Wal-Mart Swallows the Supreme Court

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

There is no more dangerous family in America than the Waltons, the billionaires whose patriarch, Sam, incorporated his native sexism and racism into a business model that became Wal-Mart, the largest employer in the United States. Sam’s clan has conquered locally-based business economies in all but a few large metropolitan areas of the United States, and laid waste to small businesses in 15 nations around the globe. Now Wal-Mart has swallowed the U.S. Supreme Court. The corporation has discriminated against so many female employees in so many different categories of jobs; the justices threw up their hands and declared, essentially, that the list of victims—1.5 million of them—was too large and too varied to handle in a single class action suit.

Actually, the ruling was based on what Liza Featherstone—who has been covering the case for much of the ten years it took to get to the High Court—calls a “dry technicality.” But the ruling further undercuts the potential for masses of workers, consumers and citizens to mount legal challenges to the most blatant corporate abuses through class action suits. And when that option is closed, there’s not much left for common people to do but mount something very much resembling a social revolution—which is, of course, what must ultimately occur.

Sam Walton’s Frankenstein of a company is a pace-setter in the global race to the bottom, relentlessly depressing prices for those who produce things and wages for those who work. Wal-Mart has been described as an economic “Death Star” that sucks up everything in its path, creating a wasteland where nothing remains but itself. Studies have shown Wal-Mart kills three local jobs for every two it creates. When Wal-Mart was forcing its way into Chicago in 2006, community groups and unions warned that neighborhood businesses would be decimated. Sure enough, two years later 82 of the 306 small businesses in the neighborhood were gone. The same is destined to happen in New York and Washington, DC, where Sam Walton’s barbarians are banging at the gates.

Wal-Mart has learned a lot since its beginnings in the Ozark Mountains region, where Black folks were scarce and bible-thumping whites respected authority and patriarchy. Although its Dixiecrat heart remains headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas, Wal-Mart has learned how to co-opt the Black misleadership class in the big cities. It buys them out, from purchasing local preachers to sponsoring Tavis Smiley to bankrolling the NAACP. In Chicago, Wal-Mart even hired its own street thugs to denounce the unions for demanding that it provide jobs at a living wage. Black folks need any kind of job, said the thugs. So did the paid-off preachers. Since Wal-Mart is notorious for paying not one cent more than necessary, we can assume that their Black apologists sold themselves cheaply.

The Walton Family Foundation was among the handful of right-wing moneybags that invented, out of whole cloth, a purportedly Black “movement” for private school vouchers, to drive a wedge between African Americans and teachers unions. A decade-and-a-half later, substantial numbers of Blacks think teachers are the enemy and right-wing millionaires are their friends. They may not know it, but they bought that crap from Wal-Mart.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at

Black Agenda Report, June 22, 2011