to do things to protect their products from being lifted. But this just struck me as over the top.
First - it seems to say people who listen to hip-hop CHRISTIAN artists are more likely to steal. And I don't think it is a stretch to connect that with specific ethnic people groups/cultures. I know my first reaction when browsing that section and seeing it is the only "product controlled" section was wondering if people were watching me extra close as I browsed. It made me feel uncomfortable just looking at the CD's. (Apparently people who buy contemporary Christian, gospel, latin, alternative or any other genre of music are less likely to steal?)
Second - the bright neon green 8.5X11 "Thou Shalt Not Steal" sign. C'mon. Really? The product has all been removed anyway so what is the point of the sign? All it does is further communicate to people wandering around the store the assumption that people that listen to hip-hop are likely to steal and need to be reminded that God (and NW bookstore!) doesn't want them to. The sign is what really put the whole experience into the category of "stereotype" for me. (To me the sign and way the CD's are displayed is basically silently and indelibly screaming - if you stand in front of this section you better not be one of THOSE people that listen to hip-hop and steal CD's. You should know better and in case you forgot we, the good people of NW bookstore, are reminding you. Oh, and everyone else is watching you as well at this point!)
The whole thing just made me feel icky.
Of course the other part of the ick was that after I left and started thinking thru it all....I thought I should have asked to talk to the store manager - to find out why they had the CD's displayed as they did and then share how I felt as I looked at the CD's. My bad...'cause nothing will change without conversation and engaging people. Okay - fine. I'll go back and talk to them....and blog about it later. Hold me to it tho....I am SUCH a conflict avoider.
I'd love to hear your thoughts as well. Keep in mind - this is ALL told from only my perspective and is subject to over-simplification on my part.
But how does this strike you? And thoughts about how I should follow up?